Hello friends, it’s been a while. Suffice to say that 2018 was a clusterfuck, and 2019 has been off to a rocky start. I sort of fell off the face of the reading world towards the end of last year, mostly because I didn’t have the capacity to hold space for books, reading, and the book community. Truth be told, I thought the blog was done. Mostly because I didn’t know what I wanted to blog about. There are so many wonderful bloggers out there who take the time and effort to do well by their authors and readers, and I just haven’t. This isn’t to chastise me or to seek validation, it’s just a statement of fact.
But as I slowly creep back into reading, I realize I miss it. I don’t just miss reading, I miss talking about books. I miss yelling about favourites on the internet, I miss my friends. I miss the community. I miss gushing incoherently in long form about upcoming releases. All this to say, I think, inconsistency and all, I want to retain this blog. I want this space to exist, not just for fellow nerds or authors, but for me. My regular life has so much writing stuff happening now, and I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do here besides reviews, but I’d like to have this corner of the internet to kick back and chat about books with you once again if you’ll have me.
Remember me? Seems like I took my sporadic blogger moniker a little far this time. I opened my blog today for the first time since July, which is definitely the biggest break I’ve ever taken from this space. My intention was to write a review and pretend like nothing had happened, but I think I’d like to talk about the last five months and offer you an explanation as to why you haven’t seen new content at all from me in that time.
(Oh, if you follow me on twitter and such you’re totally off the hook for skipping this post because well, I think I’ve whined plenty there about what’s happened)
Trigger Warnings: Surgery, medical stuff, body stuff, fatmisia, lifestyle changes, depression, anxiety, mental health
A lot of you know I’ve been struggling with sciatica for a while now. The last time I was active on the blog, I was in the middle of a really bad flare-up that lasted longer than the usual two-three weeks, and the pain was relentless. I was on bed rest for nearly six weeks, and barely functional. Things escalated, I went in for an MRI, and was told that I had a major prolapsed disc that had probably been around for a few years now (they suspect around the onset of my sciatica three years ago), and I was admitted for surgery immediately. It happened so fast, I only met my surgeon the day after the operation had been performed. Those 36 hours were pretty surreal. I’ll spare you the gory surgical details, but it was a longer procedure than expected.
Post surgery, here’s where I was: Months (potentially years) of nerve compression had happened leading to some neurological symptoms in my foot and tightness in my legs, and I was looking at about six months of physiotherapy to regain mobility in my foot. My surgery had been successful in that my spine was intact, no other organs or systems were damaged in the process, I wasn’t going to be paralyzed. and the nerves had decompressed.
Suffice to say my life has dramatically changed and my world has become super small since the first week of August. The first couple of months were…hell. This is actually my second major spinal surgery, but my first one was at age four and I barely remember it, so this is my first time fully experiencing and processing the upward battle that is post-op recovery. It’s this thing where you’re no longer feeling the hellish pain that put you on in the operation theatre in the first place, but your body has been sliced open and the morphine has worn off and you can feel it all. My life was eat, sleep, physiotherapy, and rest. I was too exhausted to hold a book or laptop. I was in a world of pain. PT was frustrating and slow. My incredibly supportive parents’ lives were all about looking after me. Depression and anxiety were constant companions, and I didn’t really talk about it to anyone except the internet. My best friend was my only visitor, he would faithfully spend every weekend with me, even if it meant watch me sleep after my PT sessions because I was too tired, or when I started walking, walk those hundred feet three times a day.
But, sitting and writing this, I realize I’ve come such a long way since then. I went from a walker to using a stick to walking independently. I can now walk longer distances, I’m more functional in terms of being able to stand for longer and sit for more hours. I’ve started going out by myself, and even run a few errands. I don’t have to wear a lumbar support belt anymore, which means I will no longer have to be rude to strangers on the street that stare at me or ask me really personal questions. Our extended family comes down in a couple of weeks to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday, and I will be able to sit and be a part of the traditional ceremonies that will be happening. These things I’m infinitely grateful for, because six months ago I didn’t think any of this was possible.
