Remembering to Live

So I’ve had an eventful few months.

I have found the best day-job I have ever had, and already had it improve twice, after a stretch of freelancing that itself went better than I ever imagined it would. I’ve had more of my fiction published in print, and still more accepted and heading to the press soon. I’ve gotten a few articles out in web sites and watched my once-preferred paid outlet get abandoned by its backers, rendering many paid articles inaccessible in their former home. I’ve started a proper web site to function alongside this blog (so adult!), collecting my creative work in all of the channels in which I pursue it. Tragically, relatively little of that work has ended up here, so my improved circumstances haven’t resulted in more blogging.

A black-capped chickadee on a conifer branch. This bird has a light brown underside, a gray back, white cheeks, and a black head.
In truth, I’m in a difficult mental position. Writing for a living has meant that much of the energy I could once devote to blogging, and much of the distraction it once offered, are taken up by my day job. Against that exhaustion, atheist movement politics seems too dull, and the broader West’s descent into fascism too precipitous and too well-covered by better-situated others to merit the same attention from me. At the same time, improvement in my own relationships, as I curate them better and better, means that my exposure to the emotional and relationship toxicity I have written about for years is far reduced, its immediacy gone. I am recovering. Other people are saying what needs to be said.

I’ve been particularly scarce for the past three months because I’ve been writing a novella, inspired by the Netflix phenomenon Sense8 first and its spiritual ancestor The Chrysalids more accurately. It is the single most ambitious piece of writing I have undertaken since my doctoral thesis, close to triple the length of the previous contender, “A Better, Shinier World” and trivially exceeding any entry in Shifty Lines for sheer scope. “Never Alone” has consumed my evenings and weekends since mid-March, a labor of profound love that I look forward to submitting to editorial gazes. Being able to focus on such longer pieces has been a joy in itself, something that would have been hopelessly decadent in earlier months when churning out short pieces for higher rates was my only way forward. I am now well off enough that the endless hustle of short, paying assignments is optional, and I am still processing what this means for me.

Stability has meant that, at long last, I could focus on myself and my charges, and build the independence I have craved. I have been advancing on personal goals with far more focus and possibility than I could have entertained at any previous point in my life. I am not only able to explore characters, relationships, and topics that represent a creative challenge I have never previously attempted. I can take my pets to their yearly veterinary appointments without hesitation. I have no reservations about staying on top of my dental care. I have advanced on my tattoo agenda in earnest, adding two pieces to my collection with plans for many more. My emergency fund and retirement account both grow, waiting for when I’ll need them. I was even able to secure vaginoplasty, correcting my ontology’s single greatest mistake, and live off savings during the time in which I couldn’t work, because this job was waiting for me afterward. I have had regular counseling appointments, working through the damage that past years did to me, trying to become the least broken version of myself that I can be. I have added monthly axe-throwing excursions to my exercise routine, feeling a renewed enthusiasm about staying in shape now that my days are firmly my own and my body answers to no other masters. I am exploring new friendships, tending to old ones, and building a life that I can feel good to inhabit.

Maybe soon, I’ll be able to stop renting, and in a condominium or even a house take up anticipated joys like gardening, grilling, or growing my menagerie. My parents, in their baby-boom opulence, promised me I would have this by now, but the economic winds have shifted. That hope remains distant…for now.

I have long needed this time to focus on myself, and I have it now. Living through the world’s descent into half a dozen eschatons at once invites the demand that one pound against their iron hulls forever, any time spent doing otherwise seeming futile and irresponsible, but the true futility is in burnout. I am worth even less to the resistance as an exhausted shell than I am while I determinedly build the life I have earned, and take care of myself and my charges in ways long denied. I shall yet be a light in the dark once more, reminding my people that we deserve better than we have granted even ourselves.

Until then, I am no one’s martyr, and I will remember to live.

Remembering to Live
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Emma González for Our Glory

Emma González gives me hope.

