Midweek Musings

Hello, dear readers – welcome to another Thursday.

The past week is a bit of a blur in my mind. On Friday, I had an appointment with a rheumatologist out in the suburbs. A few hours before I needed to leave, I panic-rented a car – COVID numbers are out of control in Chicago (like they are most places in the US right now), and I didn’t want to spend an hour or more of my day trapped in a Lyft with a stranger. Of course, because it was so last-minute, I didn’t have the option of renting the car for just the day, so we unexpectedly ended up with a car all weekend.

The rheumatology appointment was disappointing, but the rest of the weekend was pretty nice. Sunday in particular was great – we went to our favorite breakfast spot in our old neighborhood with a friend and picked up some delicious food, and then later in the day we went back up to our old grocery store and loaded up on a ridiculous amount of food.

Tuesday was the tenth anniversary of my husband’s and my first date, so that was exciting. It was a low-key day, but it was nice to take a little time to acknowledge that hey, we’ve been together a long time.

Last night I had songwriting class. The song I wrote this week was unlike anything I’d ever done before, and I was super nervous to perform it, but I think it went well. It was a good reminder that vulnerability is often worth it.

This weekend I’m looking forward to the possibility of three D&D games and some other little chances to connect with friends (virtually, of course). It amuses me, sometimes, that my initial response to the pandemic was to pack my schedule with regular virtual social events – I am very much an introvert and would probably not socialize this much outside of lockdown. But I’m also increasingly aware of the importance of community and connection in these wild times, and I’m super grateful to have multiple little communities that I can connect with regularly.

Keep taking care of yourselves, friends. Wash your hands, wear your damn masks, stay in when you can. And check in on each other (virtually or at a safe physical distance). It’s the only way we’re going to get through this.

Making Space

Hello, dear readers – it’s Thursday again. I hope you’re all hanging in there. This past week was a long one as we waited to hear who won the US presidential election. It was a lot. It…continues to be a lot.

I realized over the course of the last few weeks that my anxiety was getting progressively harder to manage. This is pretty understandable, given the state of *gestures vaguely at everything*, but I hit the point early this week where I decided I had to do something. I’ve cut back a little bit on coffee, but that’s not really the direction I want to take – while the caffeine can be unpredictable in how it affects me, I find my morning coffee making ritual pretty steadying. When talking with my therapist on Monday, I finally admitted that I’ve noticed that time I spend on social media directly correlates to exponential spikes in my anxiety.

So, I’m taking a little break this week. I’ve signed out of Facebook on all of my devices and set up a 1 minute time limit in case I do hop back on. I’ve set a 15 minute time limit on Instagram and moved the app to a less convenient place on my phone’s home screen. And I think it’s helping. While I do get a little twitchy sometimes when I start to fall into autopilot and navigate toward Facebook and then realize I can’t do that, for the most part I don’t miss it. We’ll see how I’m feeling by the end of the week – I committed to staying off for a week starting Tuesday, and I’m going to reassess early next week if I want to go longer.

I also had the day off yesterday, for Veterans Day. That was also helpful on the anxiety front – I slept in and was pretty lazy for most of the day, which was (mostly) what I needed (it probably would have been a better long-term decision to work on some housework, but oh well).

So that’s where I’m at this week – trying to create some space so that my anxious brain and body can hopefully relax a little bit. I hope you’re all doing what you need to in order to take care of yourselves and your communities right now.

Screaming into the Void

Hi, friends. I hope those of you here with me in the US, in particular, are hanging in there. It’s a heavy week. Regardless of who ends up winning the presidency, the fact that the race is this close is a damning indictment of this country. I am personally feeling pretty discouraged by the number of people who decided to double down on white supremacy and hate and a flagrant disregard for science.

I don’t honestly have a lot to say this week, but I thought I’d share the song that I wrote for my class last night, because it feels timely and it’s something to fill out this blog a little bit. For the assignment, we were supposed to read (or watch) something science-related and use that to help us tap into a sense of wonder about the world as we wrote this week. I learned about flying lizards, and then wrote this song.

