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.

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.

Attempting Optimism

It’s been another kind of hard week. I’m tired, I’m achy, I got an unexpected medical bill, and I’ve been feeling cranky and out of sorts a lot of the time. However, I am attempting to look for some bright spots – not because I think everything needs a silver lining, but it’s easier to get up in the mornings and get through each day if I have things to look forward to. So here are a handful of happy things:

  • I was able to play guitar this week! A couple of weeks ago I picked up my guitar and couldn’t play, because my hands hurt so much. Thankfully, despite the fact that they still hurt, I’m finding that I can play some things, as long as I mostly avoid barre chords and don’t capo up so high that I’m having to cram my fingers into smaller spaces. So that was exciting and encouraging.
  • My department at work is going bowling tomorrow. I have admittedly mixed feelings about this – both because of how much socializing is involved and because my hands have been hurting and I can’t imagine bowling is going to help that. But I do enjoy bowling (even though I’m pretty bad at it), and it means a few extra hours I don’t have to work, so that’s good.
  • I’m getting super excited for FAWM. This will be my third year participating in this challenge, and it’s always a magical time. This year, I’m planning to get some serious work done on my 78 Songs project, where I’m writing a song for every card in a tarot deck. I’ve been “working” on this project for years and have almost nothing to show for it, so I’m excited for the external motivation to get some of the work done. This FAWM I’ll be tackling the major arcana, which is comprised of 22 cards. Since the goal is just to write 14 songs, I started working on them this week, and have two songs done and another set of lyrics started, so that feels like good progress.

What things are you excited about or looking forward to?

Goals

I think I mentioned last week that after I wrote my goals last year, I didn’t look at them again until I was doing my review of the year. That’s how goals go for me pretty often. I have a hard time sticking to them and keeping track of them.

I got a shiny new planner this week (inspired by a friend’s planner purchase), and I’m using it to try to better track my progress on my goals. This is not the first time I’ve tried using a planner to do this (I have a bit of a planner obsession, really), but this one seems to fit how my brain works better than others have. (It’s the Clever Fox Premium Weekly, for the interested.)

I think part of my struggle with goals is that if I mess up once, my brain tells me I’ve failed, period, and I should just give up. I don’t often think of myself as a perfectionist these days, but I definitely have those all-or-nothing tendencies.

So this week I’ve been trying, and then working on being gentle with myself if I fall short. I’m trying to establish a new, earlier morning routine, which is hard, and I haven’t succeeded every day. But I’ve done better than I honestly thought I would, so that’s something.

The new year is hard. No matter how much I tell myself it’s an arbitrary marker of time, it’s hard to ignore the “time for a fresh start” energy everywhere. There’s a lot of pressure to improve.

One of my Facebook friends posted one of their resolutions as something like “eat the elephant (one bite at a time),” and that’s an attitude I’m trying to adopt. I’m shooting for some big shifts in 2020, and the only way to get them done is one bite at a time.

Running Late

It’s Thursday morning, and I’m running late. Again. This has been a common theme of the past few weeks. I don’t know if it’s the changing weather or allergies fogging my brain or a general dissatisfaction with my job or all of the above, but it’s been a struggle to get up and get moving most mornings that I need to go to work.

We have entered the season of Jewish high holidays, so I get a bunch of extra days off from work for most of October. This helps. I had Monday and Tuesday off this week, and while I wasn’t as productive as I’d intended to be, it still felt good.

Over the weekend we did a very adult thing: we bought a couch, and it didn’t come from IKEA! It’ll be delivered in 4-6 weeks, and we’re excited at the prospect of finally figuring out our living room setup. My partner did a lot of work around the apartment the other night after I went to bed, and it’s looking much more put together now.

Thursday Ramblings

It’s Thursday, and I’m tired.

I’ve been tired all week. I’m fighting an end-of-summer cold, and it’s making mornings especially challenging. Today, at least, I was able to get up and out of the house at a reasonable hour – I’m leading a training at work this morning, so it would’ve been especially problematic if I was late. But I feel like I’m dragging.

The fact that the weather got hot again is not helping matters – I am ready for fall weather. I’m also ready for consistent weather – the constant shifting is really hard on my body – but that’s probably not a realistic wish in Chicago.

I’m not having a bad week, exactly. I’m just low on energy. The weekend was good – I got to play D&D and we got the apartment more settled. I wrote a song I liked for class this week, so that was exciting.

How about you, dear readers? How are you feeling as we wait for the season to really start changing? What’s new and exciting in your lives? I’d love to hear from you.

Facing Anger

“When was the last time you got really angry?”

This was a question that came up in my session with my therapist this week, and I didn’t have an answer.

I did not go into therapy this week expecting to talk about being angry. It had been two weeks since we’d met, and I was running through updates on things we’d been talking about in past sessions. One of the things that came up had to do with people talking about me rather than to me about my life.

“Does it make you angry?” she asked.

“Yes,” I responded immediately, and then found myself backpedaling. “Well, at least annoyed. Angry might be too strong a term.”

She pointed out that it was my first response, though. We talked about what “annoyed” versus “angry” feels like, and which response actually felt more genuine in that situation. It was definitely anger. She asked me to sit with it for a minute.