I cannot often say that about my people. I am by turns disappointed in each half of my heritage, but it is my Cuban half that inspires the most sadness. And when I watch Emma González, I feel that unfamiliar rise in my heart, and know that my people will be better than we have been.

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Emma González for Our Glory

Highlights from the Void, 2017

As the surreal hellscape of 2017 winds to a close, it’s time to look back on the past year of blogging and pick out some high points my dear readers might have missed. So, for your enjoyment, here are ten of Alyssa’s proudest creations of 2017.

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Highlights from the Void, 2017

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Protected: Trans Team Rocket Compilation – Patrons Only

Of Largest Lineage

I come from huge families. My mother was one of seven, and my father’s mother was one of nine. Between them, I have fourteen first cousins, at least five second cousins, eleven first cousins once removed that I know about, and more miscellaneous spouses and siblings than I care to track.

Mom never forgave her siblings for moving away from each other. Most of the brood ended up within driving distance of one another in the Great Northeastern Conurbation, albeit in three different states, but one stayed in Puerto Rico, one followed work to North Carolina, and Mom followed the needs of her husband’s family and moved to Miami. Most of the seven are involved in the US military in some way, and some of my cousins continued that legacy, and that meant being passed around bases and active duty for years at a time, far from their kin.

Dad’s family all ended up in Miami, sooner or later. My grandmother used to visit relatives in Cuba, but she is long gone, and it is likely they are as well. Most of Dad’s side of the family made Miami their first home outside of Cuba, but Dad’s path passed through New Jersey first. I grew up there, getting acquainted with Mom’s nearby relatives first and not really recognizing Dad’s side of the family until they became our frequent reality after the move. Even then, Dad was an only child, so all of the relatives were a generation apart from me, whereas my maternal cousins were close to my age, so Dad’s family and I are not well acquainted.

After picking through the family tree to survey my safety within it, I find this a tragedy.

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Of Largest Lineage

Don’t Call It Privilege: The Tangled Mess of Pre-Transition Passing

I told myself I wouldn’t write this. I told myself this was a conversation that, quite frankly, no one outside the transgender and especially transfeminine community has any business in having. I told myself that indulging this topic at all is dangerous in a world where the idea that men and trans women have anything socially in common gets people killed. Yet here we are.

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Don’t Call It Privilege: The Tangled Mess of Pre-Transition Passing

What’s in a TERF?

CN suicide, transmisogyny, violence

To the endless bafflement of people whose sense of ethical behavior does not include driving strangers to self-harm, the transgender community faces intense hostility. What is interesting in our case is that people with extraordinarily different overall ideologies come to equally intense hatred of transgender people in general and trans women in particular, and this makes some words we are tempted to use to encompass all of our detractors a poor fit. This brings is to that famously deadly group, the TERFs.

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What’s in a TERF?

Eyes on the Future, Heart in the Past – A Jane and Jessie Story

“You know…I figured a department store would have more food.” Jessie mused as they examined a poster depicting a recumbent Seviper. “And clothes.” They picked at the hem of their form-fitting black vest, which left a little skin visible above their black slacks and white walking shoes.

“On the bright side,” Jane answered, leaning down to pet her Sylveon, cautious hand on the back of her knee-length pleated black skirt, “they have lots of Pokémon vitamins.”

“That they do,” Jessie answered as their Dustox fluttered to their shoulder and their Wobbuffet released himself from his Pokéball, playfully saluting. Jessie gave their Pokémon partners an amused half-smile and reached over to gently scratch their heads. They approached the poster aisle, Dustox and Wobbuffet following, and Meowth returned from the direction of the drink vending machines. Jane crouched down to Meowth’s level.

“Quick, while they’re not looking,” Jane whispered, handing Meowth her paper shopping bag, “take this to the cash register and buy it. The money’s in the bag.” Sylveon looked quizzical. “It’s Jessie’s birthday present, and a little something for us, too.” Sylveon nodded, and accompanied Meowth in scampering toward the registers.

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Eyes on the Future, Heart in the Past – A Jane and Jessie Story