Buffy Casablanca Poster poppy wreath  RS

Trying to recalibrate "normal" whatever that means - and, I'm writing fanfic. Be very afraid.

Last week we finally got the gas stove (burners etc) in the new apartment fixed and approved for use, and I made the first dinner since the house fire that I was proud of: Chicken breasts rubbed with a little balsamic vinagrette dressing from a local restaurant  (to which I'd added a little more oil and maple sysauteed in the cast iron skillet in a slick of olive oil, with chopped leeks, mushrooms, garlic etc; seasoned lightly with salt, pepper, and then just a dash of balsamic vinagrette dressing from a local restaurant (to which I'd added maple syrup) poured in at the last minute or two. Making it felt like coming home on some small level: this is ME, this is who I am. It felt familiar, and "familiar" has suddenly become very precious to me.

And yes, I do know children are starving around the world and women have to walk ten miles to get water and I've never been raped and I'm not mutilated or dead so stop whining and be grateful. No, I'm not joking, this stuff really goes through my head. Although when my landlord pulled out the "at least you have a roof over your head" line I wanted to tell him to stuff it.

[Things fall apart....]So it's been little things, grasping for the familiar comforts and rhythms, while being aware somehow that the "old normal" doesn't exist anymore and never will; that a new sense of "normal" is establishing itself, while the old patterns elbow their way in.  Or perhaps it's the other way around? Whether that "new normal" is comfortable or desirable is too soon to tell. The old normal was comfortable; but was it actually desirable?

So I can still light a fire in the Weber grill with wood I've gathered myself and grill a steak or burn documents without hesitation. The fire and smoke don't bother me because I've mastered this activity and it's "under control", safe and contained.

But I'm hyper-aware of fire truck sirens in the streets, and I startled at unfamiliar noises in this new apartment, the slight ones coming perhaps from outside on the stairwell, beneath the floor or through the walls; in fact I'm not sure where they come from most times. I freeze and wait for a second until they pass. Sounds, not sights or smells, seems to be the main sense in which my recent "trauma" (let's just call it PTSD, shall we?) expresses itself. It wasn't the mattress in flames that terrified me, or the smoke filling my eyes; it was the awful sound of my sweetheart's high-pitched, hysterical scream as she tried to fight the fire. Running up the stairs I thought for an awful moment I'd find her engulfed in flames, burning to death.

No one should have to hear that sound, although many people do, and worse. I know.

But written words can have an effect as well. I had to stop reading beer_good_foamy's recent post re: Night Vale when I read this quote from the podcasts: "The world is awful. And on fire. And beautiful." A month ago I would have loved the elegant and evocative language. Now I run away from it because I want to cry. And I am not liking this state of affairs one little bit. Not at all. But there it is. (Note to BGF if you're reading it: don't change the title of your journal on my account, ok? That is NOT what I'm saying at all.)

It is always unpredictable and never within my control. Perhaps that's what is really setting me off lately, and not the triggers themselves. That may explain why I have a hard time lately bearing my partner's moods when she arrives home. She might be exhausted, in pain, angry about work, hyper-focused on some obsession or project that must get done, throw herself into a frenzy of activity or barely be able to move. She's no different in fact than she's ever been but now it feels very heightened to me. The fact that she speaks aloud constantly, says everything she's thinking at every moment she's thinking it, or thinks and obsesses in patterns and circles, is nothing new. The fact that she wants me to "respond" to her, but automatically know when she's talking to me and when she's just thinking aloud isn't new either.  We've been together 17 years, she's always been that way.

It used to be irritating, frustrating; now it feels like nails scraping my skin to be in the same room sometimes. And other times, she leans into me and I stroke her soft hair and forget all that for a moment, until the next disagreement and we're off to the races again.


My primary solace, lately, or methods of trying to hold onto "normal" have included being here with my friends on LJ and chatting for hours while ignoring my must-do list and procrastinating like a champ; and carrying a notebook with me everywhere I go so I can write when inspiration strikes - again, always when I'm supposed to be doing something else "more important".

And lately I'm writing Buffyverse fanfic. After announcing a year ago I would NOT write fanfic because 1) my previous efforts in another fandom sucked which 2) made me decide I'm really a non-fiction writer plus 3) there are so many good writers in this fandom that I could never compete or say something really new and therefore, 4) I was going to write meta in this fandom instead of fic.

