Month: January 2022

Planning Events for 2022

At the beginning of 2021 the only thing that felt right to do was to opt out of all large-scale public events. Standing in January 2022, the pandemic landscape has changed and for the first time in two years we’ve got big events on the calendar: Gen Con in August and the WXR workshop/retreat in September. It is very interesting to me how having those on the calendar changes my internal landscape. I was content to stay home, but now I find myself actively anticipating seeing friends in person. In groups. My horizons have been so small for such a long time.

Of course the pandemic could intervene and cancel everything again. As things look right now it seems like Omicron will subside and then we’ll have lower cases heading into spring. Late summer / early fall will likely be a pandemic lull when events are relatively safe. Particularly events that are requiring both masks and proof of vaccination. My event plans have contingencies for cancellation, but I might get to go. I’m planning for going instead of planning for staying home, which is a huge shift in life focus. Naturally I have an entire swirl of anxiety around the ethics of choosing to participate in public events. Those are met with the economic realities of the fact that our business needs the re-invigoration that public events supply. I have to do something to reverse the omnipresent tightening of our finances. I’m hoping we can get some new projects rolling in time to fund important things like reprinting a Schlock book and replacing our fridge before it fails catastrophically. Another consideration is that the events themselves are no longer allowing people to roll forward to a future year. This year it is “show up or lose your spot.” Which is fair. They’re a business too.

I’m excited and nervous about the events to come. I’m watching Covid charts and hoping fervently that Omicron is Covid’s last big hurrah before subsiding into something that we only need to worry about when we get our annual shot and wear masks at events. I’m girding myself up to defend my event decisions because no matter what I choose, there is a possibility that people will be angry with me for it. This year is already different from 2020/2021 and I’m anxious to see how it unfolds.

Nearing the End of January

I turn forty-nine in less than a week. At one point last year I was looking ahead to my birthday and thinking how I could claim it. I wondered if there were a way to turn the day toward some lovely and celebratory purpose. I have a long habit of being uncomfortable stepping up into spotlights, of not fully claiming my accomplishments and expertise. I thought to use my birthday as a way to practice celebrating myself. Unfortunately I did not take the time back then to build any structure around the idea. There is no chute to funnel me inexorably into it rather than shying away. Also, I am full up on creative efforts just now. All of my days are filled with projects in process. Creating a celebration around my birthday sounds like another project and, in order to pull it off, one of my other projects would have to sit idle. So I’m likely to let the birthday pass quietly. Perhaps I’ll build structure around celebrating when I turn 50 next year.

January has been a month of heads-down work. I’ve made progress on House in the Hollow, I’ve crafted, I’ve put in time as a driving instructor for young adults, and I’ve spent large portions of most days on XDM2e. All of which seems like a good use for January. In the past week I’ve started laying ground work for events happening in late summer and fall. These are plans built on returning to events in person, which I am both excited and nervous about doing. But I don’t have to make those decisions today. Today I get to continue focusing tightly on the work in front of me to see how much I can get done before the end of February.

The Return of Crafting

For more than six months now I’ve had crafting efforts on the back burner. I had no intention of moving them off that burner in January because I intended to focus on re-drafting my middle grade novel, House in the Hollow and on house projects like preparing to move the kitchen door. To my surprise, crafting showed back up anyway these past couple of weeks. I’m not at all sure why. Particularly since I spent the first ten days of January feeling very defeated. Even without understanding why, I can celebrate the return of small projects that have no purpose other than personal joy. So I’m going to celebrate progress, even though none of these projects is finished.

Me wearing a long crocheted blue tunic/cardigan that reaches my knees. It is open at the front and the sides clearly don’t meet in the middle.

I started this cardigan project sometime last year. I feel like it may have been last January, so most of what you’re looking at is last year’s work. But in the past couple of weeks I finished the back panel and joined everything together. The pattern I’m working from has sleeves, but I’m feeling discouraged about my first attempt at making a sleeve. Also I think I like how it looks and feels sleeveless. So I’ve switched to working on the ribbed collar that runs down the entire front of the cardigan. One problem with it is that it feels too tight/constrained below my waist. I may either disconnect the sides from the hips down so that it has slits, or might crochet triangle sections to make it more swooshy. But first I want to get the collar on and see how that looks.

