Evening Grosbeaks and More

Spotted a pileated woodpecker in Clear Creek Park last week and was able to get surprisingly close!

A few days ago, I saw what looked like an overgrown yellow finch flash out of the tree I spend much of my time observing. Later she returned with a friend and I was able to get pictures. I was fairly certain it was a type of grosbeak, their beak is pretty recognizable compared to most of the other birds who visit here. Yesterday the male showed up and stunned me with his severe colors. Today, I caught a male and female having brunch.

Also have decided grackles are the original angry bird and always look terrifying…

My Many Colored Days

This is a stepstool I decorated for a fundraiser my local library was sponsoring in 2008. The idea was to create a chair based on a children’s (or maybe any) book which would then be auctioned to raise money. I chose My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss and used my own manipulated photography. Most/all of the credit for lettering goes to my friend Hillary!

Struction Stories

Can we pause the de-struction to make way for con-struction? Can we consider “struction stories”?

The following are my words. My words are meant to be an explanation of my truths. My truths are constructed by my beliefs which are constructed by my interpretations of my experiences. My experiences as well as my perceptions are constructed by my identities. My identities include (not necessarily in a particular order): female gendered, lesbian, biracial, mentally ill and/or trauma survivor, advocate/helper, writer, photographer, welfare recipient, emotional empath. 

I struggle with many of these identities. Some are placed on me, some are unchangeable, some I have embraced easily and others have had to embrace me until such time I could accept them. But I am fortunate. The majority of my identities can be hidden, masked or modified depending on the situation. Even my skin color. I was adopted and raised by caucasian parents, I attended relatively non-diverse educational institutions where I felt safe in most of my identities most of the time. I have a knack for piecing words together and a passion for bringing understanding to the misunderstood. 

There is much that I do not understand- but much that I do. And as I watch cars burn in Pittsburgh- the closest thing to a city as I have claimed as “my own”- and buildings burn across America, my heart was conflicted- I have always believed that violence begets violence. But I have also always believed that there is more than one side to any story. As I watched only white people destroy the police car as people of color stood back and begged the rest to not record black men or women, my first reaction was “NO! Record everything so we can ALL see the truth!” 

But a few days ago, we all watched the truth. We all watched one man kneel on another man’s neck. We all watched 4 people with training on the proper techniques of how to control another person physically do exactly the opposite of what you learn in training. Perhaps there is a time when brute force is necessary in order to keep others safe. That is a different What If and that is not the case here. This man was not resisting arrest. This man was not caught in the act of violence. This man was not even screaming obscenities or slurs. This man was calling for his mother. This man was begging for air.

There are others begging for air. Men and women screaming about having to wear masks that they perhaps don’t believe are any form of protection for themselves or others. That is a different scenario that I am enraged by, because of my experiences and beliefs. However right now, I’m focused on the multitudes out there who simply don’t have the whole story about masks, viruses, and transmission. And that’s ok, because most of us don’t have to figure out how to protect ourselves against such threats. We have relied on medical professionals, scientists, researchers, experts and professionals in specific fields to let us know how we can best stay safe. They are sometimes wrong. How often are they right? How many medications, treatments, surgeries and devices are life saving? Yes- pharmaceutical companies, businessmen and others with varying agendas muck up the system down the line. That’s not the *beginning* of the story, though. The beginning of the story is: there is healing to be done. 

The beginning of the burning car story is this: there is healing to be done. We all live in the same time and the same place right now. And there is so much to be healed. These stories can weave together and separate and rejoin. I understand that sometimes healing one wound means another will be affected. I understand that exercising personal freedoms sometimes steps on the toes of another person’s personal freedoms. I absolutely do not understand, however, how edicts or rules or words on a disintegrating piece of paper & written in an absolutely different world- over 200 years ago?- are being used as an arguing point for today’s reality. Yes, when guns with the same capabilities as the ones around when the right to bear arms was invoked it made sense. When, in order to reach your perceived enemy you had to saddle your horse, take time to figure out where your enemy is, get there and hope they’re there, take a shot maybe two and hope they’re accurate, but if not,  reload your weapon during which time your enemy may flee or advance with their own weapon, and then take another few shots. But now? When a single weapon can kill hundreds of people in minutes? When you can perceive whole crowds as your enemy, find out where they’re likely to be on social media, put a clip in your automatic weapon, and spray down 5, 10, 20, 60 people with basically a single trigger pull? How is that even the same situation to be applying the same rights to? People have changed. Weapons have changed. Society has changed. Anyone who is different is the enemy, no one cares about their story.

