Well, it's that time of year where I drop a personal update. In my last post, I announced that Lunati and I were moving out of a terrible living arrangement and weren't sure what the future held for us. That day has finally come and there's been a lot of unexpected surprises.
Now would be a great time to put on some tea and get comfy, I've got a long one for you all.
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To give the appropriate context into just how big a change this was, I'll recap on the last few years until we get to the present day.
So I've mentioned before just how hard the last couple of years have been but never really the extent of it. I uprooted my whole life in an attempt to save my wife Lunati and I from being homeless in 2018. With our last bit of savings, we moved 1300 miles from Minneapolis to Florida where we'd live with a roommate, an old friend who assured us we'd save money and get back on our feet if we helped him pay rent to his father, who had bought the house for him. Had that been true, I'm not sure we would have been stuck there as long as we were. But hey, at least Luna and I didn't have to suck dicks in the Kmart parking lot, right? Her head game's on point but she didn't exactly earn her degree in fellatio.
All jokes aside, I can tell you that only a few short weeks into it, I was having regrets. Big ones. Not of moving to Florida, but where exactly I'd gotten us into. From the moment we arrived, we were forced to store our belongings in a filthy, infested outdoor shed. Our bedroom was roughly the size of a walk-in closet; too small for one adult, let alone two. Our clothes had to be stashed on and around my desk and I was forced to work outside with my laptop in all varieties of Florida weather. This wasn't for a few weeks or months, it went on for years.
The homeowner, roommate's father, insisted on the sprinkler running for hours each and every day, rain or shine, jacking up the water bill and ruining all our stuff. Like something out of a bad fever dream, those sprinklers regularly shot water onto my laptop and against the side of the shed our beloved books were stored in.
As soon as I noticed the damage, I moved what I could into the small garage. Unfortunately, this came with more problems. Roommate complained about anything I brought in. Space was limited and I couldn't carry all our stuff over, so the bulk of it continued to degrade in the shed. Several things were lost anyway in the equally infested garage, including art made by Luna's late mother.
All in all, we threw out at least 30 garbage bags of wet books, ruined clothes, wedding gifts and more. An estimated $8,200 worth of stuff, right into the trash. No efforts to reconsile for the damage were made whatsoever. C'est la vie.
But of all that was lost in that hell house, peace was the thing we missed most. Roommate had no respect for our privacy. He also slept lighter than a tweaked out squirrel, meaning Luna and I were forced to talk at a whisper at our most active hours. We'd be rudely interrupted while working, eating, even having sex. Everything was intruded upon and nothing really belonged to us anymore. Like my toxic ex agonizing over which selfie to post, it was a shitshow from whatever angle you looked at it.
The worst events transpired in the first year. This spicy new blend of stress made my brain feel like it was shorting out. I ended up in the hospital a few times where I had the misfortune to learn that, due to some quirk in my wiring, panic attacks cause me to lose consciousness. The exact term for this event is called a 'Psychogenic Blackout' and it's about as fun as it sounds. Those introductory attacks had a primary cause, and I wrote about them here.
Recovery was slow but I pushed on. Dissociation was a daily event with hearing loss, vertigo and cardiovascular issues surfacing around the same time. The sheer amount of stress I was under caused my MS to flare, further compounding to the anxiety. I barely ate and withered down to a sickly caricature of myself. Though I spent some months in bed, I still tried to make the most of my situation by drawing when I had the energy for it, gaming when I didn't and sleeping when symptoms were unbearable. My dark sense of humor turned into a coping mechanism and a few good memories even came out of those cursed times.
When Lunati returned from work one afternoon, she dragged me out of bed, ordered the works at Tijuana Flats and drove us to the beach for dinner. It was the first time I'd left the house in about a month. As soon as I took a bite of my burrito, my chest tightened and a growing shadow engulfed my vision. This, in my at-the-time panic-disordered brain, surely meant I was having a heart attack and the EMTs wouldn't get to me in time on the remote stretch of causeway. So I turned to my wife and said, 'Well, this isn't the worst way to go.' She laughed about it but I could sense that deep down, she was undeniably tired of this shit. I sure know I was. But Lunati was such an absolute knight the entire time, not once did she berate or snap at me like a certain loser we used to know. Luna loved me and wanted to ease my pain, not cause more.
