Weeknotes 8.1 (August 10, 2020)

More of a thought process than an update this time…

Eight months into the year, and nine of these updates so far (if you include this one). I’m choosing to see that as a win — after all, I haven’t given up on writing these posts, even if it’s not as often as I’d hoped — instead of failure. This is the time to go easy on ourselves, to celebrate the accomplishments instead of beating ourselves up over what isn’t done yet. Find joy in the fact that we’re still here, still striving and surviving, still holding on to hope, because so many aren’t. And so many more can’t.

Step one is always survive. Surviving is always first, and of course, there are going to some days where it’s all you can manage. That’s okay, for a while. For short periods. Everyone struggles. But eventually, you have to do more than merely keep breathing. (And if you think you can’t, for months or years, but somehow you’re paying the bills and taking time for yourself and working toward your goals, then friend you’ve selfishly confused “surviving” for “getting everything I want” and those are not the same things.)

Step two is to be kind, to yourself and everyone around you.

Step three is to dream. To want. To hope. Having goals is not the same as having dreams, because too often goals are rooted in fears. You can be afraid of not achieving, and chase that as if it’s going to solve all your problems, but it’s not letting yourself imagine a better life based on being genuine and happy. Chances are pretty good that when you’re chasing your fears instead, whatever you “achieve” feels hollow, and no matter how much you keep moving those goal posts, you never feel like it’s enough.

It’s not to late to change, though.

Step four is to plan. Make a budget, enroll in a class, practice something until it’s perfect. Whatever you need to give you the foundation to turn your “want” into a “got”. Wanting isn’t enough, but you can learn almost anything, if you put in the work.

Step five is to act on those plans to achieve your dreams. We can’t always live in that last step, because life is hardest for those of us with the least, and the universe isn’t fair. But we have to do steps one and two, always. One, because otherwise we’re not surviving, and two, because otherwise we’re not living. You can’t dream if you aren’t kind to yourself. You can’t act on those dreams if you don’t have dreams, because being motivated by your fears is a quick way to harden your heart and eat away at your soul. You get bitter, and selfish, and you accomplish very little that actually makes you happy.

What a waste of this glorious opportunity for life.

So be kind to yourself, friends, and if you can’t manage that every day, at least be kind to the other people around you. Even if you don’t feel it. Especially if you don’t feel it. Practice kindness on them, until it’s a habit, and you’ll eventually find you’ve learned how to be kind to yourself too.

Need some suggestions? Start by thinking about the people who take care of you. Who does the work that supports your day-to-day? Maybe you live with people who cook for you, clean, or do the shopping. You might have someone who bakes, who brews the coffee, who changes the light bulbs, who makes sure there’s toilet paper in the bathroom. If not, do you have kids or pets? Think about who helps you to take care of them (teachers, day care working, bus drivers, the vet). Or what about the people outside of your home who lend a hand? The neighbor who watered your lawn or shoveled the snow off your walk last winter. The barista who always remembers your favorite coffee drink. The friend who sent you a handwritten letter, just because.

Start by finding ways to help them. Put aside any thought of how to get them to do what you want, or how to get something for yourself. Real kindness isn’t selfish. You give to be kind. Small things, a few minutes of your life: take out the trash or load the dishwasher without your spouse or roommate having to ask. Send an email thanking your child’s teacher for all the work they’ll have to do to keep educating during this stressful time. Give the barista an extra large tip. Leave cookies on your neighbor’s porch (bonus: buy them from a local bakery and you can support the economy while also giving away tasty treats). Reach out to a friend, just to let them know you’re still here. Give compliments more often than you criticize.

And if you think you’re already doing all that, ask what someone needs from you, and then do it.