There’s still things that are scary and overwhelming and weigh on me. My foot is still not at a hundred percent, and it scares me to think that if it doesn’t get better than this then I won’t be able to get back to dancing ever again (I’m a trained Bharatanatyam dancer). Somedays, hints of the old sciatica pain come through after an intense PT session and I worry about never not being in some form of pain for the rest of my life. My job-hunt has been on pause for the last six months, and the prospect of having to explain this really long and unexpected break in my career feels daunting. I’ve been told to lose weight so as to take off the pressure from a spine that’s been operated on twice, and I’m dealing with a megaton of internal and external fatmisia while I make some dietary and lifestyle changes. My mental health has definitely seen better days, and now that I’m mobile I need to get around to finding a therapist.
There’s so many uncertain things, and I’m trying not to let them take over, which is easier said than done.
So there, that has been (is) my life. It’s been a hell of a rollercoaster, 2017, but I think the end of the year is looking less bleak than I thought it would be three months ago. I’ve finally gotten my reading mojo back, and am hoping to make my Goodreads goal by the end of the year. I’ve spectacularly failed on my blogging goals, but I’m trying not to beat myself too much about that. I’m working on some academic projects with my friends to stay sharp and have started looking for a job again.
All this to say, thank you so much for still sticking around despite my horrendously erratic blogging this year. Thanks for sticking through all of my promises to be a more regular blogger even when I’m not. Thanks for accepting this explanation for my absence. Thank you for being a source of support in any corner of the internet at any point in time. I’m back right now, I’m feeling excited to talk about books again, and I’m hoping that feeling stays with me, along with you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
This post is inspired by my twitter pal Painter McSomething, as well as recent events in the ace and aro communities. My original intention was to do a Twitter thread, but I wanted to go into details and doing that on twitter feels scarier. Plus, this post may be TMI for a lot of folks, and this way the only way to be exposed to the information is to click on it, which is a choice my followers can make actively without being forced to interact with it on twitter.
So, this is going to get personal. If you’ve had a chance to read Painter McSomething’s thread, they did a great job sharing how their identity as a grey-ace panromantic person works for them. I know there’s been a lot of talk among people both in and out of the ace and aro communities about wanting to learn more, especially in the last few months. Now, there’s quite a few resources for people to check out online (I’ll link some at the end of the post), but I figured it’s also helpful to hear how people ID as ace and aro and what that means to them.
Disclaimer:This is not an educational post on aromantic and asexual 101. I’m going to be only talking about myself. Remember that not everyone’s experiences will perfectly match up to mine, and my experiences don’t probably reflect everything you’ve read online. This doesn’t invalidate either mine or other people’s IDs as aces or aros in any way, shape, or form.
I’m grey-asexual, meaning I fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum. I don’t fall in one particular place, my feelings of sexual attraction and my libido vary all the time, so grey-ace works best for me. I’m mostly uninterested in sex and that works for me. Even as a teenager, I was interested in sex, but not interested in *having* sex with other people. This has not changed thus far. Here’s where the term autochorrisexualcomes in. This means I engage in certain sexual activities (choosing to keep the details to myself here), but none of them involve other people. I occasionally do find other people attractive, mostly aesthetically, almost never sexually. I read a crap ton of erotica novels and genuinely enjoy them, and I’m not averse to visual representations of sex in movies and such. Libido is a whole other factor to consider. Again, I’d like to point you towards another thread by Painter McSomething. My libido goes up sometimes, and mostly (but not always) correlates with my reading of erotica. I’m also kinky, but it is a completely non-sexual experience for me. It has more to do with the power dynamics, and helps a great deal with my anxiety. I don’t feel qualified enough to discuss more about BDSM, but this is the extent of my experience with it.
I’m grey-romantic, which means I fall somewhere on the romance spectrum. To be honest, I’m ninety-nine percent “no thanks romance”, but I have commitment issues, so I prefer ID-ing as grey-romantic. I have no interest in a singular or multiple romantic partners, and definitely prefer the idea of queerplatonic relationships. I have had crushes in the past, but have had no interest in any sort of romantic or sexual involvement with them. I value friendships deeply, and have a small number of extremely close friends. I have one or two people in my life with whom the relationship goes a lot deeper than traditional friendship, but is still strictly platonic and (so far) has no labels, and I like it that way. Even if I were to ever be in a defined QPR, I don’t think monogamy is my jam, and that’s okay. My (hypothetical) queerplatonic partner’s gender does not factor into this, in that I’m not strictly queerplatonically attracted to a specific gender. I value close emotional commitments. My feelings about physical behaviors like hugging, kissing, hand-holding, spooning, etc. really depend on the person. I don’t identify as touch-averse, but I definitely have a preference about whom I engage in these behaviors with.
