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Living the Post-Apocalyptic

“If we jump back two or three years,” I told my therapist, “there was so much I was afraid of losing. But after all the changes last year, there’s nothing to be scared of anymore. The apocalypse already happened.”

“Well,” she said. “You’re a science fiction [sic] writer. What do you do, in a post-apocalyptic world?”

I thought. “You rebuild.”

“The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum,” by John Martin (1822). http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00793

This has been an ongoing theme for the better part of a year. Chapters closing, change, regeneration, rebirth. Maybe it’s silly, but I thought the intense period of transition was pretty much done.

After all, I changed jobs, I changed apartments, I changed a lot of relationships. What else was left?

I forgot about rebuilding.

#

So I left my therapist’s office thinking about living in the post-apocalypse. Maybe that sounds dire, but I think it’s actually quite apt.

What is an apocalypse, anyway?

Etymologically speaking, it’s a revelation (as in, “The Book of…”). The word apocalypse derives from the Greek apokaluptein, or “uncover.” In that sense, I suppose, it’s a cutting to the truth of things, a stripping away of the false and outmoded to some insight underneath.

More generally, it’s a passing of an age—the cessation of a certain way of life. Apocalypse might be the twilight of the gods or the elves sailing into the west, and it’s also a lot of very big life changes hitting very close together.

So—what do you do, in a post-apocalyptic world?

“Rain, Steam, and Speed – the Great Western Railway,” by J.M.W. Turner (1844).

You rebuild.

I forgot about (or failed to acknowledge) the work that comes after change.

See, here’s the thing. Let’s say you go through A Time. And you survive. Because of course you do—you’re tougher and more resilient than you know.

“Well!” you say. “That sucked, but it’s over. Things will get easy now.”

Except you need to rebuild, and rebuilding is still transition. Imagine everything at equilibrium—the old world, the caterpillar. Then comes dissolution and discomfort—an asteroid, the darkness of the cocoon.

Equilibrium doesn’t return immediately after that. There’s carving out a new homestead from the rubble; there’s the vulnerable butterfly drying its wings before it can fly.

And that’s okay, that’s all part of the process. It just means it takes longer than you think to reach a “new normal.” There’s a descent and then an ascent. The pause when the dust settles isn’t the end; it’s a beginning.

#

But I was a little surprised to hear my own words.

There’s nothing to be scared of, anymore.

#

What can you do, when you’re no longer scared?

Post-apocalypse is also post-revelation, post-insight, post-truth. Last year, I learned so, so much. As I’ve said elsewhere, I feel like I’ve spent the last eight years becoming. Now that I’m this person, what next?

How do you live a post-apocalyptic life?

#

I’m still chewing all this over, obviously. But in the short term, it’s been a good reminder to be more patient with myself—even as I feel like I’m underachieving in a lot of ways. But maybe I’ve applied too narrow a scope to “achievement.”

Surviving is tough. It takes a lot of energy.

But there’s nothing to be scared of, anymore. There’s only rebuilding. There’s only the work.

And if the former things are passed away—if we’re making all things new—then why not build the most beautiful and the best that you can?

“Sower of the Systems,” George Frederic Watts (1902). Watts Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sower-of-the-systems-13347

-KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

We keep it honest here. This week is “Ashes” from Deadpool 2. Yep. That Deadpool. Like most people in the comment section, I listened to it expecting a quick chuckle…but it’s actually really good?

Plus, the whole refrain of “let beauty come out of ashes” resonates right now for obvious reasons.

Self-Talk: Short Stories, Novellas, Rejection

So I was having a rough day the other week. I’d received a short story rejection that really stung. No matter how often you submit—no matter how thick your skin gets—there’s always the odd one that still hurts. Funnily enough, the angst hit worse a few days after the actual rejection. I’m not sure what the trigger was, but it sparked a whole slew of thoughts, which I now present in the form of a dialogue.

“The Conversation,” Eastman Johnson (1879).

ME:                 I’m never selling anything ever again.

ALSO ME:      You just sold a piece to Augur.

ME:                 But I’m not selling anything else.  I’m a has-been before I was even an is.

ALSO ME:      Why do you say that?

ME:                 Everyone else is selling short fiction.

ALSO ME:      Who’s everyone?

ME:                 People on Twitter.