Dragon, (c) 2020 Alyxander James

Lyrics, for the curious:

Today, I am afraid
But is this any way
For a dragon to behave

Longing to be free
From heaviness and grief
I must remember how to breathe

Open up my chest
And let my ribs turn into wings
Remind me I can fly
If I remember why I sing

How long have I been
In need of oxygen
To light my fire again

Open up my chest
And let my ribs turn into wings
Remind me I can fly
If I remember why I sing

I will stand before
The men who swing their swords
Let them hear me roar

A Little Gratitude

Hello, dear readers – we’ve made it to Thursday. I haven’t had a bad week, per se, but it’s definitely been an anxious one, between the increasing number of COVID19 cases in the Midwest, and the upcoming election, and… *gestures at the general 2020 dumpster fire*. I don’t expect that to ease up any time soon, so in an attempt to counterbalance that, let’s do a little gratitude list this week.

  • I had to do my final presentation of my big quarterly stretch project at work to our leadership team on Monday, and it went well! I was feeling very behind in the past couple of weeks and wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off, so the fact that everything came together in the end was a nice little boost at the start of the week.
  • Also, Monday was my Grandma’s 93rd birthday. We have a complicated relationship, but I ended up getting to chat with her on the phone for a few minutes in the evening, and that was nice.
  • Last night I started a new (online) songwriting class with Sue Demel, who is one of my favorite people. This is my third time taking this particular class, and it always draws out really interesting material. I’m very excited to see where the next eight weeks take us.
  • I have spent an inordinate amount of time this week creating a character for a spooky D&D one-shot that I’m playing with some friends tonight, and I am SO EXCITED. D&D has been one of the major bright spots in my life lately – I love collaborative storytelling so much, and I have the most wonderful people to do it with.
  • I dropped off my mail-in ballot at the nearest early voting site on Sunday, and got the notice this week that it was accepted and my vote will be counted. Terrified as I am about this election, I appreciate how easy it is to vote in Chicago, and I appreciate the abundance of resources online that helped me to sift through the ~65 judges we were voting to retain (or, in several cases, not retain).

Hang in there, everyone. Keep wearing your masks and physically distancing (I know it’s hard and we’re all tired of it, but the pandemic doesn’t care and it’s not over). Keep checking in on each other. And if you’re in the US and you haven’t voted yet – please, please, please vote. If you need help making a plan, send me a message.

Curious Soul

This is going to be a short blog, this week – it’s the end of our quarter at work and I have a ton to get done today. But I wanted to share the song that I wrote for my songwriting class this past week.

The assignment was to write our own “deep cut” – the B-side or song from an album that superfans would know but wouldn’t be the one to get tons of radio play. I don’t know if I succeeded in that, but I like what I came up with regardless. I pulled a bunch of old lyrics from a handful of songs written over the past six years or so – this is one of those songs I’ve been trying to write for a long time – and reworked those concepts into something new.

Eternal thanks, as always, to Steve Dawson and my songwriting classmates from the Old Town School of Folk Music for their brilliant suggestions that I tried to incorporate into this draft.

Curious Soul, (c) 2020 by Alyxander James

Here are the lyrics for the curious:

There’s a twirling child in dresses and dance shoes
Nose in a book and their head in the clouds
They dream about flying and rescuing damsels
And magical wardrobes that wait to be found

There’s a lonely child who always sings
An empty school playground their favorite stage
At home in their room they write songs in a diary
Pouring out heartache and joy on the page

I’m building this wondrous body, creating my home
Something more suited to housing my curious soul
I dress it up in ink, in wool, and in leather
I know this act of creation is a holy endeavor

There’s a teenager longing for tattoos and freedom
Counting down days to when they’ll spread their wings
Fists full of anger and hurt in their eyes
Cautiously hopeful they’ll make it to spring

There’s someone awake late at night in their dorm room
Afraid that they’re sinful and broken and wrong
They reach for their laptop, and type a confession
In tears over secrets kept hidden too long

