Bright Spots, Dark Days

Hello, dear readers! I’ve been procrastinating writing a blog post this week, because, frankly, it feels like there’s not much to write about. The days blend into each other, as you all know.

I realized in therapy on Monday (right at the end of the session, of course) that I’m showing some key signs that I’m in a depressive episode. This makes complete sense given everything that’s happening in the world, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that I was feeling particularly down, because I wasn’t so much down as just…numb. I’m having a hard time responding to things with appropriate emotion. For example: thanks to the stimulus check, I realized I’ll be able to pay off my credit card in May. I have a very small balance left on the card. I’ve been working my ass off for two and a half years to pay down my debt, and I should be over the moon. Instead, I’m just…like, I know it’s a big deal, and there’s a part of me that’s proud of myself, but mostly I just don’t feel much of anything about it.

I told my therapist, after coming to this realization on Monday, that I was going to approach this numbness with some curiosity. I’m learning to observe what my brain and body are doing without getting lost in them. So far, I’ve realized that it’s more pervasive than I had initially realized, and I’m a little surprised that it snuck up on me so easily. I think, when I was hit with overwhelming grief a few weeks ago and then felt that pass, I thought I’d somehow avoided or bounced back from depression, but…I think I was wrong.

Despite all of this, I am still trying to find the bright spots. Here are some things that are making me smile, even as I wish I could feel more enthusiasm:

  • The trees outside of our apartment are starting to green. The one that’s closest to our sunroom window, in particular, which has given me so much trouble with my allergies but that I love anyway, has gone from bare (save its little pollen bombs) to buds to the first tender leaves in the last week or so, and it is comforting to see that nature is getting on with spring despite what’s happening with humanity.
  • I may not be responding with the appropriate enthusiasm to the idea, but I am genuinely relieved that my credit card is about to be paid off. There was a long time when I didn’t believe it was possible and thought I’d be saddled with this debt forever. It hasn’t been a smooth path – I had some setbacks and definitely made mistakes along the way. But I made a plan and worked really hard at it and now I’ve managed to actually do the thing, which feels really great.
  • I’m starting a new D&D game with some friends tomorrow night, and I am so excited! I’ve been quietly trying out voices for my character while I work (I don’t always do voices in games, but some characters demand a little something extra), and I think I’m landing somewhere between Giles (from Buffy) and C3PO, and it’s entertaining. Whether I’ll be able to keep it up in game, I don’t know, but I’m having fun with it.
  • While it’s unfortunate that it took a pandemic to get us there, I’m really glad to be connecting more with friends and family. There are people I feel closer to now that we’re socially distancing than I ever have.
  • My partner and I haven’t really left our apartment in about three weeks, and we’re still getting along. We were both a little worried going into this, as two introverts in a one-bedroom apartment, but I have to say, we lucked out. I don’t know how I’d be functioning if I was living alone right now, but I also wouldn’t be able to do this with roommates. I am determined not to take any of this for granted.

Resting

Today, I am trying to listen to my body.

I have spring allergies, and they’ve been pretty bad this week. I woke up this morning with a headache for the third day in a row. I decided it was time to rest.

So I’m taking a sick day.

I am going to knit, and rest, and try to listen to what my body needs, and then give it what I can.

Hopefully, since the sun is out today, I will go for a short walk later. At the very least, I’ll take some time to soak in the vitamin D through our sunroom windows.

Maybe I’ll pull out my mandolin and dust off some of those skills, since I signed up for a mandolin class for May/June last night.

Right now, I’m going to go take some vitamins, drink coffee, and figure out something to eat for breakfast.

Be gentle with yourselves, friends.

It’s the Little Things

Hello, dear readers. Life continues to be weird. Time continues to feel more ethereal than normal. I still rarely remember what day it is. This pandemic continues to creep closer and closer to hitting home with me; I know for some of you, it’s already there. It’s a scary time.

