love

Goodbye 2018

Posted in general, love on December 20th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Goodbye 2018

So far, I have managed to avoid the winter blues. Vitamin D, kids.

2018 has been a period of dramatic transition and progress. At the beginning of the year, I stepped down from management, and took a pay and hours cut to focus more on my art and comics. I finished FLIGHT, two new music videos, my colouring book, and I officially began Queen of Assholes. I completed more than fifty new pieces of original artwork, including the colouring book pages, Patreon requests, and a commission. Plus thirty or forty sketch cards. Also, I produced two Jin’s Kitchen videos, the Pumpkin Spice video, and launched my video blog. And some podcasts, blah blah blah. It is easy to forget how much one has accomplished, in an environment that demands fresh content almost daily, but this was my most productive year since leaving “retirement”.

I think I rebuilt my Art and Photo websites, too? It is all a blur.

After years of struggle, I seem to have at last gained control over my anxiety, insecurities, and obsessive and catastrophic thought patterns. Though I still suffer some physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, these last few months I have felt much less burdened. Maybe I am too tired. Maybe I have contracted a terminal case of give no fucks. I have things to do. A great many things. And life is short. One lesson that has really sunk in this year, is to keep away from people who are too eager to see the worst in themselves and others. Cynical and negative people. They cannot be lifted, except by their own actions. They will only drag you down. That was an exceptionally hard pill to swallow.

Sometimes, what feels like an act of kindness on the surface is actually being an asshole. And the thing that feels, superficially, like being an asshole, is the real act of kindness. These are the themes I am exploring in my new book. I am fundamentally a kind-hearted and honest person who has made mistakes while fighting my way through anxiety, depression, and the circumstances of my life. I woke up one day in 2014, stared in the mirror, and said, “I need to change.” I have been going through that clumsy process ever since.

The gym has been good for me. Focusing in on the physical body — becoming consciously aware of the muscles and their movements — creates a feeling of clarity and groundedness. My friend Damian, who is an exceptionally-talented artist himself — trains me. While working out, and frequently hanging around the gym afterward, we often have conversations about life, growth, learning, relationships — those kind of things. I have come to really treasure that.

Which brings me to my relationship with Stephen.

My relationship with Stephen is so entirely different from every other intimate relationship I have had, that it has literally changed my perspective of what a healthy relationship even is. I know from my own research that I formed an anxious-attachment style growing up. Most of my relationships have been a combination of emotional unavailability, on one or both sides, and some form of co-dependency. After two-and-a-half years together, Stephen is probably the first person I have been able to form an intimate, secure attachment to. I might even cast doubts on my ability to love another person at all before this point. (The ex-husband accused me of being a robot, although I was strongly attached to and emotional about my pet rats.) Even during the brief times we have split up, we have both unconditionally supported each other. No matter what, I have always felt safe, loved, and accepted by him. His complete and total unselfconciousness has helped me to feel comfortable in my own skin. I finally know what it feels like to be loved in a positive and supportive way. He has a tightly-knit, very loving family. I am sure that is no coincidence.

Stephen is not without his own troubles. He left shortly after the beginning of our relationship for issues he needed to resolve with his ex-girlfriend. It was a huge step forward for me at the time to experience that loss without anger or bitterness. Ultimately our attraction and bond pulled us back together. The rest of our conflict has mostly been rooted in finances. He lost the job he had held for about ten years shortly after we first got together, and has struggled to get back on his feet since, as older men often do in this economy. I am not able to support two people, when I can barely remain in the black month-to-month and feed myself. I have a small emergency fund, and when it is gone, there is nothing left. All of my parents and grandparents are deceased. I am on my own. I am constantly stressed by the delicate juggling act between my personal business and my day job. Still, I try to help others when I can.

Stephen is working again now, and we are doing much better.

When I began this journey in early 2015, after deciding to leave my marriage, I said I wanted the kind of relationship where both people are just as crazy about each other after ten years, as they were on the day they met. I cannot know what the future holds for Stephen and me. I do know that even after everything we have been through, growing individually, and together, we still lay around staring into each others’ eyes from time to time. I still think about how handsome he looks when I see him dressed in a button-up shirt and tie. In his arms is still my favourite place to be. It feels like home. Every challenge that has pushed up apart initially, has only brought us closer together, after we cleared it. And the man cooks the best steak I have ever eaten.

Sometimes messy, imperfect reality turns out to be better than a dream.