ALSO ME:      So what? You’ve had a good year career-wise. You have an agent!

ME:                 Yeah. That’s good.

ALSO ME:      You had a story come out!

ME:                 Yeah.

ALSO ME:      You SOLD a story. To Augur. You love Augur.

ME:                 Yeah.

ALSO ME:      So what’s the problem?

ME:                 I don’t sell many stories.

ALSO ME:      Why is that important to you?

ME:                 Because that’s what you’re supposed to do. You sell short stories, and then people start to know you, and then you sell a novel.

ALSO ME:      That’s what you’re supposed to do. I see. Says who?

ME:                 People.

ALSO ME:      Is that what [WRITER FRIEND] did?

ME:                 …no.

ALSO ME:      And is [WRITER FRIEND] still doing well?

ME:                 …yes.

ALSO ME:      Okay, what about [OTHER WRITER FRIEND]? Do they write much short fiction?

ME:                 No.

ALSO ME:      And does everyone still love them and think they’re an awesome writer?

ME:                 Yes…

ALSO ME:      So it is possible that short fiction is not an absolute prerequisite?

ME:                 Fine, yes. But what if I’m just not good enough?

ALSO ME:      (Deep breath) Okay. Look. You know that’s not the only thing. It’s budget. It’s personal taste versus the publication’s aesthetic. It’s balancing out the stories they bought three months ago. It’s balancing out the stories they’re buying three months from now. It’s publicity. It’s “OMG I love this story like I love every puppy in the shelter but I can only adopt two and my heart is breaking but I still have to leave this one behind.”

ME:                 …

ALSO ME:      Can I make an observation?

ME:                 Go for it.

ALSO ME:      Generally speaking, your writing does best when you don’t give a f*ck—when you just write whatever makes you happy. Six Stories, for example. Angst-ridden friendship and fairy tales and a ridiculous metanarrative structure? Who does that?  YOU do.

Or, okay, Beer Magic. Queer ladies—magic beer—Toronto history—you literally just combined your six favourite words and that’s what finally worked.

This is true of your short fiction, too. Most of the stories you’ve sold were about things that make you angry.

ME:                 I’m not sure I’m comfortable using anger as my main motivation.

ALSO ME:      Yeah, that’s another conversation. The point is, the stuff you feel like you “should” write? Yeah. That tends not to fly. But the stuff that matters to you…that does well.

Let me ask you a question. If you could write anything right now, what would you write?

ME:                 That Southern Gothic fairy tale novella.

ALSO ME:      Then why the f*ck are you beating your head against the wall with short stories?

ME:                I can’t just write whatever I want! I have to think about my career!

ALSO ME:      Okay, great. Think about your career. When Kim-Mei’s done with Beer Magic, then what? You’ve got to have something on deck. Why not this novella?

ME:                 Um.

ALSO ME:       It’s okay. It’s okay to focus on something else for a bit. It’s okay to explore other avenues. It keeps you nimble.

ME:                I know.

#

Then I sold a story to Lightspeed three hours later. Even so, I still want to write this novella?

Everyone says, “There’s no one way to have a writing career,” but we all have our own blocks and unconscious beliefs. Part of me feels really guilty that I haven’t written much short fiction lately…

…but where is the guilt coming from?

I’m not sure. But I think this novella’s calling louder than anything else right now. Maybe it’s time to listen.

KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

Ah, Louise Pitre, I love your music so dearly. It is sad and heartfelt and jazzy.

The Other Part of It

‘Tis the season—I’ve just finished my annual writers’ retreat. As per usual, it was a week of fabulous friends, food, and words. Plus, beer and hot tubs. Rockstar life, basically.

I wrote last year about a moment I had at the retreat. It was one of those insights that cut to the quick. Towards the retreat’s end, I was sitting out alone in the hot tub…

It was nearing the golden hour, sunlight spilling over the mountains. The sky was endless, cloudless blue; the woods rang with the singing of birds and frogs. I settled into the hot tub with a book. My beer rested beside me.

And sitting there—sated with finished stories, dear friends typing inside, spring unfolding across the mountains—I could think only:

Enjoy this now. It won’t always be like this.

And I was right. Last year was rather a lot, and it was good to carry that moment inside me, returning to it whenever I felt like drowning in the midst of everything. This year, I had the mirror-version insight.