I am trying desperately to hold onto what glimpses of light I can in the midst of all the uncertainty. Here are a few things that have been bright spots in my week:

  • It has been so bright in my “office” (our sunroom) when I start working in the mornings that several times I have needed to pull out my sunglasses. The sunlight, even filtered through our windows, is a welcome and wonderful thing.
  • There are trees immediately outside of our sunroom windows (we’re up on the 3rd floor). I have multiple times now experienced the joy of watching a squirrel take a nap on a branch. I think it may be building a nest in the tree, as I saw it gnaw off a twig or two yesterday.
  • I’m so enjoying watching nature from my sunroom. In addition to napping squirrels, I’ve seen house finches, mourning doves, robins, sparrows, and a woodpecker.
  • The trees are starting to bud. Before we know it, there will be fresh, vibrantly green leaves coming out, and it will feel like we live in a tree fort.
  • I’m getting ready to play a D&D campaign with some friends and family that I am incredibly excited about. I am so glad to have the distraction of play in the midst of all of this.

It is definitely a dark and scary time right now. I am rotating regularly from fear to anger to sadness to numbness and back again, and I know that’s a perfectly reasonable response to what we’re going through. It’s also why I think it’s so important to find those little moments of comfort and light.

I’d love to hear from you – what are the things that have lifted your spirits lately, however briefly? How are you holding up?

Dazed and Confused

Hello, dear readers! I apologize for the later-than-usual post – I only just realized that it’s Thursday, despite the fact that I had my usual Thursday check-in with my boss an hour ago. Whoops.

Working from home/sheltering in place continues, and I am really glad I’m still working, because that’s the only thing giving me much of a connection to the passage of time. As it is, I am still frequently confused about what day it is. Monday and Tuesday this week I kept thinking it was Friday, and I’m still half-convinced that today is Wednesday, and I don’t know where actual Wednesday went.

We went to the grocery store yesterday for the first time in over two weeks, and stocked up on enough things that I think we’ll be able to avoid another trip for at least a few more. It was…stressful. Some people were doing a great job of social distancing and maintaining space between themselves and other shoppers. But some people just…weren’t. Like, there were people (mostly middle-aged or older men, but not exclusively) who just had ZERO awareness of the existence of other people or the fact that we were all trying to respect the CDC guidelines. Which was disheartening, and again, stressful. I did manage to make it through the trip without touching my face, though, so that was an accomplishment (my allergies are so bad right now, y’all…I just constantly look like I’m crying).

This continues to be a weird time, but I’m also coming to terms with the fact that this is the new normal, and we need to figure out how to survive within it.

I’d love to hear from you all! How are you coping? What strategies are you finding helpful for maintaining a sense of groundedness and routine in your lives? Or how are you not coping? (After getting home from grocery shopping, I had a dinner of cereal and Cheetos, because that’s what I wanted in the moment, and I have no regrets.) Please, let’s keep reaching out and looking out for each other as much as we can (while staying in our own homes).

What Day Is It?

Greetings, readers, from my home to yours. (I really hope you’re all at home. This is what we need to do to keep each other safe right now.)

It’s a weird time. The fact that I am working helps give me a bit of structure, but I’ll be honest, I’m having a hard time keeping track of my days. Everything’s sort of blending together. I missed my usual 9am deadline for posting this morning because I kind of forgot it was Thursday.

I’ve gotten my first two support tickets at my new job, so I’m actually doing work now instead of just reading about how to do work, which is a nice change of pace. I’m learning a lot and ending pretty much every day exhausted from the amount of information I’m taking in.

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Chicago, so after work I ordered a pizza for pickup. As I walked to the restaurant, I was…alarmed by how many people do not seem to be taking the social distancing thing seriously. It was a toss up – some people that I passed were considerate and moved to the opposite side of the sidewalk or the grass so we could maintain 6ft of distance…a lot of people did not. I went pretty quickly from enjoying the beautiful weather to just being really anxious.

There’s a musician acquaintance of mine who lives in northern Italy. He’s been posting about some of his experiences in English for his American friends. The posts are incredibly sobering. I worry about him every day…and I worry about us, here in America, because we’re just not responding well to this crisis.

I’m worried a lot of the time right now. I worry about my nephew, who has asthma. I worry about my mom, who’s a nurse and at an age where she’s probably more vulnerable to this thing. I worry about my friends and family members who are out of work right now, or who are still having to go to work rather than working from home. I try not to worry too much about myself, but I’m allergic to many things outside right now, and every time I cough or sniffle I have to suppress the urge to panic.

