I almost didn’t post anything this week. It feels like the only newsworthy item is the fact that I am suuuuuper allergic to the tree pollen that has exploded into the air this week. I am about nine kinds of congested and gross right now. My line at this time of year, as I sniffle and my eyes water, is: “Nature is just *sniff* so beautiful.” Truly, I love trees. And I love spring. Unfortunately, trees in spring do horrible things to my sinuses.

Other than all the sniffling, it’s been a pretty quiet week. Here are a few things that are getting me through this week of allergens:

  1. Lizzo’s new album, Cuz I Love You. If you haven’t yet, get yourself a copy. (It’s a very reasonable $7.99 on iTunes.) I have loved everything that Lizzo has put out, and this album is no exception. Her music is empowering and so damn catchy. Give it a listen!
  2. I had my last banjo class (for now, anyway) last night. It’s been a super fun break from songwriting and was a great palette cleanser. Now I’m headed back to songwriting class next week excited to create new stuff. Music makes my life so much fuller.
  3. I have tomorrow off because of Passover, and I am so happy about it. I have barely managed to get into the office the past few days because of my allergies, but I’ve done it. I’m ready for an extra day off.

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.

Allergies and Optimism

I think I’m finally coming down from my most recent swing into mania. The frenetic activity in my brain has slowed (it never really ceases), and my anxiety has dropped from One Step Below Panic Attack back to Background Hum, at least most of the time.

This week, it really feels like spring is here and summer is right around the corner. I know it’s still spring because even though it’s been quite warm, there is pollen everywhere, which is making my head feel fuzzy and my sinuses cranky. But it’s hard to be too mad when everything’s finally leafing and blooming and alive.

I’m still planning to meet with a psychiatrist next week about a potential med adjustment. I’m still nervous, but I’m also glad I’ve gotten to the point where I’m doing something about the anxiety instead of just drowning in it.

All in all, even though it’s been a weird week, I think things are looking up. The weather has me feeling optimistic. I’ve had lots of reminders that I’ve built a really solid support network, and I’m so grateful for all the awesome people in my life that make the good times better and the hard times livable.

These Boots Were Made For Walking…

It appears that spring has, at long last and after much struggle, arrived in Chicago. Trees and bushes are budding, daffodils are blooming, the sun is making more frequent appearances, and there’s even a new baby bunny in our courtyard.

Baby bun!

The somewhat warmer weather and increased presence of the sun have me wanting to be outside more. I started by going for walks around lunchtime at work. And then I decided to challenge myself a bit.

My office is a little over two miles from home, and because the nearest bus is half a mile away from either place, it takes me a good 45 minutes to get home by bus. I know from past experience that I can walk it in about an hour.

The pedometer on my watch lets me know that I rarely make the standard goal of 10,000 steps in a day. Although I am on my feet for much of the day with my standing desk, I don’t have reason to move around all that much.

So, in an effort to move more, I decided on Friday that I would walk home. And then I did the same thing on Monday, and again on Wednesday (Tuesday I stayed home from work and barely moved at all, but that’s another story). I’ve surpassed 10,000 steps by a fair margin five days this past week. And I feel pretty good about that. (Good is relative. I’ve been pretty sore, but generally am still functioning okay.)

So we’ll see how long this lasts. I know once it’s 90 degrees and humid I won’t want to be walking home anymore, but as long as the cooler, nicer weather holds, it’s a fun experiment seeing how many days in a week I can push myself to do that little bit (or, let’s be real, significant bit) of extra moving.

Spring

Tuesday was officially the first day of spring.

In Chicago, we had just-above-freezing temps and some pretty brutal wind to ring in the new season. A lot of places in the US got a significant amount of snow.

The weather may not feel very spring-like here yet, but I am trying to tune into the change of season on a mental level. I want to appreciate the lengthening hours of daylight, and celebrate the chance for new beginnings. I want to clear out some mental clutter I’ve been hoarding. I want to keep getting better at keeping my apartment relatively tidy.

I’ve been in a quiet, introspective place for a while, which has sometimes made it hard to blog. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface, but not a lot I’m ready to articulate.

I’m starting to feel, though, like as spring emerges, I am also entering a time of emergence. Ideas are getting closer to the surface, closer to being ready to bring into the light of reality. As overwhelmed as I can be by new endeavors, I think I’m mostly looking forward to letting the energy of spring sweep me along for a while.

I still don’t have much to articulate quite yet, but I think it’s coming. Meanwhile, I’ll lean into the feeling that new life is emerging around me.

Spring Cleaning

Last weekend was the vernal equinox – the first day of spring. From here until the summer solstice in June, the days will be getting longer. As much as I like to say that I don’t mind winter (particularly because, as a knitter and an exceptionally warm-blooded person, I am rarely cold, but easily overheated), I’m definitely ready for more daylight and the opportunity to ditch my winter coat for a while.

At some point last year, when I started looking into various forms of earth-centered spirituality, I came across the idea of taking the standard pagan “wheel of the year” – marked by the equinoxes, solstices, and four holidays that fall between each, based largely on an agrarian calendar – and create a sacred calendar that speaks to your own life, traditions, and seasons, which may or may not have a lot to do with planting or harvesting. I came up with some ideas for marking the changing seasons, based on a combination of general tradition and things that are important to me. The big thing that came up for springtime was the idea of spring cleaning.

Last year, it seems like most of my spring cleaning happened on an interpersonal level – letting go of toxic relationships and situations that weren’t making my life fuller. This year, the focus feels like it’s shifted to a more literal sort of spring cleaning, the sort where I let go of physical possessions and make an effort to tidy my living space.

To say that I am not particularly tidy would be very kind and quite a bit of an understatement. While I am slowly getting better as I get older, I am fighting years of packrat tendencies, mental illness, and housework-related inertia, and all of this amounts to a lot of good intentions and a frequent lack of follow-through. But, like I said, I’m getting better. I’m learning that I actually to appreciate tidy space, and I do not need clutter to function, and I feel better about myself and the space that I occupy when I take care of myself and that space.

Last weekend, aside from chipping away at the list of weekly housework my partner and I try to keep up with, I tackled two areas in our apartment that I’d been avoiding for months in one case, years in another. While it didn’t hit my conscious radar until after the fact that I was doing this over the equinox, in retrospect it makes a lot of sense – in a lot of ways, the arrival of spring feels like the true beginning of a new year, and I want to start things out right, without a lot of baggage. The cleaning I did last weekend feels like a major step in the right direction. Now I just need to stay motivated!

Introspection

The past couple of months have felt pretty chaotic – I’ve had places to be four out of five weeknights for the past eight weeks, we’ve already started plotting out our summer (which seems unreal, as it’s approximately 37°F outside as I write this), we’re in the midst of a major purge of the things that have piled up in our apartment, and last weekend we had a friend staying with us.

This is my last week of the four-weeknights-out madness (at least for a while), and as that winds down, it feels like a good time to take a step back and look inward. When life is busy and noisy and full of things to do, I sometimes forget that it’s important to let myself just be sometimes, too.

The friend who stayed with us last weekend is someone we love dearly, but by the end of the weekend, my partner and I were exhausted. It was when I took a step back after they left and realized that they are one of our few extroverted friends that we finally understood why we were so tired when they seemed like they could have kept going forever. It got me thinking about how I have always been an introvert, but how that has manifested differently at different times – and how those different manifestations are often major indicators of the rest of my mental health. I am a different sort of introvert than my partner is, at least some of the time – I need my quiet time at home, away from people in general, but I crave total solitude less frequently than he does. When I am tending toward total isolation, it is often an indication that I am not at my best – that I am trying very hard to hold it together, and it is easier for me to do that if I don’t have to fake it in front of anyone but myself. There is a point at the lower levels of mania where I am much more likely to be intentional about being social, because I actually have the energy to spare for it, but if I’m not careful and my ManicBrain hits a fever pitch, I shut myself away to avoid melting down from the overstimulation of public spaces (and to avoid spending everything in my bank account and beyond).

Because I have been recovering the energy I spent this weekend, and particularly since the weather turned a bit colder this week, I have been trying to be gentle with myself, to let myself be more of a hermit than I might otherwise be. I’m finding that I am drawn more than usual to meditation and quiet, and that has been refreshing. I’ve found myself doodling absently (or resisting the urge to do so in meetings), which is a creative outlet I haven’t explored much lately. I think, much like the rest of the world, I am in a tender place here at the changing of the seasons, and I am trying to learn as much as I can from this place of openness and vulnerability.

Thinking of Spring

We have once again reached that delightful time of year when I am frequently overcome by the beauty of nature (read: watery-eyed, sniffly, exhausted, and allergic to every blessed thing outdoors). As obnoxious as spring allergies are, though, I am thoroughly enjoying the warmer (but not-too-warm) weather, the sunlight we’ve had so far, the longer daylight hours…perhaps it’s just a function of the enthusiastic reproductive efforts of the local flora (and fauna, I suppose), but there seems to be a renewed sense of vitality after the drabness of winter.

I am finally getting around to dealing with some personal things that I have been avoiding for several months. I haven’t had a huge increase in energy, but some things that seem impossible during the grey and dreary times of year become possible when the sun and the green start to come through again.

This weekend, we have a friend coming to visit us from Minnesota. They are one of those friends whose company we don’t get to enjoy often enough, one of those rare souls who leaves me feeling emptied, renewed, and refueled after contact. The weekend promises to be intense and exhausting in some of the best ways, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

I’ve been thinking about relationships lately, and the defining characteristics of the various relationships I’m in with people, from my partner to my friends to my family. This season of renewal and rebirth has me contemplating a sort of social spring cleaning – not necessarily cutting people out of my life completely, but working on strengthening healthy boundaries when dealing with dysfunction, and taking stock of where I am most supported and most relied-on for support, so that I can balance the two. I think I spend too much time wondering how in the world to make new friends, and not enough time cultivating the friendships I already have.

I guess changes in weather bring out my contemplative side. There’s a lot of planning going on, and some big things coming down the pike this summer. It seems it is time to come out of hibernation so that I can enjoy the relative calm before life picks up again. If only I could do it without sniffling…