Little Gratitudes

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday. For a number of reasons, I’m feeling like it’s already been a long week, and it’s not over yet. Thankfully, things have been mostly good and I’m feeling okay about it.

We have some big life changes coming up (which I will hopefully be able to go into more detail about in a few weeks). I am incredibly grateful to be in a place where I have the bandwidth to deal with these changes and make plans around them.

I feel like until I can talk about more details, I don’t have a whole lot to write about, so I’ll fall back on what I often do when I’m feeling less wordy. Here are a few things I’m grateful for right now:

  • Friends/Community. This has been one of those weeks when I’ve been super aware of how many incredible communities I have supporting me in different areas of my life. I think I sometimes get it into my head that since I’m an introvert, I must only have a few friends, which is absolutely untrue. I have so many wonderful people in my life supporting me in myriad ways. I’m particularly grateful this week for those friends who have known me forever, who I don’t get to talk to often, but who are always willing to pick things right back up where we left off.
  • Family. I’m really grateful that my family (and I’m including myself in this) has been willing to put in the work to make our relationships smoother. I’m glad to be talking with them more. I’m especially glad for the photo updates we get from my sister-in-law of our nephews.
  • Stories. I come back to this one a lot. Whether it’s playing D&D and collectively telling stories with friends, reading books, or letting myself dream of possible futures, stories are such a crucial part of my life, and I’m so happy that that’s true.

Keeping it short and sweet this week – time for me to dive into my work day. I hope you’re all hanging in there!

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.

A Little Thursday Gratitude

Hello, dear readers, and apologies for the late blog today – my morning flew by (and also I’ve spent most of the week perpetually thinking it was Wednesday).

I have a lot of jumbled thoughts rolling around in my head today, but nothing that’s standing out as an “I should write a blog about this” sort of thing. So let’s keep it simple today – here are a handful of things I am grateful for right now.

  • My job. Aside from just being grateful to be employed right now, I am really grateful to specifically have this job. I love my team, our leadership is amazing, and I’ve never been in a job where I feel so genuinely valued for my contributions. It’s definitely not what I was expecting when I moved out of the non-profit world into a for-profit situation, but it’s been incredible and I’m so glad to be where I am.
  • My apartment. It’s a bit of a mess at the moment, but I am so glad that we moved last year. As much as I sometimes miss our old neighborhood, I cannot imagine how we would have managed this pandemic in our old apartment. Even though it’s just a one-bedroom, we have enough space (and enough doors that close) that we can each be in our own corners of the apartment to focus on what we want to get done during the day (and just have alone time, which is crucial for a pair of extreme introverts).
  • Community. I made a concerted effort early on in the pandemic to set up or get involved in some regularly scheduled virtual hangouts with various friends and friend groups, and it’s been a life saver. As an introvert, I think I used to downplay how much I need community, but being physically distanced from everyone has really highlighted to me just how important it is.

I hope you’re all hanging in there this week. Do what you can to take care of yourselves, and please, continue wearing masks and avoiding in-person gatherings. I know it sucks to not be able to be with people over the holidays, but if we want a chance at celebrating together next year, this is what we have to do.

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.

It’s Almost Here!

Hello, dear readers! It’s gonna be a short blog today.

It’s been a busy week – we’re getting married on Saturday! So most of this week has been cleaning and getting the final administrative details in place. Tonight we’re doing a rehearsal for the technology piece so we can figure out where we want to set everything up. Yesterday our cheesecake arrived, which was one of the pieces I was most nervous about – so many places have had unexpected shipping delays lately that I didn’t really trust the estimated delivery date.

I’m looking forward to (virtually) gathering and celebrating with friends and family on Saturday. I’m extremely overwhelmed in this particular moment (some of my body’s most annoying stress responses are raising their heads right now), but I know it’s going to be worth it. I’m also kind of glad this is the format the wedding is happening in – it meant we could invite people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to join us. I’m having some Feelings about my grandparents not being present (three of them are gone and the one remaining isn’t interested in attending), but I’m also just really grateful for the community we’re going to have around us on Saturday.

Now I’m off to try to kick ass at work so I can leave for a long weekend on a high note. Hang in there, everyone – stay hydrated, wear your masks, take care of yourselves and each other.

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).

It’s All About Community

Happy Thursday, dear readers! I am getting back into the swing of life after a wild couple of weeks, and I nearly forgot to blog – I keep thinking it’s Friday.

Last week, my partner and I made our way to the Rocky Mountain Song School in Lyons, CO. We got a late start, leaving Chicago for Lincoln, NE around 2:45 Friday afternoon, because we were trying to get the rest of the packing for our move done before we hit the road. We got to our hotel in Lincoln around 1:15am. It made for a short night.

We drove to a friend’s house in Denver the next day. It turned out her roommates were gone, and she was dog-sitting for some other friends, so after we hung out for a while, she left to do that and we had the house to ourselves. It was nice – I was especially exhausted, and was able to crash early.