But I’m also trying to find the light in all of this. We’re connecting with a lot of people virtually. Last weekend we had virtual brunch with a friend that we have regular brunch with every couple of weeks via Google Hangouts. I played Monsterhearts 2 with friends on a Discord server. We had a little song circle with Song School friends in California via Zoom. We’re in frequent contact with family and friends and I feel really held by the communities I’m a part of, even as I do my best to hold them. If anything good comes of this mess, I think it’s going to be a greater sense of connection. I am so grateful to live in this time where physical isolation doesn’t have to be social/emotional isolation. While it is hard to balance not being glued to a screen reading the news and using that screen to stay connected, I think it’s worth it.

I hope you’re all hanging in there (and staying at home). Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. If we’re going to get through this, it’ll be together (from our own places of residence) or not at all.

Social Distancing

So…what a week it’s been, huh? I was in the office at my new job for all of four days before we moved to remote work, which we’ll be doing…indefinitely, at this point. My partner is off work entirely (thankfully, still getting paid) through at least the first week of April. It’s weird.

We’re both introverts, and it’s a good thing we like each other, because sharing a one bedroom apartment basically 24/7 with another introvert can be…interesting. Thankfully, there’s a better delineation of space and more places to sit in this apartment than there were in the old one, so we’re managing pretty well so far. I’m trying not to worry about next week and focus on today.

Everything’s suddenly moved online. Therapy. Songwriting class. Hangouts with friends (shoutout to L for suggesting a remote viewing of Star Wars: Episode IV last night). I’m grateful to be living in this age of technology where I have the privilege of easy access to means of connection with friends when I can’t see them face to face.

It’s a weird, wild time, y’all. Take care of yourselves. Check in on your loved ones. Even as we’re all trying to keep out distance, don’t stop reaching out.

What a Time

Hello, lovely readers! I’m a little over halfway through my first week at the new job, and things are going well, at least on that front. I like my coworkers a lot, I’m learning, the commute is easy, and the office is great.

It’s also possible that my second week will be working from home, because, well, COVID-19.

I’m okay, but we’re getting at least one email a day from leadership updating us as to the company’s policy. Thankfully, working from home is possible for me (although it’ll be weird to do all my onboarding and training remotely). I have a pretty good chance of job security.

My partner works at a museum. We don’t know if they’ll end up closing. We don’t think there’s much chance that he’d lose his job if they closed for a while, but who knows what the pay situation would be. It’s scary to think about, but ultimately, all we can really do is take it one day at a time.

Despite the global pandemic, there have been some bright spots for me personally this week, so let’s end on a high note:

  • I left my job of 6.5 years on a high note, and got a lot of sweet well-wishes from colleagues.
  • I started my new job and seem to fit in well here!
  • Wednesday night we got to see some of our favorite musician friends, Heather Mae and Crys Matthews, play a show. (Support your favorite independent musicians, folks – it’s a rough time out there with shows getting canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.) It was so great to see them – I am consistently blown away by the talented, fabulous people I’m so fortunate to know.

Winding Down; Gearing Up

I’m on my way into work for the penultimate day at the job I’ve held for the past six and a half years. It’s a little surreal.

I’ve tied up most of the loose ends I can tie up. Today I’m going to pack up the odds and ends on and around my desk. I’m getting lunch with some coworkers. I’m going to try to give one of my office mates a crash course in using Crystal Reports.

I’m increasingly antsy. I’m ready to shift to the next thing, and I’m struggling with the waiting. I’m doing what I can to set myself up for success – looking at some better ways to keep myself organized and on top of things.

My new employer sent me an email about the first day and asked a few questions – including whether I have any dietary restrictions and what my pronouns are. So that’s exciting.

Two more days. And then the weekend, and then I start the new gig on Monday. It’s really happening!

Good News!

Hello, dear readers! At long last, I can share with you the good news I’ve been hinting at for the past couple of weeks – I got a new job! Starting March 9 I’ll be moving out of the nonprofit world and into doing tech support at an app company. I could not be more excited.

