Dinner Party

Look at me, posting almost on time-ish. Sure I might be a week off, but whatever, we’re in the neighborhood. So in the spirit of trying to curate useful lessons instead of bitching and moaning, I come bearing thoughts on last weekend’s (mis)adventures.

Friday, I hosted a couple of friends for a three-person dinner party, which was really just cooking, talking, eating, and the preamble that led up to the night. That being said, it was a surprisingly informative evening.

Lesson 1: Navigation

Michael and I had some stops to make in advance of obtaining Alex. These stops were in Denver. That meant Google Maps. As aforementioned, Google Maps is my primary anxiety squelcher when driving, however, it isn’t flawless. Due to not being the best with spatial orientation, as well as second guessing myself, I regularly miss weird or unlabeled turns. This is particularly true because streets often lack signs or have different names than the ones on the app. And it doesn’t always look like you’re there yet on Google Maps until you’ve already passed it. I did this, I shit you not, 6 times on Friday between our four stops. And it turned out the first shop we were hitting was permanently closed, so that was fun. Now, a good way to avoid this in the future would be to view the entire route and map before you start driving, rather than just hitting start and heading off. I plan to do this next time. Also, and this is a must for city driving, add ten to thirty minutes to your estimated travel time to compensate for missed turns, people not letting you over, traffic, and reroutes.

Lesson 2: Materialism

When you pick a friend up from a bar after they’ve had a little too much time to wait on you, double-check that they have all their possessions before leaving. When I snagged Alex, he spaced and left his bag at the bar. It didn’t even occur to me that he should have had one. I typically double-check my own stuff religiously but only ask after others’ when they’re leaving my house. Obviously, this isn’t your responsibility, but it is helpful, polite, and time-saving.

Lesson 3: Social Shopping

If you are having a dinner party it can be enjoyable to do the shopping together. It can also be a complete headache. This latter part is more likely when you haven’t determined what you’re making, who is paying for what, and only have 20 minutes until the store closes. So, the advice here is to have a plan. Before the day of the event, have everyone communicate about food preferences and restrictions. Make a menu. It doesn’t have to be complicated. As for paying for the meal, if you aren’t treating your friends, just have one person buy everything, divide it mostly evenly then have the others pay that person. Now, the trick here is if you want to just split the total, you cannot buy other groceries when you buy the meal food (a mistake I made) and since you’ll be keeping the leftovers, you should likely still pay a bit more. If you hate math enough, you could do an even split then split the leftovers into doggie bags. And, of course, get to the store with plenty of time to spare.

Lesson 4: New Recipes

When preparing a new recipe, be sure to fully strategize and analyze it. We were going to make bison when my friend, who had bought bourbon, insisted on bourbon bison. I hate bourbon, but he proclaimed it would all cook off. It’s important to note here that I also lack experience cooking meat (let’s be real, cooking meat is a nasty process) since I can eat it only sparingly. We used dad’s George Foreman grill, which the friend in question, who said he would handle the bison, had never used before. He said we could do it on there and then pan fry it with the bourbon and figs. Well, that did not work out. The grill cooked it twice as fast as expected, leaving it overcooked in the pan but not cooked long enough to cook off any of the bourbon. I gave half of mine to him and barely touched the figs. So, the lesson here is two-fold. 1. Do not let friends override your preferences, particularly if it’s on the main course. 2. When marinating meat, you really should do it the night before, and only cook the meat one way unless you know how to get fancier. In our case, we should have only cooked it in the pan. And used less bourbon. Or, ya know, no bourbon.

Lesson 5: Hygiene

Keep spare toiletries on hand for friends. I usually do this, but I donated all of my spare toothbrushes and toothpaste a couple months ago. On Friday, I did manage to find one that is a replacement for the one I keep in my purse. I’ll have to get a new one, but it worked in the moment.

Alright, lessons learned hopefully. This blog is briefer than the last, but honestly, that may not be a bad thing. As always, hit me with questions or comments below.
-L.

