MY RAWR-ING 2020 IN REVIEW: And a Shameless Request for Patronage
RAWRing '20s Grrrl
New Years Eve 2020
EDIT: Dain Bramage & Covid strike again!
Huh...so apparently it was actually the first day of the year yesterday when I posted this. Like...alllll day. Totally thought it was 31st. Well done, 2020. Nice sneak attack, 2021. So that's how it's gonna be, is it? 🤣🤪🤣🤪🤣
Something profound and significant happened last New Year's while I was curled up on my couch in my flapper outfit after having returned from a partay that I not only attended (flashing, whirling club lights, deafening music, and all) but I also...drumroll...drove to and from all by me onesie.
I know. I'm not exactly sure what happened over the summer of 2019, but while I was at that women's retreat in Spain, I got back being capable of looking at flashing police lights, flickering sunlight through leaves, and even Marvel Comics' rapid-fire cartoon flashy-reel intro. YES. ME. I can look at that stuff now--without seizures or a seizure-warning flinch.
Don't ask me how it happened, but I came back from overseas with the ability to weather that stuff for the first time in 19 years.
Now we're at Year 20. Amidst the first hours of this year, I said, "Fuck this," to something that has been a core piece of my personality my whole life: having Big Goals & Dreams.
I didn't do this as a New Year’s resolution. Nope, I mean in general. Because when I set my mind to something and begin pursuing it with all the tenacious teeth and rocket-launching power behind me? I typically get it.
And that’s the problem, Houston. Oh, I get what I want, all right. Only to find out that it’s one of the worst things that could ever happen to me. Apparently I have no clue what would be good for me or make me truly happy. So I said fuck that.
Fuck all that five-year plan bullshit. Fuck all that envisioning and getting specific down to the dollar amount and concentrating and focusing so that it will miraculously manifest into my life. throwing it all up in the air
I’ve been pantzing everything I do since that night.
Wanna know how that’s workin' out for me? In the words of a nasty-fabulous fur-coat-sporting Macklemore, 🎶 ”This is fucking awesome.” 🎶
Wut? Half my costumes come from recycled thrift-store finds, man.
So's my wardrobe. Of course, the line between my wardrobe and my costumes gets really blurry.
Pantzing is a particularly helpful skill amidst an unexpected pandemic. And social explosion. And bullshit election year. And…
(And 2020’s not done yet…it still has a few hours left to lurk in the weeds.)
So that was January. In February, I flew to Colorado to attend the writers’ conference where I had won a scholarship. This was not my first rodeo with such things. The first conference I went to in 2010 was also done via scholarship, so for two years, I studied and practiced and overhauled and studied some more. Then in 2012, I tried my hand at pitching.
To my delight, I found myself seated across a table from my first-choice editor--a Big Five editor. By the end of the conversation, he had not only asked me for the entire first manuscript of my Gladiatrix series, but he leaned across the table to whisper, “And just so you know, I haven’t asked anyone for a full manuscript at this conference yet.”
Due to the way he ranted and raved over my concept for the rest of the con, I got the enthusiastic green-light to elevator-pitch several other agents and editors. I also got signed with one of those agents a couple months later.
Unfortunately, between the conference and signing that contract, I had a seizure onstage.
How did that happen?
Well, nine months earlier, I had been punched in the face by an irate man. What I didn’t know when I pitched that book concept was that this injury to my neck and the concussion he gave me were mingling with all that previous damage done by the drunk driver, and that I was about to tumble into a year of chronic seizures that would heap additional damage on my once-Jupiter-sized supercomputer of a mind.
It’s still a supercomputer. Unfortunately, it’s been dropped off a cliff and doesn’t work like it once did. As we've discussed at length this season, we have external hard drives and lots of jerry-rigging over here, and our hobby is a fun little game called Building Neuroplasticity. Yaaaaay. We also do this for a living. Too bad it doesn’t pay squat.
