I had a really fantastic Arisia this year for a number of reasons. Maybe it's something about the Winter, or maybe it's just what happens when you put almost everyone I know on the east coast in one place for a weekend every year, but every Arisia, good or bad, seems to encompass the milestones of that year for me, and looking back on them shows me how much things change and how much my life has changed each year.

My first Arisia was my first live performance with Second Shift, on a double bill with this other audio theater group of whom I'd never heard, called the Post Meridian Radio Players.

I attended my second Arisia with Sequoia and [livejournal.com profile] rigel, both of whom I was involved with at the time. I handled some things badly, and in a way it marked a turning point in both relationships.

I started my third Arisia in an awkward quasi-dating state with [livejournal.com profile] juldea, and left it officially dating her.

By my fourth Arisia, [livejournal.com profile] juldea and I had broken up, but I wasn't over it yet. It was also the first and only con where I didn't do any performing (which I've found has a huge effect on how much I get out of a con experience), and I got a cold Saturday night to boot. Needless to say, this was not my favorite time 'round, but even then I met both [livejournal.com profile] sandrylene (IRL, at least) and [livejournal.com profile] fontia, and I'm glad for that.

This year was distinct because not only did I do more performing and paneling than in previous years, but I was also in the most stable place socially/romantically I'd been in for any Arisias past. My romantic situation definitely deserves its own post sometime, but suffice it to say for now that not only am I very happily involved with two lovely people, I even got to perform with both of them over the course of the weekend. This among a number of other factors contributed to just about the perfect way to get 2011 started.

Some highlights:

The Starship of Madness
Friday night I did monster voices for the PMRP Doctor Who/HP Lovecraft crossover show, "The Starship of Madness", which was very well received. I hadn't expected it to be badly received, but people really liked it (apparently we even got a nice writeup in the Boston Phoenix). As [livejournal.com profile] preraphaelite and I walked the halls afterward, we each got recognized and complemented several times. This was understandable for her, because she made an awesome sexy villain, but all I did was say things like "get them!" and "flee! flee for healing!" in a funny voice, and yet people still seemed to dig it, so yay! [livejournal.com profile] read_alicia will be happy to know there were also inquiries after the author of the script. We referred them to the Mask of Inanna site. :)


Sassafrass/Stranger Ways: Dark, Nerdy, Norse, A Capella, Folk Concert Extravaganza!
On Saturday afternoon Stranger Ways and Sassafrass had a joint concert that was a joy to take part in. I'll let y'all in on a little secret: up until then I didn't really think of Stranger Ways as a band. We were just some friends who played music in my basement and were presumptuous enough to record an album to release at our second show ever. But once we were up there, jazzing off the energy of the people in the audience, and realizing that they were actually into us... it was great. I think some of the live versions of our songs are actually significantly better than the recorded versions, plus we ended up making back everything we spent on producing the album, and between the two groups we were approached by representatives of three other cons who all wanted us to perform there! I remember during one song, a sing-along where this room full of a couple hundred people were all singing with us...I started to get all choked up. It was just beautiful, and my thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.

For those who couldn't make it, we have video of most of the songs by both bands, in concert order, up on a youtube playlist here. Please check it out and share! I'm really pleased with the whole thing, but here are a few of my favorites:

- Our opener, Boys of Bedlam
- Our funniest/cutest song, Week Exchange
- A cover of one of my favorite Tripod songs, I Will Still Play (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] rubicantoto for turning me on to them!). Getting to perform this song was huge for me!
- Our big sing-along closer for the first set, Fhear A Bhata
- Sassafrass' song about the runic alphabet, in which I am comically tall, The Futhark Song
- My favorite Sassafrass song Somebody Will. I love the lyrics and sentiment of this song dearly, and didn't get to join in on the sing-along parts because I was too busy crying in the corner. I remember hearing it for the first time at a Sassafrass concert I went to with [livejournal.com profile] juldea... and now that's her singing it as a member of the group. Awesome. :)
- Finally, our big joint group closing number, Toys for Big Kids, in which [livejournal.com profile] faerieboots gets her mad science on!


Story Improv!
As if that wasn't enough, I then ran a panel, and not just any panel, the Story Improv panel! This is an event where four writers take turns writing a story based on prompts from the audience. I was the emcee, which means I was in charge of coming up with prompts to solicit from the audience and giving those prompts to one writer while interviewing the other three to keep the audience entertained. To be honest, I was really, really nervous because I'd spent so much time prepping for PMRP and Stranger Ways that I really hadn't spent much time getting ready for this, and was madly reviewing a recording of a similar panel to remember how the format went just hours before the event.

