Community and Celebration

Hello, dear readers! We’ve reached another Thursday. I hope you’re all safe and healthy, and for those of you in places that got hit with the blizzard over the weekend, I hope your heat is working. (Thankfully, ours is, but I know some of our friends have not been so lucky.)

I have been thinking a lot this week about community. But before I get into that, let me back up a bit.

A couple of years ago, I came across the idea of creating your own holidays – not just creating traditions for existing holidays, but making up holidays that make sense to you. I loved that thought. In an effort to be more connected to the changing seasons in the world around me, I’d been halfheartedly trying to follow the “wheel of the year” observed by a lot of neo-pagan traditions, which marks the solstices, equinoxes, and four points between each of those. The thing is, though…while some of the correspondences associated with these holidays made sense, a lot of it is based on an agricultural calendar for a climate I don’t live in, so it didn’t feel super applicable to my life.

Fast-forward to about six months ago: after toying with writing up some holidays off and on, I finally sat down with my husband and we came up with a list of holidays that made sense to us, using the dates of the “wheel of the year” but making the holidays themselves more meaningful. The idea is to be more attuned to time changing, and giving ourselves regular time to reflect. (I told my therapist about this in our session this week and she got so excited about the idea. I might make a zine about it at some point.)

We designated February 1 as Midwinter, and placed the focus of this holiday on honoring and connecting with the communities that help us get through the darker time of the year. For me, there are a handful of distinct communities I’m part of that have been doing so much to keep me grounded, both in the physically darker winter and in the metaphorically darker times we’ve been living through. I did a lot of reaching out on Monday to those people, both in my own observation of Midwinter and in an effort to step up my practice of telling people I love and appreciate them. It felt really great.

In therapy on Monday, I talked a lot about how I sometimes feel guilty for the fact that things are going well for me right now, when I know the world is on fire and a lot of people that I care about are struggling. But I realized a few things as we hashed things out in that session:

  • I am allowed to feel joy.
  • My joy doesn’t mean I’m minimizing what anyone else is going through.
  • The people in my life want to celebrate with me, just like I want to celebrate with them when they’re happy.

When I was younger, I ended up in some pretty messed up, codependent friendships (which I hesitate to even call friendships anymore, but I don’t know what else to call them), where me being happy was interpreted as me not caring about the other person’s pain, and I’m still hanging onto some of that baggage. But the reality is that in healthy relationships, you hold space for each other’s joy and pain. I realized I was holding myself to a different standard than what I’d hold anyone else to. Like, if I’m struggling and one of my friends has something amazing happen to them, I absolutely want to celebrate with them! And I know that they’ll still empathize with me in whatever I’m going through.

So here are some things I am celebrating right now, and I hope that you’ll join me in celebrating them:

  • I got a promotion at work! This is the good news I’ve alluded to in a couple of past posts, but it was officially announced to the company on Monday, so now I feel like I can talk about it here. I’m now a team lead – for the first time in my professional life, I have people reporting directly to me. It’s a big step forward for me, and while I am a little bit overwhelmed by it, mostly I am just excited to be able to support this team of rockstars that I work with.
  • FAWM is underway! And it’s been hugely successful for me so far – we’re four days in and I’ve written five songs. So far my practice of getting up early and writing before work is paying off – I’ve gotten a song done before starting work every day this week, and I also managed to write another last night after dinner. I’m really happy with how the songs are turning out in general, too, which is fun.
  • I’m just in a really good place emotionally right now. For those who might be newer to this blog, you may or may not know that I have a Bipolar II Disorder diagnosis, as well as a history of some pretty significant anxiety issues. I’ve been working with my therapist to see this things in a light that’s less pathologizing and more just a matter of regulating the energy in my nervous system, and I’m in a more stable place than I think I’ve been since…I don’t even know, way back in childhood.

What about you, readers? What are things that you’re celebrating right now? Or, if you don’t feel like you have much cause for celebration at the moment, what’s weighing heavy on you right now? I’d love to hear from you.

