Limitless: A Year On

My Limitless card is up for renewal in a few weeks and I was curious about whether it was a worthwhile investment (it was).

I wanted to document what movies I saw though this is hardly a model of the scientific method (I’m happily retired, ergo I have more time than most, and I also have access to what I’m affectionately calling the ‘CEA loophole’ where I can take in a plus one at no extra cost, again for free).

Also I’ve turned movie-going into a habit and finally gotten over my anxiety about crowded spaces. Repeat viewings are either due to boredom, someone/me wanting to go or a genuine love of the movie (Arrival, I’m looking at you because you emotionally broke me but I heart you). There were also a slew of good movies out during 2016-17 and I travelled a bit (which allowed me to see movies elsewhere, like during my trip to Bath with Shannon).

 So what did I see?

  • Doctor Strange: twice (+1 person at each showing)
  • Storks: once (+1 person)
  • Inferno: once (+1 person)
  • Nocturnal Animals: once (+1 person)
  • Arrival: twice (+1 person at each viewing)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: three times (+1 person at two of the three)
  • Allied: once
  • Moana: five times (!!!! also +1 person at two showings)
  • Rogue One: twice
  • Passengers: once
  • Assassin’s Creed: once (+1 person)
  • Sing: once (+1 person)
  • The Lego Batman Movie: once (+1 person and a student)
  • Logan: once (+ 1 person)
  • Beauty and the Beast: twice (+1 each time)
  • Life: once (+1 person)
  • Ghost in the Shell: once (+1 person)
  • Fast and the Furious 8: once (+1 person)
  • Hidden Figures: once (+1 person)
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: twice (+1 person at one showing)
  • Alien: Covenant: twice (+1 person per screening)
  • La La Land: once (+1)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: once (+1 person)
  • Wonder Woman: twice (+2 person at each showing)
  • Despicable Me 3: once (+1)
  • The Fate of the Furious: once (+1)
  • Atomic Blonde: once (+1)
  • IT: once (+1)

That’s 40 movies … wow. That’s around £800 worth of screenings for £205, definitely the gift which kept on giving.

renews for 2018

Gismo and the Inigo Montoya Hilarity*.

*This should have you covered. If it doesn’t, go and watch The Princess Bride. Now. Seriously.

Because my moods have given me a short fuse of late (mainly turning my hyper-aggressive, it’s a symptom of high functioning depression) and Guide Dogs’ party line involves a frankly spineless response to dealing with unwanted human, I suggested our little group try passive-aggression instead. This mean we can be snide but not rude and express our annoyance without using the f word (which is a huge no no).

It also might prevent me from throttling half of Norwich.

See people annoy me; they talk to me as the non-blind communicator. Don’t ask me about a dog which is clearly connected to my friend. He’s obviously blind and known for sarcasm but he’s neither deaf not stupid. Oh and they like to barge into our conversations ad nauseam. Because apparently we need the non-blind to invade our privacy or we just cease existing.

What’s worse is that this happens All. The. Time.

Take out the guide dog and you’d never randomly insert yourself into another person’s conversation. EVER. It’s the hight of rudeness. But not when there’s a dog. That nulls and voids everything. Thus is it apparently okay for non-disabled people to do that to blind folk.

No it’s fucking not. Stop it.

Paul and I were in Waterstones having a cheeky coffee (actually cold drinks) while we waited for our respective buses to come in. I did the till run and got our drinks while Paul bonded sub-atomically with one of the rather comfy chairs. He does that. It’s okay. As the differently-blind, it’s sometimes easier for me to stand in queues or grab drinks and it was my turn to pay. Yay loyalty stamps!

Now it is widely accepted that all guide dogs are beautiful. Fun fact: there’s never been an ugly one. Even Labradoodles are pretty in their own kind of special way. So this gets commented on a lot.

Yes, we know, we live with them. No you can’t touch them, they’re working. Yes, even while we’re trying to chat.

Aka: piss the fuck off and let us drink our beverages and continue conversing.

ehrm

So Paul starts dealing with Husband, an elderly chap with issues of his own walking, who seems determined to pet Gismo. I’m in the middle of paying so I only hear about this later. Husband wants and tries to pet Gismo and Paul puts a stop to it.

They’re sitting next to us, so painfully close it feels more like sharing a table though there’s a clear partition. I return with our drinks and Wife is trying to get to pet Gismo, who just wants love but is otherwise sitting quietly as he’s supposed to. He’s in harness but he’s already had some affection today so he’s after it if opportunities and people present.

Wife is given a firm: No.

Subtext: Not going to happen. Leave us alone. No asking six times in various ways will not change the answer.