Well, I care. I’ve restrained enraged black teens. I’ve stayed silent while bigger, stronger white men (and women) in places of power put their knees in the wrong places. Used excessive voice. Verbally degraded and escalated the situation. I felt powerless. I thought moving up in power would give me more power to enforce policy and procedures. It did not. The more I spoke up, the more I realized I was still in the minority. The more I realized that sometimes, when people are given power, it makes them deaf to the start of the story. And I am not claiming innocence. I shoved washcloths over the mouths of teens spitting on me. I gripped harder than necessary out of anger and frustration and being caught up in the moment. I said angry and unnecessary things to youth who were doing nothing more than screaming out their stories in ways that they had learned. I am ashamed at my actions, at my inactions, and at my inability to affect change. I am proud that I used the opportunities to try and do better, to apologize, to listen closer and harder, to ask questions when I didn’t understand. It wasn’t enough. But it was what I was capable of at the time. Most of the updates I get on the kids are stories of their death or their parts in additional crimes. 

I used to identify as a pacifist until I heard that Ghandi didn’t believe a woman should fight back against her attacker. And, if playing dead saved lives, I might agree. Andrea Gibson said “I believe in such a thing as a non-violent fist.” And as I watch people of all colors raise their right fists as they back away from the white boys destroying property, my heart says “Yes.” My brain was surprised when my heart agreed with a police station on fire. Who am I, that I am condoning violence? 

I am a woman with hope in her heart that lighting bricks on fire while abstaining from causing physical harm to other human beings is the right decibel to be heard. To be heard by white people (why do I cringe when I write “white people”?) who, over the increasing threat of COVID and forced quarantines, have hopefully experienced just enough fear about the threat of death to relate to the struggle of those protesting the murder of George Floyd (and absolutely too many others.) Until your life consists only of trying to survive- of being trapped in a world where just going to the grocery store may end in sickness or death or causing another person’s sickness or death- can you appreciate how difficult it must be to spend years, decades, lifetimes living that way. 

I don’t believe blame is helpful in this situation. But I believe knowledge is. I believe education about the origin story is instrumental in healing. Tolerance. Patience. Acceptance that actions done out of rage likely occur after a multitude of other actions have failed to be successful in getting the message across. An infant does not cry because it wants to be annoying. It cries because it needs something. Food. A feeling of security. Attention. Yes. Attention. People act out because they need attention and instead of giving them attention, we condemn them for daring to ask for it. We ignore the quiet shuffling in the corner. We brush off the gentle tugs at our sleeve. We get annoyed at the signs littering our spaces, so we prevent them from entering our spaces even if they have every reason to be there. They knock louder, we reply with pepper spray. They break windows. We bring guns. They turn to leave. We shoot them in their backs. We follow them to their spaces to tell them what awful people they are. We point to their deplorable spaces and blame them for staying in such an awful situation, all the while refusing to accept that our actions and inactions have contributed to all of it. Not to mention somehow simultaneously ignoring how unsuitable their spaces are for mental and physical health wne well being. Why do we blame mental illness for white murderers actions, but blame skin tone for non-white murderers actions? What’s the rest of the story?

It’s not my place to force you to listen to the professionals about best practices in the time of a pandemic. It is my place to voice my own needs and make sure my own health is maintained as I see fit. That may mean asking you to put on a mask or keep your distance. This might make you uncomfortable. Just like it makes me uncomfortable when my mother is in the hospital with an unidentified illness and is on PPE Precautions (which she usually is until they figure out what’s at the root of her illness that particular stay)…There is a sign on her door that most of us ignore that informs us we have to wear a mask, gloves, and gown if we wish to enter. But you know what? I ask, every time. I ask a nurse and I confirm with my mother to determine if I should put on the gear or not, because the consequences of not doing so affect my mother and the healthcare professionals caring for her and I respect their system. 

Where has the respect gone? Yes. Masks are uncomfortable. Speaking about racial inequality, inequity, and injustice is uncomfortable. Holding my tongue is uncomfortable. Hearing my voice is uncomfortable. And yes, I’m prone to overdoing a lot of things- thinking, acting, reacting, analyzing, sharing, empathizing. Because the only thing more uncomfortable than being judged, labeled or ridiculed for doing those things is the consequence of ignorance. 

Holly Button

May 30, 2020

Statistically Speaking

The long and the short of it- at the end of this blog entry is a call for donors to renew my website. However I can’t in good faith ask for donations without clarifying that I am a month and a half behind on bills, have about 25 dollars in the bank, a paycheck of less than $150 coming on Friday and have no resolution in sight to my financial situation. It started long before Covid and I take full responsibility for the bulk of it, even though I didn’t start the ball rolling. I was doing well at making progress until December. The rest of this entry will be a ramble of why my mind wants my body to go to the woods and stay there until decomposition is complete. But I’d prefer if people didn’t take my emotional state in to consideration when providing financial assistance, lol.