Working from home in 2020 gave my wife a glimpse into how I'd spent the previous year and a half, trapped in that nightmare house with unresolved PTSD and anxiety chipping away at my health each day. The downside was her having to experience a lot of the same shit I had. 'You weren't kidding,' she confessed in the Taco Bell parking lot, "I really had no idea it was this bad." We'd drive out there almost every night just to speak freely to one another. All privacy was gone since everything back at the house would be overheard. Our car was the closest thing to home we had and, for the last year, much of our time together was spent in it.
With the onset of the pandemic came some unexpected recovery from the nightmare that was 2019. Suddenly we had more time together, more money and more time to indulge our creative outlets. I had someone to reassure me when I was on the verge of an attack. If I fell again, I knew I'd get some assistance. I didn't have to worry about Luna getting into trouble on her commute. Having her home alleviated so much stress that I started feeling something close to normal again. My clipboard exploded with art again and it was beautiful.
The PTSD threw me the biggest curveballs on my road to recovery. After the acute panic disorder was dealt with, I had to face the sticky residuals. There were moments where all I could feel was burning hatred for those who contributed to my suffering. Several times I wished to cry, but tears never came. There was no sadness, no self-pity, no despair. Those would have been less complicated emotions to deal with and my anxious mind refused to let me off that easy.
If I had to describe my emotions back then, I'd say they were split evenly in two; peaceful workmode and all-consuming rage. I'd be on hour x of some art piece when the rage set in, often following an invasive cycle of rumination. I never did anything about it because I couldn't exactly do what I wanted. I'd chat with Luna over discord and we'd console each other, which worked for awhile, but ultimately had diminishing returns. I could have punched a pillow, but taking out aggression has never provided me with relief. Self-harm was also out of the question.
What I really wanted was to pull a meteor down from space. I wanted to open a sinkhole. I wanted to cause a cataclysm. There was no other way to describe the fire I felt inside of me. I filled a jar with carefully selected ingredients; bitter herbs, tea, vinegar and a small note. Whenever I felt the anger rising, I envisioned one of the several scenarios that comforted me and shook the jar, effectively containing my rage to that small bottle and out of my mind. As stupid as it sounds, in that time and place, the jar served an important purpose.
And it's good that I couldn't do quite what I wanted to when I did. After all, everything happens in due time. I couldn't accelerate time or rely on karma to dispense justice. Did I even need justice to heal? No, not really. Several people in my support group reassured me that harmful actions had consequences, it's just not always immediate. Still, I prayed for an answer from the universe that all of this wasn't for nothing, that my pain would someday be justified.
Finally, on February 18th 2021, both pots boiled over and, now, I wasn't alone with these feelings. A particular event re-opened wounds that Lunati had not fully addressed. While I had ample time and solitude to process my own emotions, Luna kept her's buried to push on and fight for both of us. But even the most stoic knight has a breaking point. At last, she stood face-to-face with those same demons and they demanded a response from her as well.
Normally we'd go for a walk, try not to cry too loudly and let the trauma quietly rip us apart. But on this night, we were 110% done with that shit. So Luna decided we would drive out onto the highway where nobody would hear us and we'd scream our fucking lungs out until we either felt better or were too tired to give a fuck anymore. I almost dismissed it as a stupid idea but, after the hate jar, I had no right to.
Once we reached the appropriate stretch of highway, primal banshee screams erupted with a force I never knew I had in my body and, with them, all the pain I'd kept bottled up inside. I imagined some kind of cosmic mirror reflecting every bit of agony back where it came. And whether or not that pain will ever find its way back, I knew in that moment it no longer had any place inside of me. I slept great when we returned.
From that day forward, our lives only got better.
I found the perfect apartment an hour away. We were approved that same week, paid our deposit and given a move-in date. Luna booked all the necessary appointments and we began the grueling task of packing up all of our belongings, cleaning out the shed and throwing away the forementioned mountains of destroyed items.Two months later, Lunati found a higher paying job working from home. Since I'm immune compromised, she refused work anywhere public out of concern for my safety. Despite doubling my prices to cover the costs of this move, more people commissioned me for work than ever before. I even had to turn down a few as the time to finish would be longer than I'm comfortable making clients wait. I took on all I reasonably could, knowing the bit of extra money would come in handy very soon.
Two months out from that, we've finally settled in and are enjoying our new home. We've had our second round of covid vaccines and are free to socialize safely again. I've planted a garden, something I wanted for a long time but never had the space for. With the funds available, I set up my office exactly the way I'd planned to for years. All of my tech has been upgraded. New hard drives, monitors, printing equipment, furniture. Older PCs have been repurposed into Network Area Storage and media centers. My office even has a dedicated scan & printmaking station. I helped Luna get a beautiful high end streaming rig. We're both able to play VR games, stream, work and do whatever else we could possibly need or want to do.
Sometimes I wake up in disbelief until I realize how hard we each worked to make this all happen. How long we waited and struggled. How much pain it took to get here. Despite the odds being stacked so high against us, our lives are now astronomically better in every way.
Once my home and office were settled, I decided to tackle a very long overdue project; sorting and categorizing two decades of physical art, all 52 lbs of it. Digital, painted canvas, large pieces or sold commissions aren't even part of this batch. There's so much here that if I only scanned 10 pieces a day, it would take over a year to scan everything.
Seeing my progress over the years filled me with an unexpected sense of pride and gratitude. I rediscovered the ancient sketchbook where anthro Tacoma was first brought to life, her huge feathered wings draped around her like a protective shield. I found long-forgotten sketches of Cassandra from 1998, a bratty rockstar weasel girl who had no sensible reason to hate Tacoma yet still did. One thick folder contained an animated flip-book of Tacoma taking to the skies. Dozens of comics resurfaced featuring the misadventures of Tacoma, Tasmin and even Smokie, one of my three anxiety monsters. An experimental six-piece series revealed the exact day Tacoma got her signature blue markings. A separate folder contained all my anime, Pokemon and Sonic fan-arts. I laughed at the re-emergence of the first lewd things I ever scratched out. An especially thick, warped portfolio exploded with work that maybe a handful of people ever laid eyes upon. All around me in stacks laid a comprehensive timeline of imagination and progress, all of it creations of my own.
At one point during this eight-week sorting project, I sat on the ground with a tidal wave of sleeved drawings surrounding me and felt something new. Here were thousands of drawings of Tacoma, every scenario that I imagined over the past twenty-three years, all brought to life by my own hand. I sat frozen in reflection for twenty or so minutes, mentally discarding every moment I undermined my own achievements or gave half a shit what anyone ever said about me. I shaped my own dreams, shamelessly walked the walk and created everything I wanted to see. I didn't pay someone to make any of these. I never needed social media, connections or praise for validation. It was so much greater than that. Everything in sight at that moment was the only confirmation I ever needed of my success. My only regret was how long it took to realize.
This experience brought something back that I'd lost somewhere along the way. I'm proud of the progress I've made. While I've broken down most of the barriers that once stood between me and my goals, I still have a lot of work to do. My chronic illness and PTSD haven't gone anywhere but I can say with certainty that I feel better equipped to manage them now. I feel good about myself, my skills and my life.
So, no, this move didn't really go the way I expected it to. I thought I'd be more or less picking up where I left off in July 2018, from the day my PC was shipped out. But this isn't a continuation of that at all. This was honestly a fresh start. Despite everything horrific that's happened between then and now, I actually feel better than I did back then. Stronger, more capable and more determined. Change has offered new opportunities for growth. I welcomed whatever changes came with this move, after all, it had been such a long time coming.
Picking up the pieces and rebuilding has been a recurring theme in my life. Mistakes weren't regrets but lessons learned, teaching me that when I was self-sufficient and uncompromising, the very best things would come. And this time has been no exception.--------
Summarizing the roller coaster of the last three years for this update was harder than I thought it'd be, but I hope I was able to provide a clearer picture into where I've been and where I'm at now. For art, I have several big and small plans in the works (especially for Patreon) and will announce each new thing as it becomes available.
Before closing, I'd like to take some time to personally thank each of my patrons, both newcomers and veterans. Elwood, Snoobjack, Bitsy, Lovebot and Kaori. With your help, I was able to buy the supplies needed for the huge sorting project. Your support went directly to the purchase of a new scanner after discovering my old one didn't survive the move. I was also able to pick up 3-ring binders, sheet protectors and labels. Commissions helped me put some new furniture and hardware in my office, including new hard drives to replace two that were failing.
To those who commissioned me or supported my Patreon this year, you've all helped make a positive difference in my life. I hope my art has brought something good to your's as well.