She sits next to us and tells her husband off for petting the dog whilst occasionally throwing questions at us, depsite the fact we’re mid-way a conversation of her own. The hypocrisy is real: he can’t but it’s okay for her, apparently. Paul is fielding because has more patience than me. Oh it must be so hard, they’re so pretty. How old is he? Is he good? Paul replies like a star and I try to move back into our conversation bubble. I think we were discussing how to, realistically, ensure his next dog is called Karma. Because GDO jokes are awesome.

Then Cute Scottish Girl turns up. This is totally left field for me and it’s a welcome distraction as I am beginning to get pissed off with Wife and it’s been ages since we ran into each other. CSG loves guide dogs, Gismo leaps on her and it’s fine. I say the magic nickname to Paul and he knows just who I mean. Cough. CSG loves Uni, was one of the people who got me through losing her. That’s essentially been all her guide dog exposure though, except maybe meeting Brams once, I think. Obviously, it’s not a great example but CSG apologises and Paul gives her the okay.

Gismo purrs like a kitten.

Wife sees an opening.

The pair of them stand to go and suddenly she’s there, next to CSG and I’m like ‘CSG is Mars, you’re Pluto, bitch’. Because we have rungs and strangers don’t rank anywhere near people we like. Also you already tried this.

Cue, to Gismo: I mustn’t pet you.

Meaning: cat butt face It’s not fair that she can pet you and I can’t. Why can’t I pet you?

Because Wife is grasping for him, Paul starts petting Gismo to pull him back into the safe zone. Gissy collapses into a fur puddle and dog rug mode. I think he was hoping this would make her lose interest. Husband was obviously getting impatient and I was trying to converse with CSG, or at least bring her into our little chat group.

And then Paul finds that nerve, the one which makes him go silly. I gently chide Paul for tormenting him in public, Gissy’s back leg is going and then, it comes:

Wife: Oh you found his G Spot.

I’m sorry? All the WHAT?

My brain: WTF????!!!!! Did she just?

I start at CSG and then at Paul, who is giving me his ‘I might be blind but WTF?’ stare. I’m sure I misheard but then, oh it continues:

Wife: I suppose it’s easier with bitches.

I stare at CSG, whom I have shamelessly flirted with. I like girls and she’s called CSG for a reason (Scottish is apparently a turn on for me; I blame Outlander). Wife might have said something else but I’m mentally trying not to piss myself laughing and Wife mercifully goes away.

The three of us howl so hard, I’m pretty sure books fell off the shelves downstairs. We all check each other to ensure this wasn’t a shared hallucination. Nope, Wife genuinely didn’t know what she’d meant. As we all have very, ehrm, adult minds and I’m known for my flexible sexuality, we all start assuming this very crazy lady was either genuinely unaware of what she said or really didn’t engage her brain.

Regardless, we don’t do THAT to dogs. Ew.

But, oh, friends, it was hilarious. A true moment I wish I’d had the foresight to record and put on YouTube. I haven’t laughed that hard in ages.

Definitely beats passive-aggression though.

But, seriously, people, leave a guide dog in harness alone. Leave their humans alone too.

A Morning with Henry

Guys, there’s a new man in my life. His name’s Henry and he’s pub mouser at my summer office, The Lamb Inn.

Seriously, Henry is one chilled out kitteh.

He’s awesome company too. I bribe him with Dreamies and he comes when called. This could be worrisome but he did, indeed, keep me amused this morning as I enjoyed the sunshine. I like to sit outside, at table 100, because it’s shaded by a tree and the awning. This morning I was joined by Henry and we had a lovely hour enjoying each other’s company.

Franky I love it, the silence and the welcome. At 10am, before all the other patrons come in and it gets busy for lunch. It’s peaceful and tucked away, like a little magical portal to another world where there’s breakfast waiting to be served and all the lemonade I can drink.

The phone signal is crap (this is a good thing) but the WiFi more than works. Plus, odd as it sounds, I’m trying to write more longhand for my newest project and sitting outside, in the sun does seem to be helping. The trick is to get enough sun that I’m warm and not too much that I burn.

We’re working at desensitising Henry with the various dogs (Gismo is kinda meh, as long as he doesn’t move. Brams wants to play and Ziggy is just … well, indifferent, as she tries to find a sun puddle.) Henry is sceptical and cannot fathom why we’ve brought canines into HIS PUB, however, he allows it because, well, Dreamies.

Guys, if my three didn’t already have veto power, I’d totally adopt him but he’s got at least a dozen owners right now so he’s sorted.

I just, though, he’s so chilled it’s unreal.

