I’m on Instagram

I’ve written in previous posts about my plans to make a Facebook author page. Today I was about to do it when I remembered I feel Facebook is kinda boring. So I made an Instagram account instead.

I used to be quite active there a few years ago and enjoyed it a lot. If you want to follow me in my daily indie writer’s life, check out my account. I haven’t posted anything yet but will likely start tomorrow. The username is @pocketbearjack.

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A World Tour of Books: Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (Germany)

Where do I even start? This novel often made me uncomfortable when I was reading. But in a good way, one that feels like you probably need it.

One of 1946 Nobelprize-winner Hermann Hesse’s most popular books, it tells the story of a middle-aged man by the name of Harry Haller. Harry is a deeply divided man. A part of him is very petit bourgeois while another, the one he has named the Steppenwolf (German for wolf of the steppes), pulls him in the direction of his most animalistic desires.

wolf
Harry is largely blind to his own personality. That is until he comes across a mysterious booklet with the title Treatise on the Steppenwolf. In it is the key to his own self but it is only the beginning to his journey of personal discovery. Through encounters with strange characters such as the androgynous Hermine and Pablo the saxophonist and through an invitation to a Magic Theatre, he will delve deep into who he is and could become.

Steppenwolf is a highly symbolic novel and one has to think hard to try and figure out its true meaning. Hesse himself wrote that this was his most misunderstood work and people’s interpretations of it vary wildly.

Personally, I believe its main themes are the struggle between chaos and order present inside every individual and the importance of being authentic. Could be I’m one of those who Hesse said misinterpret the message of Steppenwolf so don’t take my word for it.

The best way to make up your own conclusion about this classic of German literature is of course to read it yourself. Whether you’ll hate or love it, this story will make you think and ask yourself some important questions about your own nature.

 

Dysphoria-triggered Depersonalization and how I deal with it

For as long as I can remember I’ve suffered from disturbing episodes of feeling like I’m not real. Everything around me stays the same but I go into a state of being disconnected from it all, like it’s just a movie I’m watching on TV. Usually when this happens you can’t see it on me because I go on as usual but I’ve had episodes when the depersonalization  becomes so intense that I’m incapable of doing anything but stare in front of me.

How long the depersonalization lasts varies. It can be minutes, hours or even days. It can be triggered by things like fatigue or stress but one of the biggest causes of it for me is being misgendered.

A lot of people won’t get this. Some would say I’m being an overly dramatic “triggered SJW” so just let me explain: when you are trans, you spend all your life pre-coming out as someone you are not. You get up every day and act along in what feels like a play, a farce where you never feel you are allowed to just exist and be yourself. And when you don’t get to ever be yourself, sometimes it can trigger a feeling of not being real. That’s the depersonalization.
Every time someone calls me she, or a girl or my very feminine birth name, it’s like they say: “You don’t exist”. If that happens enough times in a day, I can start to dissociate. Especially if I’m already dealing with stress or anxiety.

For the longest time, I didn’t even know what depersonalization was. It was one of those aha-moments when I finally learned about it. I read up on what to do when it happens and on grounding, a technique to connect yourself back to reality.

There are many different variations of grounding and it’s good to try different ones to figure out which ones work for you. Here’s how I personally go about it.

First, I do some mental grounding. It ask myself questions, sometimes out loud if I’m alone, to focus my attention back on reality. I start with “Where am I?” and “What am I doing?” Then I might ask some additional questions like “What year/month/day is it?”, “What’s my name?” or “How’s the weather today?” I take a moment to answer them to myself and it often is enough to help me snap back to the moment.

If it doesn’t, I do some sensory grounding. It can involved doing a motion, like wiggling my fingers, and focusing on that for a while. Or it can be eating something and focusing my attention on the taste and texture. I’ve found it’s best if the sensory stimulation is something pleasant, as unpleasant sensations can increase anxiety and make the dissociation worse.

If the depersonalization is so intense that no grounding works, I remind myself not to panic and that it will pass eventually. As scary as it can be, depersonalization is temporary. Sometimes you just have to ride it out before you get better.

Lastly, I’d recommend seeing a mental health professional if you can. I’m not one myself so don’t take anything I write as gospel. An expert can help you much better and follow you through your progress.

 

Great News!

As I’ve written in previous posts, Sweden has a pretty serious housing crisis. Getting your own apartment can take years, up to 20 in certain cities.

So, I’ve been waiting a long time for my own place. Which makes it hard to live my life as I see fit, especially since I have to live with my very religious parents. Bringing home a guy is absolutely out of the question. Even something like listening to the “sinful” music I like has been something I haven’t been able to do, at least not without secrecy and earbuds on.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents. It’s just that I’m a grown man and I want to live my own life.

And today I finally signed the contract to my very own apartment!