I’m building this wondrous body, creating my home
Something more suited to housing my curious soul
I dress it up in ink, in wool, and in leather
I know this act of creation is a holy endeavor

There are days when I look in the mirror
And see fragments of faces that used to be me
I thank them for all of the lessons they brought here
And hope that they’re proud of who they came to be

I’m building this wondrous body, creating my home
Something more suited to housing my curious soul
I dress it up in ink, in wool, and in leather
I know this act of creation is a holy endeavor

Scatterbrained

I don’t know what it is about this week, but I am feeling a little all over the place. I’m having a hard time focusing on anything for very long.

I don’t have a whole lot to write about this week, but I don’t want to skip blogging altogether. Let’s fall back on a good old list post, shall we? Here are a few things I’m grateful for and/or looking forward to right now:

  • I’m grateful for increased access to telehealth. I had some labs come back elevated this week, but rather than having to go back into the office in person and lose half my day in transit, I can talk to my doctor via Zoom on my lunch break.
  • I’m happy about the arrival of fall – I love the crispness in the air and the changing leaves. Looking out the window brings me a lot of joy these days.
  • I’m looking forward to the weekend – I have a handful of recurring (virtual) social things on the weekends and they do a lot to keep me grounded.

Short post this week, but that’s all I have the mental space for at the moment. Take care of yourselves and each other, wear your damn masks, and VOTE if you’re in the US!

Happy Moments

Hello, dear readers, and apologies for the late blog today – I overslept this morning and time got away from me.

First off, some good news – I got the results of last week’s MRI back yesterday, and everything looked normal. So that’s a relief. I still need to get labs done (I tried on Monday, but once again, my veins didn’t cooperate), but I’m taking my wins where I can get them.

The weekend was definitely a mixed bag – it was largely positive, but also included a migraine and a lot of worrying about what the MRI results might be. The highlights of the weekend were my two D&D games on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday, the Body Love Open Mic hosted by our friend Talia. My husband and I performed together for possibly the first time? Certainly the first time in a long time. And it went pretty well!

The second verse got kind of garbled on this Zoom recording, but you get the idea.

So that was fun. We were definitely nervous, but it felt good to try out a new song on an audience for the first time in a while.

I don’t have much beyond that this week – I hope you’re all hanging in there and taking care of yourselves and your communities. And if you’re in the US, I hope you’ve got a voting plan!

Ugh

Hello, dear readers, and my apologies for the late blog today. I intended to write a post last night, knowing that I probably wouldn’t get a chance to this morning unless I got up particularly early, and then I forgot. And then this morning didn’t really go as planned, either.

CONTENT WARNING: Medical stuff, including vague descriptions involving needles. Nothing graphic, but I won’t be offended if you’re not up for reading about this.

The original plan this morning was pretty straightforward: go get an MRI done, then go get labs drawn, then come home and enjoy the rest of my afternoon.

Some backstory here: about ten years ago I had some weird medical stuff come up, and one of the investigative steps taken at that time was an MRI of my brain. There was a very small spot of some sort that showed up on my pituitary gland, but a couple of subsequent MRIs revealed no changes to that spot, and the symptoms went away, and so I sort of tried to forget about all of that.

Fast forward to now, and I’m having some as-yet-unexplained symptoms that are mostly just annoying, but this whole situation that happened ten years ago came up in the course of talking things through with my doctor, and we decided it would probably be a good idea to have another MRI done, just to be safe (also, I don’t have a copy of the original MRI and it’s been long enough that the clinic where I got that done has probably purged the records, so we want to establish a new baseline). So, I took today off from work and scheduled the MRI for this morning.

Only…I didn’t wake up early enough to be very hydrated before I left the house, and that was a mistake. They were able to do the first part of the MRI (without contrast), but when they went to inject me with the contrast solution, my veins (which are hard to hit at the best of times) were super constricted, and every time they hit one it basically collapsed on itself when they tried to start the injection. So, after three attempts to find a workable vein, they sent me home to hydrate, and told me to come back later this afternoon.

