Polyamorous Fairytales Are the Best Fairytales

A very clever writer named Natalie Zina Walschots is putting together a collection of Polyamorous Fairytales that I’m pretty stoked about, and selfishly I’d like you to help support that project so that I can read them (because happy poly fairies are awesome).

The project is in the pre-Kickstarter stage at the moment, with a super-cool Christmas sweater (and t-shirt… and sweatshirt) fundraiser. Now’s your chance to buy one of these original-design shirts (which feature four different triple-stag poly-friendly motifs) and get in with the cool kids.

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Visit the Hearts On Our Sleeve page at Teespring to see all the designs, styles and prices. But do it fast! They’re only available for a limited time.

Here’s a how Natalie describes the project: “Everyone is looking for their fairytale ending, and everyone’s perfect happily-ever-after is beautifully, gloriously different. Love is big and strange, plentiful and ever-changing. It unlocks new rooms in our hearts–rooms we had no idea were waiting. Fairytales are similarly strange narratives, full of peril and transformation, and it’s no wonder we turn to them as the template for our own love stories. More than anything else, fairytales have been my guide through my own arduous quests, monstrous riddles, and magic spells to be broken.

But fairytales, for all their curiosity and subversiveness, still often end with a neat pair: a prince and a princess, a queen and a king. A rescue and a marriage and a tidy coupling. However, there are so many kinds of happy endings, so many love stories, that end in other wonderful configurations. Princesses who walk off hand in hand instead of competing for the prince. Companies of knights who lovingly adventure together for the rest of their days. Magicians and nymphs who love liminal space snap moving between them. Witches with wonderful friends who shoo away all their suitors and are thrilled on their own. Kings and queens who delightedly look forward to the occasional visit from the dashing duke two kingdoms over. There aren’t enough of those stories in the world.”

For more info about the project you can visit the Facebook page.

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How Wasting Money Made Me Happier

Becoming permanently disabled in my 40s was emotionally stunting. After all, when you retire before 50, what exactly are you supposed to do with the rest of your life? We all imagine that when we finally retire we will travel around the world, or study, or sit in coffee shops maligning scruffy teenagers, or do any number of fun things by choice. But the reality is that when that day finally comes, our bodies and abilities may not be so cooperative. Or worse, like myself, you may find yourself forcefully retired before you even achieve any of the things you may have imagined were important to you.

reena coffee outsideThe other unexpected issue with early retirement (or even regular retirement) is, of course, money. Even if my body were able to accommodate my desire to travel to exotic destinations, a retirement pension isn’t much to live on (and a spotty work history due to years of chronic illness isn’t conducive to saving much money).

Faced with overwhelming feelings of plummeting self-esteem and general aimlessness, how do you go about ‘finding yourself’ again?

I suppose it’s not unlike any mid-life crisis — the halfway point in one’s life is difficult for anyone. The difference in my case was simply that so many options felt cut off from me due to physical and financial limitations. At a certain point, though, creating a new identity for myself became less a matter of choice and more a case of necessity. You either evolve or die. I picked evolve.

Things I Did That Were Free:

  1. Stopped saying “Nothing” when people asked me what I did for a living. For what it’s worth, that is a supremely crummy question. There are plenty of people who are not wage earners but still have jobs (stay-at-home parents being one example) and the question makes plenty of people super uncomfortable. In my case, though, I started answering with the other things I did in my life (like writing and acting) rather than de-valuing myself.
  2. Claim my disabled identity. Society really, really wants disabled people to feel like they are lesser-than because they cannot work and/or because they are perceived as broken. By deciding that my disabilities were just part of who I was and that it was society who was disabling me when it did not make basic accommodations, I regained much of the self esteem I had previously lost.

Things I Did That Wasted Money:

