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The State of the Lise – April 2019

Hey folks! Guess who just turned 29 for the 10th time? 😉

Seriously, though, I’m not too fussed about being nearly forty. My thirties have been pretty great. I’m looking forward to the zero-fucks-given attitude that I’m entitled to as I age. I’ve been living for the moment when I can embrace my inner granny.

How have things been for me since January? What have I been up to? Let’s see!

Travel

I went to England again in February — this time to the nebulous “north” (Retford, Nottinghamshire, to be precise). There, I played in Torch of Freedom, a weekend-long larp set in a fiction European country in a fictional 19th-century revolution, very inspired by Les Mis. I did some fabulous costuming ahead of this, including making yet another 1840s dress.

Instead of going to Intercon, I hosted a visit from EB, watched bad movies, and visited some local sights.

I went out to Walkill, NY to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday with family. I also took the opportunity to drive over the Shawangunks to see the world’s largest garden gnome (disputed), and snap pictures of the Mohonk Testimonial Gateway (which appeared to be under renovation!)

I attended a conference for work, NERDSummit, at UMass Amherst, which was mind-expanding but also intellectually exhausting. I learned that I never want to work for a consultancy/agency again, and that I really need to up my vanilla JS skills. I also got to eat at a fabulous Asian BBQ fusion place where I had something called “mapo-tine.”

I visited NYC for my birthday weekend.

And last weekend, I traveled to Concord and Lexington, MA with Alison and EB, visiting some literary sites (Walden Pond, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House) as well as revolutionary ones (Old North Bridge, Lexington Battle Green, etc). More about that trip anon, but today I’ll just say I adore having adventures with these two ladies!

LARP

I honestly haven’t done a ton of larp yet this year, since I skipped Intercon and Festival of the Larps. Torch of Freedom and the Madrigal 3 winter revel have been about all. I think my next larp is the next Mad3 event, too, where I’ll be NPCing as usual, and I’ll be PCing Shadowvale after that. I won’t be able to do Summer Larpin’, alas, as it’s the weekend of Readercon. Speaking of which…

Reading

A few things I’ve read, or I’ve been reading, that I have things to say about:

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. The story of the making of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, interspersed with the story of the serial killer H.H. Holmes, who was basically running a murder hotel in Chicago at the same time, and selling bodies to medical articulators. (Yes, the inspiration for that season of American Horror Story).

It’s funny that I picked this book up because I wanted to read true crime, but as the book goes on, I became way more intrigued by the fair itself — this liminal thing, painted in ethereal white, that existed for one summer and will never exist again. The stories of Ferris and his manic insistence that his wheel would work, even though he delivered it months late. An elderly and mildly dotty Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect of Central Park, pontificating about the importance of landscaping. And Burnham, the principal architect of the fair, carrying on despite the most unbelievable setbacks.

I finally read that 19th-century classic, Jane Eyre. I liked very many things about it — the descriptive passages are beautiful, and Charlotte Bronte can really do a character sketch. But the plot is all hinged on coincidences, and I did not find Mr. Rochester even a little appealing. “Dude Watchin’ with the Brontes” proves true, as ever.

I finished another Millay biography in February, What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, by Daniel Mark Epstein, which rounded out Milford’s biography well. Entertained where it throws shade on the Milford biography, like implying that Milford lost a chest full of love letters between Millay and George Dillon that had been loaned to her. (It doesn’t say Milford, but I don’t know what other biographer would have been writing about Millay in the 1980s).

I raced through The Apprentice Sorceress, by fellow VP17er E.D. Walker, on the flight to England in February. If you want to read a sweet fantasy romance with a trans love interest, this is a real treat.

Last week I finished Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, which is a YA historical fantasy, set in a fictional WWI where the German allies have giant mecha, and the British pilot genetically modified beasts. (The titular Leviathan is a basically a flying sky whale). The two viewpoint characters are Alek, a Hapsburg prince on the run (the son of the morganatic marriage that Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand made with a commoner — a real historical thing!) that the Kaiser wants dead, and a Scottish girl, Deryn, who disguised herself as a boy to become a midshipman on the Leviathan. The Leviathan crash-lands in the Alps, the two meet, and together they fight crime, i.e. Germans. Also the audiobook is read by Alan Cumming, rendering it extra fabulous!

I just began reading The Wicked King, by Holly Black, which is the second book in her YA series The Folk of the Air. It is full of cutthroat faerie politics and flirtations with questionable people; what’s not to love?

Gaming/streaming

So I have been playing some games (ESO as always, a little Crusader Kings II, and a new-to-me sandbox survival game called Force of Nature), but I haven’t been streaming for a month or so.

