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.

Sleepy Week

Hello, dear readers! It appears we have made it to another Thursday. Since we had Labor Day on Monday here in the US (which meant a long weekend for me), I’m a little bit extra discombobulated about time right now.

I’ve been extra tired this week. A lot of this, I think, has been the weather, which has been pretty consistently overcast. I also haven’t been sleeping great – staying up later than I should and having weird and unsettling dreams when I do go to bed – which is not helping anything. It hasn’t been a bad week, though. The long weekend was nice. I had two D&D games, a couple of other regularly scheduled virtual hangouts with friends, and my first songwriting class of the new session at the Old Town School (via Zoom, of course). And Monday we used the extra day to put together a LEGO set, which was a lot of fun.

I wrote a song for class this week that I’m pretty happy with (I might post it here next week – I want to let my classmates hear it first), I got to play another session of my friend’s tarot-based game last night, and work has been pretty chill, so all in all it’s not been a bad week. I’m just very sleepy.

On that note, I think I’ll sign off for the week so I can focus on drinking my coffee and trying to wake up a bit more. Stay safe – keep wearing your masks and social distancing and washing your hands. I know it sucks, but the pandemic isn’t over. Keep hanging in there!

2019/2020

Happy New Year, folks! We made it to 2020.

I have a tendency to set intentions and create resolutions at the beginning of the year and then never look at them again. That kind of happened in 2019. However, I looked back at my first post from 2019, when I laid out goals for the year, and even though I hadn’t looked back on them at all as the year progressed…it turns out I actually accomplished most of them? So that’s cool.

Let’s take a look back and a look forward, shall we?

Goals I had at the beginning of 2019, and progress on those goals:

  • Find a new therapist
    • I found a new therapist in January, and it was, on the whole, the most productive year of my life, in terms of therapy. I’ve been working through all sorts of things and feel like I’ve greatly increased my capacity for handling shit that comes up.
  • Complete a second FAWM
    • I wrote 18 songs for FAWM this year (the goal is 14), including two co-writes with my partner! We’d never written together before, so that was cool.
  • Write 30 songs
    • I wrote 50 songs, which is completely bonkers. The last one was written via quietly-recorded voice memos on the late-night drive to Minnesota for Christmas.
  • Read more
    • Technically I managed this – I read more books than I did last year. Didn’t quite hit my Goodreads goal of 25, but managed 23.
  • Go back to Song School
    • We did this, and it was such an incredible, affirming experience. I even managed to write a song while I was there, and got to perform it at the open stage with eight beautiful people.
  • Play out at least four times
    • Unless we count Song School, I played out three times. However…
  • Find at least one opportunity to play out somewhere other than the Acoustic Explosion
    • I did this! I played a show called Homolatte for the first time, and it was brilliant.
  • Play more D&D
    • While I always wish I could play more, I did this. Also got into some other games. I love the folks I game with so much.
  • Keep tracking finances and get money under control
    • I still feel less in control than I’d like, but I’m way better off than I was last year, and I’m on track to have my credit card paid off in June!

Other things that happened:

  • Saw my grandmother for the first time in nine years
  • Attempted 50/90 (and managed 17 songs)
  • We moved!
  • Reintroduced myself to my extended family (which went way better than I expected it to
  • Was a pallbearer at my grandfather’s funeral
  • Deepened existing friendships; made new friends

Goals I have for 2020:

  • Write. Songs, yes, but also other things, poems and short stories and maybe even games.
  • Read more, especially poetry and other things that inspire me.
  • Make music often, as close to every day as possible.
  • Do the work, in therapy and on my own, to be an adult that my inner child can be proud of.
  • Take care of my body and my brain and my spirit.
  • Follow through on the plan to have my credit card paid off in June.
  • Create more routine and space for ritual in my life.

May your 2020 be better than your 2019, and may this time of transition treat you gently and leave you with what you need from it.

Home for Christmas

We’re on our way back to Chicago today, but we’ve been in Minnesota since Sunday celebrating Christmas with our families. It’s been a good week. Here are some highlights:

We learned that the coffee shop where we had our first date is closing at the end of the year. We tried to go to say goodbye, but they were closed until Friday, so we went for a selfie outside.

Outside the Dunn Bros. where we had our first date just over nine years ago

We made the questionable decision to go shopping on Christmas Eve. Found this giant moose made of lights at the mall.

Merry Christmoose!

We celebrated with my partner’s extended family, and his aunt made me a stocking like she’s made for everyone else in the family. His family has always been welcoming, but this was an extra sweet reminder that I belong.

A beautifully cross stitched stocking from my partner’s aunt

We celebrated with my family, and my nephew was very excited to see us. We got many hugs, which were the best presents (which is saying something, because the other presents were also lovely)!

My nephew helped us open the present he gave us.