It’s been a wild ride getting here. Back in October, I was very casually looking at positions online, and I came across a posting for this company that I thought looked really interesting. They were based in New York, but were gearing up to open a Chicago office. I applied, and in December ended up having a couple of great interviews with them. I didn’t get the job, but when they sent the rejection, they told me they wanted to stay in touch.

Now, I didn’t want to read too much into that, but it didn’t seem like quite the standard, “Sorry, you’re not a good fit for us,” email. So when I noticed a new, similar position go up at the end of January, I decided to take a chance. I emailed the HR recruiter I’d been talking to in December, and asked if the hiring manager was the same person, so I could address my cover letter more personally. I didn’t really expect to hear back…and I didn’t, for about a week.

Just as I was about to go ahead and apply, I got a response apologizing for the delay (she’d been on vacation), and letting me know that, yes, it was the same hiring manager. She also said she had a meeting scheduled with that hiring manager later in the week and would be happy to mention to him that I was interested. She encouraged me to apply, so I did.

The very next day, I got a response. They let me know that since I’d interviewed so recently and had already talked with the hiring manager, they were skipping over the initial interview part of the process, and dropping me directly into the next step, which was a trial project (basically using their help materials to answer some sample client questions). I took the afternoon off to go home and work on it (since at that point, I was too excited to focus on existing work very well). I did what I thought was the best job I could do, and sent it in.

About a week later, I heard back that they were impressed by my project and wanted to move me along to the final interview stage. After a last-minute reschedule, I ended up having the final interview last Tuesday. I had great conversations with three people on the team. The hiring manager made a point to let me know that my trial project was the best work he’d seen on that in a long time. I felt like I nailed it. I was told I’d hear back by the end of the week.

Fast-forward…about 24 hours. Wednesday afternoon I got an email from the HR recruiter saying she and the hiring manager wanted to give me an update, and could I spare 15 minutes for a phone call that day? I responded with my availability and sent several, “cross all your appendages for me!” texts to the friends who knew I’d had the interview.

I got an offer. I was expecting, based on the conversations I’d had in December, to be offered a salary that was a bit below what I wanted, and was prepared to argue for more. Instead, the number they offered me was my pie-in-the-sky, I-don’t-think-I’m-allowed-to-ask-for-this, never-gonna-happen number. I said yes.

This all happened in a span of 15 days.

Last Thursday, I turned in my two-weeks’ notice at my current job and informed my teammates. Friday I wrapped up telling the folks I needed to tell privately, and then Friday afternoon my boss sent out the official announcement to the agency. I’m getting a lot of practice in setting emotional boundaries and not trying to manage other people’s emotions (my therapist is going to be so proud). There’s a lot of sadness, and a fair bit of anxiety about what’s next.

And part of me is sad, too. I’ve worked with really great people, and I’m sorry to say goodbye to them. I’ve also learned a lot at this job – when I started, I had zero IT experience. I’m grateful for my time here.

I’m also really, really excited for what’s next. Every person I’ve talked to at this company has gotten me more excited about working there. It’s a great opportunity, and the way things fell into place, it feels like it’s exactly where I’m meant to be right now.

So that’s my big news! Special thanks to everyone who’s reached out in the past couple of weeks to check in and get updates – it’s been great to have your support. I’m a lucky queer.

Bursting at the Seams

Hello, dear readers!

I am having a really great week. I can’t talk publicly about all the reasons why just yet (feel free to reach out if you’re curious), but here are a few:

  • Last Friday, I ended up writing a song with a fellow FAWMer. I wrote the lyrics, sent it to them for music, they sent it back, I recorded the melody and guitar part, and they added harmony and ukulele. It sounds FANTASTIC, and I am so excited about it. You can listen to it here.
  • Over the weekend, a friend from the Twin Cities came to visit, and it was so fun! They are a very easy houseguest and it was a relaxing weekend for everyone, I think.
  • As of this morning, I’ve completed my personal FAWM challenge of writing a song for every card of the major arcana in the tarot. I’m very excited about that.

More to come next week on the rest of the excitement. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you – what’s making your week brighter?