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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

Tired All the Time

Hello, dear readers, and apologies for the slightly late blog today.

I called off sick today. It feels like I’ve been doing this a lot lately, although usually when I don’t go into the office, I’m working from home. But today I decided I needed a day to just not worry about work and catch up on some rest. So here I am, at home, listening to the most recent episode of the Gender Reveal podcast, and writing a blog post.

I have felt so tired so constantly lately. I know some of it has been pain-related (chronic pain is exhausting, y’all), and some of it is just that I’ve been busy, and some of it has been the weird weather. It’s made it hard to get myself into the office, and hard to do work once I’m there. It’s been hard to find the energy to get things done around the house. The shift to Daylight Savings Time was rough – while I enjoy the longer daylight in the evening, mornings have been really hard to handle now that they’re darker again. But I’m trudging through, hoping my internal equilibrium levels off again soon.

In addition to being tired all the time, here are some other things that I have on my mind right now:

  • I’m encouraged by the fact that spring officially arrived yesterday. Spring means allergies, which is not my favorite thing, but I love watching the return to green every year. I’ve seen a few green shoots poking through the ground, and I’ve seen robins hopping around the neighborhood, and it feels like I can breath deeply for the first time in a while (at least until the allergies start up).
  • One of the things I’m learning in therapy right now is that I need to celebrate the things that are going right in my life, and the things I’m doing well. I’m not great at this – I’m really good at looking at where I fall short, even in the moments that are largely successful. So I’ve been trying to celebrate little things, whether it’s with a glass of wine or reaching out to friends or something else, and it feels weird, but it’s good.
  • I got a letter from my grandmother yesterday, and I’m thinking a lot about my relationship with her and what I want to do about it. I haven’t seen her in almost seven years, and she’s 91. There are a lot of feelings there that I’m still parsing out.

Fall Feelings

I think, just maybe, fall has really fallen for real in Chicago. We had one 90-degree day last week, but I think that was really the last one. I hope it was. I’m enjoying the chance to wear the things I’ve knit without also needing to bundle up so much I can hardly move.

I’m wrestling with seasonal allergies that might also be a cold, but aside from being annoyed by how sniffly I am, it’s not detracting from my enjoyment of the weather. It’s been chilly and sunny most of the week, which is my favorite combination.

I’m currently on track to make it through my first full five-day work week in over a month (thanks to all the Jewish holidays in September and staying home one day last week). It hasn’t been the easiest adjustment. My officemate is out of town, though, so I have the office to myself, which I think is helping. Not that my officemate isn’t lovely, but she is an extrovert and I am not. I’ve managed to get a handful of smaller projects done and a couple of bigger projects started. So that’s something.

I get restless in the fall, I think. I want to try new things before going into hibernation for the winter. I’m holding space for some big feelings about where I am and where I want to be and where those things aren’t lining up.

What about you, dear reader? Is the arrival of fall bringing up big feelings for you like it is for me? I’d love to hear all about it!

Things are Looking Up

Last week was awfully full of feelings, many of them rather negative.

This past week has been full of feelings, too, but largely of a more positive variety.

Last Thursday night, my partner and I went to a songwriting workshop at the Old Town School put on by one of Mouths of Babes, one of our favorite folk duos. It was phenomenal and inspiring and made me want to write all the songs.

I haven’t really had time yet to start on writing all the songs, though. Friday morning I picked up a giant rental SUV before work, and that evening, my partner and I went to IKEA, where we picked up four pieces of furniture and a handful of other organizational tools. Saturday was spent building furniture and rearranging most of our apartment. We finished up Sunday, and even had time to go to MSI with a friend and then to a Mouths of Babes concert (which was also phenomenal and inspiring).

And then Monday came.

Monday evening, a friend arrived in town who will be staying with us for a total of almost two weeks. My partner and I can’t take any time off during the week, but we’re looking forward to playing tourist a bit over the weekend and take advantage of some city sites we haven’t taken in yet in the 3+ years we’ve lived here!

But before that, on Monday, I worked half a day, and then went to a consultation appointment with a surgeon here in Chicago who, among other things, performs gender-affirming chest masculinization surgery for transmasculine folks.

The appointment went really, really well – the surgeon was charming and knowledgeable, and considering the rather intense anxiety I generally have regarding medical facilities, professionals, and procedures, I felt surprisingly safe.

Long story short, I set a date for surgery, so come October, I will be getting two literal weights off my chest. I am unbelievably happy, and far less anxious than I was a week ago now that I have that giant unknown better nailed down.