Scattered Thursday Thoughts

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to a Thursday that for some reason feels like either a Wednesday or a Friday but is, in fact, still Thursday.

This has kind of been the tone of my week – just a bit off-kilter. I finally finished the project I’d been putting off for work, and now that the stress of that is past, my immune system seems to think it’s time to take a vacation, and I’ve been feeling sniffly and achy and generally under the weather the past couple of days. Nothing too awful, mostly just annoying.

My husband made it back from Chicago on Monday after doing the final cleaning of our old place and dropping off the keys with the landlord there. It was weird being in this new place alone for five days.

I don’t have a ton to write about this week. One of the things that’s been occupying my free time is trying to figure out how to find a local D&D group – I am continuing to play with the friends I’ve been gaming with throughout the pandemic, and I’m so, so grateful for those games, but in the interest of meeting some new people, making new friends, and getting to bring some of the characters running around in my brain to life, I’m hoping I can find something local to add to the mix. So far I haven’t had much luck, but it’s been less than a week, so I’m trying to be patient. I knit myself a new dice bag last week that I’m really happy with, because my collection has finally outgrown the bag I knit myself a decade ago:

It doesn’t look that big in the picture, but compared to my old dice bag it’s enormous – it holds all of my dice with lots of room to spare. I also got myself a dice tower and tray from Elderwood Academy (highly recommend, fellow nerds – they’re gorgeous) to make rolling physical dice more fun/less likely to end with me crawling on the floor trying to figure out where they ended up.

Anyway, I think that’s it from me this week. I hope you’re all hanging in there.

AnxietyBrain

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! It’s a bit of a weird week here. I’m feeling a bit off my game anyway, and my husband is back in Chicago getting our old apartment fully cleaned out and turning in keys to the landlord there, so I’m alone in a new space, which feels a little strange.

The week started out with discovering a handful of fraudulent authorization charges (thankfully for $0, but still from places I have definitely not attempted to spend money) on my debit card. When I called to cancel the card, the customer service rep “ma’am-ed” me at the end of literally every sentence. When they asked if I wanted to order a new card over the phone or go into a branch and get one instantly in person, I said I’d go to a branch (mostly because I wanted to escape the rampant misgendering and because it sounded faster)…only to realize my bank doesn’t have any branches in downtown St. Paul. I texted a few friends to see if anyone could take me to the bank (we don’t have a car yet), and my college bestie came through. We got to the bank, I went in, and was informed that their card machine had gone down and it was a company-wide problem, so I’d have to come back another day. (Thankfully, I was at least able to get coffee with my friend before we headed home, and it was lovely to see her, so the trip wasn’t a total waste of our time.) I’m planning to have an adventure on the light rail train Saturday morning to try again.

I’ve been rather anxious this week, I think largely because I have some projects I’ve been procrastinating on that I can’t procrastinate on any longer, and I’m regretting my procrastination pretty intensely. Anxiety is a tricky thing – sometimes it can be catalyzing and motivating to some degree, but often it’s just paralyzing, which gets you into the feedback loop of “I didn’t get this thing done earlier and now I’m anxious it won’t get done but my anxiety is making me avoid the thing further and now it’s even less likely to get done…” So that’s a thing I’m working my way through.

Last night I got to go out for drinks with one of my oldest friends (the friend I ran into on the street last week), and it was so wonderful. I love having friends I can just jump back into conversation with even though we haven’t really sat down for a chat in years. We ended up hanging out for a couple of hours, and honestly one of the best parts of the whole time together was realizing how far we’ve come in the time that we’ve known each other. We’re both in really good places overall right now, and it was great to be able to celebrate that.

I think that’s it from me this week. I really am loving our new space as we get settled in. I hope your weeks are treating you gently and that you’re all hanging in there.

Brief Thursday Thoughts

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday. It’s going to be a pretty quick blog this week – I have a lot to pack in at work today since they’ve given us tomorrow off in recognition of Juneteenth.

This week I’m delivering performance assessments to my direct reports at work for the first time. It’s nerve-wracking, because I want to be supportive and encouraging and also help them grow and deliver it all in a way that’s motivating rather than paralyzing. The upside is that I was not at all nervous for my own performance assessment this time around – usually I get really in my head about it, but I’ve been so focused on getting assessments written that I didn’t have the brainspace to worry much about it.