It went pretty fantastically. There is a thing about myself that I keep forgetting: if you put me in front of a responsive audience and just tell me to start talking, I can generally do it. Hopefully that lesson will stick one of these days. Anyway, there's a transcript and an mp3 up here. The recording is about an hour long, but I'm really happy with how it turned out, and it's a lot more fun than just reading the story. ;)


2010: Our Hideous Future
I continue to be amazed by the creativity and talent in the community out here. Case in point: have I mentioned that some friends of mine wrote and produced a full-length musical in their spare time? Seriously, how cool is that? It's a really fun show, and the brand new soundtrack is currently on sale super cheap at Amazon.
If you're looking for something to sample, I recommend tracks 7 and 12, which are both good songs for different reasons and both show off Kamela Dolinova's great voice, as well as #21 in which [livejournal.com profile] lediva makes an awesome singing, world-dominating computer, and #23, which sums up the show's sense of humor pretty well.


Everything else
There were just too many other things, too many little moments, to list them all. From conversations with people I don't see often, to reminiscing and joking with people about things that had been sources of great tension between us at the time, to a big, Saturday night cuddle-pile that segued straight into the con's big dance party.

All in all, it was a pretty fantastic weekend. I just hope that the rest of 2011 can keep up.
Things to record/remember:

- Just because I was hurt doesn't mean Juldea did anything "wrong". I go back and forth sometimes as to whether she "should" have done some things differently, but sometimes I can also see myself doing the same thing in her position. I think it comes down to a very different approach to relationships, "the one", etc, and having spent a decade trying to make things work with someone who, for all her other qualities, was just not right for me, I can hardly pull rank there.

- ...but I can still be angry, because anger is a natural reaction to being hurt. Feelings are never wrong; only what you do with them can be judged. I've been trying not to feel my anger for a long time and it's done me no good. The way out of this emotion is through it, as long as I keep perspective.

- Regarding the sadness, not the anger, there is something bigger and deeper at work here than just the breakup. The weight and duration of the emotion far outweighs the stimulus. Something has been using it as a channel or trigger to get out and eat my brain. Maybe it's plain-old-depression, maybe I just deal really badly with rejection, maybe it's something else or, more likely, all of the above. I guess figuring that out is the next Big Project.

- I'm adding a "progress" tag because I'm sick of every post I make about this sort of thing being tagged as though I'm just treading water, which I don't think I am.

Thanks to everyone who's commented in support. No need for it here, I just really wanted to get this stuff out.
It's been a while since I've done a substantive post, so here goes. Most of this was written Saturday morning, but I wasn't able to post until now. Bits of it may sound angsty, but while some of the subject matter is, fwiw I'm feeling pretty good as I write it.

Short version: this week has been rough, but I'm doing much better.

The weekend, and even moreso the first half of the week, involved some of the worst depression I've dealt with in a long time. Since then I've been being extra-careful about food, sleep, exercise and (lack of) stimulants, which has made a big difference. And yet, sometimes my body still refuses to make sense. Yesterday, for example, I did everything perfectly: I kicked ass at work, was still done by 5p, ate well, exercised (trainer bike + podcasts = win!), got my creativity on in multiple ways (I think my doumbek technique is finally coming together, and the Jason Webley forum now has new tomato-themed smilies!), cleaned my room, socialized and was in bed by midnightish.

...so why was I up at 2am all twitchy? *sigh*.

Needless to say, sleep/hyperactivity issues and their attendant exhaustion/depression problems continue to be something I'm working on. Truth be told, I'd actually started to slack on this, but had a pretty serious reality check mid-week. I mentioned in a previous post anticipation of a "performance meeting" call with my boss to discuss my tardiness to Monday's class. As it turned out, that part of the call was brief, and basically just went "Is there anything I need to tell you about that?", "No.", "OK. These things happen, but don't let it happen again". The rest of the call was actually my boss "checking in" on me and asking whether everything was ok at home, because he'd picked up on me sounding fatigued and distressed over the last couple of weeks. He has a background as a therapist, and we actually ended up talking some about ADHD, depression, medication and so forth (yeah, that wasn't awkward at all...). The call ended with him telling me to take some time next week to make a doc's appt, and at least get my adderall prescription, which I'd been going without for a couple of weeks, refilled and/or ask about other options. I've been having a hard time putting this in perspective. I'm a functional person, not nearly as fucked up most of the time as this post on its own probably makes me sound, and yet, when one's boss, with whom he only interacts only by telephone, clues into something being up and tells you to get help? That's kind of a kick in the pants.