When the retreat finished, we broke the drive back from Tennessee into two parts. After a lovely dinner, I headed back to my hotel room—and crashed. Curled on the bed with some choral favourites, slightly dazed. For the first time all week, I was entirely alone. In the silence of my own thoughts, without friends around, I suddenly ached.

I missed my cat, down to the bone. I missed my choir friends and girlfriend and family. I missed my apartment and my own bed. After a fantastic (and full) week, I suddenly felt lonely.

But of course, I have novel rewrites due soon. So I sat in an American hotel room, booted up my computer, and got to work. Rockstar life, right? As I poked at revisions, the thought came—

This is the other part of it.

This is the rockstar life. This is part of the career I want.

See, sometimes creative life is hot tubs and intense productivity in the mountains. Or going to conventions and meeting cool writers and book people. Heck, sometimes it’s wandering in the woods and soaking in the trees.

But sometimes it’s getting work done…even in anonymous hotel rooms far from home.

Because it’s all about the work, in the end. Word by word, draft by draft. So this is going to keep happening. I want my writing career to include travel and work. Sitting there, I asked myself, “Are you good with this? Really, truly, are you good?”

And the answer was, “Yes.”

So this is the other part of it. I still wouldn’t change it for the world—but I’ll always love coming home.

-KT

PS. I suppose I ought to give a retreat report:

  • One story I need to trash
  • Two stories that are probably pretty close to done
  • One flash I’m unsure of
  • Two stories that need heavier revision
  • Also, novel rewrites.

What I’m Listening to this Week

Ah, Cherubino, the hormone-riddled adolescent boy most often played by a woman. He’s one of my favourite characters in opera; I love the fluidity of trouser roles. We’ve had a version of “Non so più” here before, but this is a wonderfully cinematic version that is queer af.

A Steely, Grim Confidence

Oh, thy bright eyes must answer now

When Reason with a scornful brow

Is mocking at my overthrow!

Oh, thy sweet tongue must plead for me

And tell why I have chosen thee!

Okay, so there are these three women, right? All writers. Frustrated by the lack of opportunity around them, they decide to make their own damn opportunities. They devise a plan to get published. They’re going to start with a collection of poems first, to build a platform, and then they’ll do novels—deliberately plotting novels different than anything they’ve written before.

It could be happening now, except it’s totally the Brontë sisters, and yes, I was watching the film To Walk Invisible this past week.

Why I have persevered to shun

The common paths that others run

And on a strange road journeyed on,

Heedless, alike of wealth and power—

Of glory’s wreath and pleasure’s flower.

Admittedly, I’m not done yet. But I’ve always been a Brontë fan. I love their poetry, and I like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights (I could never get into Agnes Grey, though—sorry, Anne!). And of course, they introduced Jane Eyre in high school, and of course, the Brontës’ personal narrative resonated with my teenaged writer-self.

“Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë,” by Branwell Brontë (ca. 1834).

They made up their own fantastic world and wrote reams of stories set in it! They were governesses in various terrible places! They had enough of that and pursued writing with remarkable tenacity! Emily and Anne died young and it was super sad!

These once indeed, seemed Beings Divine;

And they, perchance, heard vows of mine,

And saw my offerings on their shrine.

But careless gifts are seldom prized

And mine were worthily despised.

It was interesting to contrast To Walk Invisible with another work that made my teenaged writer-self ache: Ernest Hemingway’s A Movable Feast.

Since I last read it a decade ago, I mostly remembered it as, “Ernest Hemingway writes in cool Parisian cafés with famous writers.” This reread, it struck me as more, “Ernest Hemingway drinks a lot and references making love pretty creepily.” Then I did a cursory search for more context and ran up against the usual issues with memoirs (and Hemingway, quite frankly). He’s certainly not objective and the manuscript was edited with various motives after his death.

Not quite what I remembered.

“Place du Théâtre Français, Paris: Pluie,” by Camille Pissarro (1898).

For all that, something still tugs at me. There is a sense of community—running into friends in cafés and bookshops and being interested in each other’s work. But I couldn’t help thinking…

A Movable Feast never mentions doubt. There’s a lot of drinking and gallivanting, but Hemingway never seems to question the likelihood of his own success.

The Brontës draw up a freaking battle plan, because they know the odds are against them. And they’re going to Do The Things regardless.