We had a smaller celebration on Christmas Day with my partner’s immediate family. I made the Yorkshire puddings this year from a recipe by Nancy Birtwhistle of Great British Bake-off fame, and they turned out so great!

Gluten-free Yorkshire puds!

It’s been a lovely week. I’m writing this Christmas night and feeling very loved and content. I do NOT want to go back to work on Friday, but that is what it is.

I hope you’re all having your own lovely winter holiday season, whatever that looks like for you. If you’re not, I hope you can take comfort in the fact that we’re slowly returning to the light now that we’re past the Solstice.

‘Tis the Season

Greetings, readers, from the shiny new Accidental Fudge site! Here’s hoping the links to these posts that populate to Facebook actually work now.

The holidays are upon us. This is, on the one hand, a lovely time of year – it’s festive and there are happy twinkling lights all over my neighborhood and we’re going to take some time off work to go visit family. On the other hand, this is a really challenging time of year – it’s dark around 4pm, my partner’s work is bonkers and leaving him exhausted, and there’s so much pressure to participate in the unfettered commercialism of the season. I feel like I’m never going to have money again.

It’s also the season where we’re all sniffling and pretending we’re not sick, which is a different kind of no fun.

Tonight, I am volunteering at the Old Town School. Tomorrow night, we’re wrapping presents and packing for our trip. Saturday morning, I’ll pick up the rental car, and then when my partner’s done with work, I’ll pick him up and we’ll start driving. I’m a little overwhelmed. It’ll be fun, and whatever we get done, we get done. But it does feel like there’s a lot to do between now and Saturday night.

Next week’s blog may be a little late, as we’ll be on the road on Thursday.

Whatever holiday celebrations you are or are not participating in, I hope your season is filled with love and twinkling lights.

Happy Holidays!

Somehow, we’re suddenly less than a week from Christmas and less than two weeks from the end of the year. I’m a bit in disbelief. In some ways, this felt like a very long year. In others, it flew by.

I’m going to save my reflections on 2018 for the next post, though.

This week, I want to talk about what I’m looking forward to in these last couple of weeks of 2018.

  • Road trip: Since it looks, at this point, like the weather is going to cooperate for our trip, I am looking forward to the drive. My partner and I enjoy road trips. We don’t own a car, so it’s always an interesting change of pace.
  • Family: I am looking forward to seeing both my partner’s family and mine, even if family events around holidays sometimes feel daunting. We don’t see our families all that often these days, so the chance to get together is great.
  • Friends: We’re scaling way back on social commitments for this trip, but I am extremely excited to see the couple of people we were able to work into the schedule.
  • Time off from work: Work has actually been pretty okay lately, but I’m excited to have some time away from the office.
  • Lights: There’s not going to be snow on the ground for Christmas, but my favorite part of the season is the lights everywhere, at this darkest time of year.

I am not sure if I’ll be posting anything next week – we will be traveling home next Thursday. May you and yours have a merry end to the year, and may we all find some light in the midst of the darkness.

Gratitude

I’m not big on Thanksgiving as a holiday – it feels like colonialist propaganda, mostly.

However, I can see the value in taking time to be grateful. So here are a few things I am grateful for today:

  1. My partner and I celebrated our 8th anniversary last weekend. I’m grateful to have a partner who gets me, and who I am still having fun with eight years in.
  2. After months of feeling like I was just sort of drifting, I finally feel like I have a little more direction at work. I’m talking with my boss about the future direction of my job tomorrow, so fingers crossed that this continues.
  3. My friends in California have made it through the wildfires and the smoke. I’ve been really worried about them, and I’m glad to see folks are as safe as they could be given the circumstances.
  4. Things are going pretty well with my immediate family. It’s been a long road with a lot of detours and ditches, but I’m optimistic.
  5. I have so many wonderful people in my life. I’m grateful for all of you!

Sometimes Self-Care Looks Like…

We’re less than one week from Christmas. On Saturday, my partner and I will get up at an ungodly hour of the morning and drive to Minnesota, where we’ll spend a week with family. (Incidentally, there may or may not be a blog next week, on account of the holidays.)

As 2017 draws to a close, and I find my life in a relatively stable place overall, I am allowing myself some time to more closely examine the areas of my life that have long been neglected in favor of what felt like more pressing crises.

One of those areas is anxiety management. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, so I’m no stranger to anxiety, but with the current state of the world, I’m finding the coping mechanisms I have aren’t sufficient. I’m also noticing where my anxiety is affecting other areas of my life – how it makes me shut down around conflict, how it destroys my productivity at work, how it keeps me from enjoying social situations that didn’t used to be a problem. I had my first visit with a new therapist on Monday. Sometimes in therapy in the past I’ve had trouble articulating why I was there, and what I needed, but this new therapist was able to sort of draw that out of me and help me frame my goals for therapy more solidly than I’ve been able to in the past. I think things are going to work out well with them.