I’m very excited by this new development in my life and the opportunities that will come with it. What a great start to 2018!

2017 recap and plans for 2018

At the beginning of 2017, I was feeling a mixture of sadness and optimism. I was, like most sane people, quite depressed about Trump winning. But I had also more positive feelings about my personal life. I was finally on T, soon to have top surgery and I was thinking that this would be the year I would be able to start living as myself.

My body had other plans, it seems. As the endocrinologist noticed, my body doesn’t seem to be taking up the testosterone as it should. Result: after top surgery and over a year on T, I still don’t pass most of the time. I definitely don’t pass enough to date as a guy, take my shirt off in public (hence why I’ve abandoned my plans to swim shirtless on my upcoming sunny vacation) or even use the men’s room without getting strange looks.

Hopefully, things will get better in 2018 but I’m not optimistic enough to make a long list of plans like I did last year.

All I can say is that I’ll work on finishing my fantasy trilogy, continue writing on my new novel project and start looking for a publisher. I self-published my fantasy series because at the time I started writing it, it was supposed to be a side project while I focused on my university studies. But since I’ve since had to drop out for health reasons, I’m going all in on the writing thing.

 

Anyway, here’s what happened with my plans for 2017:

Have top surgery. Check! One of the good things that happened this year.

After healing from top surgery, get back to the gym and make some GAINS! Nope. When I made this list I did was I always fucking do whenever I have even the slightest spike in energy: Make up plans I’ll never be able to actually go through with. At least this year I found out the reason I’ve struggled with fatigue for so many years (see previous post).

Get a haircut at a real barber shop. Nope. On count of not being able to pass yet.

Go to the beach and swim with my shirt off. Nope.

Walk in the 2017 Pride parade with my shirt off. Nope. And I’m probably not going to a Pride again any time soon. There’s always some weirdos dressed up like BDSM-horses (don’t ask) or whatever and making us all look like a bunch of exhibitionist perverts. Kinda sick of it.

Run in the summer rain with my shirt off. Nope.

Get my own apartment. Nope. The housing crisis in this country is insane. I must have applied to several hundreds apartments and got invited to see one, which I didn’t get.

(If I get my own apartment) Adopt an animal from a shelter. Nope.

Find a boyfriend. Nope. Just going to go ahead and stop putting that on my to-do lists ‘cause it’s just depressing when I can’t check it off every year.

Apply to school program to become a web developer and, if I get in, start my education + Learn as much HTML and other programming languages before starting school. Nope. I was going to apply to the program when I realised I was missing a credential, a course I haven’t taken. So I decided, fuck it. I’ve also found another program which suits me better and which I might apply to the coming year.

Reach 1000 followers on Twitter. Nope.

If I reach 1000 followers on Twitter, start an author Facebook page. Nope. I didn’t even go up to 500 but I’m still planning to make a Facebook page, for publicity and bookselling numbers’ sake.

Finish writing part 2 of The Sorcerer’s Sword and publish it. Check!

Get a traditional shaving kit that is also vegan. I really tried to get into traditional wet shaving but those razors don’t work for me at all. I’ll probably just buy an electric shaver once I’ve used up all those disposable razors I have at home.

I did find two products I really like. The first is this synthetic shaving brush and the other is this super smooth shaving cream. So there are definitely some great vegan shaving options out there.

I also learned how to make my own aftershave with 50% water and 50% apple cider vinegar. Before I started using this mixture, I would break out like crazy whenever I shaved. I tried different brands of aftershave but nothing helped. Now I hardly ever get any blemishes.

Start my secret blogging project 😉 Check! My project to read a book from every country and blog about it has to be one of the most interesting things I’ve done and I’m really enjoying it.

Visit the US for the first time. Nope. Those plans got cancelled, unfortunately.

Get my DNA tested for ancestry and genetic information such as predisposition for certain illnesses. Check! My post about my experience with 23&Me.

Continue to support the resistance movement against the fascist orange Cheeto. Check. Luckily, Trump hasn’t (yet) been able to change things enough to become the Putin style dictator he dreams of being but he still has fucked up a lot of things and then there’s at least three more years of this fucking nonsense to go…
Not much I can do about it but I’ll continue helping out the American resistance however I can.

See Star Wars episode 8 in December! Check! It wasn’t everything I dreamed of but overall I liked it.

 

Liebster Awards – Part 2

After giving it some thought, I have decided what blogs I am going to nominate for a Liebster Award. Here they are:

Caspian aka afab1996 writes about his experience as a transman in the UK. A very interesting blog, be sure to check it out.

The Foundry
Ruhen writes about writing and I find it fascinating.

I often find myself scratching my head, wondering how the hell people think. That’s not a good think to be so clueless about human psychology if you’re a writer. Luckily, Psychology for Writers is here to help!

