Chaos theory. Patterns and Butterflies and Pushing Back the Darkness.

mandel_zoom_08_satellite_antennaPartial view of the Mandelbrot set. Step 8 of a zoom sequence: “Antenna” of the satellite.Created by Wolfgang Beyer with the program Ultra Fractal 3. Image licensed Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Years ago, long and far away, my body was unpredictable. I’d have good days and bad days, often more bad than good, without any apparent rhyme or reason. It was chaos and I,being as I am, tried to find a pattern.
It took a long time. Finally, eventually, I figured it out…mostly. I realized that gluten was the biggest (but not only) contributor to the triggering of bad days. Going gluten-free didn’t solve everything, but it was something to hold on to and work with.
I still had bad days, but I could predict them and work around them.
And then…the pattern shifted. It became unpredictable again. Chaos was starting to take over. A butterfly beats its wings in Taiwan.
And then, I got cancer.
I won’t say cancer was the reason for change in the pattern. I don’t know. I will never know for sure.
But what I do know, is that the battle to stop the cancer, was another fly in the ointment. Another butterfly. Another change.
Through chemo, I stopped trying to find the pattern. There was no use, it seemed. And like all things, wonderful or terrible, it came to an end.
And though the experience of chemotherapy was chaotic, once it was over my body was supposed to at least start the process of getting back to “normal”.

I tried to find patterns again. It’s what I do. Patterns and logic and sense. Because the bad days are manageable when I know how long they last, and the possibility at least exists that I will, eventually, make my way back to “normal”.

When you are surrounded by seemingly infinite darkness, you stave off the madness by telling yourself the light will return.

But there was still none to be found. I tried and I tried and I tried and every time I think I found it… the algorithm, the reason… the sense...it slipped away again.
Bad days, good days. They blurred together. There seemed no logic, or exit, to the endless maze.
It is enough to make one go mad. The darkness encroached; no longer creeping, but rushing forward, removing the light.
And perhaps it is that madness acting now. Maybe my brain is so desperate that it is finding patterns, when truly there are none.
But…
I think… I see the patterns emerging. Again. Finally. They are new patterns of course, but they are there. I can’t see the whole picture. I can’t see the finality of the pattern. But the light, wan and thin, is starting to emerge from the end of the tunnel.

I have a made a tear in the chaos. And I, like the butterfly out of a chrysalis, will continue breaking through.

The Return and… the conflict of self-identity

It has been a while since my last post, and I must confess I am disappointed in myself.
In further confession, the reason for my silence has been that I have foolishly adhered to the very idea I rebelled against.
I had told myself that I was going to stay true to myself, and my ideas on writing. I was going to do what I wanted, discuss what I felt like discussing.

And then when it came time to actually write something…. I …stalled.

To be fair to myself, some of the mental block came from my ever temperamental health. Being sick is never fun, and it definitely messes with my cognitive ability. I went through a period of about two months where I was running on autopilot. Higher cognitive functions were a no-go.
But in that period, I tried. I thought about this blog and what i wanted to say. I had some bits and pieces of ideas clattering around my mind, taken from random conversations and mundane pieces of life. But, I could never expand these ideas into something larger, something I felt was worthy of a blog post.

A lot of my ideas were derived from everyday conversations and thoughts. Day to day, daily stuff. But I didn’t want to turn this into a daily, journal type blog. My day to day thoughts and exploits weren’t interesting enough for others to want to read.

Yeah, I’m kind of dumb. I’m working on that.
I still am afraid of, and don’t want, this to become a journal type blog. But what my addled brain was failing to register was that the thoughts that others might be interested in were born from the every day.
And of course, I was breaking my own rule of keeping this blog for me , writing about the things that I wanted to write about. I was already forgetting my purpose: to let my thoughts and ideas roam.

So with that awkwardness behind us ….

One of the trains of thought that kept rattling around my brain was one of identity and belonging.
In a way, it’s fitting for this return post, as the idea was borne from my upset at not being able to write anything (for this blog as well as other projects) for quite a while.

I frequently go through long periods of time, with “long” being anywhere from 6 months to a couple of years, where I am unable to write much of anything at all.
There may be occasional Facebook (or back in the day, LiveJournal) posts. I may scribble a few scraps for a story idea somewhere; pen down a scene or two, scrape out a bit of poetry, but for the most part no really solid writing happens. There are no new stories, no character development, no chapters or pages.