The State of Me: Infinite Loops

This is my ten year old canine BFF, Bramble. She gives the best kind of unconditional love and is the kindest dog you’d ever meet. I am also one of her Favourite People which means I get extra dog hugs.

Seeing her lifts my mood but at the same time reminds me that I am dogless. Showing you her wasn’t actually about reminding myself that I’m still waiting for New Dog, it was rather to show you part of my support network of people, cats and dogs, who keep me safe during times when I’m not actually sure what planet I’m on.

The heat has thrown me out. Summer and I don’t really get on; extremes in weather tend to make my need to hoard things worse as (due to the fluctuations in temperature) it’s not always as easy to get things as it is at other times in the year. Especially as the garage, my local bastion of essentials is dealing with broken fridges which means, unless you want alcohol or snacks, they’re essentially out of everything.

Oh and to add insult to injury: the coffee machine’s also broken.

Ironically the only thing I buy from the garage is snacks, mochas and skimmed milk.

The heat makes everything worse: guide dog paws burn and so sensible owners are staying in. Even I’m walking around with a parasol (quetiapine makes my eyes sensitive as well as my skin burn like kindling). I’m my own worse enemy as well which means sitting at home with just a computer for company is a recipe for cabin fever and Amazon purchases.

Or, worse, stationary.

The big problem is I’m putting added stress on myself. Knowing I’m doing it doesn’t actually mean I can stop the cycle. I just get stuck.

My PTSD has some interesting triggers and right now those seem to just come under the broad heading of ‘life’. Some of them are usual, like screaming or physical violence. It’s why I usually Wikipedia things so there are no uncomfortable surprises. Fantasy violence is perfectly okay.

The others are very me:

  • Running out of x item.

Partially solved by apps on my phone which tells me what I have, how much of it and when they expire. Also being able to buy milk on the fly from said currently-broken garage.

  • Criticism.

Slowly being worked on with the kind help of my crit group, who do it gently and understand I have a serious emotional aversion. Because, growing up, criticism was always judgment.

  • Time-limits.

Those emails you get which say ‘spend x and get y’ as a reward or ‘join now for a limited time reward’.) It’s why, aside from places I do actually use that I’ve unsubscribed from a shedload of mailing lists and feel so much the better for it.

  • Broken things.

Specifically, things I’ve broken, either accidentally or because I didn’t do a thing. The Amazon account debacle, for example, where a mistake was made that confused an entire datebase. Weirdly though, when a white good dies, I just find my credit card and replace it. No problems.

  • Failure complex.

This is a huge one for me. I’ve been told I’ve failed or wasted opportunities by various family members over the years. I pushed myself to be a strong woman in a male industry for nearly a decade and I hated myself for it. I hated that I had to be bitchy and pushy. These weren’t the traits I was taught as a child, because I was only instructed in subservience. My lesson in life was, literally, burn yourself alive to keep others warm. Do it without being asked because it’s expected. Suffer so others don’t have too, your own feelings don’t matter.

Having a spine goes against my core programming but the more I shine mine now, the more I realise that I was just doing my job. My job actually forced me to grow a backbone, it was only later I realised you could transfer the skill set over to your personal life as well.

  • Being an author

Because of one thing the Parental Unit said to me several times. I hate being an author. I love writing, I love creating. I just hate everything from editing to publication. Like trigger level of hate.

I hate editing because criticism.

I hate publishing because there are always errors and it feels like my fault.

I feel like using the blind card is a cop out. Except, between my mental illness and my actually visual impairment, I do need someone to proof the proofs. I just can’t do it.

I need a PA because I cannot deal with KDP, with W-2s and all the other stuff involved with promotion. I suck at my own promotion because, while I believe in the story, I don’t believe in me.

Ksenia Anske is being awesome and trying to help me with my really soft relaunch. Because I’m living on benefits, I can’t earn more than a pittance (which is basically what I do earn, or did until I took all my books off Amazon). I got in touch with her because she gives her books away for free, as well as offering print versions on Amazon.

I like the idea as it suits my situation. And this is the important thing. My situation is no one elses. I don’t have the money to just buy covers or the concentration to work a project from once upon a time through to publication. I can’t afford it, fianancially, and I can’t do it because of my mental fragility.

Most of my author friends have jobs. I don’t.

Many of them have two-person households. I don’t.

Most of them have networks. Yeah, I do but I’ve always been the one promoting others’ work but no one ever returning the favour (see the implosion of Wonderment Media and the shitestorm which preceded it). When publishing, no one ever sees the work gone into it, the street teams and the friends boosting friends. You just see the best-seller lists and the news stories. There were better networks but half the time I’m afraid to reach out and talk to folks like Susan Kaye Quinn.