Why not? Well, I decided to give up streaming to a regular schedule. I had been trying to stream regularly on Tuesdays and Sundays, and it just was not fun. I’m the perverse sort that as soon as I put something on the calendar, I don’t want to do it any more, so the overall attitude I was bringing to my streams was not the best.

Due to that decision, I’ve basically stopped streaming, and… I’m okay with that?

I was struggling to explain the decision, but after some reflection, this is how I would put it. You know that Seth Godin book, The Dip? If you don’t, the basic premise is explained by the tagline, which is “a little book that teach you when to quit (and when to stick).”

I think I reached The Dip — the ugly middle — and realized that streaming wasn’t worth the amount of time I’d need to put into it to be exceptional. I’m not sure I agree with Godin’s assertion that “average is for losers”, but I ultimately figured I could spend that time continuing to be an average streamer, or I could focus on things I believe I can be exceptional at. My job, for example, or…

Writing

I’M GETTING BACK TO WRITING, MOTHERFUCKERS!!

Specifically, I’ve been working on editing/rewriting Lioness. To briefly sum up where I left off: after I got feedback from my beta readers, I decided to make some huge structural changes, in particular rewriting the beginning. I began work on that, but then I went through a writerly existential crisis, and have been largely just sitting on the manuscript for a year.

But now, I’m doing it because I want to do it. I’m not doing it to a deadline — other than “today is better than tomorrow.” I’m doing it because Yfre’s story continues to nag me to be told. I’m doing it, as I decided with my therapist, knowing that this will be the final draft before I attempt to have it published.

Right now I’m only writing a couple of times a week; I need to figure out how to make it part of my day-to-day schedule again. I’m using the time freed up from streaming for it at the moment: Tuesday nights and one weekend day.

Other Media

I recently started following the “true crime comedy” podcast My Favorite Murder, and went through a bit of a true crime binge due to that. I was obsessed for a while with the documentary series The Staircase, lying awake at night wondering if he really did it ™.

In the interest of getting some of my unwatched media off the shelf, Matt and I have been watching the anime series Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, which is… well, it’s Lupin III. I adored this stuff when I was in college, but my critical faculties definitely weren’t entirely developed by then! I wouldn’t say it’s been entirely visited by the suck fairy, but you do kind of have to be patient with gratuitous boobs and plots so absurd they make a James Bond film look staid.

“How ya doing on getting ‘back to basics’, Lise?”

Pretty good, I think!

I’ve continued my meditation practice, with a few bobbles. One is that if I meditate first thing in the morning, I sometimes have a really hard time staying awake! The other is that, if I have to do my driving meditation, I sometimes forget I’m supposed to be meditating, and will get to my usual landmark and realize I’ve just spent fifteen minutes thinking about ESO instead. Possibly I need to find a better time to do this, but I’m not ready to give up on mornings just yet!

I’m happy with how I’m doing in terms of boundaries and self-care. My understanding in both of these areas is definitely evolving. I’m also getting back to exercising in a slow, gentle way.

I really haven’t done much in terms of minimalism, gotta be honest. I want to schedule some set times to go through certain belongings.

Creativity continues to be a part of my life — both writing, as I mentioned, and other projects. I enjoyed making the 1840s gown for ToF (will wonders never cease?), I’ve been putting some time into the Neverending Cross-stitch Project, and I’ve been working on some decorations for the house. (Getting an old quilt into a state where I can hang it on the wall, in particular).

Connection is definitely happening! I still find spending time with people exhausting, but I never regret it.

Oh, and I have been re-reading Thoreau. I find him… way more insufferable than I did as an impressionable 19-year-old? When you understand the circumstances of his life, you realize there’s a tremendous amount of hypocrisy in what he writes — mostly because he’s holding himself to impossibly high standards. But that said, there are some beautiful turns of phrase. I especially enjoyed his meditations on solitude.

Overall

As I write this the world is — quite literally — on fire; Notre Dame is burning, and Gene Wolfe has died. I don’t have anything clever to say about either of these things, except that the theme of “beautiful things perishing from the earth” continues to break me.

That is today, though. On the whole, though, I am doing really well — better than I have been in a long time. I was chuffed recently when Alison told me “I’m always in awe of how real a person you are.” Such a genuine, heartfelt compliment, and it really moved me.

“Aww, thanks,” I replied. “It’s taken a lot of therapy to get there.”

  1. That sounds like an awesome birthday adventure (and a bunch of awesome non-birthday adventures also)! Glad everything else seems to be going well, too.

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