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.

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.

Out of Sorts

Hi friends. I’ll be honest with you – I am not totally sure what to write about this week and definitely considered skipping blogging altogether. But if I skip one week, it’ll be that much easier to skip another, and next thing you know I won’t be blogging anymore, and that would be a bummer. This blog is something I’ve committed to keeping up and have followed through on for a long time, and I’m not ready to let it go yet. So, here we are.

I am out of sorts today. I didn’t sleep well last night – I woke up several times and had trouble getting back to sleep, I had weird dreams (and, just before I woke up, one really heartbreaking dream that I unfortunately remembered pretty vividly upon waking), at one point I moved in the wrong way and now I’m achy…I really just want to go back to bed and try again. That’s not an option, though, so here I am, at my desk, trying to get work done despite the drowsiness.

It’s been the sort of pandemic week where all the days blend together. And I’m just…tired. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that on Tuesday I had to leave the house three separate times, which was pretty anxiety-inducing – I don’t go out much at all these days and am really trying to minimize risk/exposure, and three times in one day felt extraordinarily excessive. The first of those times was to go get some necessary lab work done, which meant taking two Lyfts and being in a clinic, and that was…a lot. (The good news is that all my labs came back normal. The bad news is that I still have no idea what’s causing the minor-but-annoying symptoms that necessitated the labs in the first place.)

Anyway, time is weird and possibly doesn’t exist, I want to go back to bed, and in and around all of that I’m super grateful that I have a stable job that I generally like and that pays me enough that we’re okay right now. It’s hard to feel motivated when the world is (in some places literally) on fire, but I’m trying. And that’s really all I can do right now.

I hope you’re all hanging in there. Wear your masks, wash your hands, and figure out how to vote early and safely. It’s a wild, scary world we’re living in – let’s do what we can to help each other out.

Another Week Closer

Hello, dear readers – Thursday is again upon us. We’ve almost made it through another week.

And just like that, my partner and I are just over two weeks away from our wedding! Yesterday we got our marriage license. We also received the delivery of the (many) silk flowers we ordered:

This is…most of them. lol

It’s feeling more and more real as time goes on, and I’m excited about it, even if I’m overwhelmed by everything that needs doing before then.

I don’t have a lot of other updates right now. It’s been a mostly good week with a lot of anxiety in the mix.

I hope you’re all hanging in there and staying safe. Wear your masks, wash your hands, keep social distancing. I know it sucks, but it’s what needs to happen until we get a vaccine.

Tired

Hello, dear readers – we’ve made it to another Thursday. I don’t know about you all, but I am tired. I’ve been tired all week.

Last Saturday I picked up an overtime shift for work (we’re not particularly busy on the weekends so it was an easy way to make some nice extra money), and I spent the entire shift fighting the urge to go take a nap. That’s pretty much how I’ve felt every day this week.

Tomorrow I am not working (since Saturday is Independence Day here in the US, we have Friday off), but I have to get up early and go get an ultrasound of my thyroid done, so that’s obnoxious. Monday I went to the doctor to get it checked out, because it feels swollen and I’ve been showing a few other symptoms that could be associated with hyperthyroid, and this is the next step in getting that checked out. Which is good; I’m grateful the doctor listened to me and took me seriously. I just don’t particularly like going to the doctor anyway, and that is doubly true during a pandemic. Fingers crossed that the ultrasound gives us some answers.

I think between the anxiety around the thyroid stuff and the anxiety around…*gestures wildly at everything*…I just haven’t been sleeping all that well. Last night in particular felt like nightmare after nightmare and it was not especially restful.

But hey, I’m looking at a three-day weekend; that has to count for something.

Brief Ramblings

Hello, dear readers! It’s Thursday. I thought it was Thursday on Tuesday this week, so that was disappointing. But we’ve made it! It’s Thursday, which means it’s almost Friday, and then there’s a long weekend, which will be nice even if time is meaningless and I won’t really be doing anything different except not working on Monday.