I’m going to talk about gender identity for a second here. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I’ve landed on identifying as demigirl. “Cis” has not felt comfortable to me for a long time, but neither did going with nonbinary or trans. Some days I feel femme, somedays nonbinary. This reflects in my emotional responding, how I connect with people, how I want people to see me, my hair, my clothes, my makeup, my everything; the lines are very blurry. I’m still working out how this works with my aroace-ness, and some days feel very conflicted. I am not comfortable with female-specific words like “woman”, “lady”, “queen”, etc. My pronouns are she/her.
This is all I have for now. Again, this is all just me, and how I identify as a grey-ace, grey-aro demigirl. These might reflect other people who share these identities, or they might not at all, and that’s okay. None of this also means that I’ve figured everything out about myself. I’m comfortable with evolving IDs and values, and I’ll just keep checking in with myself from time to time. This does not mean I don’t have days where I’m wondering if I’ve just all this up about myself, or days that I don’t feel like an imposter. I absolutely do. But that’s when I reach out to some lovely hearts for validation, and work through it.
So, I hope this helps you some, whoever is reading this. Whatever I know about the ace and aro spectrums I know from my own experiences and my research when I was contemplating these IDs. I’m always willing to share, and always open to chatting with anyone, or answering any questions you may have. I also don’t have all the answers, and I will be honest with you when that’s the case. I’m also linking some resources below, but these are not exhaustive at all. The best way to learn more is by talking to people within the community, especially those who are constantly advocating, but please remember not to demand anyone’s time and emotional labor.
Thanks so much for making it to the end of this. This was not easy to write. Being this open and vulnerable here is terrifying, but I also know this was necessary. I hope this helps anyone out there, and I apologize if I inadvertently hurt anyone with anything I’ve written in this post.
P. S. I’m still not out to a lot of people that I know in real life, and I don’t feel comfortable being out to most people outside of the internet for now. So, if you’re reading this and you happen to know me outside of the interwebz, please check-in before discussing any of this with me in-person. I am not in a place where I can or want to be accidentally outted. I appreciate the support.
I’m a little stunned that we’re already in the middle of 2017. It is friggin’ July, this is wild. What even is time? It is ridiculous how fast it flies. So much has happened in the last six months. I don’t think I am where I wanted to be at this time when the year began, but it isn’t the worst place to be.
I went back to take a peek at my 2017blogging resolutions, and so far, haven’t done any of them justice. I’m way behind on my Goodreads goal, I haven’t made or stuck to a blogging schedule, I took on extra reading challenges and didn’t manage to keep up with them, I fell behind on the Social Justice Book Club, and I haven’t really discussed any books with problematic rep on my blog. I had to scale back on the layout of this space because I couldn’t afford full membership, but needed some modicum of self-hosting control. All of this is getting me down. These all seemed like reasonable goals at the beginning of this year, but I definitely didn’t anticipate how much of my time would get sucked in our giant move in the first half of this year. I didn’t anticipate the toll it would take on my mental and physical health. I’ve experienced more identity crises in the last 11 months than ever before. I’m still looking for full-time employment. The world seems to be even more of a shitfest than before. These aren’t really excuses, nor am I looking for condolences or sympathy, they’re just things I didn’t anticipate happening or affecting me as much as they are.
Some good things happened too- My Chicago vacation and the annual professional conference I attended went super well. I took on some projects I’m really excited about, and I’ve got clearer career and academic goals in mind since then. Living in India definitely offers me more freedom in terms of movement and having close friends in the same city. My reading pace has picked up in the last couple of weeks, and I feel good about that.