Anyways. So this has been the worst and longest consecutive few days of awfulness since BQ. Which is ironic, because my mood and anxiety has been so roller-coastery for the last month that you’d think I’d welcome a few days of stable emotions. Except this is not a good place to hang out in. It’s too easy to get stuck and the path down is far easier than the path up and once I’m here, it’s extra difficult to not succumb to the path of least resistance.

Why am I being so vague? Why are people so vague when they talk about their own negative emotions? Personally I think I do it because I worry about my audience- you can never know if what you say will be a trigger or tipping point or what the consequence of either of those things will be. So. Trigger warning for heavy shit. Suicide, cutting, depression, anxiety, financial destitution, etc.

So, the last few days have been difficult. I started this month’s on-call rotation on Friday. I hadn’t had a call since my March rotation, right when things started to shut down and get serious in this state as far as social distancing and such. Last month’s on call was rough because there’s always some level of anxiety associated with it, but generally it’s reasonable. But this month, my anxiety as a whole is higher and the depression is more intense than it’s been since December/January. And Monday was mother’s day and I miss my mum fiercely but also the anxiety around traveling to visit her and the possibility of contracting or transmitting anything to her is…well, it seems appropriate to me, but it’s also a bit debilitating so that’s not good. I mean. Anxiety is a bigger problem when it prevents you from doing activities you want to do, right? But what anxiety keeps you from doing activities that are scientifically more dangerous for you than they might be to someone else? Is that good anxiety or bad?

So I’m slipping in to the Freeze stage. Where I’m aware of the depression, the anxiety, the maladaptive ways in which I’m trying to cope with them but don’t have the resources at my disposal that help me cope more effectively or healthily so I get overwhelmed at being stuck in between a rock and a hard place. Yet logic tells me if I keep wiggling, something will come loose and I’ll have more options. The trouble there is, those options don’t always turn out to the be the best ones. Like yesterday, I was at my house working in the basement, trying to get rid of some of the disgusting cardboard for Trash Day because it needs to be done and the deadline is coming up. And at the same time, was engaging in a comment thread that I simply should not have engaged in but I needed to speak my truth because for a change, I was 99% positive that MY truth was the more common reality in the matter I was discussing, and was not willing to let another person’s negative reality prevent my sharing of resources that may have been helpful to the primary population I was sharing it with. But. I let myself get too worked up about it when I was already in a fragile state and I stared at my options for about 2 minutes before choosing and using. I am not proud of using sharps again, but it was effective. It stopped the noise in my brain long enough for me to recognize the danger I was in (at that point, really only the danger of making more superficial cuts on my skin. But I know where that leads to eventually, and I know enough to know I need to stop it sooner rather than later.) So I was able to finish what I was doing and head back to safety. Safety, at that point, was nesting in bed with my dog under a pile of blankets listening to familiar music- but nothing too sad and nothing too happy. P!nk was the perfect pick. And after a bit, I was able to uncocoon and medicate and feel human again, for a bit.

The problem is, those moments of feeling human are starting to slip from the normal to the exception. If I’m not constantly vigilant about pushing thoughts of being done away, they are right there getting more urgent the longer I sit with them. And it’s not even about wanting to be dead. It’s about wanting to be nothing at all. “Heaven, that wasn’t what you were aiming for. You didn’t think the other side would be better. You thought the other side would be nothing at all. Imagine choosing nothing at all. Imagine hurting that bad…”

I recorded this video on April 28. 2018 when I saw Andrea perform in Ithaca, NY. It was general admission, no seats and we were standing in the second row, essentially. It was such an intense experience, to be so close to someone who spoke thoughts I could barely admit to having. To listen to someone speak my language without me having taught it to them. I was able to get their autograph and a photo with Andrea, and mumble out a rushed “thank you for helping me save my own life”.

I have been blessed with so many amazing teachers- somewhat ironically, a large proportion of them are not only teachers by calling but also are/were teachers by profession, too. And helpers. And combinations. But endlessly patient with my slow progress, my stumbles, trips, falls, and mistakes. And endlessly encouraging and proud of my every step forward, every small and large accomplishment.

I am grateful that, even despite having no fucking clue how my mortgage and bills are going to get paid again or caught up again…I am 100% confident I will always have a comfortable room, couch, attic space somewhere to sleep on and space to store as many of my meaningful possessions as possible. I will never go any hungrier than anyone else in my circle because I am loved and cared for, and I know this with my soul.