Merry Christmas to you all, and Happy New Year.

My Broken Heart

Posted in love on October 9th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on My Broken Heart

“It’s like getting shot in the leg. You learn to walk again,
but your gait is never quite the same.” – Me

In my early 30s, I received an endometrial ablation and tubal ligation for both personal and medical reasons. These procedures improved my quality of life immensely, and twelve years of continuous hormonal birth control use were a major exacerbating factor in my zombie-like depression. Perhaps ironically, if I had not undergone the surgery, it is unlikely that any of the past four years would have happened. I would still be in Houston, plugging away in Minecraft and binge-watching television shows, slowly eating myself to death.

Even as a child, I never wanted biological children — mostly stemming from a fear of pregnancy, but also, I struggle with the idea of creating more humans in a world of finite resources, and when so many existing children need loving homes. Adoption was always a “perhaps someday” option in the back of my mind, and I had myself sterilized without hesitation. About six months after discontinuing the hormone pills, I went out and got my first part-time day job in seven or eight years. I was (for lack of a better descriptor) almost autistic in my social awkwardness, but it was retail, and offered plenty of opportunity to practice conversation and people skills. I eventually moved on to another job for roughly two years, where I was promoted to management for the first time, and saved up the money I would use in 2015 to move to Saint Paul.

It was when I left this second job finally, in the fall of 2014, that I “woke up” and began producing my artwork and comics again. It was as if my brain had snapped back, like a rubber band, to the early 2000s. I reconnected with old friends and colleagues, and all the past feelings and unresolved issues I had been bottling up came back in a volcanic rush. Thankfully, most people were very patient and understanding with me during this process. By the time I left Texas, I had mended many fences and buried many hatchets.

In the years preceding my move, several of my friends in Houston had begun having children of their own. My feelings on the issue softened considerably. In the process of leaving my lifeless marriage and moving, I met someone I absolutely adored, who possessed all of the qualities I am searching for, and I could imagine building a life together with — but who also wanted children. We proceeded with an angst-fueled relationship, anyway. Open to adoption, and naturally optimistic, I felt some sort of solution could eventually be found. Him, less so on all counts. The hot-cold, push-pull nature of our interactions, combined with the feeling that I alone would never be enough, shattered my then-fragile self-confidence and drove me to the edge of madness. I was left cartwheeling through the first half of 2016, until a thoughtless invasion of my home and privacy later that summer finished the job of utterly breaking me.

It was Stephen who came into my life and offered the support I needed, in a sort-of fatherly way, to reassemble myself. Sometimes I wonder if I should be grateful. It is from the remains of this devastation that I finally discovered my own strength and my sense of true identity. I have been able to forgive both myself, and those that hurt me, though I hope to never see the person who violated me again. What happened to me has cruelly become a joke.

Sunday was… soul-crushing. I found myself, at breakfast on Sunday morning, accidentally seated near someone to whom I desperately wished I could say a thousand words, even if all I might actually manage was, “Have a nice day.” I looked forward and continued my conversation, trying to pretend I had not noticed, while every nerve in my body stood at attention and begged to close the few feet of space between us. I smiled and continued talking shop to my friends, until I was sure that he was gone. Then I finished breakfast, put on my coat, went to my car, and cried. I sat and cried, in the grey, cold light.

Sunday evening my best girl-friend Taya welcomed her new little boy into the world. I am incredibly excited and so happy for her, but I confess the photos have been difficult to look at. Sunday night I broke down. Stephen came over so I would not be alone. Helping Taya in any way I can might be the closest I ever get to being a mother, myself. Perhaps one day I will have a life-partner, and I can align the moon and stars into a situation where adopting an older child is realistic. Once I have gotten all the convention-hopping and travelling out of my blood, of course. I have tried my hardest to accept and make peace with all possible outcomes at this point, though it sometimes still hurts.

All I can do is adjust my crown, hold my head high, and keep working.

Jin Wicked is Sick of Shit, Vol 2

Posted in love on September 19th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Jin Wicked is Sick of Shit, Vol 2

There is somehow, simultaneously, a lot going on at the moment, and a lot of nothing. I was reminded earlier this week of the need to choose your words carefully when I received a phone call the purpose of which, I am not sure. It seemed designed solely to anger and provoke me. I told this person I was drawing, but they insisted on interrupting me repeatedly, anyway. Inebriated rehashing and reheating of an incident that occurred earlier that day, and the rambling confessions that they knew deep down they would never keep their promises to me. Making flimsy excuses for how they had taken advantage of my forgiving nature and generosity, repeatedly, over and over… I could go on. Admitting you are a shitheel does not absolve you of your responsibility to do something about being a shitheel. And fuck, don’t then double-down on it.