Last weekend I dove full-force back into being a social human, and ended up needing to take Monday off to recover (and also because I woke up with a massive sinus headache). Friday night I went out for dinner and drinks with some coworkers, a couple of which I’d never met in person (and then rest of which I’d only seen in person once or twice, basically). It was fun getting to know them a little better IRL, and to see how tall they actually are. Saturday, we got dinner with some dear friends, and then I ended up going over to their house afterward and we wound up playing D&D until 1am (which is SEVERAL hours past my usual bedtime, but it was worth it). I cannot put into words how delightful it was to get to play in person with some of my favorite fellow nerds. And Sunday we got up early to grab coffee with another friend at the park near our apartment, and then I had a virtual D&D game that night (which only went until 10, thankfully). I am definitely swinging wildly between, “I want to see all my friends and do all the things!” and, “I am way too anxious for being social right now.”

We’re down to two weeks away from moving, and I’m trying not to panic. We’ve made good packing progress already. The big thing that’s hanging over my head right now is figuring out how to get rid of the furniture that’s not coming with us to Minnesota. I’m sure it’ll all work out, though.

I think that’s it from me for this week. I hope you’re all hanging in there and taking care of yourselves, whatever that looks like, as many of us start taking our first shaky steps back into social life.

Gratitude on a Sunny Thursday

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday, which I keep thinking is Wednesday…which is, I suppose, better than thinking it’s Friday. I hope you’re all hanging in there.

As of a couple of days ago, I’m officially two weeks out from my second covid vaccine and therefore as immunized as I’m going to be for the time being. It feels good to feel like I can start making some plans with (also immunized) friends again. It also feels weird. I am definitely going to need to relearn how to be social in person, and I’m sure my limit for how many people I can tolerate being with for an extended period of time has changed over the past year of isolation. (I’m an introvert, so that wasn’t a huge number to begin with…I’m a bit nervous about going back to group activities, to be honest.)

My tattoo is healing up nicely, though it’s in a very itchy stage right now. I can’t tell how much of that is the tattoo itself and how much is the hair growing back on my arm, but I’m trying to be careful about not absentmindedly scratching at it.

I don’t really have a lot to talk about this week, but let’s end this with a little list of things I’m grateful for right now:

  • I am grateful for my job. It’s still mindblowing to be in a place where I feel both challenged and appreciated, where I feel like my value is being recognized. It’s wild that I’m in a leadership position and enjoying it (not that it’s easy, but that it feels like a good use of my skills). It’s wild to have a degree of financial stability I have not had since moving out of my parents’ house.
  • I am grateful for my friends. I’ve had a lot of really great conversations lately that remind me that my people are the best people. I’m grateful for their trust and their insight and their love. I’m so glad I don’t feel like I have to carry everything on my own, or pile everything onto my husband or my therapist, but I have whole communities of people supporting me.
  • I am grateful for music. In the past couple of weeks, I rediscovered how much I absolutely adore P!nk. In college, I went from listening pretty exclusively to contemporary Christian music to dipping my toes into the waters of other options, and P!nk was one of the first artists I heard that really connected with my angsty, troubled heart. I hadn’t kept up with her music after graduation, really, but in diving into her newer stuff, it’s been a delight to see that, even though I am not an angsty college student anymore, her music still connects. We’ve both grown since then. I have immense respect for her as an artist. My current favorite track is this one (in case the link doesn’t work, or you don’t use Spotify – it’s the last song on her 2019 album Hurts 2B Human; the track is called “The Last Song of Your Life,” and it’s beautiful), but her newest singles (from the current year) are also incredible.

That’s it from me this week – keep taking care of yourselves and each other.

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.

Christmas 2020

Hello, dear readers! It’s Christmas Eve, so I’m not even going to apologize for posting late – I’m off work, I slept in, it happens.

It’s obviously a weird holiday. We’re connecting with family and some friends for virtual celebrations throughout the weekend. It’s very weird to not be in Minnesota right now, and I’m missing a lot of people pretty fiercely.