But that doesn’t ease the anxiety. I do not want to lose my house. Because, despite it not being the safest place for me *right now*, once the threat of covid decreases to me, my home will again be a safe and comforting space. And while I know there are other places that I can be physically safe anywhere if I take the appropriate measures, it’s more about psychological safety. My home is the first place I felt truly rooted since probably 2001. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and adventure. But I need someplace safe to come home to. And I don’t want to rely on other people to pay my bills or keep me fed. I want to be financially independent again. While also maintaining my mental health. These go hand in hand. The better able I am to meet my own needs, the better I do mentally. The worse I am doing financially, the worse my mental health. There’s a definite relationship. I have tried really hard to get them to break up and go their own ways. So far I’ve been wholly unsuccessful. And while it is necessary for me to ask for help, it comes at a pretty big cost to my psyche. Not because of needing the assistance, but because I can’t be self-reliant. And more than that, I can’t pay anyone back financially. Asking for a loan is different than asking for a grant. Getting a loan is different than getting a grant.

Ultimately, I’m exhausted. And agitated. And irritated. And terrified. And overwhelmed. And beyond grateful that I have a quarantine buddy who puts up with me (so far) even though I’m a huge drain of mental and physical resources.

And I can medicate and alleviate so much of that for a time. And for a change, my current meds actually help me improve my mental health rather than just mask the symptoms for a time. They allow me to sort through all of the shit without getting stuck on the minutia long enough to let it drag me too far under. And it reminds me what it feels like to feel relaxed. And calm. And not on guard. And my brain can wander without fear of landing in suicidal or self harming waters, because they create a sense of emotional safety that lets me explore my own brain and share those explorations with others, to a degree, in a way that’s really difficult for me to share when I’m not medicated. Unfortunately, the meds also impair my overall focus in a way that makes things like driving unsafe, and while it helps me maintain my survival, it would greatly impact my ability to maintain professional boundaries with clients, so I can’t medicate when I am on call. Which increases the anxiety because I get stuck in a loop of “my anxiety is increasing and I sometimes I can’t alleviate it without meds but I can’t take meds cuz then I can’t perform my job functions if I need to and then I’ll be worse off than I am now and….” and the catastrophizing continues until I find a way to stop it in its tracks. Which sometimes can only be done by medicating. Or cutting. But I reaaaaally have NO DESIRE to get back on that particular path.

On the other hand. I think back to a kiddo I worked with who I immediately felt a connection with. And a kiddo who reminded me- and continues to remind me- why I am called to speak so bluntly. This kid completed suicide, and the comments on facebook, etc ENRAGED ME. The pleas that followed for people struggling to “reach out!” and “ask for help!!!” Fuck that. This kid was basically SCREAMING for help. But no one was listening to us. But I listened to her. And she knew it. Her face would light up when she saw me walk down the hall (until anyone commented on her disposition, then the mask would clamp back down). And she would test the waters and tell me about her decision to be a satanist. My initial “non-reaction” threw her off enough that when I asked her what kinds of things a satanist believed in, she talked longer tgan she ever had to me. Her answers indicated that she basically had no idea what Satanism was, just that being forced in to believing so strongly in a God that, in her eyes, prevented her from doing the things that she loved was not working for her. Yes, part of it was just general rebellion at having to follow rules. But the rest was straight up crying out that being controlled by religion was not working out the way others wanted it to. And even if the rules and restrictions weren’t as strict as she described them…they were affecting her enough that she threatened to hurt herself because of it, and essentially demanded treatment. Which she was denied, because others felt she was “just trying to be manipulative” and “this is her pattern, she’s just trying to get her way…” Ok. And? How is that any different than adults in her life forcing her to believe what they believe to the point they can’t hear her pain? I was removed from her case because I guess I was advocating too strongly for her and her parents didn’t appreciate my professional opinion. Ok. Fine. But fuck anyone who focuses on manipulation while ignoring the reasons behind it. Fuck anyone who says that girl didn’t fight like hell for years to be heard, that she didn’t try to seek out people who spoke her language, that she didn’t try hard enough.

So I speak my truths for her. For Nevin who hung himself as his parents slept upstairs, but the newspapers claimed natural causes. For L who shot herself in the neighbor’s driveway after they dismissed her more times than she could withstand. For Amy, who sparked a movement but in the end wasn’t able to keep her own spark lit for whatever reasons.

Don’t misunderstand. Many, many, many people go to great lengths to keep their pain hidden. And in many cases, they kept their cries silent, hidden, bottled. Sometimes it really does come as a shock because the person was so careful at keeping up the facade and sometimes suicidal thoughts hit at the most unexpected time, catching you so off guard the plans are set to action before you really understand the consequence of your actions.

But sometimes, too, the nothing at all is the only relief from the pain we can fathom.

Especially when, one by one, all of our reliable coping mechanisms are stripped from us. Even if just temporarily. Depression, anxiety, mental health issues in general alter the passage of time. Have you ever been in a car accident, or narrowly avoided disaster? Or witnessed a disaster? The way time slows as your car slides toward the guardrail. The way you can see the deers eyes clearly for an eternity as your car careens towards it but your car is going 40mph and it all actually happens in seconds….that kind of how time is all the time for people. Inconsistent. Too slow, too fast, just right.