The next morning, we got breakfast with friends who just moved to Denver from Chicago. It was great to see them, and after we ate we went for a little stroll around the neighborhood to look at street art. Then we drove back to the house, packed up our stuff, and headed up to Lyons. It was a bit rainy on the way there, but thankfully by the time we got there and were setting up, it had stopped.

It was so good to be back at Planet Bluegrass. The details of the individual days are a little muddled in my brain, but it was a great time. Monday I took a couple of classes that involved writing to some prompts, and that generated some ideas that led to me writing a complete set of lyrics to a new song that night. Over the next two days, I worked out music for it (my first attempt was entirely too moody, which I realized after another class), and Wednesday night I got to perform it at the open stage, with eight of my favorite humans, who came up with harmonies literally fifteen minutes before we went on to perform. It was incredible.

Practice

Practicing/learning harmonies 15 minutes before going on stage (Photo Credit: Rah Foard)

Performing

Performing at the open stage (Photo Credit: Rah Foard)

Other highlights of the week:

  • I made it my mission to do new things. I took a bunch of classes that intimidated me, and stayed out of my comfort zone most of the time.
  • I went swimming! It was my first time going shirtless in public (it’s been almost three years since I had top surgery). It felt good.
  • I reconnected with some of my very favorite people. I was surrounded by the most incredible community, and the safety that community created gave me the courage to try new things, take risks, and get out of my comfort zone. I was continuously reminded of how important community is, even to an introvert like me. Life doesn’t happen in isolation.

It’s been a whirlwind since we got back. We got home Saturday evening, and picked my partner’s dad up from Union Station (we borrowed his car for our trip, and so he came down to help us move and to get his car back). Sunday we did a lot of running back and forth between apartments. Monday, I headed off to work, and my partner and his dad coordinated with the movers to get the bulk of our stuff over to the new apartment! At this point, we have I think 99% of our stuff over at the new place, and we’ve been sleeping there all week. It’s a chaos of boxes, but last night my partner got most of the kitchen unpacked (I’m feeling under the weather and crashed early – hoping I can be more useful with the rest of the unpacking), and we HAVE to have everything unpacked by Saturday morning, because that’s when the reusable boxes are being picked back up. So…it’s going to be a bonkers couple of days. But it’s a great new space, and it’s already starting to feel like home.

On Strength

I went to a tarot class last night. It was my first time reading and learning in a social setting with (mostly) strangers, and it was a lot of fun. The format of the class was straightforward: the first half focused on the meanings and symbols and significance of a single card, while the second half focused on a couple of readings riffing on the theme of the card. 

The particular card that was tonight’s focus was Strength, and as a starting point, the facilitator had us go around the table, introduce ourselves, and share how we defined strength, and how we defined weakness. 

Therewere definite themes that carried across all of our answers. Strength is mastery of self, acknowledgement of need, choosing to do what is necessary in spite of crippling self-doubt. Weakness is allowing oneself to be mastered by fear, refusing to admit ignorance, sitting by while external forces call the shots in one’s life. 

As a Bipolar person, a queer person, and a transgender person, I have been commended by many people for my strength. I’m never quite sure how to feel about this. Sometimes feels like “strength” really means “ability to pass for ‘normal,'” which is distressing and problematic. And, really, I don’t think I’m strong for those reasons exactly. 

Strength, to me, is self-awareness and self-determination. It’s asking for help when I need it. It’s choosing to deal with my shit instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s mastery of impulsiveness and emotion. It’s honesty. 

And it’s amplified by the people I have chosen to surround myself with. In those moments when I need to reach out for help, I don’t have to reach very far. When I can’t support myself, I have a community who will support me, just as I support them when they’re struggling. Individually, we are awesome. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. 

There is strength in solitude, and there is strength in numbers. I am lucky to have known a taste of both. 

Help

I’m writing this on Wednesday evening, feeling pretty rough around the edges without much reason. The dysphoria monster has been hanging around a lot lately, which is not something I’m good at dealing with. I’m finding that no matter how great individual moments may be, my days have been feeling a little dreary overall.

I’m doing things to change this, slowly but surely. My little solo camping retreat is fast approaching, which I think will be a big help. I’ve had setbacks, but am (I hope) getting closer to finding a therapist. My partner and I went to three different shows to see two bands last week, which included a whole series of adventures and a lot to be grateful for.

One thing I find to be enormously helpful in the moments when I am not doing well is to try to do something to make someone else’s life a little easier. With that in mind, rather than write the long-winded, whiny blog post that my brain is trying to get me to write, I’m instead going to use this week’s post to boost support for a friend.

There are plenty of details at this link here, but what I can tell you is that my buddy Billy is one of the most genuinely wonderful human beings I have ever had the privilege of meeting. I would be hard-pressed to think of anyone else that I know who is so committed to investing in their community as much as Billy gives back to his. He’s hit a rough patch recently, which has not stopped him at all from being an incredible, generous person (which, knowing Billy, is at once impressive and predictable).

I know a lot of people are going through some stuff right now and money is tight, but if you can give Billy a hand, either by throwing a few dollars his way or by signal boosting the fundraiser, I’d appreciate it, and I know he would, too.