Famous last words and all that. Or in this case, first words. But at least I'm writing, and feeling inspired to write and transporting myself out of myself a bit and it's the best feeling I've had since the apartment fire.

And it's post-Chosen fic, some of it from Buffy's POV. I have a kink for good post-series fics and I love Buffy dearly so that makes sense. The post-series setting is new for me but that means there's a lot of unfinished emotional business to explore and I can take it any direction I want while remaining canon-compliant.

But some of it is also from Giles' POV. Giles? Really? This is not normal for me. At all. In fact, writing from a male character's POV is something I've attempted only once before with any success. It's coming out differently than other fiction I've written. There's shifts in style and tone that make me a little nervous. Some of it is crowd scenes and multi-character conversations. I've never done that well before; this time it might be working. Might be. There are long two-person dialogues, and extended internal monologues. There's things that I think only experienced writers should attempt: a dream sequence. Always a potential landmine of badness. Third-person present tense POV. Fashionable nowadays but risky if you don't know what you're doing.

It might all be part of a single multichapter story or it might be a series of ficlets  or drabbles, I have no idea. They may even be part of a whole 'verse. They fit together in the same timeline, but what actually makes a 'verse? And if it is a single verse, what the hell would I call it? ("Buffyverse" is, unfortunately, already taken. Damn it.)

There's pairings I've never attempted before but it's not a "shippy" fic. Buffy, Giles, Willow, Faith and Dawn are all in it so far. I've written scenes where there's actually some humor to lighten the angst - I've NEVER successfully written humor into my fiction, but it makes me smile. Whether it's funny to anyone else I've no idea. And the vice-versa: Yesterday I spent a better part of the day writing pages upon pages of third-person present tense fic but from Buffy's POV that's mostly light and humorous, until I got to a point that almost made me cry. It feels very new and very weird, and I'm not sure if it's worth typing up and sending to gillo and Lookingforoctober, who have kindly offered their beta services.

But I know I loved writing it. God knows I love Buffy like - I was about to say "house afire" but I think I'll retire that metaphor for the time being, thank you. She may not be "fandom's" favorite character but I find her fascinating: funny, intense, angry, compassionate, so full of feeling that it's painful to even express it and sometimes dangerous when she does so. There's just so much there to explore.

And third-person present tense is the sort of POV where I often think that the piece might actually be better off in first-person POV, but in this case, it's what the story is calling for. I didn't plan it but I think it's actually helping me dig into the heads of the various characters, even Buffy's, and retaining some sense of immediacy while retaining some detachment as an author, if that makes any sense?

I can see influences of just about every other writer in this fandom whose work I've enjoyed and admired. This may be a horrible mess and meant for my eyes only. I hope not. I'm getting a lot of pleasure out of it.

In other news, my sweetie and I are going to the Cape tomorrow, to Truro, MA just south of Provincetown; she's taking a painting workshop that was planned and paid for back in May. We've been to the Cape just once before on a weekend trip and loved it. ("Off-season" is the way to go on a strip of land that has only one road going in and out.)  I don't know if I'll see the harbor seals this time, but I am taking the laptop along.

And my notebook. Much cheaper than therapy, with none of the nasty side-effects of antidepressants.
and yes, I do know children are starving around the world and women have to walk ten miles to get water and I've never been raped and I'm not mutilated or dead All this is true but that doesn't mean your pain and anguish is less just because some one is in worse a circumstance. Pain is pain.

Enjoy your visit to the Cape.
You know, if a friend of mine said the same thing to me that I just wrote, I'd tell say the same thing to them that you just said. But holy moly are those ideas hard to shake.

Possibly triggery: it took me a long time to acknowledge that some of the things that had happened to me as a kid actually deserved the label "abuse" because - it wasn't worse than it could have been. Buffy's not the only Queen of Denial.

Thanks so much for your thoughts; I'm sure a little time away is sorely needed.
*hugs* I can't imagine what it would be like.

But I'm glad to hear you're writing fic. Looking forward to reading it.
*hugs back* thanks, I could never have imagined it beforehand either. I think I said in my original post about it that some movies and tv shows about firefighter or fire scenes actually capture the experience rather well - heck, even Beer bad does in it's way - the smoke, not being able to see properly and being overwhelmed by it, etc.