My darling pain that wounds and sears

And wrings a blessing out from tears

By deadening me to earthly cares;

And yet, a king, though Prudence well

Have taught thy subject to rebel.

Two different forms of confidence, I suppose. I’m glad I reread A Movable Feast…but I’m even more grateful to return to the Brontës. They have a steely, grim confidence that’s missing from Hemingway’s cafés and bars.  It’s the kind of self-assuredness that gives no quarter, but also takes nothing for granted.

And am I wrong to worship, where

Faith cannot doubt, nor hope despair,

Since my own soul can grant my prayer?

Speak, God of visions, plead for me

And tell why I have chosen thee!

Walking invisible, perhaps…but determined to share in the feast.

-KT

PS. The poem referenced throughout is “Plead For Me,” by Emily Brontë!

What I’m Listening to this Week

“O great mystery…”

I listened to Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium” while watching the lunar eclipse last week. True, it’s a little schmaltzy, but it was perfect for the occasion. And yes, I hard-core love the intense crescendo around 4:10.

The Next Chapter

“Gahhhhhh KT, you left, why are you still talking about this?”

Because whilst I pretend to have a heart of ice, I’m actually the sappiest sap that ever sapped. Also, I needed time to process. You know how it is. Emotions, man. Emotions.

So as everyone knows, I left my museum dayjob at Christmas. And here’s the thing about that particular dayjob: you need to be a little bit in love for it to work long-term. It’s hard work—mentally, physically, emotionally—and in many ways, it’s not just a job. It really is like living in a small village.

When I started, I was nineteen years old and painfully shy. Like, painfully. So naturally, I got a job where I needed to initiate conversations with strangers all day long.

Best exposure therapy ever.

I honed those people skills at Black Creek, and then I took them to conventions. I transferred tour banter to presentations and workshops. I adapted my History Actor chatter for podcasts. It’s not overstating to say that the job changed me—it gave me the tools and support to find my voice. And then, to use it.

So I fell in love with the village. I still love it. After so long, how could I not? Every board, every nail, every twig. The bucolic setting and physical work intersected with my life at exactly the right time.I’ve always done better among trees; I’m always calmer outside my own head…

I loved autumn mornings, before anyone else had really arrived. I loved the roofs sheening against the blue October sky, the smoked tang of fall winds in my nostrils and leaves crunching underfoot. I loved the way the air stirred—the year turning, but not settling just yet—too much to do, yet. I loved going into my building and starting my fire, that first rush of heat warming cold fingers.

To the surprise of no one, this setting bled into my fiction a lot.

I run. Down the lane, towards the village proper. Chimneys stab the bright sky like fingers. No curls of smoke lie against the blue. At the blacksmith’s, I stop. Clanging metal shatters the muffled quiet. If he is working, the forge must be lit. It must be.

I creep inside his shop. Sunlight shines off whitewashed walls. The blacksmith stands over his anvil, striking again and again. As the floorboards creak beneath my feet, he glances up. Frost coats his cheeks so that they gleam.

#

She liked gardening, but baking was her favourite. In their house, Marie positioned a little table just so—close to the hearth, so the bread would rise better, but near enough to the window that the sunlight fell across her work, and she could gaze across the rippling barley to the forest on the far side.

#

One morning, Jean-Luc builds the fire high in the bake-oven. When it is this cold, the dough lies sluggish beneath his hands. As he kneads it, he glances out the window. A skeletal shape stands by the cottage opposite. He blinks, twisting for a better look, but then the door creaks and distracts him.

Black Creek has totally infused itself into my creative mulch. It’s part of my terroir now—I suspect my fiction will always carry the taste of wood-smoke.

And the people—

The people—

You could probably write a whole book just on the people. The strong female mentors who took me under their wings; the colleagues I laughed and drank with (at pubs, not onsite); the visitors who bemused and amused and very often moved me…

I’m richer for all of them.

(I almost forgot: working in the brewery sparked my fascination with beer, so there you go. An important hobby and facet of my author life, born at Black Creek!)

It was a wonderful place to work. It was a bizarre place to work. It was a beautiful playground to grow and explore and test myself.

For a very long time, it was home.

But it feels right, heading out now. It feels like I’ve spent the last eight years becoming this person, whoever I am now. With that complete, it’s time to see what this person can do. I’m already doing things for my new dayjob, there are so many adventures lined up for 2019, and I can’t wait to dive into this new chapter.