  1. Investing money in my writing. I have always written, but finding time to devote to it was always a challenge when I was in school, and later work. Since I have become permanently disabled, I have had bouts of writing, but I’ve sometimes found it difficult to follow through without a dedicated spot to write. While it was initially difficult to justify spending money (without any guaranteed money coming out of it in return) to finance a work space, I have definitely reaped the benefits of that decision — I have completed two more books (with several more on the go) and a multitude of essays. (Obviously I could not have done this without the privilege of a two-income household — I am very grateful for a partner who recognized that my emotional needs were a priority.)
  2. Giving change to street people. I have always been a somewhat private person when it comes to discussing charity. I don’t like to telegraph when I give money because I have it in my head that you shouldn’t expect praise for doing something that is simply a decent thing to do. But I acknowledge that there is value in leading by example. My feeling, when it comes to giving money to anyone who asks, is to give some if you can spare some, and not if you can’t. It’s that simple. I’m not that interested in hearing people’s convoluted reasons as to why they don’t give. If you don’t want to, don’t. But I’ve found that having some change in my pocket every day to give when people ask, and acknowledging them by saying “Have a nice day!” makes me feel pretty great. When you feel like you no longer have a purpose and that you cannot possibly make an impact, the act of helping someone else and connecting for a moment is an unbelievable boost to your self-esteem. I’m not talking God complex here — I’m talking about recognizing the connection we all have as human beings. Even when you can’t make a big impact, the small gestures still count.
  3. Activism. It can sometimes be difficult for disabled bodies to participate in social activism. Not all activist spaces are accessible, nor do we always have the energy to participate in marches or sit-ins. But some of us can make posters, or write online or a variety of other tasks. And it’s vital for disabled persons to be intersectional voices within the feminist and other movements.
  4. Volunteering. Again, accessibility can be a challenge, but there are many ways to volunteer and be part of organizations that are important to you (while being able to set time and job limits that fit within your abilities). Both activism and volunteering have helped me feel connected to the world and recognize the importance of my role in it.
  5. Buying lattes. Other lists will tell you that the first thing you need to do to improve your life is to stop drinking coffee. I think that is a fair assessment. But those same lists will likely point out that you need to allow yourself some form of reward or thing that brings you happiness. In my case, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I have to limit my sugar. Basically I have no vices. Buying the occasional latte (with no syrups or whipped cream or toppings) is what makes me happy. It also gives me a destination; a place to go that requires me to be social (if only for a few minutes) and it feels like a splurge. Maybe your splurge is buying a newspaper, or getting your nails done. The point is that sometimes we need an extra reason to get up in the morning or get out of the house. Wasted money, perhaps, but totally worth it.

If we accept the concept that we have to “spend money to make money,” it shouldn’t be so novel that we need to invest in ourselves to find our self-worth.

/rk

New Book!

I’m pleased to announce the soft launch of my latest book, “I’Mmoral: Poems for Unrepentant Sinners and Free Thinkers.” For the time being, the eBook is available only on lulu.com, but is being rolled out for distribution through Amazon, Kobo, NOOK, and more. Once I have approved the proofs of the paperback version, I will advise where those can be purchased as well.

cropped-immoral-image.jpegSummary: What would the war cry of a mostly introverted, mentally ill, autistic, genderqueer, physically disabled, feminist, atheist, polyamorous woman sound like? A lot like this. Using a combination of essay and free-form poetry, R.K. confronts the status quo and dissects it, inspecting its parts and discarding the bad bits. In spite of tackling some obviously serious and controversial topics, such as abortion and the anti-vaccination movement, she approaches her subjects with humour and then slaughters them with equal parts derision and kindness.

Price (eBook): $2.99 / Click here to view/buy

Thanks very much for your support!

/rk

New Digs, New Work

Last year was supremely difficult, creatively speaking. My ongoing health issues got even more complicated, with new symptoms requiring new medications, and overall I felt really defeated. It took a toll on me physically, and ended up triggering a lot of mental fallout as well. Writing under those circumstances was almost impossible.

As we go into the fall this year, though, I’m finally feeling a sense of renewed creative energy. Some of this is down to some changes in medications and learning how to deal with some of my new physical challenges, but the biggest change is that I’ve found a new writing space.

I have always wanted to write. But writing is work, and for most people, you have to treat it that way. You need to set aside time and space to commit to getting it done. One of the things we sacrificed in our move to downtown was our home office, which makes writing at home even more difficult. I used to do a good deal of my writing from bed (out of necessity sometimes), but there were inevitably distractions that would make it hard to concentrate.

It hasn’t helped that I have been struggling with depression since I officially retired and became fully disabled — depression due to my lack of direction and identity. I needed a reason to get up and get dressed in the morning. I also underestimated, when I moved in with my husband, how much I would miss having my own space — something that was mine alone.

mybywardofficedesk

My space: I’m surrounded by my books, my art and a cactus I haven’t killed yet. There are also windows and other nice creative people here.

I realized that what I needed to feel like a whole person again was to find a creative space, commit to finishing all the projects that had been in limbo, and hopefully find a way to re-establish a professional identity for myself.

It took a bit of searching to find a space that fit the bill (and the budget), but I’ve been really pleased with the amount of work I’ve gotten done so far (and it’s only been two weeks!).

What I’m working on / coming soon:

  • A book of poetry and essays on counter-culture subjects called: “I’Mmoral”. It is 98% complete and I hope to have it published and available for sale in the next month (the ebook version should be ready in the next few weeks, with the paperback version taking a bit longer due to proofs and distribution, etc.).
  • A compote cookbook! You can catch up on my recipes in progress at Compote is My Jam. I would like to finish this one and have it available for sale in time for Christmas.
  • A memoir focusing on my childhood stories of abuse and mental illness. I’m about half-way through writing this one, so my tentative goal is to have it complete by early 2016.
  • A re-imagined work of Oedipus Rex (fiction novel), hopefully to be completed by late 2016.
  • I will continue to blog here, at Cuckoo My Cuckoo, as well as on my transgender/androgynous lifestyle blog, That’s My AgendA.