Looking forward to reading it.

Thank you! Also, thank you for reading into the post that far, I'm tickled that anyone took the time to do so.
Chosenverse?

*strokes chin* I like that very much! Better than anything I've come up with so far, thanks!
Oh crap, I'm sorry about that, I wasn't thinking further than my own nose as usual. :( Hugs? And never feel bad for feeling bad, just because things could theoretically be worse.

That fic sounds really intriguing, I haven't read any good Buffy-centric fic in a while. Third person present is easy to write and difficult to write well, but you know what you're doing.

Enjoy your trip!
Hugs are ALWAYS of the good (when mutually consensual of course.)

No, please don't feel bad, that wasn't my intention. You CANNOT have predicted it nor are you responsible it was more that I wanted to talk about the fact that such small things, things I'd normally love, are having a huge impact. In a week it mightn't bother me at all.

And the fact that two days after the fire, I built a fire in the Weber grill and cooked steaks with no untoward reaction whatsoever, even after having watched the flames in the bedroom climb up the walls? That's really weird to me because I would think THAT would set me off, not a elegant turn of phrase.

The brain is freaking weird.

I haven't read any good Buffy-centric fic in a while.

bone_dry1013 and I have been commiserating over this lately. Have you read her Origin's/Chapter 1 WIP, and accompanying meta? VERY buffy-centric.

but you know what you're doing.

I hope to reward your confidence, sir! (That one post the Gift fic I wrote was 3rd person present tense, I forgot, but that was maybe 600 words?) Writing Giles has been the real surprise to me and Dawn is proving to be a great deal of fun to write. She's more 'terrifying' than Buffy, Faith and Willow combined. Or at least Giles seems to think so.

I really think the comics squandered a terrific idea (ok, they've squandered everything....) by not doing something with Dawn's Keyness except her almost dying and reducing her AGAIN to Buffy and Willow's "damsel". S5 Redux? Pfft! Now Dawn as a "Big Bad" is an idea I could go with - and I might actually root for her. The angst! She'd leave DW in the dust. ;)



Edited at 2013-09-18 09:42 pm (UTC)
To quote teragramm: that doesn't mean your pain and anguish is less just because some one is in worse a circumstance. Pain is pain.

Because it's absolutely true. What you went through was scary and traumatic and you should not shut yourself down or allow anyone else to do so with comparisons to other people's experience. Yours is no less legitimate in its effects on you.

By the way, I've lost two friends to fires and I'm glad beyond the power of words to express it that you were not a third.

Good luck with your story!!!!! I look forward to reading it!


Gabrielle
Oh god hon I am SO sorry to hear about your friends! I can't even imagine what that must have been (and still are?) going through. My condolences to their families as well.

You've reminded me again just how lucky my sweetie and I are - and not in the patronizing sort of way my landlord did, but for real.

*hugs*
I hope my telling you did not seem like I was shutting you down at all, because you still have every right to be upset about what happened to you - it was scary and awful whether anyone died or not, okay?

Thank you for the kind thoughts. I do miss my friends; they were very special people.


Gabrielle
OH HELL NO, sweetie don't even think that for a second! I didn't at all, and I'm really honored you felt comfortable to share that. I think part of what we're doing here - the conversations - are SO important, it's why we're here because it's so easy to fall into that groove of "I'm alone in this" until we talk to one another.

I'm truly sorry you lost your friends - I've lost friends but not had friends die. (family members though) and no matter how or why, it hurts. When you can't talk to someone again who was important to you, it hurts like hell.
The voice in one's head saying one should just suck it up and deal because other people have it worse needs to stuff a sock in it. Yeah, there always is someone who has it worse, but that doesn't mean you don't have it bad.

I made a Stupid Rock-Climbing Decision once, and almost plunged to a nasty death (or at least a whole bunch of broken bones). That was twenty-five years ago, and I still get the yips if I'm too close to any kind of drop-off. But it's gotten better, much better. So I hope yours will too.

And I'm thrilled to hear you're writing fic!
You know me, I am verbose...
You've reminded me of the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S Kushner (a friend of mine recommended one of his other books, "How good do we have to be?" very highly.

He's a rabbi and there's a passage in it where he talks about visiting someone at the hospital who was in a car accident and hearing that person say they must have survived because, "I guess God has a plan for me" and he wondered if they were aware of what that implied - that someone else who died in a similar accident deserved it? that god didn't care about that other person?