Given all of these things, I’m taking another stab at my 2017 resolutions:
Blogging schedule: I’m going to set myself a goal of publishing once a week. It doesn’t seem like a lot, and it’s fairly low response effort, but right now consistency is key. If I do more, great, but if I do at least one, it’ll be better than month-long breaks.
Social Justice Book Club is coming back in August- I’ll be announcing the details of that this weekend. We’re going back to a bi-monthly schedule, so hopefully that helps.
I’m going to work on really, really evaluating the time and space I have available before participating in reading challenges.
Catching up on ARC reviews, and cross-posting on Amazon and Goodreads.
I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I’m sincerely grateful for every person that follows my blog, reads my stuff, and takes the time to comment. I’m always shocked when anyone visits this space, given that my content is so erratic. Please know that I value each and every one of you. Thank you.
Disclaimer:Several existential crises about attaching meaning to arbitrary cycles of time occurred during the drafting of this post.
Ahem, okay. 2016. Trashfire year, to say the least. However, there’s some good stuff once you wade through the garbage, and I’m taking the time to be grateful for the little things. 2016 is the year I joined the book community on the internet, and it still amazes me to know that there’s people out there that read, breathe, and revere books the way I do (and some even more). I made some fantastic friends, some of whom I got to know in real life, and all of whom have been absolute hearts (you know who you are). I discovered so many social justice warrior gems who inspire me everyday with their outspokenness and general badassery. I also discovered that my drug of choice is participating in readathons and reading challenges, regardless of how well I do in them. It is the year I started blogging about books, albeit sporadically, and also the year I realized the purpose of this blog. All of these things give me the warm fuzzies, and I’m taking this moment to be grateful for that.
I’ve learnt several things about myself as a reader this year, and I’m choosing to use those things to shape my reading as we enter the next year. 2017 is going to come with a hell a lot of challenges as it is, and I’d like to make sure I keep chipping away at making my happy place a worthwhile place.
In terms of numbers, this year has been a success. I’ll be ringing in the New Year with my 228th book, which is the most I’ve read any year ever (last year I read 53, I think). I’ll be setting a goal of 250 books next year, which I think is pretty doable. I’m woefully behind on updating my spreadsheets and the running list on my blog, but I have finally completed all my social obligations so those should get done soon.
I’ve talked before about wanting to read mindfully, and this is something I’d like to continue working on. While high numbers are an adrenaline rush, I’d like to be really absorb and sit with what I’m reading, and be able to look at my reading material critically.
As for reading challenges, I’m narrowing those down to a chosen few. I’ve learned that I prefer readathons, especially ones like Dewey’s where I can go full blown introvert and hole up with my books and the bookternet, so after having dabbled in a bunch of reading challenges this past year, in 2017 I will be doing the following:
As mentioned earlier, I’m joining the wonderful Kerry in hostingSocial Justice Book Club, and it’s been so great working on the behind-the-scenes stuff with her. We’re actively working on making this a meaningful experience for all our participants. We’re also working on selecting books that cover social justice intersectionally, which I’m super stoked about. The intention is to continue learning and using that knowledge to do good, and I’m working on these intentions being reflected in actual, actionable steps.
I have several things I want to work on with blogging, and I’m trying to remember that I’m still brand new to this, so taking it slow is key. I do not want blogging to be an aversive experience, so I’m going to take a couple of things at a time and work on them. Manageable goals are less stressful, especially since there’s so many other uncertain variables in my personal life.
I’d like to work on an actual posting schedule. It’ll help with accountability, generating content, and writing more reviews. It’ll also motivate me to chalk out time to work on these posts, rather than scramble in the wee hours of the morning in sweaty panic because that’s just unnecessary.
Another thing I’ll be working on this year is to write better reviews. This means having something meaningful to say besides just gushing about books I love, because I think it’ll just generally help improve my writing, so two birds, one stone. I’m also going to use this as practice to critically analyze books- plot, writing style, character development, etc.- and generally have more nuanced content.
Of course, as I’ve said earlier, the purpose of this blog is to support and promote marginalized voices. I think a part of this is also being able to discuss problematic rep. While I’ve been part of a fair number of these discussions on twitter, I think using the blog for this is equally crucial, especially since there’s very few POC/LGBTQIA+/disabled bloggers, and we need to keep having these conversations about inclusivity and representation if we hope to make a dent in publishing.