Which brings me back to the point of this post. I lost my shot at Big 5 publishing, and determined that the traditional route could never accommodate my brain injury, and vs. versa. Okay, no problem. I decided to self-publish. More control over my creative content anyway. Groovy.
And then something amazing happened.
The shackles and the choke-chain that had always hindered me from telling the tales that burned in my widdle dark chocolate heart began fire-hosing my keyboard. Yup. My intricate palace intrigue plots and sprawling fantastical worlds became infiltrated with...
Scenes of explicit kinky, porn.
Then Persephone & Hades overtook my life and it was all downhill, straight to the Underworld.
🎶 And that was fucking awesome. 🎶
I got one other Big Fiver shot a couple years ago, thanks to one of my besties and a random series of events, but by then The Kink was too strong with this one. I handed in my overhauled gladiatrix manuscript, knowing full well that it had teetered too long on that cliff and plummeted happily into the Lake of Doom like Gollum capturing The Precious.
This once-enthusiastic editor scraped up some polite reasons for rejection. These reasons made me scratch my head. “Right…ummm…isn’t that one of the things an editor is supposed to help you fix?”
I did not argue. I know my novels aren’t fit for mainstream consumption so we politely parted ways.
Fast-forward to that writers’ conference I just went to this past February. This particular con was not focused on the art and craft of writing. Its main focus is the biz of being a published author. It was badass. It was the perfect level of over-my-head to make me flap my arms and kick my legs really hard to stay afloat. Everything a voracious learner loves.
Unfortunately, my brain broke on the first morning just from walking into the main convention center hall. There were 350 people there, you see, and they were all talking over each other. Crack! Crumble…done. And the event hadn’t even truly begun.
My brain’s reaction completely shocked me, especially considering all those flashy light triumphs. But then again, I hadn’t subjected it to that kind of circumstance since the last writers’ con I’d attended in 2012.
Back when I only had one TBI. (That’s Traumatic Brain Injury, if you don’t know.)
I’ve now had four, because in addition to that punch and the seizures, I also got rammed from behind again by a dude not paying attention at a stop sign in 2014.
So let’s cover the series of events that have transpired this year and led to the revolutionary things I decided to do in 2020:
1) NEW YEARS DAY
I weather a laser-light show and say "FuckThis" to Goals & Dreams. Go me.
2) THE WRITERS CON
In February, I have to bail on half my scholarship, either in bed with the curtains blacking out the light, or in the silent, empty jacuzzi doing mermaid-therapy meditation so I can haul myself to the things I most desperately yearn to attend.
Between that and the highly educational classes, I realize that my worst suspicions about self-publishing are well-founded: It’s pretty much the same job I’ve been trying to replace since the Year of Seizures…
But on steroids.
I mean, the writing world is significantly huger and more oversaturated than the belly dance world. If I can’t even attend one of these things without twitching-n-glitching anymore, I certainly can’t present or sell at them month after month, year after year. (That’s not even an option right now amidst a pandemic, but I didn’t know that then.)
Self-publishing also requires additional left-brain and frontal-lobe tasks that consume my Spoons like an iron-deficient goat.
It took several months of denial-ragey-grief to finally arrive at Acceptance. I cannot traditionally self-publish any more than I can live up to the demands of a traditional publishing house.
In other words, I need to let go of my Big Goal & Dream of becoming a professional author via any method I have ever heard of.
3) THE MICROSCOPIC BADASS
On my way home from the conference, I get stuck in DIA for ten hours. While there, Colorado gets its first confirmed Covid cases. Joy!
And we all know what happens to the world after that.
4) THE ONLINE SCHOOL
In March, I have to cancel my local teaching and try to poop out the online dance school I’ve been attempting to build since 2017, single-handedly, while on disability, with a startup budget already in the red due to having to pay for my spinal and brain repair on my good looks--I mean my credit cards. (Hahahahahaha…)
After learning this past August that my additional head traumas have downgraded my former diagnosis of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury to Moderate, even Voc. Rehab determines I am not a good candidate for their customary Employment track. I am best placed exactly where I am: Home-Based Self-Employment.