Thank you, Black Creek. Until we meet again!

-KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

Because reasons. 🙂

Goodbye, 2018

Well. That was…quite a year.

2018 was life changes and personal growth all the way through. Not just writing-wise, either! I moved. I left my museum job after eight years. I did a lot of work on my anxieties and various relationships. I met amazing people, strengthened some pretty important friendships, and then things took a super delightful turn right at the end.

When I look at where I was in January, versus where I am now, the gulf seems staggering.

And it was staggering, going through it. Earlier in the year, I wrote about feeling like the Doctor going through a regeneration: lots of flash and fire and stumbling about the TARDIS. Or it felt like a caterpillar going into its cocoon. Did you know that caterpillars liquefy when they do that? Everything breaks down into messy goo and then it reconstitutes itself into a butterfly.

There was a lot of messy goo in 2018. Sitting at this end of December, I feel like the Doctor flailing about figuring out how their new body works (and whether they like pears)…or like the butterfly waiting for its wings to dry out.

Let’s be honest: a lot of people probably feel this way. On a broad scale, 2018 was packed with Sturm und Drang. Many of us feel shaken and battered.

But we’re still here. Still caring for each other. Still learning/remembering to care for ourselves. And I don’t know, people seem cautiously optimistic for 2019? Like we’ve been through the fire this year and found ourselves far stronger than we imagined. What will we do, knowing that?

I don’t know. I’m looking forward to finding out.

Goodbye, 2018. You closed some big chapters—let’s turn to a new page.

-KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

Lots of madrigals this week! Particularly this Thomas Morley gem. First of all, it’s an over-the-top flirtatious dialogue, which brings me considerable joy—and of course, it’s performed with absolutely straight faces. The lower voices’ harmonies are especially chilling; I’m so here for the tenors’ intervals on the word “tormenting.”

Just Do It: Nutcracker-Messiah

I’d like to tell a story.

About a year ago, I was heading to a Christmas party when I learned that Six Stories, Told at Night had gotten into the Toronto Fringe. That’s a story I’ve told before.

This is a Christmas party with lots of (choral) music-types. Fantastically nerdy conversations abounded. After a few pints, a friend and I were talking in the hallway about Toronto’s two big Christmas shows—Handel’s Messiah and the National Ballet’s The Nutcracker—and how many people tend to be a “Messiah” person or a “Nutcracker” person, and—

“Hold on,” quoth I, “what if you combined them?”

What?

“The music of Messiah,” I continued, flush with possibility and good ale, “and the story of The Nutcracker!

My friend giggled.

“But who may abide the nut of his cracking?” I sang. Then, to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus, “O Nutcracker! O Nutcracker!”

We giggled some more and eventually I went home, and that should’ve been the end of it.

I usually don’t condone liquid inspiration, but…

Except that in the morning, it was still funny. New words to “There were shepherds” dripped from my fingers easily enough. And for a few months, I poked at the idea again and occasionally threatened to put this show on.

“It wouldn’t be too hard,” quoth I (so innocent, then!). “You just need a piano and people who know Messiah.”

On and off, on and off, I wavered back and forth. And then Blythe had the brilliant idea of using it as a fundraiser for Gangway! Theatre Co., and we were off to the races. For the first time, I seriously considered what I needed:

Quartet of soloists

Chorus

Pianist

Conductor

Venue

Thanks to awesome, dedicated friends…uh, we got all those things. Yes, certain parts were harder than I anticipated. Like my poetry, my parody seems to prefer spontaneity—sitting down to a keyboard and messing with Messiah for realsies was less footloose and fancy-free than I expected. Also, as I learned with Six Stories, there are always tiny maddening logistical things that crop up like black flies.

Will it be funny? I mean, I think it’s funny. The choir thinks it’s funny. People outside a cross-section of classical music nerds?

This was an anxiety-making moment over the last week.

But.

But we’re doing it. The hilarious drunk idea has become a real show, hitting the Comedy Bar mainstage (945 Bloor St. West), November 13th at 9:30 pm. And I’m proud: I’m proud of the musicians, proud of my friends, and proud we got this sucker to the stage. We actually went for it.

Comfort ye, my people. For unto us, Nutcracker comes!