A lot of it has to do with my health. When my body doesn’t work, the brain tends to go with it, and my ability to write (and even think) coherently is diminished. Cognitive dysfunction is a pretty major symptom of Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia, and it’s something I’ve struggled with for many years. It’s like someone stuffed cotton…in my *brain*. There are thoughts and ideas and critical thinking abilities, but they’re all covered in fog… dense, gray, suffocating fog. Nothing flows or moves easily through the mind in times like this, and just when one manages to reach and grab a thought or coherent bit of language, the fog turns to smoke, and slips through one’s metaphorical fingers.

After a long enough period of this, you start to wonder, and doubt. Did you *ever* have the ability to think, work and write coherently? Was it all just a dream, were you fooling yourself?

Depression is also a part of this phase… and the inevitable thoughts surface:
If you can’t write any more, if you haven’t written in x years, are you still a writer?

This is where my mind starts twisting in on itself about the concept of identity.
How much of an identity is what you think of yourself, versus what others think of you, versus, what you actually do?

That is, if I only write occasionally, and don’t think of myself as a writer… but others view me as a writer, and I am actually writing (if sporadically), which is my identity? Writer or not?

Am I defined by my illness? Many would say no, absolutely not.

But as much as I’d like to believe that, it’s hard to think otherwise when I see how much it affects me, changes me, and guides my course in life.

So maybe I AM a writer, but I’m also a girl with a/n (sometimes debilitating) illness. So the illness changes the nature of the writing identity. I suppose I should just embrace that, and accept all aspects of my identity.

So perhaps it’s not that identity is solely what you think of yourself, or what others perceive you to be, or just your actions. It’s a multi-faced gem of all of these and a few other ideas as well. Even more, I think some parts of one’s identity can be, fluid and changing, evolving as the individual goes through life experiences.That is, the core aspects remain the same, but humans (tend to be) are more complicated than a single core aspect. So those labels that we layer on ourselves, those can be changed.

I can be a writer… who is also dealing with an illness, who may not be as prolific as another person, but are still.. a writer.

There was another point I wanted to make here, but I’m going to rely on the “occasional cognitive dysfunction” part of my identity and call it a day and let this post go to roost. 😉

Relationship status: It’s complicated

This afternoon I was playing with some world building and magic-system ideas for my current novel and I started to get very excited about said ideas. Things were clicking into place, one idea leading to another, each neatly solving a problem. Click, click, click. My best game of Tetris ever.  With each new idea,  I got more excited; my pulse quickened, my energy levels rose. “This is why I do this,” I thought.  A little voice in the back of my brain likened it to a high, but without the troublesome side effects afterward. But immediately after that thought, I realized, no… the writer’s high does have its own dark side. It lures you in with good moments, and without warning, the trap snaps shut, leaving you alone and in the dark, wondering what the hell just happened.

And with that, the next thought…

Working on a piece of writing is like being in a relationship with a troublesome, tempestuous lover. It is the kind of relationship that everyone tells you isn’t good for you, but you just. can’t. quit.

When it’s good, it’s good. That tempestuous nature ignites something within you, an ember that fans quickly into a flame. You can’t stop thinking about them, everything reminds you of them, and suddenly, they are your entire world. You know you’re flirting with fire, but that is part of what makes the experience so enjoyable, so exciting. You get giddy just thinking about them, and when things align, you see stars.

But that very same passionate will eventually work against you, sooner or later. It’s inevitable. The flames will continue to fan into an inferno that you can’t control. Where there was once was magic and euphoria, there is instead heartache and desolation. Nothing will go right. Nothing you say or do will be good enough for your fickle, mercurial darling. There will be tears and no small touch of madness on your behalf.

And just when you are ready to call it quits, and break it off, for good this time! Your little lover will change on you again, maybe even simpering, whispering a thousand apologies. Assurances and promises will slip off their silver tongue, and there will be one final sweet offer you just can’t refuse.

And so, the process begins anew.

Is it any wonder so many writers drink and/or have gone insane?

We court insatiable, temperamental lovers, and keep coming back for more.

Oh muse, thou art a heartless bitch.

For what it’s worth, I’ll take the lows with the highs. I’m still working on those ideas I mentioned, and still excited but tempered. One might say that is the key all along: temper the flame, and don’t let it consume you. Easier said than done…