Feline musings and lacking chill

I write in my pyjamas on my sofa surrounded by my cats. It’s a bit isolating — Allison Schroeder

I can’t say I write in my pj’s on a sofa. Not my perch or outfit of choice. I’ll pretty much write anywhere but I don’t find sofas ideal no matter how much back support they may have.

I will write with the laptop sitting on my lap with my feet propped up on another chair. I will write sitting cross-legged on the floor.

I’m not surrounded by cats when I write simply because I don’t have any cats in my home. Except this week, I’m cat-sitting for a family friend. A one-and-a-half year old ginger/sand tabby named Hoody. The family has only had him for a month. They found him at the local humane society. Nobody is clear on his backstory. The folks at the humane society believe he was living on the streets.

But he is exceedingly friendly and playful. If he was living on the streets, he wasn’t there for any extended period of time. He loves attention but I always default to describing him as needy. I can also describe him as lacking a little chill. I blame that on his youth and whatever occurred in his life prior to finding his forever home.

As I write this blog, the ginger furball is napping beside the laptop on the kitchen table that doubles as my office, my writing HQ, my perch of choice. He’s found some space amongst the chaotically organized research material that inhabits the table.

I did have a cat before. I had to put him down 8-1/2 years ago. He was losing weight and it seemed his kidneys were starting to shut down. There was no other option, if you think about it. That was all before I started writing. So, I’ve never had the experience of writing while being surrounded by cats. That seems a little distracting to me, especially if they’re not particularly chill which is something I highly prize at this point. Walking all over the keyboard is hardly endearing, either. I certainly won’t miss that when his family comes to pick him up next Monday morning.

I suppose Hoody’s presence is a good way to figure out if I’m ready to make room for a furball or two of my own. Heading into Day Three… the answer is no. I’m thinking my caretaking tendencies were satiated when I had the cat and the horse. Is it horrible to be counting down the days until the furball goes home? I love animals. I love horses. I love cats and other furry and feathered creatures. But it takes time and responsibility to have one in your life. I worry he’s not being entertained enough. I worry I’ll come home to find something he’s destroyed. Child-proofing a home is one thing. Cat-proofing a home is a whole different ballgame.

Schroeder said it was a bit isolating being surrounded by her cats while she’s in her pj’s writing something. Writing can be isolating, but not in a negative way. You’re isolated with your thoughts and ideas, the very things you want to put onto paper. I like being isolated in that way. Let’s me get into the heads of my characters and talk or listen to them. I enjoy my alone time with them.

The isolation I need probably doesn’t go over very well with family members or acquaintances who don’t quite understand. I suppose the fear of me possibly being labelled a hermit or anti-social doesn’t sit well with family. The creative soul misunderstood.

Anyway, I move through life knowing that the creative soul can, and will be, misunderstood. It doesn’t bother me. I’m past the point of giving a shit about what a lot folks think I should or shouldn’t do. However, if anyone tries to coerce me into doing something I ultimately don’t want to do, I will rain Hell down on them. Just a warning.

Now, back to writing and trying to help a feline house guest gain some chill before I lose mine.

Not everybody, just somebody

I think that you’ve got to make something that pleases you and hope that other people feel the same way — Thomas Keller

Creating a photographic image, a painting, a piece of music, a piece of writing or even a quilt, has to please the person creating it. Sounds a little selfish? I think it’s more along the lines of taking pride in the work. It’s revealing what you can do or showing off what a little gumption (which includes taking a really deep breath) can get you.

It reveals a part of you that might not come out all that often in everyday life. It is your creativity. The artistic kind. It represents what you think is beautiful and what your artistic sensibilities are. It’s your artistic expression. Sometimes revealing that expression can be the most terrifying thing a person can do. It is a sacred space that most people keep to themselves or only share with their closest friends and confidantes.

But when you get the nerve to reveal that side of you to a larger audience, beyond the friends and the family, sometimes you have to remind yourself it’s impossible to please everybody with what you want to create. So, you must start with pleasing yourself. Be true to yourself. Create what you want and go from there.

When I started seriously pursuing writing as a more than a hobby (which was right from the get go), I didn’t pursue it for any real financial gain. These days, earning an income by just being a novelist doesn’t happen all that easily. Those who are well-established and have a proven track record with their writing can probably do it.

I started pursuing writing because it was a creative outlet I had not fully explored when I was much younger and I had wondered whether or not I could be a storyteller. All my other creative outlets had their moments with me. But all those outlets have led me to where I’m at now. I still have a strong interest in photography. It was one of my first loves. That hasn’t changed. But it’s been relegated to more personal pursuits rather than using it as a source of revenue.

I’m funny about the writing in that way, as well. I know folks who write for a living. They do corporate work or write for niche magazines and newspapers. Kudos to them for making writing their livelihood. Me? I can’t seem to wrap my head around juggling these two things: 1) writing to get paid and; 2) writing because I want to tell a story. Writing, for the most part, is a pleasure for me. And that includes the times I stared at a blank screen wondering where the fuck all those great ideas that popped into my head when I was driving home from work, had disappeared to. The process, with all its warts, is something I enjoy. But once money factors into it, writing will eventually become work. That’s the fastest way to ambivalence and disdain. I love writing. I don’t ever want to hate it.

You hear the odd person remark that they can’t believe they’re getting paid to do something they love. Must be nice. I have yet to utter those words. I think that experience is saved for those who were born knowing what they want to do with their lives and get the opportunity to do it. To be honest, it’s a goal I’ve never thought to aspire to. I have far more interesting words to utter.

