November 28, 1997

Gradually, I realize that my computing skills really are taking over the verbal ones, some of it is just sheer energy, after spending all day thinking through coding problems it is often hard to muster the energy to put words together. But a lot of it is how I was built.

Had a long talk with Flynn today, the first good talk he and I have had in quite some time. He and I have been drifting in our own directions, mostly since he got out of school and started working, because he's one of those personalities that, like John, will put in all kinds of hours to do what's needed, and neglect everyone and anyone around them to get things done. With John, it kinda took Mark to wake him up to the fact that he was neglecting our marriage to a degree that it was dangerous to us. Flynn wasn't as lucky.

But it was one of those self-defining things, one that I've been thinking of, on and off over the weekend. For Mark, the definition of what was worth doing had all to do with how that something affected himself. While it might affect others, it was just a by-product, a by-blow, that wasn't really important, could not and should not be central to why one does something. Flynn's the opposite, where the only things that matter are the things that affect the lives of others. Which is where I started when I first got involved with Mark, who was alone, nearly literally dying of loneliness, and needing anyone to change his life for him. So I dived in. It's a very dangerous thing, I've found, in the years since, to value only and solely what one can do for someone else's life to the desolation of ones own.

So now I look for a balance. I can't be like Mark, because I know that other people's response, reactions to what I do *is* important to me, but I also can't be what I was anymore. I learned that lesson with too much pain and too much grief, there has to be something in it for me. For my growth, for my life changes, for my soul, to better my life as well as others.

Flynn pointed out the other reason why I can't seem to swap back to verbal from computer, which is the old reality that I'm still an ex-multiple personality. Old coping mechanisms are hard to quit, especially when they're as deeply engrained as that one. At least, even though I still lose track of the time, it's not because I'm missing memories, which also kinda does explain why these journals and the fact that they are recording memory for me is so important to me. Precious become the things one has lost.

Speaking of lost, I really am Thankful for my fairy housecleaner. She didn't show up today, which meant that John and I had to clean the house for the party tomorrow, and I realized that I haven't really vacuumed, washed the floors or taken out the garbage for nearly seven years. Not all of them, at once, that is, and it gave me a lot of time to think as I did the light work. I think that if I were to ever have to work and write at the same time it would have to be something like that, where I could think of story stuff while I worked and just did stuff, to get the realities in my head rolling and working and thinking about them rather than immersing my head in the realities that a program affects.

It was really fun trying to think through the consequences of the fact that computers really are very good ways to model realities. Not even just the reality we're living in, but all kinds of other realities as well, if we please.

Reread Memory last night, until about 5am, working through Mile's inner journey. The mystery involved is a good one, but insignificant compared to the character development. I really enjoyed it again, and could feel, again, how it probably applied to my life.

I went to Caltech and to the University of Washington to get my degrees in Electrical Engineering. Back then there were so few women in EE that I was one of two women in a class of 200 MSEE's, and I felt, always, the pressure of it, of doing well, of setting the example, of holding up the tradition and blazing a path for those to come. Of having to always deal with some shit so that those after me would have less to deal with. The worst of which came from having a boss that was threatened by the fact that I was a female with a MSEE... but I did all the hot stuff I could, ASIC's, full-custom chips, and then, for a while high-speed CPU emulators. I was a EE in my head until about three years ago, even after two years of officially being a 'software engineer' with Virginia Aldrich, in part because she and that crew treated me as a EE who was dabbling in software, who was needed for my hardware experience. I designed and tested the chip that I was writing the source level debugger for, so that was my place.

When I first moved to Synario, I cried for two days straight. I realized then that after all that time, fighting so hard to be a hardware engineer, that I finally was giving all that up by going to be a 'real' software engineer. All that work that I'd done to be a true hardware engineer was being, in some ways, given up. Though I'm still an engineer. One that realizes, all the more recently, that my Engineer personality has become comfortable with the tools and disciplines of software engineering to the point that it does take over.

But I'm an engineer with some odd dreams. And some odd, not-too-much developed fledgling abilities as a writer. With a whole slew of realities in my head that are all fighting to get out. Add to that the knowledge, now, that my parents' families had all once been poets, professors, and artists before they were wiped out by the Cultural Revolution, and the early vector on that drive to be an engineer was to have a 'practical job' and one that had no association of getting killed for expressing oneself.

That deeply associative side of myself sees a mirror in Miles. Where I've had my very successful, profitable, and gung-ho career as an engineer, always pushing hard, forward, always looking to my accomplishments for my self-worth and even when that creative edge is sharpest and swings the fastest, it's not *me*. It leaves behind so much else that is what I am, how I'm made. When I'm deeply into a problem, all I am is the Engineer, solving, fixing, becoming that system, without all those other nagging question, without a need for morales, soul, faith, or dreams.

The whole me needs more than that. Perhaps the main reason for this journal. So, I guess, in the spirit of this holiday, I'll be thankful to Cera for pointing me at this possibility of expression, Anita for helping me get it to look like I want it to, Bryant for encouraging me and sharing in the fun, and Carl, most of all, for his thoughts. Also, as ever, to myJohn, for reading and listening even when he can't find the words to tell me why he likes it.

Thanksgiving was pleasant. Went with the Rostyki to the Jackson's house, as has been the tradition for decades, the two families trade off Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners each year, and it was boisterous, social, fun, and as interesting as ever. After the meal, everyone went out for a walk, to ease the stretch from dinner.

It was misting lightly, the light kisses of water disappearing with a cool touch, the ground wet and sparkling in the Christmas lights that had appeared that day. We talked quietly, just mostly enjoying the bite of the night air, breathing the cold in deep with my trenchcoat wrapped warm around me. The sky was still lit from the lights of the city below the clouds, so that the bulk of Squawk Mountain loomed black to the north, trees spiking out here and there on it's various ledges and tips and it was crowned in floating white mist, faintly aglow.

Part of the walk took us by a stream, which we could hear rushing and tumbling by, and Sue spoke of seeing salmon for the first time in years, coming up that creek this last fall. How beautiful and how battered the great fish were as they shimmered up through the ice clear flow. I think that that is one of the things that I love most up here, that clear connection and contact with wild things that is so possible here, where all the wild things might grow in your backyard. Which also brought up the point that Sue was afraid of the creek being so close to the neighborhood, and all the people using pesticides and fertilizers so close to the stream.

But the cold air did clear our heads for the cleanup afterwards, and the goodbyes. And then I sat and read until 5am, perhaps because I had a need to be by myself after all that socialization... or... simply because I wanted to think and read and remember...

© 1997 by Liralen Li

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