But yesterday the plumber came and fixed the clog in our sink that had kept us out of the kitchen for days, so this morning I made actual breakfast and we can clean things up and make actual food for Christmas, so that’s something. We’re going to put up our tree and wrap presents. It’s slowly but surely coming together.

I hope that your holidays are as full of peace and light and joy as they can be right now. If they’re not full of those things (heck, even if they are), I wish you the space to be able to grieve what you’re missing this year.

Dream Collecting

Hello, dear readers! For once, I am writing this blog on Wednesday night instead of Thursday morning; here’s hoping it posts when I tell it to.

My week so far has been a bit of a mixed bag – I woke up Monday feeling very sniffly, and Tuesday morning I woke up with vertigo (which happens occasionally, usually if my allergies are particularly bad). I seem to be mostly on the mend, though, and tonight (Wednesday night) has been lovely – we had tacos for dinner, and I had my last session of songwriting class for 2020. The class has been absolutely magical, thanks to our inimitable instructor, Sue Demel, and a whole cadre of brilliant classmates. I’ve taken this particular class with Sue a few times now, and it’s always a joy – this third time around was no different. Every week I’ve been completely blown away by the songs my classmates have brought in! It’s inspiring to know that such beautiful creative work is happening week to week.

This past week our assignment was to be “dream collectors” – we were to ask friends and family to tell us about their most memorable dreams, and turn those into a song. In the past I’ve posted on Facebook to source this, but I’ve been off Facebook for a month now and am apparently not ready to go back yet, so I asked one of my D&D groups instead. They gave me the most beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking, weird, wonderful material to work with, and I really like what I came up with, so I thought I’d share it here. This is a rough draft and it’s still changing and settling into itself, but I’m pleased enough with it as it is. Enjoy!

Time Has Changed – (c) 2020 Alyxander James

Lyrics, for the curious:

You were a stranger
But your face was familiar
And I trusted you more
Than my own reflection
In a corner booth
Over Moroccan stew
It was an effortless connection

I opened my eyes
And you disappeared
The thin light of day
Spilled through the curtains
A lonely ache
Filled up the space
The emptiness a burden

Time has changed
Time has changed
Time has change me

I’m happier now
Than I knew I could be
I’ve grown stronger
And wrestled my demons
But still there are days
When the ghost of your face
Disrupts my sense of freedom

Time has changed
Time has changed
Time has change me

Time has changed
Time has changed
Time has change me

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.

A Little Gratitude

Hello, dear readers – we’ve made it to Thursday. I haven’t had a bad week, per se, but it’s definitely been an anxious one, between the increasing number of COVID19 cases in the Midwest, and the upcoming election, and… *gestures at the general 2020 dumpster fire*. I don’t expect that to ease up any time soon, so in an attempt to counterbalance that, let’s do a little gratitude list this week.

  • I had to do my final presentation of my big quarterly stretch project at work to our leadership team on Monday, and it went well! I was feeling very behind in the past couple of weeks and wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off, so the fact that everything came together in the end was a nice little boost at the start of the week.
  • Also, Monday was my Grandma’s 93rd birthday. We have a complicated relationship, but I ended up getting to chat with her on the phone for a few minutes in the evening, and that was nice.
  • Last night I started a new (online) songwriting class with Sue Demel, who is one of my favorite people. This is my third time taking this particular class, and it always draws out really interesting material. I’m very excited to see where the next eight weeks take us.
  • I have spent an inordinate amount of time this week creating a character for a spooky D&D one-shot that I’m playing with some friends tonight, and I am SO EXCITED. D&D has been one of the major bright spots in my life lately – I love collaborative storytelling so much, and I have the most wonderful people to do it with.
  • I dropped off my mail-in ballot at the nearest early voting site on Sunday, and got the notice this week that it was accepted and my vote will be counted. Terrified as I am about this election, I appreciate how easy it is to vote in Chicago, and I appreciate the abundance of resources online that helped me to sift through the ~65 judges we were voting to retain (or, in several cases, not retain).

Hang in there, everyone. Keep wearing your masks and physically distancing (I know it’s hard and we’re all tired of it, but the pandemic doesn’t care and it’s not over). Keep checking in on each other. And if you’re in the US and you haven’t voted yet – please, please, please vote. If you need help making a plan, send me a message.