And, just to be crystal clear, the professionals in my life know where my head is at. I know what numbers to call and where to go if necessary. This is not my cry for help. It is my way of holding myself accountable and my way of trying to ease the intrusive thoughts enough to not give in to impulsivity.

And it is my way of reaching out to others who may not know how to open the conversation with people in their own lives. Blunt honesty does NOT work in all situations for all people. But know this- you can start the conversation with me. I may only be able to listen. And I may not always be in a place where listening is healthy for me. But I have been so fortunate to have people hear me, even when I didn’t say a word. And I would have long given up this fight if it weren’t for them.

That being said, this blog will soon disappear due to my wordpress renewal coming up in a few weeks and my lack of income. As I said, I can’t in good conscience ask anyone to fund my “hobbies” without disclosing how far behind I am on all of my other bills. We all have different definitions of “essential” and “responsible” and I will survive without a paid wordpress account. But I feel like at least this place can be useful to people other than me, so it’s easier to swallow my shame and beg for a finite amount of dollars for something like this, because it helps me feel like I’m at least paying back/forward something, even if it’s not money…


Thoughts on Trauma and Trajectories

Well. Here we are. Let’s see if I can manage to start and finish a blog in one day/sitting. I used to write pages at a time, several times a day, every day. But time and other things have a way of altering one’s trajectory, sometimes temporarily (I hope.) I miss writing, I really do. I miss the communities where I would write and read others’ and leave notes and encouragement. It was about being connected. I have always connected better with the written word. But the flip side is…it’s a two way street. When no one writes back or even indicates that they’ve read…it loses the sense of connection. Sure, it’s still important (and vital) to my well being that I express myself, but often writing now leaves me feeling emptier than I started out. Like shouting in to a canyon. The view is breath-taking and nothing can change that. But many days, it can still leave me with a sense of being absolutely alone. In normal-times (aka B.Q.- obviously before quarantine!) that loneliness wasn’t such an issue. It could easily be filled with actual people. Even if it was just sitting in a sunny window at Michelle’s and not speaking to anyone…the baristas and owners always shared a smile, most knew my name and used it even. Sometimes being greeted by name with a smile could change the tone of my whole day. That’s something that I forget pretty frequently, but thankfully my subconscious remembers and still drags my body out the door to familiar places even when it doesn’t know why. And it’s not just the coffee shop. But so many of the little stores on Main Street. Even before I worked for George, he always offered a smile and a wave (if his hands were empty, which they rarely were, lol) as I passed his store. And Miss Jean, who I sometimes actually see in her work environment, but more often at the coffee shop or County Seat or just walking in town. This community is full of people who make my day brighter just at the sight of them, whether I know their name or they know mine. Businesses that I can’t afford (because I can’t afford anything) but who welcome me even with empty pockets. I miss seeing John sitting in the sunshine counting people in cars, philosophizing about everything outside his shop. Anyways. I digress…

I’ve seen so many posts, so many articles about using this time to become a Better You. So many places pushing ways to not “waste” your time in quarantine. And when these things come from an informed- or at least genuine- place of caring…I’m all for it. I’m ALL for gyms and educators and others sharing resources, challenging their members, encouraging healthy lifestyles in the midst of the chaos. I commend them. I commend those who are able to focus, stick to a routine, practice self care that is productive, and maintain a positive disposition.

I am not one of them. That’s not to say I’m not doing the best that I can. And it’s not to say I’m wallowing in self pity or content to gain 50 pounds and 3 more chins. But I saw a meme that said something along the lines of how sharing your story may help at least one other person. Which is something I always try to remember. That sharing my story doesn’t just help prevent me from suffocating under the weight of it- but it might be helpful to someone else. Even if it’s just a moment of “geesus, I don’t wanna end up like that! I’m gonna make a change!!” but mostly I hope it’s more a “oh. Maybe I’m not alone in my way of seeing things…” So. Here’s some story for you:

I wake up pleasantly most days. The first sensation is the soft sheets and comfortable temperature. Then I open my eyes and marvel at how perfectly the light comes through the curtains and shades- so white, but not too bright. I’m usually ok until I move. That’s when my brain registers the way my hands feel tight and swollen. I resist the urge to curl my fingers in to a fist to test how sore they are, but I do it anyways. I start to worry…yesterday I could curl them tighter without as much pain, couldn’t I? My palms didn’t burn and tingle as much a few days ago, did they? I try to do a body scan to relax- it used to be a somewhat effective way to calm myself down a few years ago- progressive relaxation. Not so much now. It highlights the ache in my ankles, hips, elbows. Places I’ve never hurt before. Places that have no reason to hurt now in the way they do, even if I’m in my 40s and awful about exercising. I have those aches, too. But this pain is deeper, in a way that I can’t identify sometimes if it’s muscles, bones, nerves, or something else altogether that hurts. It feels like if I could detach the muscles and tendons and untwist them from one another, and then scrape my bones smooth with a brillo pad, and then put everything back together again, I would feel better. (But I had anatomy & physiology, and I know that’s not necessarily how my body is put together.) And while stretching and exercise would help, it’s overwhelming- to be in pain before stretching, be in increased pain while stretching, and then be in even more pain after stretching. It makes it really hard to get to the point where the stretching eases the pain. And yes, it’s as much a head game as a body game probably. But my head’s not in the game right now. I take full ownership of that. But also, in the interest of full disclosure- when I try to get my head in the game and force myself to do things like stretch, it turns in to a war against myself and spirals into a slippery slope of “why bother??” And I know from past experiences in my head that the “why bother” quickly leads to suicidal ideation, and that’s just not a place I think I can pull myself back from right now. So. Yes. I do a lot of sitting on the couch. I do a lot of “I should go for a walk, do some simple stretches, exercise…” and beating myself up for not doing those things. But ultimately, the fear/reality of physical pain wins. The days that are the most bearable are the ones where I accept early on in the day that right now, self care might look like and might be “laziness” to others, but that I know what is going on in my head and in my body. That’s not to say I want people to discontinue encouraging me, pushing me, dragging me towards a better self. Because some days I CAN do more than other days, and admittedly I CANNOT be trusted to kick myself in the ass every day to see what I’m capable of. Not right now.

At first, when BQ was just turning to DQ (during quarantine), I was handling things really well. I was calm, I was able to keep a handle on my anxiety. I have spent a lot of time living in Crisis Mode. It’s my default mode, and I know how to do it. The thing is, the way I also survived Crisis Mode was by 1. working at whatever job I was in until I had no energy to put any of the self destruct plans in motion 2. keeping up appearances with the public in general because while “fake it til you make it” never sat well with me, I at least took pride in my ability to keep on a mask…As Ani sings…”But as bad as I am I’m proud of the fact That I’m worse than I seem ” 3. seeking the comfort of close friends who know my struggles and love me despite how unlovable I often feel 4. depending on the safety net of my support system to provide at least a handhold when my grip on the edge of the cliff broke 5. accepting that, if all else fails and I can’t reign in my brain, inpatient hospitalization was available as a last resort.

But now, in part to it being DQ and in part due to circumstances that were already in place BQ, most of my methods of survival are unattainable to me now. And again…these aren’t complaints. More observations than anything. Which is also worrisome, as I am feeling more and more the call of disconnecting, disassociating, whatever it is that I do when I feel more like I’m watching myself exist rather than feeling myself as I exist. It’s bittersweet because if I had better control of the disconnecting/reconnecting it would be a GREAT tool in this time. But I don’t. I have better control of it than I used to in that I have been able to stay in my body and stay connected in times that I never could before. But once that disconnect happens, I don’t feel like I’m much better at rejoining reality when I want to.

So. I eventually get up. Convince the dog to also get up- since our living situation has changed, she sleeps in her crate now instead of in bed with me. It took a few days, but now she goes in her crate during the day whenever she feels like it, so I know she at least doesn’t hate being in it and maybe even finds some comfort there. However, yesterday I threw her blanket in the wash and forgot so she didn’t have it last night. She didn’t complain loudly, just a whimper every few seconds. But I could also hear her tags jingle from her shaking, so I gave her one of my worn t-shirts to burrow under and that seemed to suffice. Anyhow. I usually have a cup of coffee and try not to feel guilty that I drink at least one cup a day now, sometimes two. I used to only have a few cups a week, so now I feel like I’m gonna be addicted to a cup a day. But! I have at least discovered that I can drink it with 1.5 spoonfuls of sugar instead of 2 heaping spoons of sugar and cream/milk. So. That’s…healthier? I’M TRYING, OK?!