About three years ago I had a slight car accident (the car wouldn't brake in a grocery store driveway so I bumped into the lady in front of me), and my mom said "Things like this happen for a reason, the universe is telling you something." And I've gone along with that way of thinking for years but this time I wanted to scream "Yes, it's telling me that whoever worked on the car last didn't do a good enough job on the brakes and mechanical things sometimes fail!"

Of course, I had gone back to being an atheist by that point, so I may have been biased.

But you're absolutely right - stuff happens because it happens. because there are statistical averages that if THIS set of conditions exist then there are X number of outcomes available. People die of war and cancer and bad blood transfusions and wrong place wrong time and I can't go with that line of thinking anymore.

Have you read The Book of Job in the OT btw? (Not to get biblical on you.) It's actually a brilliant morality play - it's like a Greek dram, and says the same thing Kushner was saying - and the upshot isn't that Job never questions God even when he's lost everything - he demands that God explain what he did to deserve his misfortunes and God says, basically, I'm God, I'll do what I will and don't question me puny mortal.

That was twenty-five years ago, and I still get the yips if I'm too close to any kind of drop-off.

Yikes, I'm sorry you went through that! But I'm glad you're ok now. And I know what you mean - the body holds memories. I think maybe that's where all this fic writing is suddenly coming from? I think I'm really exploring the idea or the feeling of PTSD via the Buffyverse. (I noticed when I went to the library to look up books on the subject, they were all about men suffering it, usually soldiers.)
Re: You know me, I am verbose...
One of the reasons I'm an atheist is that I find the idea that there's some higher power controlling our lives and putting people through assorted horrors because of some grand plan that we're too limited to understand really kind of horrifying. Stuff happening just because it happens may be tragic, but at least it's not because the universe has stacked the dice. And yeah, I've read Job (I've read most of the Bible barring the mind-numbing parts of Numbers and Leviticus, though it's been awhile.) Reading the Bible was actually another big factor in me becoming an atheist; it's just chock-full of things that I find morally revolting, presented as the word of the Lord. It made me absolutely furious as a teenager that God's only rationale for human suffering was "I'm bigger and stronger than you, so I'll do what I like." That's fine if one only conceives of God as powerful; I couldn't buy it for a God that's supposed to be good as well.

(On the other hand, considered as a myth cycle that grew out of and influenced other Middle and Near Eastern myth cycles, I find it absolutely fascinating.)
Re: You know me, I am verbose...
(On the other hand, considered as a myth cycle that grew out of and influenced other Middle and Near Eastern myth cycles, I find it absolutely fascinating.)

Oh absolutely. And the fact that the cultures that all came out of basically a common root stock CANNOT stop fighting and killing each other? It's the most horribly macabre "comedy" I can think of.

A friend gave me a copy of the Bible a few years back and some of the contents of the OT horrified me, esp the "instruction from God" to kill all the non-believers, cut open the wombs of pregnant women and dash the babies against the rocks. That is repeated more than once in the text. Or, if a young girl is raped the solution is for her rapist to marry her. WTF? Word of God my ass - it's just the flip side of "the Devil made me do it".

(I've read most of the Bible barring the mind-numbing parts of Numbers and Leviticus, though it's been awhile.)

Which is why I used to keep the thing by my bed actually - handier than Ambien or a math textbook. I did enjoy reading the four Gospels, but then afterwards I got bored with the pissing contents between the disciples re: establishing a new religion, who gets in and who doesn't, the circumcised or uncircumcised blah blah blah. Power politics with sand and sandals. Egh.

What I actually like about Job is the reminder that people have been thinking the same things as we have throughout time, and the literary quality of it. It's actually so much more sophisticated and emotionally honest than most of what's in the Bible before that. And the fact that it's so much more complicated than what we were taught in catechism classes when I was a kid.