But I remember, not that long ago, being the aggrieved and wounded party, grasping at straws desperately trying to justify both the incredible pain I felt, and lessen the guilt of the pain I had caused. I remember, so I listened.

“The thing I hated most about you — couldn’t stand about you, I think — but also had a lot of pride in, is that you are smarter than me.”

It is well-documented that many men struggle with intelligent and successful women. But here is the thing — your insecurity is not my responsibility to fix. Your insecurity is not a license to tear me down in front of mutual friends. It is not a license to act at times as if I do not exist in public or on social media. It is not a license to diminish the importance, value, or skill of my work. It is not a license to repay my debts last, disrespect my time, and treat me like one of your lowest priorities. It is not a license to criticize the efficient lifestyle I have created for myself. And if you care more about being perceived by others as a “fanboy” than visibly and vocally supporting the dreams of someone you claim to love, that’s your insecurity and your problem. I have to believe that there’s someone out there brave and bold enough to (however badly) sing together with me from the rooftops. If not, then I continue this journey alone.

My purpose is not to be your self-esteem booster, arm candy, trophy partner, salve for a wounded ego, or a proof of virility during your midlife crisis. I want an equal. I work harder than anyone I personally know. I am working eleven hour days at my day job (really), so that I can free more whole days for binge working on my art, comics, and other projects, and still sustain a certain level of income. I monitor every calorie going into my mouth and give up about six hours to the gym every week because I care about being healthy and looking my best. I relentlessly promote my work seven days a week in every venue I can find to be successful. I acknowledge my faults and work to address them. I have spent the past three years working on my own issues, anxieties, and insecurities, and I have no desire to go back. Resting on my laurels is not a thing that I do. There are always bigger fish to fry and steeper mountains to climb. If my accomplishments, growth, or success intimidate or threaten you, that is your insecurity to deal with. It is not a license to treat me poorly.

I say all this in the context of multiple relationships, throughout my life.

By all but the most conservative definitions, I am a Good Woman. I am caring, affectionate, compassionate, generous to a fault, honest, and loyal. I do not drink, do not use drugs, do not party, do not stay out late, and I will always let you know where I am, and who I am with. I pay attention. I will remember all your preferences and do things without having to be asked. I do not care how much money you make, as long as you pull your weight, and you work. I do not care about fancy houses, cars, or status symbols. I do not care about material things much, at all. Be able to make me laugh. Match my effort, clean up after yourself, and work to keep up with me. Really simple, but keeping up with me is not for the faint of heart. My vices are being a workaholic, a box of twelve cigarillos every few months, and bitching about television.

I feel like a fool. I feel like a fool for seeing the best in people. I feel like a fool for believing. I am tired. I am tired of crying. I am tired of meaningless words and broken promises. I am tired of my male “friends” who conveniently turn a blind eye and sweep it under the rug when it is their “bro” doing something wrong to a woman. I am tired of hearing “I want to help you,” and “I want to protect you,” from people who end up doing precisely the opposite.

I am tired of fighting to prevent the hardening of my heart.

Sacrifice

Posted in love on August 12th, 2018 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Sacrifice

Stephen and I have ended our romantic relationship, but we remain friends. He is a genuinely good person with a beautiful and caring heart, and I do not regret a moment of the nearly two years we have enjoyed together. We have supported each other through large transitions in both of our lives, as well as a period of mutual personal growth. From the beginning, our relationship has required tremendous amounts of effort and emotional vulnerability, while we each worked out our respective issues. I can honestly say we are both much healthier, well-rounded individuals today. But the suspicion has been growing stronger that this has run its course, and I am exhausted. It is now time for me to take care of myself, and for Stephen to take care of himself.

Jin and Stephen

Stephen is also sixteen years older than me, and dreaming of his retirement, while I have been building the go-go life of a convention-hopping nomad. We can, and will, continue to support each other as friends, but this is where our life paths start to diverge. When Stephen first found me, alone, and twisting in the wind after a traumatic experience, he said, “I want to teach you to fly.” That, he accomplished. But eventually I would have to stretch my wings.

