Now in my Head

Right now, I’m on a social media hiatus (with momentary lapses to announce new blog posts, of course), because I found that going on to Twitter was getting more and more upsetting and going on to Facebook was getting frustrating. I don’t like feeling upset and frustrated. Of course, I’ve felt that way since the 2016 election, but at least I can take some breaks where I can. I still have my blog, though, and since I control all content here, I feel less frustrated (though perhaps writer’s block counts). And I ask that if you feel compelled to comment about this post, please do so here rather than on Twitter or Facebook, because I won’t see those.

As for what’s going on right now, I’m still sad about B’s passing. I encountered a number of cousins I hadn’t seen for years, as well as a number of first cousins, once removed, that I hadn’t known existed. That was a nice thing, even though it was under less-than-pleasant circumstances.

I’m still taking that Data Science certification series on Coursera, but it’s only been over the past week or so that I’ve been able to use some of what I’ve learning at work. Specifically, I was able to use the R programming language in conjunction with the SQLite3 command line interface to convert large JSON files to simple SQLite databases. That may be incomprehensible to you, but when I was able to pull it off, I felt great joy, a serious sense of accomplishment. It was great.

I finished up that “Question Reality” class I was taking through edX. My final score was 90%. I wanted higher, but will be happy with that. Now I’m taking a self-paced course called “Climate Change: The Science”, which is, of course, about the science of climate change. It’s an exhilarating, but also depressing, course.

But the thing that’s really stomping through my brain right now are kaiju: giant monsters, like Godzilla or Mothra or Cloverfield. The word kaiju is Japanese, and means “strange creature” (for years I ran a webzine called Daikaijuzine, another Japanese word that means “giant strange creature”).  I’ve always had a soft spot for Godzilla. When I saw Godzilla Vs. Hedorah (also known as Godzilla Vs. the Smog Monster) as a kid in the early 70s, it terrified the snot out of me. The issues of Daikaijuzine were all named after various monsters in the Godzilla mythos.

But at Westercon I picked up this book, an anthology chock-full of giant monster stories. It’s a fun book, and while some of the stories are mediocre, most of them are pretty fun. And now ideas have been churning in my brain. I had an idea for a kaiju story set in Antarctica, but as the days have gone on, more plot elements and character moments have emerged and now the idea is for a novel instead of a short story. I’ve decided that this is going to be my NaNoWriMo project for this year. I also have an idea for a kaiju short story which I am determined will remain a short story; it should be short, and I hope I can get a first draft ready for the next meeting of my writers’ group.

And so that’s what’s going on my in my head right now. I am hoping to post an entry to this blog every Thursday, but most entries will probably be minor ones like this instead of well-thought-out missives or vague ponderings about life and death and grief (though the novel I’m working on, Padma, is about exactly those themes). Please enjoy these entries. As Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Share and Enjoy.”

Monsoon Season

I was not prepared for monsoon season in Arizona. I’m not built to withstand hot weather, especially when it is also damp and muggy and windy. In Sacramento, where the heat is appropriately dry, you sweat and your sweat evaporates and cools you, doing what sweat is supposed to do. But during a monsoon, nothing wicks away the sweat. It sticks to you and makes you feel even hotter.

I was in Arizona for my cousin B’s memorial. B had passed away the previous week after a decades-long bout with a mitochondrial disorder called Leigh’s Syndrome. I hadn’t seen her over fifteen years, though I’d talked with her on the phone sometimes, and always sent her a gift for her birthday (a stuffed animal, usually, or a shirt with a Disney character or boy band depicted on it). But it was a hassle to get out to Arizona where she lived with my aunt and uncle, so I never got around to it.

Even though she was a week gone, I hadn’t really experienced my own moment of grief until the ride from my family’s hotel to my aunt’s and uncle’s house. I had thought to myself that I was looking forward to seeing family I hadn’t seen in over a decade. I thought to myself, I was really looking forward to seeing B, who I knew would have a big smile and hug for me. And that’s when I really had my “Oh shit, she’s gone” moment, and I really knew that I would never see her again.

The music director of the Presbyterian church where the memorial service was held chose “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” as the prelude, which brought a smile to everyone’s face. As the remembrances went on, I got a picture of my cousin as a person who, despite her challenges, was loving and kind and outspoken and occasionally grumpy, but who gave wonderful hugs and usually had a smile on her face. She loved the Care Bears, she loved boy bands, she loved her menagerie of stuffed animals (who each had their own name and their own unique personality, and who all sometimes got into trouble). She loved her parents. She loved her cat, Maggie, who loved her in return.

I could have spoken during the memorial, could have added my own remembrance, but I didn’t. I didn’t trust my voice to stay steady. A lump was forming in my throat. I wanted to weep; I wasn’t sad for B, but for those who loved her. I was sad for her mother, who wouldn’t have her company anymore. I was especially sad for Maggie, who would never again get to cuddle with B, and who wouldn’t understand why (cats, I am convinced, feel grief and miss the people they choose to give their love to).

I Googled Leigh Syndrome when I got back to my hotel room. I learned that it’s also called “subacute necrotizing encephalomyelopathy”, which sounds unpleasant. And it is. The symptoms listed in the Wikipedia article aren’t exactly like the ones that B seemed to experience, but, then, disease descriptions are often like that. Every individual experiences a disease in their own unique way.

Just like grief.

It was in the hotel room that monsoon season really hit, and I sat on the bed and cried.