Regarding this most recent trough, in addition to only just having recovered from the sleepdep-and-illness-fest that was Arisia'10, I think last weekend and the beginning of this week was just a perfect storm of things that wreck me. A lot of it (though by no means all of it) sprang from a difficult conversation with [livejournal.com profile] juldea on Friday. It's hard not to feel kind of pathetic when you've been broken up with someone longer than you were together and still find yourself mired in the past. And yet, events leading up to and subsequent to that conversation have included some realizations that, while complicating in their way, have also provided me some hopefully-helpful perspective. See, there's a subtle but essential difference I've clued into lately between wanting a relationship back and wanting things back the way they were, or wanting an event undone. A big part of the recent funk was due to me really acknowledging to myself that I have legitimate gripes with the way our relationship ended, what I could have been/done if I'd been given the chance, etc... and the fact that none of that really matters now, because unlike reinstating a relationship, changing the past isn't possible. Therein lies the afore-mentioned perfect storm of things that bog me down: first, the disparity between how I saw that relationship and what actually happened, as well as the abruptness of its dissolution, seriously damaged my self-confidence and security. In large part what I want back isn't the relationship per se (I've even passed on opportunities to re-kindle it when the circumstances didn't feel right), but the sense of security and being able to tell where I was in the world that I lost. Things are futher complicated by the fact that there really was a lot of great stuff about the relationship that I genuinely miss, but the former is still basically true. I also can't help but feel like in a lot of ways I was could have been a victim of circumstance. There was a lot of other stuff going on then, and I find myself wondering whether if circumstances had been different, maybe the rest would have been too. But in both of those cases I'm powerless to do anything about it, or even to know exactly what "it" is that I'd be doing something about, and nothing ties up my brain like a problem I care about but am unable fix. It makes me feel frustrated, powerless, and therefore without value (Go Team Male-Conditioning!).

Over the weekend I found myself at once finally allowing myself to be upset with Juldea about her role in my loss (edit: though, as I should have admitted when I first posted this, sometimes I think I might have done the same thing in her position-- it just still would have sucked for my partner), aware of my own role in same, resolved to finally change the way we interact so as to break this connection my mind has made that prevents me from fully accepting things as they are, and afraid that I'm going to lose one of my closest friends in the process. She commented later in the week that over the weekend she was picking up vibes that made her uncomfortable even doing group social activities with me. During the time she was referring to, while I was far from cloud nine, I at least wasn't intentionally radiating hostility or anything... so I don't know what to do with that. But it is true that I've been allowing myself to feel my frustration more freely, and using that to fuel the emotional distancing I need to maintain. Things feel uncomfortably precarious in this regard. I miss my friend a lot, but have to temper that so as not to latch on again. Nobody should have to be another person's human security-blanket. I suspect that maybe Juldea picked up on this phenomenon long before I did, and that it had a lot to do with the breakup, but that's just a guess on my part. In any case, it needs to stop.

I think/hope that this is me starting the last bit of a long, slow process of moving on. I at least know what I need to do now: I need to find my security, my anchor, elsewhere. Where, I'm not so sure about. "Within myself" is the obvious answer, but also frustratingly vague. It's gotta be in here somewhere, though, probably behind my brain-couch or something (ooh, there's a whole undiscovered cache of living-room-related brain metaphors-- "finding the bus fare of salvation beneath the cushions of adversity", etc, but I digress...).

Over the last month or so I've started dating again. It took a while before I felt like I could date with any confidence that I wouldn't just be looking for a replacement anchor, but in the end I made a profile on OK Cupid (the only site I've ever been to where 'usernamenumber' was taken. Grr.), which I'm rather proud of, and have been enjoying the site a fair bit. If nothing else, it's at least netted me two new lj friends (*waves*). My recent romantic history has certainly changed the way that I approach dating (inasmuch as I've ever dated, having been in one relationship or another for about the last 10 years). While not a committed polyamorist, and in fact still wanting to find the mythical "One" in the end, it's going to be hard to put all my eggs in one basket again until and unless lightning strikes and/or something seriously and consistently clicks and I just don't want to date anyone else. But isn't there some protocol, outside of poly circles at least, describing a point after which a pair either becomes exclusive or decides they're not meant to be? Seriously, and I don't mean this as a rhetorical question, how do the "rules" for this, inasmuch as such exist, work? I know it sounds naive, but I'm as terrified of losing an opportunity, or just inadvertently acting like a douche, as I am of allowing myself to feel obligated to move faster than I'm comfortable. Where's the line between dating, given that the expectation of exclusivity isn't immediate (right??), and polyamory? Unexpected confusion abounds.

...but for all this, I want to end on a positive note, and am glad to say that there are positive notes to be had. I had some fun times over the weekend and the week, am still ego-tripping on my rockstar turnaround on things at work (including adding a major-ish feature to one of the apps I maintain despite being told of the need for it at the last minute and juggling that with the lectures for my class, for which I got straight 5/5 ratings from the students on-- yee-ah!), and have been exercising regularly, for which my body thanks me profusely. I'm looking forward to the Tripod show and possible MassMOCA visit today (update: both were great fun-- particularly the tripod show which was fantastic. Thanks so much to [livejournal.com profile] rubicantoto for turning me on to them), and have more fun social stuff lined up for the rest of the weekend and subsequent week. I just hate being tired all the time. I have a lot to look forward to, I just have to keep my energy levels up enough to appreciate that. It's weird feeling like it takes a certain amount of energy to be happy, and that I spend more time than I'd like to at or below that line, but ultimately I think that has to be a solvable problem, I just need to try some new approaches to dealing with it.

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