Jin and Stephen

Right now, what I need and want most is to be alone so that I can focus on my new book. I am not an ideal partner — I need a lot of quiet time and a lot of near-solitude. Once the honeymoon period wanes away, realistically, I am going to be happiest with another industrious workaholic, and someone I can connect with on an artistic level. My work is at the heart of my identity. I feel the absence of a connection there, acutely. And it makes me sad. Three years ago, I left, with a dream of eventually becoming half of a creative team with a new partner. Someone I could deeply share all of myself with. Over the past few months, I have seen my dream in action, with the mutually-creative and supportive husband and wife team of Joseph and Kristina Linsner. It can be done. And I cannot allow loneliness, insecurity, or fear to lead me into a life of regret and depression for a second time. It is not fair to me, and it is not fair to Stephen. I am content alone. I am prepared to build my career alone. I am prepared to remain alone, if it comes to that. My work is my everything.

Soon, I will be removing the television set from my apartment and discarding the couch, as they only serve to remind me of the time I have squandered in the past. I want a quiet life of simple food, simple pleasures, hard work, and sacrifice. As long as I have food, health, and bills are paid, that is enough.

This hurts terribly, but the right choice is rarely the easy choice.

Someone once told me, “Pain is bad, and you should do everything you can to avoid it.” But pain is an essential part of life. Pain reminds us to appreciate the things we have in the moment, because loss is guaranteed, and life itself is a temporary condition. By embracing pain, and allowing it to travel through us, we are able to untangle the stranglehold of fear. And when we no longer fear pain and our own emotions, we are free to become our true selves.

Clarity

Posted in general, love on October 3rd, 2016 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Clarity

“I knew you were trouble as soon as I laid eyes on you.”

The road to Hell, as the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. Both my sins and the trespasses upon me are many — the intention to make amends, the intention to change, the intention to love, the intention to help, and the intention to heal. Some have met with success. Others have done more harm than good. I can recognize my own hubris and presumptuousness.

“I’m easy to please. Just do what I say, and don’t do what I say not to do.”

Until recently, my head has been full of voices — not the false phantom voices of insanity, but a more insidious refrain anchored in reality. The silver tongues of friends and lovers, flattering in one ear, while accusing in the other. Advice twisted by rose- or shit-coloured glasses; always, always couched in concern for my personal needs and well-being. Opinions biased by experience, desire, and wishful thinking. I am asshole. I am brilliant. I am crazy. This is who I am. This is how I should feel. This is how I am broken. This is why I do the things that I do. This is how so many have abused and mistreated me. These voices became more influential and persuasive until I was dependent on them, and I lost the ability to think for myself or to make independent decisions.

You know my rules. I’m starting to think you like drama.”

“I got this. I got this. I got this. I got this. I told you, I got this.”

I am not your master. I am not a puppet. I am not a toy. I am not a pet. I am not your everything. I am not your afterthought. I do not want your pedestal. I do not want your self-serving protection. You are not my therapist. You are not my caretaker. You are not my keeper. You do not have the right to assign yourself any of these roles. I do not exist to bolster your self-worth, either as a trophy, or to make you a martyr. I am not a merit badge for your sash.

“You want to give me everything, but you can’t do what I tell you to.”

“I knew when you came to me that your marriage was over.”

I am a person — truth. I am a monster, sometimes. Beautiful, perhaps, in my flawed way, and fierce. I do my best to be a decent person, but life has made me what I am. Like a mirror, to be close to me is to be willing to confront the dark truths that you do not like about yourself. The function of the artist is to observe and reflect. No promise was ever made that art must be pretty. I do not wish to be coddled and told that I am not a monster. I need those who can see the firestorm behind my eyes and confront it, unafraid. Those secure and strong enough to temper — and be tempered by — my heat. Those who can view me objectively as an equal, without fawning or subservience. Those who do not attempt to control me, or to presume what is in my best interest, regardless of intention. Did I not listen? Or have I listened too much?

“I promised myself that I would always love you unconditionally.”

So many sides of the same multi-faceted die; to help me, to hurt me, to serve me, to insulate me, to rescue me. Whichever way it is cast, I am infantalized and stripped of my autonomy. I am ashamed and humbled for allowing myself to be manipulated in this way. I can forgive, but I cannot forget. Never again will someone else tell me who I am, how to feel, or what to think.

“You are becoming the person I always knew you were.

I am the person you all refused to see.