The extent of my post-convention fatigue became apparent when I crouched down with a scoop of kibble to pour into the cat’s bowl. She was standing nearby, very intent on being there the moment the food hit the bowl, except I began to lose my balance. It was a slight bobble, the sort I usually correct without even noticing, but I couldn’t. I teetered and the cat startled, spinning to face me with wide eyes as her feet tried to bolt in three directions at once. I think it was the skitter noise of her claws on the hardwood floor that really undid me. I began to laugh. The laughing absorbed all of my remaining energy and balance abandoned me completely. A slow crumple landed me on the floor, head leaning on a nearby stool, my knees surrounded by all the food that had fallen when my limp fingers released the scoop. It was not that funny. I knew it wasn’t and that was part of the reason I could not stop laughing. I laughed because I was too tired to stand up again, because the cat sported a tail like a bottle brush, because kibble was everywhere, because it was so ridiculous for me to be laughing this much, because my children had accumulated in a hovering crowd wondering what on earth was wrong with their mother.
“Mom? Are you laughing or crying? Are you okay?” They asked.
Yes. I was both laughing and crying. Everything was fine, but I really needed to curl up into a ball until the twitching tension in my body calmed. I’d spent three really good days, filled to over flowing with good things. I’d just reached complete overload and required a complete system shutdown so that I could reboot and function again.
One of the greatest gifts given to me during this LTUE was parceled out in tiny pieces over all three days: I have a professional identity separate from Howard’s. It used to be that I was the business arm of Schlock Mercenary, Howard’s handler and support. It is an accurate description, because I do those things. I like being an integral part of Schlock. Yet I also wanted to be myself with my own things. It sometimes got frustrating to only ever be relevant as an appendage. “And this is Sandra who makes things run for Howard.” In the past three days I was only introduced that way once. All of the other times people mentioned my blog, my picture book, or my presentations. They might also mention my work for Schlock, but it became part of the picture rather than the whole of it. I saw it when people came to the table. They would talk to Howard and then they would come have a separate conversation with me because they had things to say about what I’ve created. For the past several years Howard and I have been working together to help me establish a separate professional identity. LTUE let me see that we’ve begun to succeed.
Another joy was setting up Kiki’s artwork on part of one table and having dozens of conversations with people who admired it. Kiki herself was able to have those conversations on Saturday when she sat next to her art and created something new. I love seeing her glow. It was not just the praise, but also the realization that the career she wants is actually possible, that there really are people out there who will buy her work because they love it. She sold three pieces, but the hope she brought home is far more valuable than the money.
I had a presentation and two panels, each of which went really well. I left feeling like there was lots more to discuss, but that we’d covered the truly essential pieces. Enough people came to tell me they enjoyed the presentations for me to know that I was part of something that was valuable to someone else. I also came away with new panel and presentation ideas. I’ll have to update my presentation list.
Then there were the conversations. I spoke with long-time friends who are in hard places right now. I rejoiced with friends who had good news. I joked with the pair of friends who traveled from Hawaii to stay in my house and help us with running our dealer room tables. I met people I’d only known online. I talked with fans who come back year after year to see what is new and who become friends. There were new people just discovering Schlock and my writing. Some came up simply because they’d been in a panel and wanted to talk further about the topic. We talked with long time business partners and new friends who needed advice. Often the conversations were short, like small gifts dropped off to be fully appreciated later. A few of the conversations ran across hours filled with topics both silly and important. Each was a gift of time and connection. I’m still turning them over in my head.
I frequently end up jellyfishing after conventions. I drift through my house like a jellyfish in a current. With the cat food incident I realized I’d pushed beyond drifting fatigue and into a realm of complete blitzed-out incapability. I lay in bed so exhausted and so wound up that I didn’t think sleep would ever come, but unable to muster the usual frustration I feel for insomnia. And it wasn’t insomnia really. Sleep arrived quite quickly, it was just that my body was informing me in no uncertain terms that we really should have rested long ago.
I woke Sunday morning with things still to do. Four children needed to eat breakfast and be herded into church clothes and off to the meetings. Our friends needed to be farewelled because they had a long drive ahead of them. I needed to figure out how to make myself suitably presentable for church while minimizing effort and maximizing comfort. My feet were not at all interested in wearing pretty shoes. Church was followed by a meeting during which I needed to be coherent and organized. I sat in corners at church, not asleep, but definitely conserving energy. After my meeting I came home and slept. This is all part of the convention recovery process. Tomorrow will be a day of re-establishing normal and clearing away the last of the convention thoughts and mess. I have follow up tasks for next week including writing up my presentation notes.
LTUE this year was an exceptionally good experience. I loved the Marriott venue and I hope they’ll make that into a permanent home.