Tickets here!

-KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

But of course…

 

The Boy on the Train

I wasn’t going to make this a thing, but I’m still processing it…and writing is the way I process, so here we are.

Yesterday morning, I was on the subway heading to work. And let’s be honest: things haven’t been great for a bit. Everything is kind of A Lot right now, I’m not sleeping well, my anxiety is flaring, huge upheavals are happening. And yes, I’m getting help for those things.

But, context: I’m miserable.

“Autumn Evening,” Eilif Peterssen (1878)

So about halfway to work, a young man gets on the train and sits across from me. He’s maybe a few years younger than me. “That’s a cool jacket,” I think, and then lapse back into sadness.

A few stops later, I look up and notice that he’s crying. Silent tears course down his cheeks.

Uh-oh.

I pretend engrossment in my phone, because public emotion is awkward and I want to give him privacy. After all, I am also miserable. If I started crying right then, I’d want everyone to ignore me until I could regain control.

But then silent tears turn to that thin weeping you do when your heart’s really broken.

Shit shit shitshitshit

My heart’s hammering. We’re almost at my stop. The moment’s poised on the edge: it’s going to tip one way or the other, but which?

I look left. I look right. I take a deep breath.

And I go and sit—not beside the guy, but near him. “Hey, man. Is there anything I can do?”

He jerks upright, scrubbing his eyes. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“No, no,” I say lamely. “It’s just…I wasn’t sure, if it were me, would I want a stranger to reach out or leave me alone? So I needed to ask. That’s all.”

He hesitates a moment, then blurts, “I’m going to the cemetery.”

And so we have Dead Fathers Club: Subway Edition. Blowing past my stop, we talk about death, grief, and fathers all the way to his. “It may never be okay,” I tell him. “But it does get easier.”

He nods. “That’s why I’m alone, this time.”

Then we reach his stop. We say goodbye. He goes his way and I catch a train south to get back on mine.

And for all the sadness, I’m glad I was able to be of service; I’m glad he found the kindness he needed in that moment. But I think it helped me just as much as it helped him. I needed the connection too. I needed to remember that humans are Neat and we really do Try Our Best and that even two random strangers on a train can lighten each other’s burden. I needed to crawl free from my sadness and remember that this life is all about service and love.

But it’s strange: it’s both a beautiful thing that happened, but also I don’t want to make it a big thing. I didn’t do anything special. This isn’t at all about me.

The reason I’m writing this is…I just want us to remember to be kind. I want us to remember that even in the depths of our own darkness, we can still offer light. And I want us to remember that Being Human sometimes means being very, very sad, and also lifting each other up, as we are able.

Thank you, Guy with Cool Jacket. I hope you find peace and healing.

I love this painting, but I’ve searched high and low and cannot find the artist’s name. If you know it, please send it my way so I can link properly!

Be kind. Be well.

That’s all.

-KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

“Soon Ah Will Be Done” is another spiritual that has a jaunty tune and a heartbreaking historical context.

Frivolous and Practical

It never rains, but it pours! As you may recall from last week, we’d just finished with the Toronto Fringe and Readercon. The last few days have been mostly about recovery, but also plunging headfirst into new projects and deadlines.

We got this.

(We did find out that Six Stories, Told at Night was shortlisted for Best of Fringe. While it would’ve been nice to perform it again in August, the forced break may be a blessing in disguise!)

Also, I’m officially into my last two weeks in the garret before Guinness and I move into our new hobbit-hole.

Amidst all this, I did something pretty frivolous.

While I was out, I saw this amazing houndstooth cardigan. Now, clothing doesn’t usually hold much interest for me. But when I fall for certain pieces, I fall hard. That was the case here: love at first sight.

Beautiful as it was, this cardigan was more than I’d usually spend on a single piece. And I just came back from Readercon. And I spent a lot at the Fringe tent all last week. And I can’t even wear it until fall. And I’m moving to a new apartment.

But it fit so well and it was so me. And I’m trying, you know, to figure out what I actually want, what I actually like—as opposed to what I think I should like. As we’ve been saying for months, this is a transition time, the chaos after a long period of stability.

So you’d better believe I bought that cardigan.

Awkward mirror selfie!

Caveat that I don’t ordinarily condone retail therapy. But also—sometimes, you’ve got to be frivolous. Sometimes you need to embrace the things that are so you, because they don’t always come along very frequently. (Besides, I’m usually pretty responsible with my money.)