A few minutes a day to be thoughtful and support those around you isn’t going to take away from anything you wanted to do for yourself. Failing to be kind is going to cost you far more than you’ll ever spend on showing others you care. Really, if you’re not being kind to others, are you happy? Do you wake up feeling good in the morning, knowing you’re a part of a community or a family or a neighborhood? Probably not. But if you keep at it, I promise you, your heart gets a little softer, and your life gets a little brighter. Everything will feel a bit more real than it did before, and you just might figure out how to live.

Weeknotes 6.1 (June 30, 2020)

And then half a year was gone.

It’s been two months since my last post here, and even though I know the shape of things like “months” and “years” and “half” and “two”, time’s lost a lot of meaning to me lately. I keep thinking of things I meant to have done, looking at the date of when I’d meant to do them, and then being surprised by the distance between that date and now, as if the days themselves are unconnected to everything around them. I think “oh I should have done that a few days ago” only to find I’d been telling myself that since the beginning of May.

I have done things of course. The big important ones like keeping my child clean and fed and reasonably happy, or turning in all of my freelance work on time, or figuring out ways to navigate a world that feels tiny (because we’re staying home to avoid the plague) and also massively out of control (because all this free time is giving everyone a chance to realize how truly miserably unfair the world is, and we’re all trying to speak up about it at once).

If you don’t also feel that way, all I can say is “examine your privilege” because you, friend, are floating through life on that unexamined privilege like a giant inflatable pool lounger while the rest of us are drowning.

It just got to be where there was too much going on inside of my head, so I stopped wanting to interact much with anything outside of it. Also, I’ve been in a lot of physical pain lately, though I try to manage it with diet and medication and exercise and positive fucking thinking, so I’m sleeping in short shifts, a few hours at night, a few hours nap in the afternoon if I’m lucky. It’s grinding away at my ability to do the small important things in my life, like draw, or sew, or read books. I can’t stop doing the big stuff because I have to take care of my family and make money. I can’t seem to sleep any more no matter what I try, and yes, whatever you’re about to suggest I’ve tried.

I even bought a new mattress which is being delivered today, because I can’t control that I have this damn disease but I can mitigate it by throwing money at it and since I’m finally starting to have a little money, after years and years of heartbreaking poverty, that’s what I’m going to do.

And on top of doing my work and raising a disabled child and not sleeping and juggling finances and sharing a small space with two other adult-sized people and two needy indoor-only cats and having joint inflammation severe enough to cut off my circulation making it so I randomly can’t use my hands for hours at a time, the world is a fucking trash fire. Cops thinking they’re big game hunters taking down black people like it’s a sport, transphobes trying to separate queer people into little boxes as a way to cut off support for our trans siblings, bitter fools who think public safety is the opposite of freedom, gun-toting racists who think bullets will somehow protect them from their own insecurities, sexual predators weaponizing our community to prey on their own fans, the knee-jerk reactions of their friends who think if they can shout down the victims nothing bad will have really happened in the past, the willfully ignorant people still, still, in the face of all evidence, insisting that we’re not destroying our planet so they don’t have to change anything about the way they live, and of course, and the most, our screaming baboon of a president and the people who enable him in order to bloat their bank accounts and strip away civil rights because they can’t imagine a world in which we are in any way equal to them. None of them can, not the buyers or the shooters or the predators or the politicians who allow Trump to do everything he does. It all comes down to selfishness, on such a grand scale it’s almost too big to see.

It’s all so much. In the face of all of that, who needs another blog post from me?

I didn’t, anyway. Not for a while.

But while none of the above has changed, neither have I given up. I’m still here, despite everything. Things are pretty good at home, despite everything. We’re figuring out how to find space and time for ourselves, and each other, maybe better than we did before. I’m still creating (in my head) which is bound to come out in some story or some piece of art eventually. I’m still myself, existing, standing up, for what I need and what’s right and what’s going to make the world a better place. To have all of that, despite everything, is a gift I’m choosing to give myself.

And you’re still here, reading this, which is a gift too. Thank you.