Alas, they also determine that they can’t help me unless I can acquire a 49% business partner to do all the tasks my brain can’t. For free until we make money. Amidst a pandemic. On a dance form that defies any recognizable SEO labels. (Hahahahaha…)
I could fill an entire blog with my Dance & Dain Bramage Adventures, and possibly never finish before my death--oh, wait. I have one of those.
5) TOXICITY FLUSH
As you might have guessed, I’m a little stressed this year. I know. Shocker. Along with losing my martial arts gym to Covid, I also lose access to a punching bag. True, I still beat the snot out of air, but it's not the same. I abruptly have to find new ways of burning off frustrations, just like I have to go from Mostly Trains Alone to Completely Trains Alone. Now that's a fascinating inner journey.
As such, the biggest martial arts training I've done this year is all mental.
Over the summer, some things finally come to a head. BOOM. Some long-smoldering volcanoes explode. Silver lining: I at long-long-long-last gain access to the trauma therapy I have needed since I was four.
Thank you, microscopic badass.
See, with half the world losing its shit, they've decided to allow broke-ass people on Medicaid, like me, to receive mental health and trauma therapy. What a concept.
I start doing EMDR, as recommended by my new neuropsychologist. Miraculously, shit that used to bother me and really concern me isn't bothering or concerning me like it used to. So relationships I used to put up with: GONE. Situations I used to put up with or had no clue were actually toxic: GONE. Hesitations I have lived under for decades: GONE.
This even includes my forever-frustration and the biggest demoralizer of my online world: Facebook. GONE.
🎶 And it is fucking BLISSFUL. 🎶
8) MY GOBS OF NOVELS - WTF?
In addition to all this nonfiction and memoir writing I've been pumping out on this blog over the past year, I also have multiple fiction manuscripts across five different fantastical worlds sitting in my computer, collecting dust as they wait for that Big Dream & Goal of being properly edited and eventually published.
Over the summer, I embark upon a massive project that I decided to do after speaking to a prominent fantasy author at the conference: I take all those worlds and create one Umbrella Fantasy World. Each book series is now set in a different region and time period of the same world. Yes, it's an Easter Egg hunt. I design the prototype maps, timelines, and cultural migrations, as well as finally overhauling the first world I built--the world of my Gladiatrix series.
When I originally designed it (back in 1993 in Northern Minnesota), I'd never heard of such things as Alternate History, but there was a popular world building theory that was all the rage in those days. You take a historical place and time, tweak it to the storyline you want to see happen, and slap different names onto everybody and every place. These days, readers aren't satisfied unless they're transported to somewhere they've never been.
Neither am I.
So now my once-Greco-Roman-ish world has finally become a place of its own, and its pantheon is no longer an Olympian lookalike. Go me.
Alas, over the year I had arrived at the loading dock of Acceptance that being a professional author on my brain injury sounds like a more advanced version of the touring-dancer-career-nightmare I’ve been trying to escape for the past decade. So I begin to ask myself the following question:
Why not just become an amateur author?
And that sounds as fun as pock-marking my novels with porn.
I need some fun this year, so at the end of November I start looking into Wattpad and other amateur writing platforms. Alas, Wattpad appears to be rank with plagiarism and is notorious for burying quality writing beneath an overabundance of teenage, angsty toxicporn. Not the place for me. The other platforms don’t feel any better.
9) THE SPEAKEASY
So, no shit, there I am, driving on the freeway to the chiropractor a week later when the drawbridge slams down onto the ground with a resounding THUD.
*DO THIS. NOW.*
The idea that comes to me is one of those, “Duh,” moments, and it’s not like this has never occurred to me before. I just haven't been ready to pull this particular trigger.
You know what the popular definition of insanity is, right? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result…
Well, here’s a novel idea: I'm going to give my novels to the world on a free platform where I am actually considered quite conservative.