Side by side comparison photos of me wearing a red knit dress. The second photo has a waist piece added so that the skirt ends up longer.

I have several of these dresses and I love them. They are super comfortable and are excellent for dressing up with accessories. My only complaints about them are that I feel like the waistline hits too high on me, and I wish the skirts were a few inches longer. (I prefer tea length in dresses.) So I decided to deconstruct one of the dresses and add in a panel to elongate and emphasize my waist. In this side-by-side picture (if you squint) you can see that four hours of work turned a perfectly wearable dress with a few irritations into a slightly longer wearable dress with different irritations. I’m not completely happy with what I’ve got yet. The waist panel needs to start higher up on the dress. Also I discovered that I couldn’t put the bottom of the waist panel as low as I had intended without emphasizing some body shape that I would prefer to de-emphasize. So I’ve got lots of unpicking and resewing in my future. But first I want to wear the dress as it is to see if the added length of skirt is as happy as I hope it will be. The length doesn’t look that much different in the photos, but it feels different.

Shape of a phoenix bird in pencil, but the bird is made up of words that are taken from Amanda Gorman’s excellent poem A New Day’s Lyric.

Several years ago I played with the idea of creating images out of words. That idea has been calling to me again and seems like an excellent thing to combine with poetry. Eventually I want to get to the place where I am writing original poems and executing the shapes with calligraphy. I decided to practice concepts using Amanda Gorman’s poem A New Day’s Lyric. This process lets me really delve into the beauty of that poem and internalize the words and ideas in a way that I’m really enjoying. Using excerpts from the poem, I now have the rough shape of a phoenix. I need to re-pencil on a larger piece of paper. Then I can break out my calligraphy markers and start shaping the lines of words. Ideally I’ll render the final piece in reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. So I’ll have to figure out which colors add to the clarity and message of the words. I suspect I’ll have to re-draft and re-draw this a dozen times before I am happy with it. All of which appeals to me, because the point of the piece is practice, not the end result.

The thing I can’t easily post a picture of is my progress on House in the Hollow. I’m about 8500 words into my re-drafting process. All of those words have happened since January first. That is slower than I wanted. I was hoping to do a thousand words a day, but it is more progress than I’ve had in the past two years combined, so I’m feeling triumphant about it anyway. I’m aiming for 60,000 words, so I’m barely started. Slow and steady moves me forward.

Some Loose Thoughts

Somehow the beginning of the new year has become the middle of January. Logically I know that this particular transformation only takes about two weeks, but this time the newness only lasted about three days, which feels like an unfairly short lifespan for new year’s optimism. The good news is that I seem to be emerging from the week-long discouragement. Better news is that I was still able to inch some necessary work forward even while feeling discouraged about it all. Always good to remember that the discouragement/optimistic energy pole doesn’t have as much effect on getting work done, nor on the quality of the work done, as it feels like it does in the moment.

This week we successfully accomplished the medical appointment which has been looming on the calendar for five months and for which I carried a fear that Covid would cause it to be postponed or canceled. So that is a huge relief and I can ride out the rest of the current Covid surge with less anxiety. Less anxiety, not no anxiety, because this surge is very surgey indeed. I keep thinking the rates can’t keep going up, and then they do. Last winter’s mountain has started looking hill-ish by comparison. I don’t like that. I also don’t like witnessing the societal Great Surrender, where 18 schools in Utah reach the threshold where “Test To Stay” is required, but because there are only three Test To Stay teams, the state just shrugs and tells everyone to use their own judgement. All of the language and information isn’t saying “help us flatten the curve” it is saying “Don’t worry, this will be over soon.” Which isn’t the same thing at all. I keep hearing that the Omicron Covid variant is more mild. I wonder if it will still seem mild when the deaths happen in three to four weeks.

I can’t control the world. I can’t stop Omicron. My ability to influence legislation is minimal. So for now I’m focused on things where I do have significant influence. I’m finally working my way through re-drafting House in the Hollow. I’m working through XDM2e copy edits. I’m teaching kids to drive. I’m practicing a homebrew yoga in the mornings. I’m making sure we don’t run out of groceries. And I’m trying to stay on top of dishes and laundry. If I keep doing these things, eventually I’ll find myself in spring.

