Resilience

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday that I didn’t fully realize was Thursday until I’d been awake for a few hours, despite having looked at my schedule and literally written the word “Thursday” in my planner earlier this morning. The coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, apparently.

I’ve been thinking about resilience lately. Last week, I posted about how frustrated and sad I am about all of the anti-trans legislation that’s being considered across the US right now. I am definitely very frustrated and sad, but I’ve been thinking about how, even a year ago, that might’ve made me feel totally derailed. But I’ve been doing a lot of work in therapy over the past couple of years to build resilience, to increase my capacity to deal with hard emotions, and to be better able to self-regulate. And I’m finding that, despite the frustration and sadness…I’m okay.

I recently worked out a new schedule with the therapist I’ve been working with for a little over two years now. We’d been meeting weekly – we pushed things back to fortnightly for about a month, and now we’re just checking in monthly, because I realized I was consistently showing up to therapy saying, “You know, I’m actually doing really well!” and not having a lot to dig into. And even this week, when I’ve been wrestling with frustration and sadness alongside some general adulting that came up unexpectedly, I am okay with that decision. I’ve checked in with myself a few times over the last week, asking if I needed to text my therapist and schedule a check-in sooner, but really, I just keep coming up with the answer of, “I’ve got this.” I have proven to myself that I can do hard things, and I’m learning to trust myself more.

I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done to get here. I know this work is the work of a lifetime, and it’ll never be done, but that doesn’t overwhelm me like it used to. I’ve finally moved out of being in survival mode 24/7 and into a place where I feel like I’m thriving, even when things are hard or uncomfortable. (I won’t lie, this is thanks not only to a lot of hard work in therapy, but also to the fact that moving into a new job situation a year ago meant a significant increase in pay. It’s a lot easier to feel like you’re thriving when you’re not scraping by paycheck to paycheck and having to watch every penny you spend to avoid overdrawing your checking account.) It’s a welcome change.

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.

Making Space

Hello, dear readers – it’s Thursday again. I hope you’re all hanging in there. This past week was a long one as we waited to hear who won the US presidential election. It was a lot. It…continues to be a lot.

I realized over the course of the last few weeks that my anxiety was getting progressively harder to manage. This is pretty understandable, given the state of *gestures vaguely at everything*, but I hit the point early this week where I decided I had to do something. I’ve cut back a little bit on coffee, but that’s not really the direction I want to take – while the caffeine can be unpredictable in how it affects me, I find my morning coffee making ritual pretty steadying. When talking with my therapist on Monday, I finally admitted that I’ve noticed that time I spend on social media directly correlates to exponential spikes in my anxiety.

So, I’m taking a little break this week. I’ve signed out of Facebook on all of my devices and set up a 1 minute time limit in case I do hop back on. I’ve set a 15 minute time limit on Instagram and moved the app to a less convenient place on my phone’s home screen. And I think it’s helping. While I do get a little twitchy sometimes when I start to fall into autopilot and navigate toward Facebook and then realize I can’t do that, for the most part I don’t miss it. We’ll see how I’m feeling by the end of the week – I committed to staying off for a week starting Tuesday, and I’m going to reassess early next week if I want to go longer.

I also had the day off yesterday, for Veterans Day. That was also helpful on the anxiety front – I slept in and was pretty lazy for most of the day, which was (mostly) what I needed (it probably would have been a better long-term decision to work on some housework, but oh well).

So that’s where I’m at this week – trying to create some space so that my anxious brain and body can hopefully relax a little bit. I hope you’re all doing what you need to in order to take care of yourselves and your communities right now.

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.

I very nearly forgot to blog this week.

Yesterday was hard. Not because of anything that happened, really, but the whole day felt Sisyphean. I got out of bed late; it took what felt like eons to talk myself into going to work. I spent a lot of the day dealing with a pain flare-up. It was hard to be in my body. I got home and managed to get a few things done, but I was in bed before 8:30.

This morning I woke up still feeling pretty achy, so I made the decision to work from home. This meant that even though I made the questionable decision to crawl back into bed after turning my alarm off, I still had time to shower and take it a little easier getting ready for my day.

Now I’m sitting at my kitchen table with my coffee and my work laptop, getting ready to dive into some work projects, and I suddenly realized I hadn’t written a blog post yet, so here we are.

It’s been a long week, for sure. But here are a handful of things that have kept me going:

  • I finally saw Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker on Friday after work. I know some people found it disappointing, but I really enjoyed it. I cried, I laughed, I held my breath, I occasionally rolled my eyes. It was a fun ride and I found it a satisfying conclusion to the series I was raised on.
  • Saturday we got breakfast with a friend who lives in our old neighborhood. When we moved, we decided to set up a routine of breakfast dates every other weekend, and I’m so glad we did. I am trying to be more intentional about making time for friends. We have such a great constellation of friends and communities here, and I think when I’m struggling I sometimes lose sight of that.
  • I made it to Tai Chi class for the fourth week in a row. It feels good to be doing something to move my body aside from all the walking I do.
  • I wrote three songs last week. I’m getting increasingly excited for FAWM!
  • This weekend I have a couple of things scheduled with friends that I wish I saw more often, and I am very much looking forward to those.

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?

Some Weeks are Harder Than Others

It’s Thursday, and I’m having one of those weeks where Friday and the weekend can’t come soon enough. I worked from home Tuesday and called off entirely yesterday. Some of this week is a mental battle – it’s been pretty grey and dreary outside all week, and it’s hard to feel motivated when the sun doesn’t rise until after 7am and sets around when I’m getting out of work.

A large part of the challenge this week has been physical, though. My hands and arms have been aching in a way they haven’t really before, at least not so consistently. Since my job and all of my hobbies involve my hands, this is…distressing. There have been things this week that I just haven’t been able to do, because it hurts when I try.

My partner has been super great and supportive while I figure out what to do about this and has stepped up where I’ve had to step back. I feel guilty, leaving so many things to him. It doesn’t feel fair, and that’s a hard thing for this Hufflepuff to get past.

I need to call the PT clinic I tried reaching out to online that never got back to me. It would be the most convenient possible location. But the thought of calling is exhausting.

The good news is that I started taking a mountain dulcimer class at the Old Town School last week, and it’s easier on my hands than most of the other instruments that I play. So I can still make music, even if I feel like I can’t do much else.

I know I’ll figure out better ways of dealing with this as time goes on. Right now, though, it is no fun and I am pretty cranky about it.

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.

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.

Anniversaries

Happy Thursday, dear readers!

I was so focused on my ER adventure last week that I completely missed the fact that last Thursday was my 6 year HRT anniversary. I’ve been on testosterone for six whole years! Which, incidentally, means this blog will hit its six year anniversary in a couple of weeks. I’ve blogged almost every week for six years, which is mind-boggling to me.

My therapist is constantly reminding me that I need to take time to recognize and celebrate progress. I’m not good at this. So today’s blog will attempt to do a bit of that.

A lot has changed in the past six years. My life has gained a welcome level of stability that wasn’t there before. I’m in a better place mentally than I was then. I had no idea when I started this part of this journey what would happen with my family. It’s been a trip…but I’ve ended up in a largely positive space. So that’s cool.

In addition to those personal anniversaries, there’s another important one coming up: Sunday will mark nine years since my partner and I went on our first date.

NINE YEARS. In two years we’ll have been together for a third of my life. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it.

In therapy this week we talked about how after three or so years in a relationship, we shift from thinking about that person as a new person in our lives to thinking of them as family. That means that unless we consciously work to rewire whatever dysfunctional attachment patterns we developed in our family of origin, we’ll perpetuate those in our family of choice. (On the one hand, breaking those dysfunctional patterns is overwhelming and difficult, but on the other, what a cool opportunity to strike out into new territory!) One of the things I’m working on is letting myself be cared for, even when I feel like I’m inconveniencing the people around me. I’m so grateful that I have a partner who’s so thoughtful and intentional about making sure I’m cared for.

What about you, friends? Any anniversaries, big or small, happening in your lives these days? I’d love to hear about them!