I don’t have a lot to say this week. We appear to be getting into another round of allergies, because I am very sniffly and my eyes itch, so that’s unfortunate. But it’s great to see everything come back to life outside, even if it makes me sneeze.

Work has been a mixed bag this week – I’m still at the point where some days I feel really on top of things and other days I feel like I’m drowning. Currently I’m pretty on top of things, which is good. We’ll see how that continues.

I’m still anxious a lot of the time. My partner will sometimes ask what I’m anxious about, and all I can say is “the world.” There’s nothing super specific, but everything feels like a lot right now. I’m trying to hang onto the bright spots – I have a stable job that pays well; I’m not facing this alone/my partner is literally the only person I’d want to be stuck with 24/7; I have regular virtual social interaction with people I love, even if I’m not seeing them in person. These things are important and I don’t want to take them for granted. It’s all still a lot, though.

Learning is Hard

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday – I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that keeping track of what day it is during this pandemic is not getting any easier over time.

It’s been a week. Last Friday I got totally overwhelmed by work – I just couldn’t get on top of my cases, and I felt like every time I figured out one thing, something else went wrong (or I turned out to be wrong about the earlier thing I had thought was taken care of). It made for a very frustrating end of the work week, and I was dreading getting back into it on Monday.

Monday was also hard. I continued to feel like I was drowning, and actually had an anxiety attack partway through the day. Thankfully, as the day went on, my team stepped in and helped me with a few things, and that made a big difference. I’m still learning that I can ask for help here.

The last couple of days have been a little better – I feel like I’m getting a better handle on things and doing a better job of asking for help when I need it.

Despite work being overwhelming, there have been some bright spots. Friday night was the second session of a D&D game that we decided to move from every other week to every week, and that was super fun. I’m looking forward to getting to know these characters and the world we’re exploring better.

I love that we have a weekend routine of sorts that gets us out of bed now. On Saturdays we have virtual brunch with a friend in our old neighborhood, and it’s a really lovely way to set the tone for the rest of the weekend. We’ve also been rewatching the Star Wars films with some friends on the weekends (via conference call), and that’s been delightful. We started with the original trilogy, and then moved on to the prequels – we were going to watch Episode III this past weekend, but Episodes I and II were so much worse than we remembered, we gave up and skipped to Episode VII, which I think was the right choice.

I also talked with my parents over the weekend for the first time since…well, since we started staying home, so about two months. We’d be texting regularly, but historically I used to call them when I was commuting or walking between places, and since that’s not really happening right now, I’d lost my mental trigger to pick up the phone. It was good to catch up and I think we’re going to try to do that more regularly now.

And the second session of my mandolin class was last night, which was also delightful. I didn’t practice as much during the week as I intended, but I’m managing to keep up. As an extra fun little challenge, I’ve been transcribing any tablature our instructor sends out into standard notation so I can get better at reading sheet music.

Anyway, I hope you’re all hanging in there. What a weird time it is to be alive. I have a lot to be grateful for right now, and I’m trying not to take that for granted.

Whoops

Hey there, readers! I’m late with this week’s post – sorry about that. The week got away from me.

The week has been a mixed bag. I ate something Monday that disagreed with me (possibly lettuce I didn’t wash well enough?), which meant I didn’t have therapy that night, which was…yeah, not the greatest. Tuesday I still felt off, so I ended up signing off from work a couple hours early. Wednesday was pretty nondescript, and today I ended up working over an hour past when I usually sign off, because my advice to a customer triggered a bug right before I was about to sign off. Sigh.

It’s also just been an emotionally tender week. COVID keeps creeping closer, and it’s scary and sad.

But tonight I made quesadillas and we watched Dolly Parton read a bedtime story, so that was nice?

I hope you’re all hanging in there.

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?