If you have to ask, you will never know.
If you know, you need only ask.
~The Grey Lady, Harry Potter
Since the bulk of my old audience are dancers, and the rest of what people follow me for are topics like Healing, Creativity & Innovation, TBI, and PTSD, putting my fiction behind this big firewall has allowed me the freedom to fly with it. Freak-flags, ahoy!
I no longer have to worry about, "Ohhhh man...I can warn my dance people all day long, but they reeeeeally may not wanna know that side of me, and I don't want them stumbling into it because they didn't read my all fine print warning labels." Rest assured, anybody who's mortified by having to sign up for an account where my fiction is housed--they are sooooooo not ready to read my novels.
So I am gradually building the Speakeasy entrance from this website. At the moment, my fiction is all free. Perhaps someday I'll feel like it's been crowd-source edited enough to ever put it up on Amazon for purchase.
But then again, I may just stick it into Patreon if I want to monetize the edited versions, because I have become attached to being able to include the soundtrack and video clips at the end of chapters, just like I do here in the memoirs. I LOVE this multimedia writing format, and I'm honestly not sure if I'll ever go back to the idea of making official books. (With enough requests, I would compile the suckers into an ebook format.)
10) SPINAL REPAIR & PATRONAGE
Another experiment I've been doing this year is with the patron site Ko-Fi. It's like Patreon, but this one does not require patrons to dedicate a specific dollar amount each month. Nor does it require me to make promises of output that my brain injury won't let me sustain.
So here I am on the final day of 2020.
I am down to almost zero income--thanks, microscopic badass and Dain Bramage.
On occasional flukes, someone signs up for a private Zoom lesson or buys my online course, Dance of Elemental Alchemy, Level 2 Weekly Workouts. I've finished the 5 Elements, and I'm almost done filming Alchemy. I was just about to do that over this holiday when I was struck by a lovely little thing called a PTSD Anniversary Trigger. It stopped me from driving on the very last chance I had to get my spine put back in alignment before the Hap-Hap-Happiest Season of all descended upon us.
So now I have to wait to film Alchemy until I no longer have a knife jammed into the base of my spine, an icepick piercing my ass, a numb right hand, and a major pain in the neck. Which creates a pain in my head. And fatigue. And a fuzzy brain.
Once this grand experiment of learning how to create online dance courses is complete--I started with Level 2 because this was originally created as Covid makeup classes for my Level 2 local students--I will begin filming the Level 1 and Intro To Elements material.
Honestly, I'm extremely demoralized with the entire topic of sharing my dance with the world because algorithms hate me and, according to the numbers, nobody even wants it when it's free. People are seeing it. But unless my new dancing looks like my old dancing, I pretty much get crickets. That's one of the main reasons why I quit Facebook.
Because when I put out a video of me cluelessly belly dancing in my 20s? Ohhhhh all the likes and loves and squeees and pompoms. I personally feel that I'm a gazillion times better dancer than I was back then, and that my stuff is a bazillion times more interesting than my attempts to color within those old lines.
But the people who agree with me have yet to discover me.
Either that, or...Covid.
So as of the final hours of 2020, I am barely capable of paying the minimum balance on my credit cards, and I dump hundreds of dollars in spinal repair and online school operating expenses onto them each month. Sometimes it takes getting out my begging hat with friends and family to even accomplish that. Such a boost for the self-esteem. Go me.
Once I can no longer afford minimum balances, I'll have to declare bankruptcy.
Declare bankruptcy over a ludicrously small dollar amount compared to such a catastrophic tap-out. Bankruptcies are for...like...hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not this.
But I'm quite close to having to do that, because my disability covers nothing except the base rent of my townhouse. It would take also putting heat, water, phone, internet, and trash onto my credit cards for half a year of red-tape to even have my disability case reviewed. Then maybe I might get, at most, $750/month because an accountant screwed up my Social Security pay-in many years ago.