It was discouraging, to say the least. I was struggling to stay calm when they first put me in the machine – I almost pressed the call button to ask them to let me out, because I didn’t know how I was going to make it the full 20+ minutes in that claustrophobic space. But I closed my eyes and breathed and counted and wiggled my toes (which were outside of the machine), and somehow got over the initial panic. Still, after that, I was REALLY hoping I could just get it all over with at once.

I’ve decided not to get the labs done today – I need to be hydrated for those, too, and at this point I don’t think I have time to sufficiently hydrate, get labs drawn, and go back for MRI part two (to say nothing of the fact that I’ve already been stuck enough times today). I drank some coffee, which I know was probably counter-productive on the vein front, but which was necessary for my own sanity, and now I’m focusing on drinking water and keeping my arms warm so that, hopefully, when I go back in a few hours, my veins will cooperate. I’m trying to find the bright spots – at least I took the whole day off from work, instead of just the morning like I was originally planning – but it’s just not how I want to be spending my day.

Anyway, all that to say that I’m glad it’s almost the weekend. We’ve just about made it through another week – go team! Please keep wearing your masks and washing your hands, and please vote. If you’re in IL, I highly recommend this voter guide.

History

Hello, dear readers! I woke up this morning completely convinced it was Friday (despite the fact that I took Monday off from work), but have since figured out that it is, in fact, Thursday, so here we are.

My parents came to visit last weekend, and that was nice. We all stayed masked except when we ate, which felt a little strange – it was also the first time we had anyone besides us in our apartment since March, so that was also a little strange. But it was nice. My dad hung curtain rods for us, so now after a year of living in this apartment without window coverings, we finally have curtains!

It feels very dreamy and ethereal in here right now, and I’m into it.

We went for a walk around the neighborhood, which was also nice-but-strange, as between the late summer heat and the pandemic I had been inside most of the time lately.

My parents also brought me a couple of boxes of my old stuff that were still taking up space at their house. One box had blankets and stuffed animals and “baby’s first year” things in it, and the other had yearbooks and bibles and some other miscellaneous stuff:

I haven’t dug too deeply into this box yet. It’s a little surreal seeing those yearbook photos. It often feels like those years happened to someone else (I’m working through that in therapy these days). But I’m looking forward to taking my time and remembering some parts of my history that have been lost for a while.

I hope all of you are hanging in there. It’s been a hard week, between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing and the total lack of consequences for the officers who killed Breonna Taylor, to say nothing of the upcoming election and a president who’s increasingly blatant about his desire to be a dictator. Be gentle with yourselves, and also, let’s put that sorrow and rage to good use.

Trying

Well, I had a good stretch of blogging on time, but today I forgot it was Thursday until just now, two minutes after the blog typically goes live. Whoops. At least I remembered in the morning and not at 5pm, and 15 minutes late isn’t so bad (says the person who’s chronically early to everything).

It’s been a long week. Not bad, exactly, just long. I’ve been tired…mostly, I think, because I’ve been having a lot of weird, unsettling dreams – the sort that I don’t really remember when I wake up, but that leave me a little unsure whether I want to fall back asleep when I wake up from one.

Work has been busier this week than it has for the past few, and I am trying not to feel like I’m drowning. I’ve been at my job just over six months now, and some days I feel like I should be farther along in my understanding of the platform that I’m working with than I am. But I’m trying.

That’s kind of been the theme this week. I have a lot of things on my to do list, and I’m trying. I’m trying to do a good job staying focused at work. I’m trying to be a good friend and husband. I’m trying to get our apartment cleaned up. I’m not always succeeding at these things, but…I’m trying. (I am also trying to ignore the Yoda in the back of my head with his “Do, or do not; there is no try” bullshit, because if I listen to that, then nothing will get done.)

Right now, it’s time to grab myself some coffee, and then try to plough through some of the cases waiting for me at work. I hope you’re all hanging in there.