Moving Forward in the New Year

On January 3rd my New Year optimism met my To Do list. This was an expected collision, but I don’t like that it dropped me into a low-level discouraged state. So I wrote a little Twitter Fiction that captures my current state of mind:

The discouragement sat like a lump in the middle of the path she needed to take, so she hefted it to her shoulder and lugged it along with her as she trudged forward toward her goal. Sometimes she gave it a pat when it whimpered as she walked. #TwitFic

@SandraTayler 2:09 PM · Jan 5, 2022·Twitter Web App

That is me right now, trudging along shoving my daily tasks along the road in front of me, carrying a load of discouragement, but still shuffling my way forward. The good news is that I’ve (so far) managed to integrate my new goals and focus into the pre-existing To Do list. My cocoon realizations have helped me alter the trajectory of the path I’m shuffling along. I wish I could trundle along that path with the same joy and optimism that filled me on New Year’s Day. But since that joy and optimism has declined to show up for work, I’ll keep inching my way forward because the best way to get somewhere else is to keep moving.

Exiting the Cocoon

I woke up and the world feels new. The year feels full of potential. I want to pause and really center those feelings as I mark the change from one calendar year to the next. It is nice to have this feeling on New Year’s Day when so many of my recent years have featured some flavor of dread about the year to come. (2020 2019 2018 2017) Some years I wanted to hide from the coming year, others I was girding up to meet it as a battle. So to receive this one as a gift is an unexpected blessing that I want to hold in reverence for a while, before the inevitable challenges of living have a chance to wear at me.

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the words I grabbed when describing 2021 (and also 2020, they were the same year really) was cocoon. I’m thinking about those tiny containers of metamorphosis today. The protective shell contains so much transformative work which can’t be observed from the outside. From the outside nothing is happening until one day the butterfly or moth bursts free. The phrasing of “burst free” downplays how much work there is in extricating oneself from a cocoon. I’ve seen videos of butterflies working themselves free, slowly unfurling their wings, and orienting themselves to being something new. Exiting a cocoon is work, and is as much a part of the transformation as what happens inside that cocoon.

If 2020-21 were a cocoon and today is the day it cracks open, I have work to do in order to finally be free. This image makes sense to me, because the worst pandemic surge is about to hit. I’m going to need to hunker down. I’ve still got the XDM2e project to steer to completion. There are family and friendship tending tasks which continue. Yet mixed in with these continuations, I’m also glimpsing what this year could be. For the first time in decades, my morning schedule isn’t dictated by the needs or schedules of others. I’m experimenting with claiming that time for me to lay in bed and let my mind wander. Then climb from bed and wake up my body with a yoga practice. Then flop back into bed to write. All before emerging from my room to where other priorities start claiming pieces of me.

The yoga practice has been a particularly useful addition. For the few in-person classes I attended (before Omicron necessitated staying home again), I found a teacher who constantly emphasized accepting our bodies for where they are at. Reach for your toes. It is okay if you can’t grab them, because the reaching is what matters. I discovered that sitting in that reach, breathing in and out, slowly the reach extends farther. By repeating this practice gently day after day, in an unexpectedly short amount of time I can touch the toes I’ve been reaching for. Patience, breath, and acceptance has led to far more progress than I thought possible. Yet I’m not reaching for progress, I’m reaching for the sake of reaching, progress is just the inevitable result. There are so many lessons in this physical practice that I can use in all the other aspects of my life.

Casting my thoughts on the year ahead, January through March are “exiting the cocoon” months. During them I will work, breathe, and reach. I will finish things off to release into the world. I will focus on inward growth and writing rather than on outward expenditures of energy in community efforts. When I get to March things will shift again. I’m not sure how or in what direction I’ll launch, but at some point between now and then my next direction will become clear.

Happy New Year everybody. I hope that you have been gifted with hope in the year to come. If you carry some other emotion today, that is okay too. Let your emotions be what they are. Sit with them and pick some small reach you can do in the direction you’d like to travel. Reach and breathe and accept. Progress and hope will come to you.