I need a mentor of my own, I think, specific to publishing and how to survive pushing a book out into the world and keeping it there.

If I could find a way to publish where all I do is write, where I have a close relationship with an editor who understand me and my … well, shall we call them quirks? Then I’d be okay. I’ve never had a problem, for example, with short stories. Rejections for those roll off my back like water and even when I have published stories, the edits have never been an issue.

So yeah, I’ve been planning a relaunch with all my titles under Asha Bardon. Except I hate KDP, it freaks me out. I can’t afford Squarespace and I have no idea how to get WooCommerce working on WordPress. Bradley Beaulieu’s the only one I’ve even seen who made it work.

  • The other thing. The important thing: None of this is a problem for today. For now. These are issues for next year.

Why the fuck am I so worried about stuff that won’t happen for at least twelve months. Because I have to have something to worry about. It’s another part of my shitty programming. I need to have a reason to worry because it takes my mind of whatever is my current problem.

Most of the time I’m caught up in my own infinite loops of stupidity that they become a kind of safety net in their own right. Right now I’m fluctuating mood-wise, the heat is making everything worse, I’m still waiting for Letters of Doom from the DWP and I want to write an epic fantasy series but am too scatty to do more than world-build. Actually starting this thing, actually focusing, is too much.

So I feel like a failure. Like I’m just wasting time. I remember being ten and having this exact same feeling: that I’d just wasted six weeks of summer holiday doing what kids do when I could have written or done constructive things. Instead, I tried to be a child. Well, okay, I read books. Lots of them.

I’ve never been a child.

Maybe that’s half the problem right there.

The rest of it is going to take the rest of my life to work on. I just feel like I need to be more selfish, for my own sake. I just feel guilty about everything: spending money, buying lunch, sitting in a coffee shop blogging. I feel like my existence, thanks to said childhood programming, has been wasted. I’m just kindling for the fire of civilisation.

But I’m also a person. I have rights, I have wants and needs (Maslow’s plus WiFi at the bottom) but that doesn’t stop me wanting to people please or give into every wild instinct. This week it’s food, a Hobonichi Cousin for 2018 (I want to start a gratitude journal and document the good things as they happen because I need to learn to be proud of myself). Oh and a dozen other things like a new vacuum cleaner and a post box.

Rambling probably isn’t helping but it’s all I can do until the quetiapine stabilises my mood. That and hug Bramble whenever possible.

The State of Me: Prepping for the Worst

Quetiapine and I have an interesting relationship. Technically I’m good with quetiapine, it’s when you add in diazepam and Ambien when things get fun.

This is said with as much sarcasm as I can muster. Seriously.

The problem is I have brain damage, specifically periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). This was basically a side-effect of oxygen toxicity from being premature (and it’s why I have retinopathy of prematurity as well). Now in a normal brain, you might stand a chance but as mine has severe rewiring issues caused by hypoxia, the ASD and bipolar angles as well. All this is on top of long-term benzodiazepine use. I’m screwed.

I’m screwed.

Last time I got so scatty I literally couldn’t do anything as I’d forget it ten minutes later. This time I’m aware and trying to prep for the worst. This means I’m on low-dose diazepam (for anxiety) and avoiding taking anything to help me sleep. This isn’t an issue right now as the 300mg of quetiapine is basically knocking me senseless. It lasts about a week but this has been extended because I had a party (and thus skipped a couple of doses) due to alcohol consumption and a general desire to be, you know, conscious.

I’ve already noticed a lapse in my cognitive functions; I put things down and forget them. I’m a natural multi-tasker but this has meant not even going near the kitchen, let alone leaving anything on a stove. If I do cook, I prefer the boiled egg method where you put potatoes or eggs in a pot of boiling water/slow cooker and then just let them cook. No gas involved. I forgot my potatoes for thirty minutes tonight. This is why I eat out.

In some ways, I’m in a better place to do this than I was. I write down stuff religiously as well as keeping a diary of where I was/who I was with and what I’ve done during the day. I also spent the afternoon documenting the contents of my fridge/freezer/cupboards to help me manage my shopping (lists and visits to supermarkets) more effectively. Fridgely lets me take photos of the stuff I have, note expiry dates (milk is a big issue for me, ditto eggs) and also compile a shopping list when things get low. Even better, when I restock and scan the barcode, it remembers the item so within a few weeks I should have this down pat.