I’d like to take this moment to thank you guys- friends, readers- for having stuck with me all through 2016. I don’t think there’s words that will adequately describe what this community means to me. It’s changed my life. I’m looking forward to all of the wonderful things you will be doing in 2017, and I will be cheering you on all the way.
I feel like everyone has been saying this, but really, where the hell are the weeks going? How is it already the middle of May?
The past week has been a blur- I met several book people over the past couple of days, including some Book Rioters! Hey, remember that time I was featured on the Book Riot instagram?Sadly, I was so very uncool around them, even though I’d practiced my speech in my car for 10 minutes. I totally did that fangirl giggle when Amanda asked if she could take that picture of me in all my BR swag glory ( I am not proud of that sound). BUT I MET AMANDA NELSONso whatevs. Poor Rincey got the brunt of my hyperventilation, and she was very gracious and sweet about it. I also got to meet some of my internet bookish friendships, which was glorious. So jealous that I didn’t go to BEA, but it’s fine.
BookCon tomorrow! D and I are video-chatting in a couple of hours to figure out our agenda for tomorrow. I have printed out floor maps and everything, because I can’t stand McCormick Place in general so having my agenda mapped out will hopefully minimize stress. I will be snapchatting (username: jananivaidya), tweeting and instagrammingfor sure, so you can follow all of my Con adventures on there!
Reading challenge updates:
So, I have a problem. I overcommit. I find it (nearly) impossible to say no to things- work, life, or otherwise. So while I would like to do all of the things, I end up leaving very little room for life getting in the way, so I’m almost always in scramble mode. For example, life, work, and general moodiness and things have led to my reading taking a solid hit, and I’ve not been reading as much as I usually do. Therefore, I don’t really have enough material for separate posts for each of the challenges, so I hope all of the hosts will forgive me for lumping the updates into a single post. Let’s dive right in:
R. K. Narayan Readalong: I have only finished one book, Malgudi Days and it is unlikely that I will start and finish the other one by Sunday. It was a re-read for me, and I enjoyed reading a few stories before bed each night. I’m so glad that Deepika created this opportunity for me to go back to this book. First, because that introduction/tribute by Jhumpa Lahiri is excellent, and second, because RKN was a prolific writer that so few people outside of India know about and will now. Like many contemporary giants such as Tolkien, Prachett, Rowlng, etc. minus the fantasy aspect, he created this entire world that was so relatable to the average reader. Written over the course of 40 years, it captures the essence of pre-independent India, with it’s myriad small-town inhabitants and their day-to-day experiences. I was hit by waves of nostalgia for home when reading this one for sure. His writing style definitely reminds you of Chekov and O-Henry, masters of the short story format. It is amazing how much the man can compress into a story that’s all of 4-6 pages in length. What a versatile storyteller, I’m so glad I loved this just as much as I did when I read it for the first time as a teenager.
Bout of Books: I definitely have not participated in this event in full reader/social media monster mode, but I have been checking in at least once everyday. I’m learning that I prefer reading challenges that are of a shorter duration- it’s just how I operate. Very short-term-goal oriented. Also, it’s pretty clear how unrealistic my TBR plans are, but I think this time around it just had to do with the timing of the event in my life. I’ve only completed 1 book, one trade, and couple of comic issues. Maybe I’ll finish just one other book by Sunday. I did participate in a couple of the daily challenges, which was cool. Again, crunch-time constant contact with the event definitely works better for me personally, but I’d like to see how I do next time around with less number of distractions/commitments.
Smash Your Stack: Ha, let’s see, in the first two weeks of this challenge, I have completed all of 6 books/comics/trades. Not my best effort. I’ve got two weeks to redeem myself, and I’m hoping National Readathon Day next Saturday helps me get to my goal.
On the health front, I have been eating crappily, partly because of eating out with friends in the past couple of days, and partly because I only got paid yesterday (real food is definitely not budget-friendly with an erratic paycheck). I’ve already worked on my meal plan for next week so getting back on track with it. I haven’t gone running since Saturday, but I did do yoga three days this week, mostly as an opportunity to engage in some mindfulness exercises.