Another area that I’ve been neglecting is more physical. There are a lot of aspects of my physical health that I am not great at paying attention to, but I’ve been having particular trouble with my knees lately, as a joint issue I was diagnosed with in high school has flared up again. It’s done this occasionally over the years, but now my right knee has been swollen and stiff for a month, and my left knee is getting sore from compensating for it. Thankfully, this time when it flared up, I made an appointment with my doctor right away, who referred me to a physical therapist. I had my first PT appointment yesterday, and it was kind of miraculous how much of a difference a single, half-hour appointment made. I have instructions to do some stretching exercises every few hours during the day for the next couple of weeks, until my next appointment, and it’s encouraging to see progress on the first day.

Sometimes self-care looks like finding a new therapist, even if the process of finding a new therapist is, itself, kind of anxiety-inducing.

Sometimes self-care looks like making that doctor’s appointment that probably should have been scheduled months ago.

Sometimes self-care looks like knitting selfishly after working on a rare unselfish project for a couple of months. I knit my nephew a sweater for Christmas, and while it was fun and it looks super cute and I think he’ll like it, there’s something immensely satisfying about working on a sweater for myself with tons of cables (which is far and away my favorite type of project to work on).

The holidays are rough for a lot of people, for all sorts of reasons. My own holiday is looking like it’ll be bittersweet – I get to spend time with all sorts of people I care about, which will be lovely, but my 15-year-old dog (okay, she’s my parents’ dog, but we got her the summer I turned 14, so she’s still my dog) is not doing well, and it’s almost certain that next week I’ll be saying goodbye for the last time. I’m already sad, thinking about it, as much as I’m grateful that I will get one last chance to see her. Sometimes, for me, self-care looks like blocking out some time in my schedule to process the feelings I don’t have space for, say, at work. Which is all to say that this is a time of year where self-care is particularly important, and that self-care is going to look different for everyone.

I wish all of you the happiest holidays you can manage, and I hope you all find ways to take care of yourselves through the rough patches.

Brief Bright Spots

It feels like it’s been a long week. In reality, I stayed home from work on Monday after waking up feeling feverish, and I’ve been spending a lot of time sleeping as I try to fight off this annoying cold that isn’t awful but just won’t leave. I’m still dealing with anxiety. But there have been some distinct bright spots in the week, so I’m going to focus on those today.

  1. We started putting up holiday decorations in our apartment. We have lights around the windows, and the (fake) tree is up. We still need to get the lights on the tree plugged in (we had to acquire another extension cord first – there’s a paucity of outlets in our apartment), and put the ornaments on, but that should happen in the next few days. I have complicated feelings about Christmas (it no longer holds particular religious significance for me, and the capitalist overtones of the secular side of the holiday are overwhelming and upsetting), but I do like the decorations, especially the lights. So that’s been fun.
  2. I found out my knee is not untreatably messed up. My right knee has been swollen and achy for a few weeks. Finally made it to the doctor last week, and while it looks like I need physical therapy (currently waiting on a referral), it doesn’t appear to be anything irreparable. So that was encouraging.
  3. I scheduled an intake appointment with a new therapist. My last therapist, who I adored, moved to Portland in September. I felt like I was doing mostly okay, but I’m recognizing that I’m still dealing with a lot of anxiety. I’m also finding, as my life in general becomes more stable, that there are areas of my psyche I have avoided dealing with in the past that are now coming to the surface, so it feels like a good time to find someone to process all of that with. I don’t know whether things will work out schedule-wise with this particular person, but I’m optimistic.
  4. I wrote a letter. I have this pen pal in Germany who I’ve been corresponding with off and on since 2013. He is a great pen pal and regularly sends me postcards, interspersed with occasional longer letters and some photographs he’s taken. I have been a horrible pen pal, and have maybe written to him once all this year. But this week, after receiving yet another postcard from him, I finally sat down and wrote him a proper letter. It reminded me that I really enjoy letter writing, when I actually sit down to do it. I am hoping to do more of this in 2018.
  5. Doug Jones beat Roy Moore for the Alabama seat in the Senate. I had not fully processed how much tension I was carrying about this until I got a text from my dad on Tuesday night announcing that Jones had won. It’s restored a little bit of my faith in our collective humanity, and has me feeling tentatively hopeful about next year’s midterm elections. I’m still disgusted that it was a close race and that the majority of white people (including the majority of white women) voted for a pedophile. In fact, 80% of voters who self-identified as white evangelical/born-again Christians voted for Moore. (Stats found at Washington Post and NBC.) White Christians, do better. Call this out. This is not just a southern problem – the whole country was complicit in electing 45. This is a white people problem, and especially a white evangelical problem. I found this opinion piece in the Washington Post really on point – worth a read.

All that to say that while things still feel pretty shaky on a global level, personally, I’m doing okay. Or if I’m not exactly okay, I’m finding ways to get there. And really, that’s about all I can ask for right now.