Philosophy and Video Games. I stumbled upon this blog while looking through the Absurdism tag (Absurdism being one of my favourite philosophies) and discovered the fascinating subject of philosophical themes in video games.

DMY Inspires. Dmitry is a bisexual teenager with Aspergers and ADHD.

As a favourite blog, I would have to say it’s a shared win between Androgendernaut and Sebastian Lewis Pod.

To the nominated: you are hereby challenged to write a post nominating five other blogs with less than 200 followers, choose a favourite blog and if you wish you can also answer my ten questions.

What is your favourite dish?
What is a great documentary you think people should see?
Do you have a motto or favourite saying?
What day do you consider to have been the best in your life?
Why did you start your blog?
Who are the best: cats or dogs?
What is the best book you’ve ever read?
Tea or coffee?
What is, in your opinion, the best genre of music?
Do you have anyone you consider to be a role model? And if so, why?

To Boycott or not to boycott?

One of my favourite events every autumn is the Göteborg Book Fair in Western Sweden. It’s the biggest cultural event in Scandinavia and one I’ve been looking forward to every year since I first attended it when I was twelve.

Some controversy arose last year when it was revealed that the far-right magazine Nya Tider was going to be allowed to participate in the event. This so-called newspaper is notoriously bigoted and is on a mission to paint Sweden as a country falling to pieces because of immigrants and changing norms, such as a greater acceptance of LGBTQ people.

As a response to this many participants and visitors decided to boycott the Fair. Last year I couldn’t attend so the question of whether or not to go wasn’t one I had to make. But this year I will be able to and Nya Tider is still going to be there.

My first instinct was that I didn’t want to set my foot anywhere near where this garbage of a magazine would be exhibiting. I thought about it some more and realised that might be exactly what they want. After all, isn’t a society without trans and gay people exactly one of the things Nya Tider is fighting for? In their eyes, I am among the undesirable and the Fair will only be made better by people like me not attending.

I don’t claim that either boycotting or not boycotting is the right answer. In the end of the day, people have to follow their own conscious and do what they feel is right.

But personally, I feel more than ever that I need to go. The far-right has doubled down their propaganda in later years and made their way into places they would have never been tolerated before. That’s why I want to never back down and keep reminding them that I and all other people they have marked as enemies have as much a right to be here and as much a right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

This year especially I feel an urgent need to stand up against these destructive forces. Apart from Nya Tider being allowed into the Fair, the city as given permission to the neo-nazi organisation Nordic Resistance Movement to parade through Gothenburg during the event. To give you an idea of how insane this is consider that beside being openly and shamelessly Nazi, this organisation is also responsible for actual terrorist attacks. Just last year they set off a bomb in the very city they will now be allowed to march through!

That’s why apart from going to the Fair and buying as many books as I can that Nya Tider wished didn’t exist (queer books, books by people of colour etc.), I will also attend on Friday the 29th a protest against Nazism.

If Nazis and other far-right extremists think they can scare their opponents into silence, they are terribly mistaken. We aren’t going to go down without a fight. Just bring it on.

My predictions for The Last Jedi

A while back I had a short Twitter thread about what I believe is going to happen in the next movie of the Star Wars saga:


I thought I’d write a post to expand on my theory.

In the previous movies, the Force is presented as having two sides: the light one and the dark one.
The light side of the Force is followed by the Jedi Order. They are all about complete self-denial and abnegation and focusing entirely on the well-being of others. These beliefs are taken quite to the extreme, to the point where any type of attachment and loving one person more than another is seen as an offense. Romantic relationships are strictly forbidden and the to-be Jedis are taken as children from their families and kept from ever seeing them again.

As a cult survivor, this has always disturbed me about the Jedi. I grew up in a religion where healthy self-interest and personal attachments are considered sinful and threats to the goals of the group. I’ve experienced first-hand what it does to you and how it destroys families and communities.

This is why in my eyes, the Jedi are not as good and loving as they think they are.

But the Sith aren’t so great either. They take things to the other extreme and are focused on nothing but self-interest and personal passions, often to the point of bringing on their own end.

So, both the “light” and “dark” sides of the Force are destructive in their own ways when followed dogmatically. There has to be a way between being an egotistic tool and self-denial to the point of near self-eradication.

To find this balance, one can turn to the teaching of the ancient Je’daii, as they are presented in The Star Wars Legends. The Je’daii were the predecessors to the Jedi order but unlike them they believed both sides of the Force were necessary to keep balance within oneself and in society. Kind of like Taoists believe yin and yang must be in interaction for things to not fall into chaos.