In any case, I then did something very practical: something that also felt very me-affirming.

Oddly enough, it also had to do with clothes. I have a pair of boat shoes that I love. But the insoles were badly damaged, and they were covered in dust, and the leather was dry and desperately wanting some polish. So after far too much procrastination, I got new insoles. I cleaned them; I polished them with this special “nourishing” cream.

And they look much better. I feel much better, because I like these shoes, and I prefer when they look good. It’s another case of taking one tiny step in a direction that feels more right.

So there you go: one frivolous thing, one practical thing, both of which brought me joy. Of course, writing this post feels a little frivolous too. Cardigans and shoes—what’s that got to do with anything? With writing, with art?

Because I’m fumbling forward in all parts of my life, and these were two very small, very concrete steps in the right direction. There’s going to be a lot of missteps over the next while. I know that. But these two tiny things? These I got right.

What’s bringing you joy? What steps are you taking towards yourself?

-KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

I saw Wicked with my family this past week, and goodness, that musical has aged unexpectedly well. The political undercurrents have become sharply poignant—and current events are shining light on new subtext. (It’s about silencing certain groups and fake news and construction of false narratives/images, right?)

In any case, “Defying Gravity” always makes me emotional, but it’s punching especially hard right now. No, you’re crying.

Just you and I defying gravity,

With you and I defying gravity,

They’ll never bring us down.

Birthday Post: On Transitions

Hey pals! It’s the end of June, and you know what that means!

Obligatory birthday post!

Yes, yes, my birthday isn’t until Thursday (Turning 27! Whoo!). But next Monday brings us awfully close to the Toronto Fringe, so I figured I’d squeeze the birthday philosophizing in today.

So I’m going to be honest. This is a time of intense transition and transformation. Home, work, life -everything has felt the effects. My solid ground has turned to shifting sands, and quite frankly, it’s terrifying.

You see, I’m the kind of person that set down roots. Deep roots, intense roots. I build routines and systems. When those get disrupted – when I’m uprooted, when the patterns change – I feel terribly discombobulated. It’s almost like I use those roots and routines to anchor myself. When too much changes too rapidly, it feels like I’ve been cut loose on endless ocean.

“The Shipwreck,” J.M.W. Turner (1805). Courtesy http://www.tate.org.uk

It feels like drowning.

Perhaps that’s an apt metaphor. Look at the symbolism water carries with it. Water is chaos, the “formless deep.” Water is death.

Water is also a womb, All life springs from the ocean. If we’re going to broaden the metaphor, mythology is filled with a descent to the underworld – or the ocean’s darkest places – followed by death and rebirth. From Inanna to Jonah, for the true self to be born, death must happen first.

As wiser people than me have said, transformation is a kind of death.

So much talk of death for a birthday post! But that’s where stories and mythologies are useful. They give form and the illusion of narrative structure to a universe that has little of either.

(To be clear: we’re only discussing death on a metaphorical/archetypal level here.)

Looking at my past birthday posts, there’s a constant refrain. I didn’t feel fully-formed. I knew something was missing. Something was immature, unfinished. I knew I wasn’t yet myself, not entirely. It was a caterpillar phase, I guess.

And now –

Now, I think this is the formless deep. And that word “formless” strikes me pretty hard– life certainly feels formless at the minute! This is the chrysalis, the underworld, the chaos and destruction at the end of a long cycle of stability.

But from all of that…from all of that, new life always springs. As uncomfortable as transition is, I really do think it’s bringing me closer to the person I really am. And I think the lessons from earlier in my twenties have laid a solid foundation for finding that KT. De profundis, right? “Out of the depths” has always been a personal motto of sorts.Now we see it in action!

I love this painting, but I’ve searched high and low and cannot find the artist’s name. If you know it, please send it my way so I can link properly!

I’m still hopeful about the year ahead. When I’m not fretting, I’m actually quite excited. We’re getting closer to…to whatever it is, this thing on the horizon. A new chapter is starting. We just have to get there.

-KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

Choir gives me many things…and I greatly appreciate the music it brings me. The right piece tends to find me at the right time. My voice does not fit spirituals easily, but it is some of the most comforting and viscerally emotional music I’ve heard.