I have sincerely appreciated the support of my blog readers and those who have purchased my existing books. If you might consider further support to help me subsidize the cost of my writing space, I would be super grateful!

It’s tough being a writer, period (most people don’t make enough from their writing to make ends meet), but being a disabled writer is even tougher. I really don’t have any other options in terms of working. I’d like to think, as well, that my writing adds something to the world and has value on it’s own.

I have set up a page over at Patreon, where supporters can sponsor me for as low as $1 a month. Rather than set it up with walled access to content (I believe content should be accessible — I want you to read my writing!), what I might do instead is set up a Thank You or Sponsors page here on my blog where I can put your name (or avatar name) showing that you are one of my awesome patrons.  Please consider sponsoring me here:

https://www.patreon.com/rkbelford

Thanks so much! Without readers, being a writer is pretty boring, so you’re the best part of my day!

/rk

You Probably Think This Memoir’s About You

Writing memoir doesn’t come without fallout of one kind or another. I write about myself and my feelings and experiences. And I get a lot of good feedback from objective sources for doing so. People relate to it and thank me for putting into words the things they’ve held back or buried over time. Because it’s easier, sometimes, recognizing yourself in someone else’s story when giving voice to your own can be so painful and feel so risky.

Why risky? Because when you write about your life, other people are featured in the story, and our instinct is to keep private things private.

Well, let’s not be disingenuous here — for those of us among the emotionally wounded, the PTSD sufferers, the mentally ill — privacy has usually been drilled into us from a young age. It’s that stifling environment, where expressions of discord or discussions of fears or ‘working on relationships’, were either not the status quo or were entirely verboten that helped to pack up all that emotional baggage and lock it away.

IMG_0553Memoir writing is cathartic. I mean, that’s the appeal, right? That’s what drives the writer to write; to un-cork the bottle and spill out its contents, while hopefully painting them with a careful brush into something that inspires or resonates with the audience.

But it takes courage to air your dirty laundry out for the world to see. Not so much because of the fear of letting people inside, or because you open yourself up to judgement — strangers knowing your business is actually less intimidating than you might expect — but because the ghosts from your past often aren’t content to stay ghosts.

“Men’s memoirs are about answers; women’s memoirs are about questions. Most male authors want to look good in their memoirs and have a place in posterity, while most women know that posterity is what happens when you no longer care. Women want to connect with others here and now; they couldn’t care less about legacy!” — Isabel Allende

Memoir writing tends to be (for me) a lot about emotional processing. Certainly at its root, a memoir needs to contain an event or series of events, whether unique or uniquely told, but it’s the emotional connection that differentiates memoir from autobiography. Which is not to say that memoirs aren’t based in fact; but those facts are tempered by perspective. Does this make the author an unreliable narrator? Maybe. But I would argue that reliability of the facts isn’t the most important goal: honesty of intent is.

My mantras for memoir writing are as follows:

  1. Make it YOUR story.
  2. Be honest.
  3. Be fair.

That’s it. As for as making it your story, it’s crucial to remember that the other players are really there to serve a purpose: as tools to tell your story. As such, the basis for their inclusion should always be as a means to move the story forward and/or to allow the reader to learn more about you.

“I think most memoirs, though they purport to be about this particular time or this person you met, are really about the effect that person or time had on you.” — Rosemary Mahoney

That’s not to say they don’t have value as human beings! Of course they do; but we’re talking about story-writing here, and these people probably didn’t consent or want to be written about. But I believe fundamentally that as long as I stick to the rules/mantras, I have a right to re-tell my life. Because who else has a right to tell my story if not me?

Honesty is one of those things you will undoubtedly be challenged on. In disseminating life events for my readers I ultimately let them decide for themselves: When I have objective facts or markers, I say so; when I am making assumptions or interpretations, I say so; and I temper everything with reminders that my recollections are subjective at best. That’s the nature of the beast. My reality may not be the reality, but it is mine. About that there is no deception.

As for fairness, the things above are part of that, but it’s also about representing all the players in a balanced way. I try to keep #1 in mind in the retelling of every interaction. I keep it about me. And I don’t mean that in an egotistical way, but rather that the goal isn’t to tell anyone else’s truth — it’s about telling your own. And doing that fairly means a) being honest about what you know, b) being truthful about what actually happened, c) being honest about what you don’t know, d) being honest about perspective and how that influences your recollection, and e) acknowledging that the people around you are human and are going through their own shit.