AND WHILE YOU’RE HERE…

Defund the cops already. Yes, seriously. Because black lives matter, because cops kill a disproportionate number of non-white and disabled and queer people, because our communities are provably, historically, safer when that money is spent on education and support services instead. The poverty-to-prison pipeline only benefits the people profiting from destroying lives (mostly, black lives) to create an arbitrary division between “us” and “them” that causes poor people to get poorer and creates an entirely separate system of justice for rich white people. And let’s face it: if you’re reading this, you’re probably not one of the folks that system is designed to serve and protect. Your life would, guaranteed, be better if we defunded and demilitarized the police. If you can’t do it because it’s good and right, then do it because you deserve a community where police violence and incarceration aren’t the only “solutions” to everyone’s problems. You can give yourself that gift, too.

Re-Reading Comics: Atomic Robo collected volumes 4-6

Robos 4 thru 6, with bonus Mazikitty

This week has been the sort of week that really tests one’s sense of linear time, especially since it’s been going on for almost a month already. Luckily I’ve had three more Atomic Robo collections to see me through it.

Book 4, Atomic Robo and Other Strangeness, is a collection of one-shots and mini comics. There’s a bunch about the Vampire Dimension, a “biomega” kaiju in Tokyo, a ghost (sort of)… but none of that matters because it also has the 2009 Free Comic Book Day story¬†Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur. Dr. Dinosaur.

DR. DINOSAUR.

I love Dr. Dinosaur. As much as I adore Robo, and I really do, Dr. Dinosaur is just a fucking delight. In a comic that’s already bulletproof, this mad genius of a reptile feels like he was written just for me. Like a little treat for being a faithful fan. In this issue we get to see the moment Atomic Robo meets our superior science raptor, immediately hates said science raptor, and in return the good (bad?) doctor hates him too.

Book 5, Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science, goes back to the beginning, telling the story of young Robo training with his mentor, Jack Tarot, while still learning the ways of action science with Tesla. There’s a little more Vampire Dimension and a bit more of Tesla and Edison’s Current War, with a whole lot of bullets in between.

Also a very large robot. And some kissing.

Book 6, The Ghost of Station X, once again takes Robo’s story in a different direction. This time, he’s got to solve a mystery while also fighting against the laws of physics to save a space station from falling out of orbit. There’s fewer jokes and a lot more of Robo’s serious face, but it’s a solid collection that doesn’t disappoint.

As a bonus, you’ll also get to read the 2010 FCB story, “Flight of the Terror Birds”!

Aren’t they cute?

Call up your local comic book shop and order a bunch of Robo books for yourself today!

Re-Reading Comics: Atomic Robo collected volumes 1-3

I’m continuing my big pandemic reread – using graphic novels, collections, and single issues I’ve got in my apartment right now – with another hardback. Last week I talked about the second collected book of MIND MGMT issues, subtitled “The Futurist”. This week I needed something light and fun, so I grabbed a handful of Atomic Robo off the shelf.

If you’re feeling a bit cooped up and restless, call up your local shop to order yourself Atomic Robo V1, “Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne”. Written by Brian Clevinger, art by Scott Wegener (with color by Ronda Pattison and letters by Jeff Powel) the series jumps back and forth through time, telling different pieces of Atomic Robo’s first 83 years of existence. It has everything you’d want from a retro-style modernist comic: video game jokes (Megaman, Jenkins, etc.), Nazis, mummies, steampunk, Carl Sagan being awesome, Stephen Hawking being a bastard, and a wise-cracking intelligent robot swinging his way through it all. It’s sarcastically funny, it’s got a hipster sensibility that perfectly meshes with the crisp, clean art – exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to translate well to t-shirts and messenger bags. It made me happy, and genuinely happy is a little harder to come by these days.

But these are slim volumes, these Robo books, and if I’m going to get through every comic I own in the next few years I have to group smaller issues in these reviews. Which means I also get to talk about the second and third collections!

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