What we know is that after Return of The Jedi, Luke Skywalker founded a new Jedi Order. But just like the previous order, it was destroyed by an apprentice who joined the dark side. Perhaps driven into its arms by the dogmatic demands of the Jedi?
Many Star Wars fans were upset when they heard Luke say “the Jedi must end” in the trailer to the up-coming movie. Not me, though. When I heard Rey’s words “light, darkness, a balance” followed by Luke saying “it’s so much bigger”, my thoughts immediately went to the Je’daii Order and their belief that the Force is far too great to be categorized in two completely opposite categories. 

Personally, I can’t wait to see both the Sith and the Jedi come to an end and be replaced by something better. That is assuming my theory is right. To find out if it is I guess we’ll just have to wait till December, when the movie finally comes out.

A World Tour of Books: One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina (Kenya)

The first time I heard of Binyavanga Wainaina was in 2014. Several countries across Africa had either proposed or passed harsher laws against homosexuality. As a response to this and after losing a gay friend whose family was thrown out of church when they tried to hold his memorial, Wainaina publicly came out as gay. He was the first famous Kenyan to do so and stay in Kenya.

There was some backlash, as one would expect, but also a lot of praise for his courage to come out in a country where homosexual acts are still illegal. I remember thinking that I needed to know more about this brave man and made a mental note that one day I should read something of his. 

The opportunity presented itself when I came across his memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place. 

It tells the story of his life, from a day-dreaming school boy to a depressed young student in South Africa to finally realising his call as an author. But it is also a chronicle of a changing country. When Wainaina was born, Kenya had been free from British colonialism for only a little over a decade. Followed did a succession of not so democratic governments, until 2010 when a new constitution was signed into law. 

Wainaina also writes about the evolving culture around him. Music is often mentioned as are books, his constant refuge. With the introduction of the Internet in the 90’s came new possibilities and through it Wainaina would meet the person with whom he would found Kwani?, the first east African literary magazine since the 70’s.

I really enjoyed Wainaina’s writing. His prose has a dreamlike quality to it and the stream of consciousness narrative takes you right into the heart of the story.

One thing I wondered a lot during my reading was how different the book would have been if the author had come out as gay before writing it. No romantic interests are ever mentioned and the reference to him being attracted to women are less than convincing (or did it just feel that way because I knew he was gay before reading his memoir?).

Interestingly, Wainaina published what he called a “lost chapter” of his book when he came out. Titled I am a homosexual, mum, it tells the truth he could not bring himself to say at the time he first wrote down his life story. I can warmly recommend it, as well as One Day I Will Write About This Place in its entirety. 

​A World Tour of Books: Kallocain by Karin Boye (Sweden)

I have been looking forward to writing this post and introducing to those of you who have yet to heard of her the great Karin Boye. Born in Sweden, in my hometown of Gothenburg, she is one Sweden’s most beloved writers and poets.

A talented and complex character, she struggled with her sexuality for most of her life. After a religious crisis (which inspired her novel Crisis) she embraced her attraction to women. For the last seven years of her life she was in a relationship with a Jewish German refugee named Margot Hanel. This at a time when same-sex relations were still illegal in Sweden.

Another interesting aspect of Boye’s life is her politics. A Marxist in her youth, she became disillusioned with the ideology after travelling through the Soviet Union. The authoritarianism she witnessed there was very likely an inspiration to the book I want to write about in this post: the sci-fi dystopia Kallocain.

Told from the perspective of the scientist Leo Kall, the story paints the picture of a grim future. In the totalitarian Worldstate all forms of individualism have been abolished. The state dictates how you dress, what you work with, where you live and even what opinions you are allowed to express. Individuals are seen as worthless in themselves and only part of a wider organism: the State.

But there is one barrier that have yet to be breached: the individual mind. Even with the “police eye” and the “police ear” spying on people in their very home, the State has no way of knowing people’s innermost thoughts and feelings. That is until Leo Kall invents a powerful new drug, kallocain,  that makes people reveal those very things.

Kall is an idealist, loyal to the State and initially very optimistic about his new invention. But what it will reveal is not only the secret world of those he injects the drug with but also something hidden inside of himself. A longing he will himself try to deny. A longing for love, liberty and a true sense of community different from the false one dictated by the State. 

Boye is cold and very matter-of-fact in her depiction of the world she writes. The story gives very little hope of things getting better and something about the ambience of the story reminds me of Kafka. 

Did Boye believe she was writing a depiction of a future that awaits us? Or was it a warning in hope that we would avoid it? Worth noting is that Karin Boye committed suicide mere months after the books was published. It is believed a personal loss was the main contributing factor, but could her beliefs about humanity’s future have contributed to her despair? 

Either way, Kallocain is a great classic in the dystopia sci-fi genre and has a well-deserved place alongside books such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It will disturb you, make you think and cherish those personal freedoms we so often take for granted.