That last one is pretty important. If you feel it’s necessary to represent someone else on paper in order to tell your story, you have a responsibility to treat them like a multi-faceted, fallible human being. You need to cut them some slack. Even if they hurt you or did a crummy thing, you need to avoid crucifying them. For one thing, it’s pretty doubtful that anyone is 100% evil.  Or even evil at all. I’m damaged and I’ve hurt people because of that. Ergo the people who’ve hurt me were probably hurt themselves.

If you’re going to tell about the bad things a person did to you, you have to also tell about the good things. If you don’t, you’re a shitty person; because that’s not fair. You’re also a shitty writer; because this isn’t a fairy tale where  you’re the hero and everyone else is the bad guy. Which is why, to be fair, you need to lay out your demons as well. Because what is the point of writing memoir over fiction if you’re not going to at least try to be honest?

Unfortunately, whether you’re ethical about it or not, people probably aren’t going to thank you for writing about them. So why do it? Why put yourself out there and open yourself up to criticism or recrimination from the people from your past?

For me, there are a few different motivations. Firstly I should point out that writing about my relationships was a last resort. When you try for years to mend fences (or at least try to figure out why they’re broken) and you continually run up against a brick wall, it’s not very satisfying emotionally. Those feelings need to go somewhere. I needed resolution and I wasn’t getting any. Also, it was about breaking unhealthy patterns: I grew up in a family where a) we didn’t talk about our emotions and b) because I was mentally ill, a lot of the conflict was blamed on my mental instability. Those two in combination do a number on your self-esteem.

Memoir isn’t the only writing I’ve done. I’ve written a novel and a book of poetry, and there are other books in progress. But it’s the stories of my past that keep forcing their way to the surface. I can’t move on until those are dealt with and filed away.

Which explains my need to write and to process, but why make things public?

Well… I’m a writer, not a diarist. It’s what I do and has always felt essential to my existence (emo but also true), and a crucial part of being a writer is the interaction between writer and reader. I also really truly believe that I have a responsibility to speak up and out because not everyone feels similarly able. For those who for whatever reason, be it personal or professional, can’t face the risk of exposing themselves, it’s important that there are beacons of light that shine in the darkness to let them know that they’re not alone. When you’ve suffered abuse or neglect, when you’ve suffered depression or loneliness, it helps to know that you’re not alone.

Sharing stories has long been society’s collective coping mechanism. We feel an inherent need to connect and understand. Sharing experiences helps us heal emotionally, and when we read about the experiences of others, it gives us insight into our own.

So I’ll keep writing about my life, even if it risks alienating the people from my past. Because the reality is that those people removed themselves from my life long before I started writing, and holding up the writing as the reason is dishonest and re-writing history.

Re-writing history isn’t what I intend to do. I want to write about it, attempt to understand it, and then tuck it away where it can’t hurt me anymore.

/rk

Support me on Patreon

patreonWriting this last year has been a challenge while I adjusted to new health issues. But as I come through to the other side I feel a new surge of creative energy flowing through me and I’m excited to complete all the projects that had to be put on hold while my body and mind were being insufferably annoying.

This is where I could use your help, though. I need your support! Self-publishing means I don’t get paid to write. Being disabled means I don’t get paid much of anything, period.

It’s more than financial support I’m looking for — pledging me and becoming a patron, even in a small token amount, let’s me know that I have supporters. I cannot overstate how important that is to the creative process.

If you’ll take a few minutes to go to my Patreon page, read my spiel and consider pledging, I will be the most appreciative of artists. (Click here for more info on Patreon and how it works.)

Can I write without this type of support? Probably. But I can write more (and better and more confidently) knowing I have backers and fans who want to see my efforts shared with the world.

Thank you!

/rk

Ways My Life is Exactly Like Downton Abbey

The problem with ditching cable and subscribing to Netflix is that you tend to binge-watch shows, especially if you you’re procrastinating. (Of course, as writers we are never procrastinating, we’re ‘gaining life experience/cataloguing creative fodder’.)

It should come as no surprise that watching 10 straight hours of period drama tends to shape your perception of reality, and you start seeing yourself in not just one, but all of the characters.

For instance…

If you’ve read my writing, you’ll note that I have a bit of a persecution complex:

failurefamily But I struggle very hard to be heard:

impolitical

Although I sometimes forget to be particularly diplomatic:

sharptongue And occasionally say things that have people shaking their heads in disbelief:

isshemad

Working from home means I tend to lose track of what day it is:

whatisaweekend And although I try to maintain optimism that I’ll accomplish something worth sharing:

looking forward I fret that writer’s block and apathy will derail my efforts:

defeatist

And I tend to beat myself up over it:

stopwhining

So I cook:

assistantcook And curse a lot:

vulgarity

And am uncharitable about other writers’ successes:

superiorUntil finally I pathetically resort to Buzzfeed-style photo-essays to distract from how few words I’ve managed to coherently string together:

seeneverything
/rk