After coffee…well. That depends. Most days I spend a few hours trying to fend off the existential dread of existence that seems to seep in when I’m not actively pushing it away, then I either give in to it and procrastinate every productive action with thoughts of how many other productive things I’m NOT doing, or I medicate. Some days I give up fending off the dread and medicate early. Those days are better days. Probably not any more productive, but at least I don’t feel like I’m engaged in a pointless battle every single fucking second of the day. See, that’s the thing. If I were battling for a purpose…well, that would be one thing. But right now on many days, the only thing I’m battling for is to make it to the end of what feels like another excruciating day, just to get up and do it all over again tomorrow. Because while I want nothing more than for Covid-19 to take a long walk off a short pier and stop killing people and/or beating them down from both physical and psychological symptoms…well, I was not in a great position at the start of all this. I was in limbo. I’m still in limbo, but now with the added threat of sickness and death befalling the people that I love (along with those I like, those I know, and those I hate but who don’t deserve death or illness…) Not even going to get in to how somehow my sponge heart also soaks up the misfortune of the millions of people I don’t even have on my radar…

And, I’ll still be in limbo after this. And maybe it WILL be a better world…maybe this will have shed light on the intrinsic cracks in every system that need to be fixed. Not that I believe they can ALL be fixed fully. But damn, they could at least be acknowledged instead of just ignored or viewed as “the way it is.” If this pandemic shifts not just the outward message but also the majority outward action to “it doesn’t have to be this way!” that will be amazing. I want that. I want to not be so discouraged by so many singular people in the government continuing to use even THIS situation as a way to step on people just to climb higher. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU HOPING TO SEE??? I seriously don’t get it. I don’t WANT whatever is at the top if it means other people have LESS because of it. Sure, if it’s accessible- TRULY and CLEARLY accessible to everyone and doesn’t hurt or actively/secretly take away from others…fine, give me a taste. Otherwise, it’s just something that will poison me. I have a delicate system, you know.

And no. I don’t believe that giving people “handouts” will help. It will enable survival, but it will also just perpetuate the broken system. Right now, survival is important. But it must be done in a way that doesn’t further fuck up the system and make it worse on the other end. I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how that all works. From my perception, if the government can suddenly come up with a fuckton of money for small business or as they did in the past bailout large businesses…well. I am pretty damn sure this virus didn’t bring a printing press or cash money with it, right? So the ability was there before and the ability will be there after. I get that just putting more money in to the economy doesn’t fix anything long term. It DOES however, highlight the fallacy that money has any actual tangible worth on its own. It highlights that the thing with value is the service or product provided NOT the number printed on the paper exchanged for it. This whole thing highlights that the things we need for survival are not the things much of society has recently (past few decades?) viewed as worthy of more pieces of paper. At least not in a consistent or generally equal way. Yes, entertainment is important and an elite class of entertainers gets many, many, many pieces of paper for sharing their creations or skills with the world. Presumably, we pretend they deserve that many pieces of paper because they have worked harder or smarter or better than others with equal talents. A few years ago, my friend spent way more pieces of paper than I feel like she could afford, so that I could see P!nk in concert. And holy fuck, was it an amazing, powerful, soul-altering experience. If I were able, I would pay just as many pieces of paper to do it again.

But also, the other day Namoli Brennet had an online free concert. I’ve been a fan of hers since my 20s. More like an annoying groupie, actually! I tried to catch every concert when she was in the area, and over the years I’ve sent as many pieces of paper her way as I was able when she was trying to fund an album or a tour or whatever. Her music is just as powerful, just as meaningful. And my connection with her is worth more than any paper money I could give. The emails, postcards, autographs. The fact that she played my favorite song during her concert…because it meant it was probably a hundred other peoples’ favorite songs. Which means there are 100 other people in the world who appreciate and connect with her music just like me.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying P!nk is in the wrong for charging a zillion dollars for a concert ticket. She’s stuck in a system, too, where she has to pay the venue, the insurance, her crew, travel expenses, etc. It is worth it, to me, to spend paper on the experience of seeing her live, of feeling the pure fucking energy in a stadium full of other people…some of whom maybe gave up a month’s worth of something just to attend. Others who were only there by the grace of friendship.

But here’s the rub. I can never repay my friend with as much paper. I can’t. So I feel guilty. I feel undeserving of the gift. This leads me to distancing myself from her, leads me to feeling like we’re on a different level. But we aren’t. I’ve just been duped in to believing that I can’t give her anything as meaningful because it won’t have the same cash value. THIS IS A LIE (right??). She gave me the opportunity to enjoy a really powerful experience. My sadness is in the reality that I couldn’t share that experience with her, or with anyone else I was close to, because of the lack of paper available. Why is that? Maybe it’s my perception of the value of connection. But I don’t think people should be denied experiences just because they lack paper. Should I be able to get the fanciest camera or most techy computer if I don’t have the paper needed for it? Not really. But at least the paper exchange for material things makes slightly more sense to me, to an extent. Probably because until the last 5 months, I was still able to make the decision to purchase even the cheapest version of those things. At the expense of other things, yes. But I still had the resources to make even poor choices and choices that would put me further behind in the future, probably. I own that. But also, in healing and maintaining a suitable level of mental health, the huge push is to “live in the moment. Be grateful for what you have…” etc. Right. These things are important. And I do much better mentally when I’m unconcerned about the past or the future. But no one puts out guidelines for that. No one qualifies it with “Focus on the present, not the past or future. Unless money is involved. Then definitely focus on the future and remind yourself that the mistakes you made in the past got you in the shitty situation you’re presently in and even though you can’t stop it from getting worse because the ball is already rolling and everything you do will only forestall the inevitable and keep the credit agencies from calling 18 times an hour…definitely just focus on the present.”

