Month: June 2021

Looking Back Two Years

Yesterday I was standing in the kitchen while he talked through the things he plans to do this week. He was talking fast and the list was long, but he was energetic and optimistic about the work ahead. This is a version of Howard I haven’t seen for more than two years, one I wasn’t certain we would ever get back. I spent twenty-five years running to keep up with Howard, then the last two waiting while he moved much more slowly. During those two years I had to face the possibility that this was our new normal. That we simply had to adapt to a different set of capabilities than what we had before. Two years ago Howard switched his mental health meds, then we had a house disaster that disrupted our work spaces for six months, then our daughter got married, then Howard got sick for eight months, and while he was being sick the world threw a pandemic. Then we ended the daily comic around which our lives had been structured for twenty years and we had to figure out what comes next. All of that lingered physically, financially, and emotionally until about two months ago.

Two months ago we got vaccinated, and we finally got the last pieces to deliver packages to our Kickstarter backers. Then Howard streamed all his sketches and life schedule clicked into place. Somewhere in the last month, Howard started popping awake before I do. He started being excited to get up and face the challenges of the day.

On Monday I shipped out the last of the packages for Big Dumb Objects. It feels like closing the book on the past two years. Time to launch ourselves into what comes next. I’m glad we get to launch with Howard back up to speed. I’m glad we had some time where we were forced to live slower. The enforced slowness taught us different ways to be. It gave us space to build a different structure around ourselves, one that values process equally with product. We have many projects we plan to work on in the next six months, but for today I want to pause and be glad for the past two years, and to be grateful that we now get to shift into something new.

Explaining My Work

A challenge I sometimes face is answering the question “What are you working on?” asked in a writing context. Many of my writer friends have a single book they are focused on, sometimes for years. My focus is always rolling and shifting, responsive to dozens of things that are not easily visible to people who are not privy to our behind-the-scenes business choices nor our private family needs. At the beginning of this year I had three months in a row where most of the other things had quieted and I was able to focus on professional expansion for myself on both teaching and writing fronts. During the second three months writing and teaching went dormant while I managed Kickstarter fulfillment. The third three months look to also have heavy Kickstarter commitments in them. I’m going to try to do a better job balancing and giving space to Sandra Tayler: Teacher and Sandra Tayler: Writer, but we need the income running a Kickstarter will bring to us. This means that Kickstarter administration gets to take over my brain for a while.

What am I working on? Well, that depends on how you define “working on.” Do you mean which things am I going to spend time and creative energy on today? This week? Or do you mean what projects do I have pending that I plan to return to? How do I describe projects which are paused for months or years, not because they’re not important, but because in the ever-jostling evaluation of how I should spend my time today keeps pushing them off the schedule? What about the dream projects which I don’t even have the chance to pick up because of all the other things? And how do I explain that no, really, my life has calmed down quite a lot since before the pandemic?

Explaining my job becomes even more complex when I’m talking to a person who doesn’t even have the framework to understand a variable income creative career. I end up having to pare things down, tell only a piece of what is going on. Whichever piece will fit neatly inside the conversation I’m having without having to expand the conversation. It really isn’t polite to hold up a grocery line to explain to the clerk that my plans for the afternoon involve printing postage and shipping out 100 packages that I need to send to Kickstarter backers. The clerk is making small talk, I give small answers in response.

My life feels so normal to me with all of its shifting schedules and moving furniture around to create space for projects. It is only when I try to explain a piece of it to someone else that I remember most people have a predictable paycheck and a daily schedule that is set by other people. I sometimes envy that regularity and other times I am very glad to have my flexibility.

Still Submerged

I’m still mid shipping. I have hopes that by the end of next week I will have all of the packages in the mail. At that point I can take a deep breath and decide what is next. I’ve also decided that next week is not allowed to have any appointments in it. This week I’ve spent every minute running from thing to thing to thing. I want more space next week. Unfortunately appointments are already accumulating in the week after next, but they won’t be too much if I can finish the shipping next week. This next week will also feature some behind-the-scenes decision making that will determine the shape of my July and August projects.

I’m tired. I wake up tired, which tells me that I’m depleting reserves and need to schedule some slower time in the near future. I did have a bit of serendipity yesterday. The packing paper delivery was delayed by a day which meant I couldn’t do shipping yesterday. Instead I knocked out a bunch of other tasks and errands. Hopefully the packing paper will arrive before today’s scheduled shipping. Otherwise the shipping gets pushed off onto Saturday instead. Or Monday.

But in between all the shipping and errands and appointments. Life is good. I can tell that some of this busy-ness will subside soon and I’m looking forward to that.

Down Periscope

For the past three weeks I’ve been focused on sending packages of books to Kickstarter backers. This effort coincided with lots of the social / community events which were pandemic canceled now being post-vaccination rescheduled. It is all good, but it has also been taking up so much of my brain that time to process and write has been in short supply. Today was spent giving energy and rides to people I love and who I want to see succeed. Now the day still has hours in it, but I’ve used up most of my brain power allotment. So here is a list of things I’d like to write about thoughtfully and at length:

Being surprised to not have more emotions about going back to places like church or seeing people in person for the first time in more than a year. Wondering if that is an indicator of my own increased emotional health, or just the natural result of my introverted nature.

The ways my kids have grown up and stepped up to take assistant roles in the shipping process. They’re problem solving rather than waiting for direction which is not who they were when we last shipped books two years ago.

Finding value in developing accountability systems like a weekly grocery shopping date with my married daughter that gives us a regular social hangout while also accomplishing a necessary life task.

The development of video and livestreaming as a part of our lives that is likely to continue for a long time to come.

The frustration of wanting to be part of digitally including more people in an organization (church) but being blocked from doing so by someone who can’t see why I would even want to do that. I’m not giving up at one blockage, but some brain is going into problem solving this.

Noticing that despite not having big emotions about returning to pre-pandemic activities and relationships, I am definitely seeing and moving through these communities differently. The work I’ve put into learning about advocacy for the marginalized has me noticing who isn’t in the room and thinking about why.

The specific work I’m putting into community building and individual mentoring which is being very emotionally rewarding for me, but which I can’t talk about in too much detail because the stories aren’t mine to tell.

Being happy to see the blue jays in our yard, but also recognizing that they are bully birds who drive away other birds and prevent my old lady kitty from sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. Then pondering how similar dynamics might play out in human situations.

Ignoring the news and much of social media because I have no energy to spend on advocacy or relationship building beyond the community and people right in front of me. I’ll get back to having a wider focus later.

I have a newsletter to write this week. I hope I can find enough focus to say something more coherent than this list.