I write to get something off my chest whether it be good, bad or ugly. Sure, there are other ways. But I think those activities are deemed either illegal or unacceptable or both by society’s standards. When I write to get something off my chest, it could be anything really. I suppose it’s one of the reasons I maintain this blog. Other things that I want to get off my chest are stories… like the one my two boys are telling me. Those I can’t blow off onto a blog post. That takes structure and attention to detail to get that off my chest.

I maintain this blog not to attract attention to myself, even though it’s kind of naturally built-in. I maintain it to keep writing and maybe to hone my keyboarding skills. I remember taking typewriting classes in school. Who here remembers typewriters? They were the clunkier, heavier versions of today’s computer keyboards. I think I managed to type 30 words per minute. No more than that. I should figure out how many words I can type out per minute now. Probably 30 still. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Do I ultimately care about how many people have read my posts? No. There millions of blogs out there. I’m just one little voice. If I hit five views for one day, I’ll be happy. If I get zero, I’m fine with that, too.

When I wrote the first book, did I care about how it would sell? Not really. I cared more that I told a decent story. The content of the book might not be everybody’s cup of tea but I never wrote it to be everybody’s cup of tea. Without a shadow of a doubt, the second book won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, either. It’ll be my cup of tea… with a bottle of mezcal off to the side. If you like my sensibilities, you’ll probably like it, too.

I’ve been told that if you write your book, an audience will find you. Or something to that effect. I’d like to believe that. I don’t write for the masses because it would be too hard to do. My brain isn’t wired that way. I have to be true to myself. I write because I think I have interesting stories to tell. And depending on how you define ‘interesting’, those stories are not what everybody wants.

And I’m ok with that. I never meant to please everybody. Maybe just somebody.

The contradiction of being human

People pretend to be nice; people pretend to be smooth and polite and everything, but this is only an appearance because the way we’re built as human beings is only in paradox and contradictions — Vincent Cassel

Humans are walking contradictions. We all try to toe the line when it comes to living in any given community and interacting with one another in a socially acceptable manner.

The problem with socially acceptable behaviour is we end up saddled with things that are considered right and things that are considered wrong in an attempt to unify everyone with a community. Sometimes that doesn’t leave room to permit the concept of thinking differently or being different. You can only go outside the box so much before someone is looking at you like you’ve lost your fucking mind and tells you to fall in with the crowd and be ‘normal’… whatever the fuck that means.

It’s interesting to hear those same individuals — the ones who told you fall in line — act nice and polite to someone and then turn around make a rather judgmental or cruel remark about that person once he/she is out of ear-shot. It’s especially interesting when those sour remarks are about someone they know very well… i.e. the kind you have in familial relationships via blood or marriage.

I’ve heard my fair share of those catty and cutting remarks, especially about the superficial. I reached a point some time ago that I really don’t care to hear that shit anymore. Listening to duplicity is tiring. I can’t imagine how tiring it must be to be duplicitous. Whatever happened to the saying “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? Given the political and social environment the world is mired in right now, anybody who abides by that in some form are outnumbered by those who don’t care and want what’s in their own best self-interest.

‘Selfish’ is a word saddled with negative connotations. A lot of people who are selfish, won’t admit to being selfish. They’ll describe it as something else. Call it entitlement, call it upholding the beliefs you grew up with. Call it whatever.

There are folks who want to be seen as good, who want to curry favour with someone, who want acceptance. They want it so desperately that they will suppress anything they perceive to be negative about themselves. They slip on a mask of goodness, a mask of ‘I belong’… and someone’s definition of perfection.

I’ve seen enough of this behaviour manifest itself in individuals I know/knew very well or care(d) about that it frustrates me to no end. A person’s inability to accept others as they are is a reflection of that person’s inability to accept who they are, to accept what society consider to be character or physical flaws.

There is nothing perfect about human beings. We are capable of love, hate and indifference. We can be snarky, bitchy, whiny, grumpy, angry, cruel. If you want perfection, then being a perfect human being means accepting and embracing your imperfections. Accepting the contradictions that exist within you. It also means accepting and embracing the contradictions that exist within those you love and appreciate.

There is nothing simple about being a human being. I move through my positive and negative emotions and traits like a fish to water. I am more than secure about who I am and who I can never be. Personally, it’s really annoying and soul-draining to deal with individuals who lack the self-awareness to accept who they really are.

If you’re an asshole and you are lucid enough to realize that and be okay with that, then great… be an asshole. Be consistently an asshole. And if you can do that, DO NOT make a big production by declaring to everyone who you think will listen to you that you know you’re asshole. That’s not an example of self-awareness. You’re asking us for permission to be an asshole, to feel sorry for you because you’re a dickhead. You want us to excuse your behaviour.

Honestly, you’re not owning it.

Call me crazy, but I’m pretty true assholes don’t ask for permission for anything. You are an example of an attention seeker. You’re just pretending to be self-aware when you’re not. It’s all lip service. Guess what… you’d be surprised that there are a lot more people than you’d expect who are very aware you deal in lip service.

Just be an asshole. Just be. There’s no need to declare it. Everybody knows already. Newsflash — we’re not stupid.

If it sounds like I’m railing against one particular person, fear not. I’m railing against all the fuckers who I’ve met and had to punt out of my life.

I can deal with the negative aspects of a person’s personality. Knowing right off the hop that you’re a jerk makes it easier to manage my interactions with you. But it doesn’t mean I want to be exposed to that kind of negativity energy for any extended period of time. I know folks who consistently expose themselves to negative energy out of some misguided idea of finding the good in everyone. That kind of masochism is one I do not endorse or encourage.

Being straight with yourself makes it easier to be straight with everybody else.

Believe me, we’ll thank you.