I had tendencies toward atheism/agnosticism early on when I asked a catechism teacher "If you go out into a garden and pray won't God hear you?" and she replied "Yes but he'll hear you MUCH better in Church." At 8 yrs old I knew that was bullshit. (Like I've said - I was much more sensible back then.) I've kept going back and forth on it thought and never "settling" - I think now I've settled, though. Right about the same time I realized I had really entirely forgiven my stepfathers - I'd let go of them, of waiting for "Daddy" to come home. *shrugs*
(And yes, I do know children are starving around the world and women have to walk ten miles to get water and I've never been raped and I'm not mutilated or dead so stop whining and be grateful. No, I'm not joking, this stuff really goes through my head. Although when my landlord pulled out the "at least you have a roof over your head" line I wanted to tell him to stuff it.)

I struggle with this, too. I resent the bad things in my life; then I feel guilty for resenting them when others have it so much worse; then I resent the guilt, and round it goes...

And one day it occurred to me: I felt guilty because it was as if I was saying, "It's okay if those bad things happened to THEM, as long as nothing bad happens to ME." Like there was an internal observer saying, "As long as there's someone in the world who's worse off than you, you should be happy because your life is better than it COULD be."

When no, that's not it at all. I don't think I should have to watch my husband go through agony in the Emergency Room because NO ONE should have to watch that. No one should have to go through that. It's not that it shouldn't happen to me. It's that it shouldn't happen to anyone.

We'd be upset if someone else's house burned down. It's okay to be upset if our house burns down, too.

I struggle with this, too. I resent the bad things in my life; then I feel guilty for resenting them when others have it so much worse; then I resent the guilt, and round it goes..

Right, and then there's the "I wonder why other people seem to have such great lives (money, career, nice home, are generally cheerful people, etc) and why don't I, so I must be a bad person or doing something wrong" because I don't want to admit I'm a little envious. Which also makes me a bad person and I feel worse.

I remember when I was a kid at the dinner table in the 1970's and my mom would try to get me to eat my canned green beans/brussel sprouts/whatever with the "children are starving in Africa" line; one time I said aloud "Then why don't we send this to them?" I think my stepfather smacked me or yelled at me or I was sent to my room and I didn't understand why. I WASN'T making a joke, I meant it. To me at the time, that was the logical response to the notion of "children are starving in Africa". Send them some of our food. that line of thinking had no power over me then; but now it does.

I don't think I should have to watch my husband go through agony in the Emergency Room because NO ONE should have to watch that. No one should have to go through that.

Back in college I found out my grandfather was dying of cancer and I prepared myself for the day when I'd get the phone call from Mom telling me he'd died. My aunt called me with the news first and I had to call my Mom instead. That was the worst phone call I ever had to make. Listening to my Mom crying so hard was something I hadn't prepared for.
Oh dear, I'm sorry. {virtual hugs}

But I think writing is a fantastic coping mechanism and I'm glad it's been doing good things for you. Looking forward to seeing this fic!
Thanks so much for your good thoughts! *more hugs*

Last night I reread parts of what I'd written and thought, eh, kind of mediocre. Not exactly "high art" but it's probably time I stopped waiting until I became "great" and just focused on being good. Even decent. That need to be "perfect" fucks me up a lot - comes from having one's identity revolve around being an "A student" in school I suppose.
You are allowed to have your own trauma.

A few years back, Bellingham's Whatcom Creek had fuel spilled into it, which was ignited. (Details: http://whatcomcreek.pipelinesafetytrust.com/)

My sweetie was downtown at the post office, about where the creek empties into the bay, and he saw the huge plume of horrifying black smoke rising into the air. He was never in any danger -- the worst thing that happened to us personally was that we got caught in an epic traffic jam and were super late meeting some friends in from out of town.

But the experience was still traumatic. He had nightmares featuring the plume of smoke for months afterward. He will still say to me sometimes, "Of all the things I believed, one of them was that the creek I was standing next to would never catch on fire."
But the experience was still traumatic. He had nightmares featuring the plume of smoke for months afterward. He will still say to me sometimes, "Of all the things I believed, one of them was that the creek I was standing next to would never catch on fire."

I'm sorry I didn't reply to this a lot sooner! Thank you for sharing this, I had never heard of this fire before. I can imagine very easily now how your sweetie must have felt, watching this: "Is this hell?" (Bargaining pt 2)

I read the information about the fire from your link and saw that one teenage boy died from the smoke inhalation and two younger boys suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns and died in the hospital the next day. What a horrible way to die. *shudders* Either or both could have happened to my sweetie and I - she could have been burnt worse and I remember realizing that I could barely see or breathe or think from the smoke - you're literally suffocating.