But I’ve noticed my concentration is fleeting. I’m leaving tasks half-finished, unable to concentrate on anything more complicated than Futurama. I tried a couple of hours of ARIA the Animation (one of my favourite chill out anime series) but couldn’t focus on translating the dialogue on the fly and write at the same time. Thing is, I can’t sit and focus and watch something either. I need to do more than one thing because it’s how I function. I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions.

I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions. My Midori helps in a lot of ways, not only am I tracking spending and have a diary plus braindump journal in there, the very act of writing helps hammer things home in my brain. Typing can’t hold a candle to this.

That and awesome friends who were there the last time this happened and have seen me at my flakiest.

But it’s tiring. The memory issues make me anxious about safety. Cooking is right out. At the same time I really want a drink and, as I’ve been spending a lot of time in the courtyard of a very nice inn, I’m keenly aware everyone else is drinking and I … can’t. I got my story into crit this week but that’s about it and I’m frustrated that words just aren’t coming. The pressure leads to anxiety which leads to stress which just makes things worse.

At the same time, one thing I do want to do is start some kind of gratitude journal. I picked up an A5 Hobonichi Cousin Avec (which runs July to December) as I wanted to try one out as well as the Tomoegawa paper. I’ll prob pick up an A6 version in September (along with the cover etc) in order to document the coming year. I just can’t do anything until I hear about my PIP and that, too, is stressing me out. But I have started doing things and one of the bits I’ve enjoyed about having a paper diary is being able to stash tickets or postcards in it, things which were tangible proof of events.

This week, for example, I went to a book signing by M.R. Carey at my local Waterstones. I love The Girl With All the Gifts, especially the movie version, and it was so nice to get out after hours, as it were, and not have to worry about getting home. The bus stop is 3 mins from where they were having the talk and my favourite driver, Tony, tends to be doing that shift. I also had a bottle of wine which led to a fun 45 minutes of him remaking on my bladder. Git. The point is, I feel able to do things because I want to. I was going to go home at one point and I’m so glad I didn’t.

I’m not normally an evening person but, right now, that’s when I’m the most conscious.

I’m having to slow down a lot but I’m still here. I have to remind myself to do things, to take my medication with regularity but it’s baby steps until I figure out how my brain wants to play, nicely or not.

The State of Me: June 2018

This is my new friend Henry.

Another quick one because: a) the election and b) medication.

So bullet points:

  • Latest New Dog update suggests that IF they find one for me, next class starts in September so I should hear something next month. I’m not banking on anything. 2018 is much more likely.
  • It’s bipolar redux month: I’ve just gone back on quetiapine. My mood’s been plummeting and my anxiety’s sky-rocketed. Some of it was personal but getting a rent notice three months early and paperwork from the DWP a year early (to add insult, on a Saturday) did not help.
  • I’m taking enough that I feel stoned until around 2:30pm each day. Coffee helps but only a little. Oh and I slept for 14 hours last night, right through until mid-afternoon.
  • And I missed most of the election, which turns out to be a good thing. Urgh.
  • I’ve moved into Nero’s permanently now and am accruing a lot of free coffees by being savvy (you get a bonus stamp for bringing your own mug which allows me to spend a lot less on coffee, as well as making sure it doesn’t cool).
  • When not in Nero’s, I seem to be in the Lamb. It’s a little pub with a courtyard in spitting distance of my bus stop and they even have their own cat: Henry, Lover of Dreamies. We’ve bonded and it’s not in the least bit creepy that I now carry Dreamies in my bag.
  • Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Great Name Change. I bought myself a throw in celebration.
  • Speaking of the Great Name Change, I’m still encountering issues. Like the DWP deciding to ignore the loss of a middle name in my paperwork. It’s taken me a year to notice as they seldom any middle name unless it’s renewal paperwork and they don’t usually send me large print. I’m hoping this has now been fixed. The Deed Poll was pretty clear about my old name and my new one.
  • Wonder Woman was amazing, BTW. I’ve seen it twice and, oh, the arse-kickery.
  • American Gods is, similarly, one of the few TV shows to really get my attention.
  • People have started calling me Ash in earnest now. I like it. I’ve never had a contraction of a name I’ve loved before.
  • The cats love me; D is still a bitey little shit.
  • I’m still writing but my process has slowed. I broke my Amazon account so don’t really want to go anywhere near KDP for a while, even though I spent a week dealing with Amazon and the angelic CSR who eventually helped me fix everything. Triggers are a bitch.
  • I’m writing a proof of concept story called “Proof of Concept”. I’m hoping it’ll be ready for crit next week. That aside, anything more complicated is on hold. Though I do have an idea for a fantasy series connected to this particular short.
  • It’s sorta, kinda summer. Yay!