And I remembered something I haven’t super consciously considered in a while. Once, when I was about 14, I was fighting with my younger brother. At some point, I got really, really angry. I chased him up the stairs to his room. He slammed the door in my face, and before I knew what was happening, my fist came down on the door…and I heard something in the door crack. I realized in that moment just how capable I was of causing serious harm to another human being, and it terrified me.

I don’t remember much of the rest of that evening, aside from knowing that I retreated to my own room immediately and probably stayed there as long as I possibly could. And I’ve never lashed out in anger like that again.

I don’t do well with anger. I’ve known this for a long time, but in therapeutic settings had only really worked with my lack of coping skills around other people’s anger. I haven’t spent a lot of time digging into the fact that, for more than half my life now, my response to my own anger has been to freeze – I make myself and my anger as small as possible so that I don’t risk hurting anyone. I want more than anything to be a person who makes other people feel safe, and I don’t know how to feel safe around anger. I freeze because I’m even more afraid of my own anger than I am of other people’s.

My therapist posited that perhaps there’s a link between the amount of time I spend freezing and trying to make myself small, and the fact that most of my joints hurt almost all of the time.

It’s not a thing that’s going to be solved just by recognizing that it’s there…but that’s step one, at least.

Home Again, Home Again

Happy Thursday, dear readers!

I mentioned last week that I was getting ready to go on my first ever work trip. I got home from DC yesterday afternoon. It was a good trip overall, if not exactly what I expected/intended it to be. Here are some highlights:

  • I got to see our colleague who moved to Israel 3.5 years ago, who I’m always emailing/Skyping but who I hadn’t seen in person since she moved. It was great to catch up and hang out.
  • I learned things that I think will ultimately help me do my job better. Some of the sessions I went to went way over my head, but even those at least gave me things to look up once I get settled back at the office.
  • I got to meet up with my friend Heather Mae, who is one of the most genuinely kind people I have the pleasure of knowing (and also happens to be one of my favorite musicians). Taking an hour to grab coffee with her made my week. We have brains that operate in similar ways (#BipolarAdventures), and it’s always nice to be able to talk to someone who just gets it.
  • I did NOT do the networking I had planned to do. This had a lot to do with the fact that I’m just not great at networking, and because our 1800+ person conference (which was not the only large conference happening at the convention center) was a bit overwhelming for this socially anxious introvert. But I did think of things I can do better next time, and I have ideas of where to follow up on things from home.
  • I walked about 5 miles a day, most of them without even leaving the building where the conference was held. It was a lot.
  • I successfully got through airport security both ways without setting off any machines! I think that’s a first. (Usually if I have good luck on one leg of the journey, I won’t on the other. Or I set off all the machines. Body scanners are gender binarist bullshit.)

I’m on my way into the office now. I desperately wanted to work from home today, but I think my office mate would kill me if I left her alone for another day, so here we are. I’m exhausted, but still generally feeling good about the trip. As much as I enjoy traveling, I’m very ready to get settled back into my routine at home.

Progress

Sometimes, progress is obvious and happens quickly. Other times, it can feel like it’s not happening at all. This week has largely been one of those other times.

FAWM marches on, and I have been writing – I’m up to 12 songs and it’s the 14th of the month. This week it’s been harder, though. I’ve had trouble waking up early to write. Still, I’ve written some keepers, and that’s exciting. Here are a few of the songs I’m proudest of so far:

Work has been frustrating, not because of anything specific to my job, but because my brain has been extremely foggy this week. I haven’t gotten much done, because I can’t keep my train of thought on the rails long enough to see things through. I feel stuck, and it’s not a pleasant feeling.

I am looking forward to the weekend. A friend of ours is coming down from Minnesota to hang out for a couple of days. I’m looking forward to some low-key hangouts and pizza.

Running Late

I am, generally speaking, a person who is chronically early. I show up to appointments half an hour early. I give myself more than the recommended two hour buffer to get through security at the airport before I fly. It helps to mitigate my anxiety – I’d always rather be early than late.

This week, though, has been an off one for me. While I’ve been early for anything I have going on in the evenings, getting to work on time has been a major struggle. Today, although I was not technically late for work, I was late by my own standards. And this blog post should have been ready to post at 9am, but here I am writing it at 10. I’m tired, I’m fighting some upper-respiratory bullshit that’s been going on for a month, it’s cold…all I want to do is stay curled up in my apartment with a book.

I was really planning to use January to get used to getting up early again, so I’d be ready to write in the mornings during FAWM. That has…definitely not happened. I’m excited for FAWM to start, but also really worried that I won’t be able to pull it off this year, because I’m so damn tired all the time. Thankfully, my February evenings this year are less packed than they were last year, so I’ll have more time in the evenings if I can’t get myself out of bed in the mornings.

In happier news, here are some things I’m glad about this week:

  • I started seeing a new therapist on Monday, and I am really optimistic about this.
  • I managed to write a song for class this week that I actually rather like, even if it still needs some work.
  • I was able to take the day off yesterday when I woke up feeling especially under the weather, and used the day to finish reading a Terry Pratchett book, which made everything feel less awful.