I need the fucking rules, ok? I need the handbook because even when I try my best, I am still in the gutter. And trying to explain the root of the matter gets mostly “you just want a handout!” “I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps, you do too!” “nothing is free” “be happy for what you do have!” Yes. YES. I GET IT. And I am. I can write an entire entry to explain my gratitude. Here are the things I am doing presently, which will hopefully sustain me until I’m back in my other state of limbo:

  • I have tried to change the way I use social media. I skip my FB newsfeed and go right to groups and people I know don’t usually send me over the edge. I joined several support groups online and spend a lot of time trying to share my experiences in a positive way to those asking for such things. I created a FB group to post my pictures and moments of peace that I am able to find during this time. Because the best way for me to remember peace is possible is by sharing it when it happens, and being able to look back on it when I’m sinking. I’ve unfriended, snoozed, or blocked antagonistic people and those who I think just don’t get where I’m coming from. Usually after calmly stating my perspective and aiming for an open dialogue about the subject. If they continue to defend activities/inactivity that is in my opinion prolonging the situation we’re in or is just outright harmful, I cut ties. Not because I think I’m right and they’re wrong, but because they can’t even meet me part of the way in trying to understand where they’re coming from, they just fall back on “it’s not fair that X gets more paper than Y, Y worked for all of their other paper. X doesn’t deserve…” That’s about where they lose me. Their illusion that Y would get more paper if X gets less. No, honey. Z gets anything that X can’t have, not Y. Or especially the illusion that X is getting the actual same paper that Y worked for. Nope. X could be getting the paper that I worked for OR maybe X is getting the paper they actually worked for in the past and now they’re getting some of it back….Anyways. I don’t have friends in “real life” who aren’t open to conversations, so why should I try to foster online relationships without the same consideration? I don’t wish them ill or to end up with this virus or to lose the paper they worked so hard for. I just don’t need to associate closely with people who aren’t able to be open to even listening.
  • I’ve tried to make “Can Do” lists instead of “To-Do” lists. There’s also a “Have to do” list. (Unfortunately, progress on all of these lists is mind numbingly slow. BUT! I mentally kick myself less for not completing Can Do items than I do for not completing To Do items. And since mental kicking also doesn’t seem to help me progress, any chance I can lessen the blows is one I’ll take…)
  • I’ve been writing one on one to people more, in a more genuine way. Which is encouraging when they write back in a genuine way. I like to listen, to know people’s thoughts and how they’re really doing. It HAS been nice not having to engage in endless amounts of small talk when I’m not in the mood. But I also miss random chattering.
  • All of this slowing down has left me with little choice but to closely observe my body and the shit show going on there. My only hope is that when I am able to get to all of the dr appointments that they can determine what the hell is going on when I present them with a 4,000 page dissertation on every issue I’ve got going on, lol. I sure as shit can’t sort any of it out.

Speaking of medical stuff. An update, for anyone still reading (kudos to you. I absolutely don’t have the attention span to read something of this length right now!!!). Internal medicine dr decided to go ahead with a tele-health consult regarding a scope instead of pushing it back another month or two, which will helpfully provide me some sense of how worried I should be about the constant burning/pain in my stomach, chunky acid reflux, nausea, and bowel issues. No idea if these are all related or just symptoms of other things. I don’t imagine they’ll go forward with a scope right now unless they decide things are that serious. Either way, I will either be one step farther from the Unknown or one step closer to an answer. The neurosurgeon has also decided to go ahead with the follow up MRI towards the end of April, but the face to face mtg with him afterwards has been moved to tele-health. They were going to reschedule it but apparently when the scheduler was clarifying that my symptoms hadn’t returned or gotten worse since I was in the hospital and I answered “Well. They’ve been the same. The only thing they did in the hospital was run tests and observe me…” she decided to NOT cancel it. So that’s…good. I wasn’t asking her to not cancel, I was just answering her afterthought question. So. Yeah, the constant headaches continue in varying degrees of severity. And the rheumotologist appointment hasn’t rescheduled yet, but it’s not til May so I imagine they’re busy rescheduling the current people and haven’t gotten to me yet. They may move it to tele-health, too, which would be better than nothing.

So. that’s about it for today….

 And I’ve never tried to give my life meaning/ By demeaning you

Ani DiFranco, “32 Flavors”