On feathers and healing

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Photo by Vincent van Zaling via Unsplash

The Crane Wife is a Japanese folk tale. The version I know is that a man finds an injured crane at his doorstep and nurses it back to health. After it flies away, a woman shows up and the two fall in love and marry. In order to make ends meet, she offers to weave wondrous garments out of silk for them to sell, but she tells her husband he must never watch her weaving. He pushes her to weave more and more and his greed increases while he ignores her declining health. One day, he peeks into her work room to understand her secret and sees a crane plucking out its own feathers and using them to weave. …

Writing in Trying Times

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Tell me if this sounds familiar: I need to engage in a hobby or creative endeavor in order to feel healthy, but I’m having a hard time finding the energy or focus to do that right now.

I’m hearing this from a lot of creatives and I’m absolutely saying it myself. I’m barely writing these past few months because I find the whole thing — previously easy — to be like pulling teeth. There’s just so much outside stimuli to distract us going on right now, that it’s no wonder we’re struggling.

As for me, one sure sign that I’m doing well, emotionally, is that I’m writing consistently. Therefore, one of the earliest hints that my mental health is declining is that I stop writing a few times a week. I brought this pattern up to my therapist, so she now checks in with me during our sessions by asking how my writing is going; it’s a solid barometer to read my overall mood with. …

How I learned empathy the hard way

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Photo by Olga Kononenko on Unsplash

I used to be kind of a shitty person.

Back in college and in my early twenties, I failed to deal with a lot of internalized misogyny, ableism, classism, and some inadvertent racism that came from a very white, very upper-middle-class suburban upbringing just riddled with privilege.

I didn’t see anything wrong with my low-key callousness. I was, in many ways, a good person; I was a good friend, a supportive romantic partner, I was charitable, and I was a fair judge of character, and a good listener.

But people are layered, as we all know, and I still held these toxic attitudes under all that goodness and light.

I would mock people whose grammar skills weren’t up to par — but that’s inherently classist and racist (ask me someday about how English grammar is racist — that’s a fun talk). …

It’s okay to not be okay

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Photo by iMattSmart on Unsplash

Maybe I’m not okay right now, Susan. Maybe the world is too much. Maybe my productivity is suffering (and it has nothing to do with remote work, but everything to do with the state of the world right now). Maybe staying at home is bad for my mental health. Maybe I’m scared of the callousness of so many Americans.

Maybe it’s all going to be okay, but not right now. Not yet. Not today.

We’ll return to something resembling normal someday, I know, but we don’t know when that will be. We haven’t solved COVID. 100,000 Americans are dead, nothing about this disease has changed, and we have no plan. You’re damn right I have “re-entry anxiety.” I’m not ready to risk my life nor my partner’s life for the privilege of being able to work in the office. …

In defense of Guy Fieri

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Photo by Marcel Heil on Unsplash

In a world gone mad, I find most of us are craving familiarity and comfort. For me, part of that is an ongoing marathon of Guy Fieri shows, often accompanied by a hearty cheeseburger. Considering the empire he’s built with the Food Network and the frequency with which they air Triple D or Triple G (or Guy’s Big Bite, or Guy’s Ranch Kitchen, or Tournament of Champions), he can easily be considered one of the stars in the channel’s crown.

And yet, he receives so much vitriol for being a flame-covered, platinum spiked loudmouth (which no one can deny he is to some degree). Where does all of this Guy Fieri bashing even come from? He’s a big — perhaps even outlandish — personality, sure, but when you dig (and you don’t have to dig far because with Fieri, what you see is what you get), you find that he’s actually one of the nicest human beings in show business. …

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

I rescue parrots. It’s not my job, but it’s my passion. Working with an mid-Atlantic organization called Phoenix Landing, I act as a foster or adoptive pet caretaker for birds who need a second (or third or fourth or fifth) home.

It’s hard work. The animals come to you with pieces of themselves missing or broken; it’s up to you to make them whole again with love and patience. Not every story gets a happy fairy tale ending; sometimes homing placements don’t work out and the bird is surrendered and we try all over again.

As for me? I have five rescued adopted parrots, which is probably four too many (depending on who you ask), but I wouldn’t have it any other way. …

How a slow-paced game can soothe a fast-paced life

Go and live your best island life.

If quarantine has done any good for us at all, it would be that it’s provided some folks with an opportunity to engage in revitalizing hobbies: bread baking, gardening, house repair, arts and crafts, cooking, just to name a few. I find it beautiful that in times of crisis, one powerful human instinct is to engage in healing activities that create something new and beautiful.

And just at the right time, along came a video game from Nintendo that lets us practice these things on a little island oasis of our own. Animal Crossing New Horizons places your little villager avatar on a deserted island and gives you the tools to customize and build up a small and friendly community of quirky animal neighbors. …

The wisdom of doing nothing

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Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

Hi, it’s me, your neighborhood annoying productivity cheerleader. I’ve learned something in the last few weeks — it’s okay not to push yourself to achieve something every single day. Is “write every day” good advice? Of course! Is it realistic? Well, that depends. Should you punish yourself for not being able to do it? Absolutely NOT.

I suffer from anxiety and perfectionism, all rolled up together with a bow of horrific, crippling guilt on top. So when I get up at 6:45 in the morning, my whole day is GO GO GO until I pass out, exhausted, somewhere around 1 am. …

How to fight a one-two punch right now

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

On a good day, I struggle with depression. Maybe a little less; perhaps it’s more annoying those days and less utterly disruptive. But it’s there, all the same. Now, add in a global pandemic and orders restricting my ability to go out and socialize with my lifeline friends and places, and we’ve got quite a problem on our hands. I’m not doing well some days, if I’m going to be completely honest.

I’m not alone in this. Citizens of the world — even healthy, neurotypical people — are reporting an increase in depression and anxiety symptoms. But what’s to be done? Not everyone has access to a psychiatrist or therapist in these difficult times — and those resources alone are not a panacea that will magically solve an international mental health crisis. …

But our politeness might actually be hurting people

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Photo by Ashley Jurius on Unsplash

What strange times we’re all living through. We humans? We’re social creatures and we’re programmed to smile, chat, shake hands, lean in, hold doors, and be polite — but right now, obeying Miss Manners can put you and others in peril.

The idea of being polite in the face of danger is nothing new; women do it all the time around men they don’t know or who hold positions of power.

But quarantine politeness is a more insidious kind of hazard.

Being nice for niceness’ sake endangers you and your community.

While in line with my cart at the grocery store last week, a man with a basket came up and stood right behind me. Two feet away at most. I felt the beginnings of panic creeping in around the edges. My forehead and back sported a cold sweat even as my glasses fogged up from my breath coming heavy and humid inside my reusable face mask. He wasn’t wearing a mask and he was standing far too close to me.


Deidre Delpino Dykes

Maryland Birdmancer, queer, speculative fiction author/editor, TTRPG player/GM, actually just three birds in a trench coat.

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