I'm simply not eligible for true Social Security Disability.
Honestly, I'd just rather get off charity, but that requires finding anything I can do that the world finds shelling out their hard earned money worthwhile--and keep at it permanently and routinely, with a glitchy brain that doesn't let me sustain jack squat. Like I said, even Voc. Rehab doesn't know what to do with me, except exactly what I'm doing right now.
So if I can't even pay my minimum balances anymore?
Well, I'll have to close down this bombing failure of an online school, and I will have to stop seeing my neuro-chiropractor.
AND THESE TREATMENTS ARE WORKING.
I have been compiling the details for some in-depth posts about it.
Here's a teaser:
Note the scoliosis and my pelvic tilt - higher on the right side.
Here is July 2020
Hips almost level.
Less scoliosis in the spine.
Now NOTE MY BELLY RING!
Let's see them side by side:
Yup. You're seeing that correctly. Not only are my lumbar vertebrae now sitting directly in front of my navel, but look at the space that has been created by straightening the curvature and my wonky hips. That belly ring has migrated vertically almost half the length of a vertebra--and in spinal repair, millimeters are huge progress.
THIS injury is why I have lived with the sensation that I've got a knife jammed into he base of my spine for 20 years. I complained about it in the emergency room, and it's one of the biggest reasons why my dancing changed so dramatically after that big car wreck. Because sometimes shimmies and other hip isolations hurt too badly to do them.
But not when my spine and hips are in alignment.
Right now I'm in pain because it's been 3 weeks without a chiropractic treatment, and I won't get another appointment until the Happiest Season of All is done. Then pain relief will allow me to film Alchemy and thus complete my first online course.
This is a taste of Level 2
Teasers of all 5 Elements and more are HERE.
You can buy this course HERE. While it's in this beta version, you can still get in on making personalized requests for clarification videos until it's complete.
You can arrange private online coaching HERE.
You can become a patron HERE.
PATRONAGE: If you like any of the stuff I do and want to help me:
--keep healing my body and brain on my own dime
--halt my Stage 3 spinal degeneration and prevent it from progressing to Stage 4 by the age of 50
--prevent a relapse into chronic seizures from the backup of my cerebrospinal fluid caused by misalignments in my neck
--prevent a worsening of my torn right meniscus and the bone in my left foot that keeps popping out from the misalignment of my hips
--keep teaching dance
--keep the online school open
--film Level 1 or anything else you might wish to learn from me
--keep blogging these memoirs
--keep self-publishing my fiction
--pay off my ever-growing debt for spinal repair and online school startup & operating expenses
--set my overburdened, stressed out, elderly parents free from having to support me
--ever stand a chance at getting off disability and becoming a productive member of society again
Then buying me a coffee (Ko-Fi) will be most appreciated, because I can't travel or perform onstage regularly anymore (especially not amidst a pandemic), so I'm currently not charging a cent for anything I create except some of my dance instruction.
Yup. That was totally an unashamed, Act of Desperation pitch for patronage.
I've recently been asked, "Did 2020 hit you as hard as it hit everybody else?" No. 2020 was merely the final boulder that crashed down from a twenty-year avalanche that started with a drunk driver, took a detour into domestic violence, and ended up here.
AND IN SPITE OF ALL THAT STORMY WEATHER, IN MY OVERALL CLIMATE, I HAVE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER, MORE CONTENTED AND EXCITED ABOUT WHO I AM AND WHAT I'M DOING WITH MY LIFE THAN I AM RIGHT NOW.
APPARENTLY I DID A FEW THINGS RIGHT IN 2020.
🎶 AND THAT IS FUCKING AWESOME. 🎶
My newest performance dance
'TIS THE SEASON!
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
--UP NEXT: The final installment of HOLIDAY HELL 2000, the 20th Year Anniversary Series.
--OR if you're curious about how the heck all these shit-storms have led me to happiness, my journey is all being documented here: