Thursday, May 28, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Tattoo And Other Things

Alright, it's this one? This one where Voyager stumbles onto the planet that produced a bunch of Noble Savage stereotypes in Earth's 20th Century? As much as I often enjoy Chakotay's super-seriousness, as much as I like the idea of exploring the background of Chakotay's defining physical trait, as much as I think it's interesting to watch a character fall in and out of faith...I just never bought into this one.

So... instead I'm going to talk about something else right now. It's kind of serious and maybe depressing so, seriously, if you want to stop now, here's a link to a post I hear is funny:
A Tribute to Janeway's Hair
On April 21st, two things happened that were kind of a big deal for me. My second novel came out. And someone very close to me attempted suicide. Also, my heart exploded and I was knocked sideways off the tracks of my life. So, I guess that's the third thing that happened that day.

I realize that this attempt at one's life has little to nothing to do with me. But, I'm the person who lives inside my body and so that's my point of reference and that's what I'm going to talk about because (if you've been here any length of time) you ought to know this blog isn't just about Trek--it's also about me and if you're still here you're probably ok with that.

Some Facts: I grew up all over the place. I moved a lot. To date I've moved 35 times. I changed schools thirteen times before high school. I realized early on that I was already forgetting people, names, places. I didn't have the room or the emotional capacity to hold on to everything. I realized much later that I have Asperger's Syndrome (Oh surely not, you say, to which I respond with a list of symptoms--all of which I have) in addition to all of this which, in retrospect, seems like it made all this stuff both easier and harder. Either way, I adapted. I had a natural knack for letting go of people. I could smile, say good bye and never look back. Nothing malicious, nothing emotional, just an act of forgetting.

Some more facts: I struggle with my senses and my emotions. I overload easily and I find that deeply, hopelessly embarrassing. It's not something I like to talk about but here I go anyway. There aren't many things that trigger emotional/sensory overload but it does happen and when it does I have exactly two options, which, for the purposes of making this post at least tangentially connected with Trek I will refer to as: 1-Warp Core Breach and 2-Jettisoning The Core. Basically, I either shut down or I melt down. There's not a lot in between and neither are pretty. To avoid both scenarios, I take precautions. I separate myself from things, people, situations that might set me off. I take time for myself. Every day I take time to be and feel quiet. And... I pack a lot of the metaphorical crap I don't want to deal with away into metaphorical boxes.

So that brings me back to April 21st. My book was released and it was quite a nice day. After several years struggle and work and suspense, Silver Tongue was a real life thing. Then, that evening as I was doing some research for a new project and enjoying a bowl of ice cream, I got the news. Of course I went through shock, worry, relief as I found out what this person had done, worried about what led to it, and relief that they were still alive. And then, everything started to go wrong in my brain. It was as if I were standing in the middle of a forest and vaguely smelled smoke. How could I know a fire was raging all around me, closing in with every second that passed? I saw a spark here, a smoldering patch there, I tried to put them out. Nothing worked.

Again, I realize that this person's attempt on their own life had nothing to do with me. I realize it's not about me. I realize they have their own issues they need to heal, their own wounds they need to nurse etc. I felt guilty for feeling like my world was burning down. I overloaded.

But this time, it was as if my brain could neither commence the breach nor jettison the core. It wavered relentlessly between the two. Like a coin that won't stop spinning. I felt trapped. I couldn't forget this person, couldn't let them go with a smile and a wave and a simple deletion. Thirty years worth of metaphorical crap I'd been packing away suddenly exploded into my life and I couldn't get rid of it. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I couldn't make it go away. I couldn't put the fire out or make the coin stop spinning or re-pack the boxes. My writing life came to a halt. I felt as though my creative self had burned away. I opened projects and closed them. Took out watercolors and put them away. Nothing worked. I got by. I ate ice cream and I lifted weights and I even managed to squeeze out a blog post or two. But nothing felt right.

I spoke to my two closest friends. Their words: Everything you're feeling, just write it down. So that's what I did. I sat down one day and wrote for two hours. I put all the metaphorical crap in chronological order. In this way I categorized it, I ordered it, and I put it away. It wasn't magic but it did help. Without order, I flounder. Without the ability to categorize my emotions, my experiences, my relationships, my life, I feel like I'm drowning. Now, I'm on the mend. I've managed to get back to work, to write new pages and new blog posts and finish some long over-due art. My heart has thumped all the way through the writing of this post but I'm here and I'm feeling better.

So anyway, I came here and wrote about this for two reasons:

1-I've been keeping up with this project for two and a half years now. You, my readers, have been with me through a lot. This project, both the act of writing it and the knowledge that someone out there is reading it, has helped me in countless ways and it seems fair to both of us that I should include here something that has been such a big part of my life lately.

2-In my time writing about Trek, talking to people about Trek, thinking about Trek, I've found that a lot of us seem to struggle with our own, deeply ingrained emotional issues. A lot of us feel like we're trapped in our own minds, our own bodies, our own lives. Maybe that's one reason we tend to seek out stuff like this, why Trek appeals to us. Maybe it's the inherent optimism of the show, the way the characters unfailingly work together toward a greater good, the way episodes resolve themselves neatly and send their crews into a new, promising adventure, the way our captain will always be there as a guiding force in our life. Whatever it is, I know I'm not the only person who finds solace in fiction and especially Star Trek. And I want you to know it too.

I want you to know you're not alone.
Even if it feels like you're in the middle of a forest and your whole world is burning down.
You aren't alone.


  1. Great post....if you have time, you might find Kate Mulgrew's memoir meaningful.

  2. I'm sorry...there are not words for things like this, condolences and relief that you didn't lose them.

    "own minds, our own bodies, our own lives. Maybe that's one reason we tend to seek out stuff like this, why Trek appeals to us. Maybe it's the inherent optimism of the show, the way the characters unfailingly work together toward a greater good, the way episodes resolve themselves neatly..."

    Everyone in Star Trek is rational and completely in charge of their faculties (except Lon Suder and Spock in Pon Farr). That makes it a safe place where nothing moves that is supposed to stay put. When things make sense there is nothing to fear.

    "...the way our captain will always be there as a guiding force in our life."

    I can relate to this and I am certain it has a lot to do with how much I appreciate Star Trek.

    Ashley, I've been reading your blog for a while, since almost the beginning. I really envy the way you can open up and just write it all down with abandon. That's a gift. I feel sometimes like I am pushing my words through a cheese grater. Got. To. Get. Them. Out. And I was not even trying to talk like Captain Kirk. Glad you are here and writing. Praying for sunshine for you and healing for the person in your life.


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