The insidious nature of clutter

In my head I’m pretty good at managing clutter. When my grandfather died I had to clear out a lifetime of his belongings, including heavy suitcases of grade school exercise books dating back to 1926. So yeah, compared to my grandfather I am good at managing clutter.

But now I have had to clear the house in order to sell it I have to face I do not have my shit together.

I received a Lamy LX pen for Xmas. It came in a lovely presentation case. I still have the case in the top drawer of my desk. I do not store my pen in the case. The pen lives on my desk and I use it every day. The case is the very definition of redundant.

 

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Everyone has one of these drawers, right? Right?

Why do I still have it? For some sense of completeness? A fear I will one day want it and find it absent? Why do I have six large rolls of double-sided tape? Why do I own four laptop bags, none of which I use? Why have I saved old planners? Who do I think I will be accused of murdering five years ago, and so will be required to accurately describe my activities and whereabouts on June 14, 2012? I’m hoarding post-it notes like I’m afraid 3M will not only go out of business, but take the technology with them.

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I have packed three cartons of blank journals ready to go to the storage unit that’s costing me $179 a month. There is no shortage of blank journals in the world.

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Important note: I haven’t sewn anything in three years.

Some of it is perfectionism. I’ve told myself I need 15 shades of red sewing thread because if I sewed a garment with the incorrect shade of red then I’d be a pitiable loser who should die in a fire.

But more of it is I’m clinging to a scarcity mindset, rooted in a deep-seated childhood fear of not having something I would be required to produce. And fear of ignorance: of not knowing what I should have. I felt such anxiety at the thought of having to ask to borrow a pen, protractor, or pair of compasses I always made sure I had multiples of everything I would need. I would never risk the chance of having to talk to someone and be rejected. I didn’t have friends at school, and I’ve put that down to my social awkwardness. But it’s likely it also stemmed from my belief that to need help, support, or, in fact, other people at all, was a symptom of being ill-prepared and weak. I wonder if I might have been so desperate to prove my utter independence I never left room for anyone to offer mutual, supportive interdependence.

I live in a prosperous, happy country. I have enough. I do not need to cling to objects through fear.

 

Fuck you, Goldman Sachs

With the kind of impeccable timing I usually have, today as I prepare to list my Auckland home for sale, Goldman Sachs announced the Auckland housing market has a 40% chance of crashing, literally immediately softening house sales and freaking out our stock market.

Well, screw you, Goldman Sachs. I’m going to get a good price for my place from buyers who love it, and everything’s going to work out fine.

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I’m so scared I’m screwing up

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Photo by Brendon Connelly on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence

I have three realtors coming next week to appraise my place. The plan for a while now has been to move out of Auckland, but now I’m facing this as an increasingly urgent financial necessity.

As I mentioned last year, my mom had to leave work and she lives with me now. Although New Zealand has excellent public health care, it doesn’t cover things like the neurophysio who helps my mom keep mobile.

As soon as I realized I was financially responsible for both of us I started applying for any and all jobs I was vaguely able to do. I haven’t even gotten an interview. This has not been a surprise. I’m over 40 and  overqualified. As an introvert I don’t have a good network, and in New Zealand most jobs come from who you know.

If it was just me I could live in the back of my car if I had to, and shower at the gym. I’ve given this a lot of thought: it’s always good to have a contingency plan, right? But I can’t ask an older woman with MS to do the same. I have to find somewhere that can be a home for us both, and which I can afford to buy outright.

I’m feeling crushing guilt. I should have been – I should be – a better provider. When I started my PhD I assumed once I finished I’d be able to get reliable, stable work as an academic, which is a sign of my horrible naivety.

As a kid I thought I would run my life more successfully than this. For forty years I’ve been showing ‘potential’ but never managed to turn it into actually being good enough at anything. I feel like I made poor decisions my whole life, and now I’m making another.

I know I’m lucky. I’m lucky I had work for as long as I did. I’m lucky my daughter grew up into a functioning adult and is out there living her life. I’m lucky I snuck onto the lowest rung of the property ladder in the 90s recession. I’m lucky Auckland house prices rose 325% since then. I’m extremely lucky New Zealand has good unemployment benefits.

I don’t know how fast I can sell my place. I don’t know where we’ll go. But now it’s time to jump.

I Possess Ovaries

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Seriously, fuck the cultural gender binary. Photo by Janet on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons licence

Not in a “don’t look in the serial killer’s fridge!” way, but in a “some humans make snap judgements about my personality, preferences, interests and skills, based on the meat my DNA grows” way. I feel it’s wise to bring this up because the gmail address for my pen name is michal.caspian@gmail.com. Fun fact: in New Zealand Michal is not an uncommon name for a human with ovaries. I’ve worked with three women called Michal, there was a woman editor of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly called Michal, and my cousin is a Michal – Mike for short. It’s a versatile, non-gender-specific name, like Hayden, Robin, or Taylor. However I’ve just learned that overseas Michal is pretty much solely reserved for humans culturally gendered as ‘male’. Therefore, in the precarious current gender politics of m/m authorship, it might look – if you squint your eyes in low light – as if I am trying to present myself as a different gender in order to gain privilege and authority.

The Michal was an accident, actually. I just wanted an M. For Em. But M.Caspian@gmail.com was taken, so I needed to find a first name that went with the initial. And that cousin I just mentioned? I decided age 12 I would call my daughter Michal. Flash forward, years later, my aunt gave birth to her daughter three months before I had mine. She called her Michal. I had to pick another name. I’m still not over it. So what better choice for my email address than my lamented unusable baby name? (Now I verbalize that explicitly, that’s weird, right? I don’t think of books as my babies or anything. But I wanted to use the name, goddamn it!)

And I’ve got a book underway that is less . . . rapey and violent. And I thought I might distinguish this from the M. Caspian works by publishing it under Michal Caspian, so it was clear it’s still me, but also a book you can read even if you’re totally not into, you know, rapey violence.

So, yeah. Ovaries. I’ve got them.

Thank you

Welp, that was a hell of a year, wasn’t it?

Thank you for reading my blog.

I made 109 blog posts and broke 5,000 blog views. In global media terms that’s not even small potatoes, it’s a single microscopic rhizomic nodule, but – not gonna lie – it means a hell of a lot to me.

Thank you to everyone who bought one of my books.

I banked USD$953.62 this year from book sales across Amazon and Smashwords. That’s nearly NZD$1400. To me, that’s huge. (And Germany is so fucking close to paying out. Come on, Germans, if I write some more, please will you buy just a couple more books?).

With the income I paid a power bill, donated some to Rainbow Youth, made a mortgage payment, and bought a piece of luggage. According to Stephen King’s rule, I’m a real writer.

I released five and a half books (a half because I pulled one, rewrote the end, and just re-released it as a 2nd edition). I didn’t release any M. Caspian books, but I have several first drafts completed and resting, and I will have at least a couple out in 2017, plus that book of three short stories, just as as soon as I get a cover. And that second book with Lisa Henry, I pinky promise.

Kraken is still my best-selling book, which is amazing considering it’s three years old, and it’s about violent non-con squid/man sex.

It’s the early evening of the 31st in Auckland right now. I’m going to put some more time in on my yearly review and 2017 planning, then head out for a walk along the beach. I suspect I will be asleep before midnight.

Not everyone’s 2017 will be peaceful, safe, or filled with well-being and joy. Let us find the strength to support one another through the next year, and continue to stand up for what we know is right. We will not allow fascism and hate to win.

Much love to you all.

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Auckland from Mt Eden. Photo by Harrison & Peppery on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence