Some updates, then on to some ramblings!
On the Art Front, I’ve been cleaning and reorganizing my art room (again, haha) and have found a great set up (although may turn the table to face the window, as that would add even more to the flow of the room…) and so have been doing a lot more scrap-booking and crafting.
I’ve started to update and redo the website for the art gallery. I was not interested in doing it and tried to decline the offer several times, but eventually caved. I continued to regret my decision until I met with a board member and we seem to have a similar vision and idea of how to get there. The main way being ditching the current design program and going with one that actually allows for so much more customization. I was going to try and make do using the old format, but holy heck, it’s like asking a photographer to capture a scene and then handing them 3 crayons and a napkin. Sure, a picture will be made…but it could be so much better with access to different tools! Since we decided to try and go with a different platform, I’ve been really enjoying creating something from the ground up, but basing it on the old site. Hopefully it’ll be ready to roll out in the not too distant future.
I’ve also been taking some pictures and have a lot of ideas for my own website that I hope to get working on soon. And I’ve been seriously deep cleaning my house and organizing which has been really wonderful. Of course. I have time for all of this now because I’m essentially unemployed. I’ve finished orientation, shadowing/training, and have had my first “solo” on call shift with the new job and now I’m not on call until the beginning of March. The decrease in anxiety from not working full time is palpable. It returns with a lot of force the weeks that I am working, but I’m trying to keep going because bills don’t care about anxiety. I’ve gotten re-enrolled in SNAP and MAWD (food stamps and health insurance) through the state. Thank goodness I ended up with a great caseworker, because the whole process can be really awful otherwise.
In light of going through the “welfare” process again, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we (I) assign value, worth, legitimacy and meaning to things. “Things” probably being my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Having to ask for assistance can be a degrading process, depending on who you’re asking, and it can really make you question your own worth. I have always been one to (over)analyze actions- why people do what they do or why they don’t do other things. I’m fascinated by reality- which is often how we determine our worth. The probability and perception of truly shared realities also captivates me. The possibility that even when people think they are sharing a reality, one can never know because it all depends on words and definitions, which are things we created in the first place. I was not at all impressed or surprised by the whole “gold/blue dress” phenomena because I’ve never believed people perceive things the same. We just don’t usually communicate specifically enough to realize the differences. Because if we did, we’d all probably drive ourselves over the edge. Paying attention to the tiny minutia of everything tends to be generally unhealthy for me because it’s different than being aware or being mindful. I’ve found that it often leads to a sort of paranoia that everything you thought you knew is not what you thought it was. There was a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon that kind of touched on this, where he was thrust in to an alternate reality where he could perceive perspectives other than his own….
Seeing multiple perspectives is helpful but in my experience can at times also be a hindrance. It is easier for me to make a decision the fewer factors that are involved because I have a great deal of difficulty assigning higher worth to some factors than others because I’m afraid I’m just not aware of all of the reasons why something is a factor in the first place! Of course, being aware of all/multiple perspectives has been super useful for many of my careers because I was working with people who were generally not in the best of situations. Being able to keep in mind that the people I worked with have their own perception of their reality (or reality in general) really helps me to approach them with less judgement and helped me avoid unknowingly stereotyping or lumping them based on my own experience or with others experiencing similar circumstances. Now, if only I could apply this way of looking at people to myself, I’d be golden, haha… (I’m getting better at it, at times!)
Ultimately, when considering people, I refuse to believe that outcomes will be identical even if circumstances are identical. We are more than mathematical equations. But, we are also somewhat programmed to compare/contrast things and then assign value based on the results. This is useful in many, many circumstances IF we are able to be open minded to the idea that “value” is also relative and dependent on one’s perception of reality… I mean, don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying that I feel that even people who ascribe to Nazism are justified in their harmful or extreme actions because of their perception of reality. That’s not it at all. I personally do believe there are core things that are “right” and “wrong”. I AM saying that I often question what makes MY idea of right and wrong any better than someone else’s, because I base my actions on my own fundamental values. I happen to value honesty, pursuing knowledge in many various forms, doing good for the sake of helping people not for any specific reward, personal autonomy that doesn’t infringe on other sentient beings, advocating appropriately for those who may need it, and as they say: “above all else, do no harm.”
And while I think these values make me a good person, I don’t think they make me better than others who may not share the same values. I worked for 5 years with teens in the juvenile justice system. Some would punch you in the face without much thought if they thought you were looking at them wrong. And while I worked to educate them that there were ways to deal with things that didn’t involve violence, I accepted that they were mostly a product of their particular environments and that their flying fists had nothing to do with who I was as an individual. They valued survival and came from a place where pausing to consider why a person was stepping up to them or pointing a gun at them would likely not end well for them. Making fully informed decisions is a luxury that people in survival mode/situations don’t always have access to. All I could do in that job was give them the tools I was supposed to, with my personal spin, and send them on their way- usually back to the same environment where they came from where many of those tools would be more a hindrance than a help. But I don’t view myself as having more value or worth. I do like to think I would make different choices- not because I think they are the “right” choices, but because they would align more closely with what I value. Or, if I do feel my choices are the most reasonable and useful options, I at least try really hard to remember that I’m making decisions based on all of the information that I have access to, and that others don’t have the same exact data to work from.
Meta-cognition is a really slippery slope for me and more often than not, leads to an increase of cognitive dissonance rather than a decrease. That’s why I write so much and try to be as detailed as possible in my descriptions of things. My last therapist once told me she had never worked with anyone who used so many metaphors. And it’s not that I lack the ability to be concrete, it’s that I really strive to be understood and to me, that means trying to explain my experiences by relating them in a way I perceive others are more familiar with. I mean. I also really, really love words. So. Sometimes a dangerous (or at least lengthy) combination!!
In other news….The other day, I posted this on my FB:
Perhaps I’m the only one sad about an early spring, but winter has always been my favourite season. And as I was sitting watching the birds outside of my window, I was struck by the absolute beauty of male cardinals against the backdrop of fluffy white snow. Then I was struck by finding instant beauty in a red bird, as red has traditionally been a color that causes me anxiety for various reasons.
As I sat pondering, I found myself thinking about cardinals being considered a sign from those who’ve passed, and the connection that red was Mel’s fave color slipped in place, and the moment was peaceful. And I let it be peaceful.
On the days that I struggle (with her death and everything else I’ve been struggling with), the battle is just as fierce and intense as ever. But there are in-between times and days now, times where I find myself able to catch the next breath instead of holding it in preparation for whatever shoe is about to drop. I acknowledge that the next shoe might be a steel toed boot. But that it also might just be a flip flop.
Being able to breathe really is a wonderful thing.
Almost immediately after posting that, I was hit with a wall of guilt because I realized I had gone quite a while without being solely focused on the grief her death threw at me. And then I was hit with feeling a little bit proud of myself because I realized I hadn’t specifically been avoiding this particular event and everything associated with it as I have historically done with most traumatic/difficult experiences in my life.
I’m traditionally been an all-or-nothing person in terms of emotions in that I either stifle them to the point of not feeling anything, or I am disproportionately consumed by their intensity. I believe the biggest thing I gained from ECT was a greater ability for emotional regulation. Not in the sense that before I had no control over my emotions and now I magically do, but rather there is a definite difference in the flow of my thoughts. Before, my thought process was basically like an always-overflowed creek and the banks of my brain were full of stuck thoughts- some good, some bad but all just caught up in each other and it was impossible to try and dislodge one without all of the rest either tangling more or being rushed off downstream. Finding sure footing was usually unlikely, and any attempts at progress often ended with me drowning under the water. It was exhausting, trying to hold on to the necessary thoughts and not be dragged under by the rest. But one of the first beneficial differences that I noticed from the treatment was a decrease in the speed and volume of the creek. So now, yes there are bad days when I lose my footing or there are so many intense thoughts that some things are bound to get stuck but mostly the flow of thoughts is way less chaotic and less prone to filling the banks with detritus. It is amazing, refreshing, and life changing to to be able to navigate my own brain in this new way. Some days I still end up drowning, but because the flow isn’t as quick, I find I’m able to regain my footing quicker.
Unfortunately, my writing is still pretty stream of consciousness- sorry (but not really!) The other day, my friend reminded me of The Diary of Obscure Sorrows. We listened to a TED Talk by the creator and it was wonderful to hear someone express what I often felt and thought about words and emotions.
John Koenig, Words & Emotions:
I could write pages on the subject of words but, I’ll leave you to explore his stuff for yourself, because hopefully you’ll find words that give you a similar sense of connection. Ultimately, that’s the whole point to me- connection.