Adultastic Adulting: Lessons Learned

           I stink of sage and summer and progress. Things have changed, but the plans, the goals, the vision remain. Above all, my living situation is different. Due to requests for privacy I will not be explaining why, but there is less conflict in my immediate household and I think everyone has the chance to grow and better themselves independently as a result, though impetus was not a pleasant. Regardless of what the rest of my family ultimately does, I have chosen growth. But the first step of growth is in the planting and recognizing what is and isn’t fertile soil. In that act of sowing seeds, you must also accept that they take time to grow, and longer still the bear something worth reaping. All this is a long and fancy, bombastic way to obfuscate the simple truth: I am not moving yet, but I am improving.

           Circumstance changes, which again, for the sake of others involved, I will not be addressing, but they have made leaving now even less practical than before. So, yet again, I’ll be revisiting the issue in six months and assessing viability. Until then, I am doing the “grow the fuck up” and “get disciplined” things. That being said, I thought I would impart some of the lessons I’ve learned over the last couple years or so about adulting (given, ya know, that was the original intention of this blog):

1.) Filling Tires

           Those fucking pumps at the gas station are comically bad. I lost a quarter pressure in one tire trying to fill it. If you can, get a pump, or borrow one. The design on the gas station attachments is asinine and archaic. It took me so long I eyeballed the trucker refilling the gas station and almost went over like, “Help. I am exactly what I look like and can’t do this.” But I did not. I succeeded with frozen fingers and much profanity. I have no other tips for this and don’t look forward to the winter pressure drop requiring me to do it again.

2.) Laundry

           To be honest, I am still figuring this one out. I’ve completely and officially taken over doing the laundry in the household. Dad helps a little, but mostly it’s just me. I also have really sensitive skin, so I’ve switched to a hypoallergenic, dye-free, natural detergent (Seventh Generation). I can tell there’s a difference in the clothing’s texture afterward, and it wrinkles a little more easily, but mostly it seems softer and nice. Though I also think it might be fading the clothing a bit, which is a major concern (I deeply cherish and often revel in my wardrobe), so I’ll keep an eye on it. But that being said, I do have some insights and observations.

                      A.) My mom came up with this one years ago. Get some small, plastic clips. Like plastic clothes pins. Then find your socks in the dirty laundry and pair them, clipping them together. This makes it easier to fold them after they’re washed and dried because they’re already mated. To save even more time, keep the clips by your hamper or dirty clothes pile and clip the socks as soon as you take them off.

                      B.) Folding laundry will dry your hands out. I’m still not entirely sure why, but they will feel parched as fuck when you’re done, so have some lotion at the ready. Also, folding laundry sucks but if you wait on it, the clothes will wrinkle, so pop the basket in front of the tv and fold while watching something.

                      C.) Hand washing clothing is necessary in a diverse wardrobe. I still have no real clue what I’m doing with it. I fill the sink with cold water, I use some detergent, I pull on gloves and I awkwardly rub my clothing together. My guess is there is a better way to do this. If I figure it out I’ll let you know. But until then, rub-rub-rub, rinse until the water is clear of suds, wring out, and lay flat or hang to dry.

                      D.) Speaking of drying, keep wire hangers with you where you wash stuff or in your bathroom to hang dry certain items. If the clothes have different fabric, feel delicate, or are fancy, you probably need to read the tag and will likely discover special instructions for care. Follow them if you want to preserve your clothing.

                      E.) CHECK YOUR POCKETS BEFORE YOU WASH. Seriously. I glittered my darks load because I had a fatty hunk of mica in my hiking pants that I totally forgot about. I admit it was kinda cool, but you can easily destroy important items, stain or fuck up your clothing. Get in the habit of emptying pockets before you put them in the hamper, but also double check as you’re sorting the clothes.

                      F.) Change your linen more often in the summer. You are sweaty and gross. Okay, this depends on the person, their location, and how often they changed it before. Really, I am talking to me. I leave my linen way too long, but it’s summer again and that is no longer okay. I’m thinking every two to three weeks now, though I change my pillowcase every four days.

                      G.) Finally, just in case it isn’t obvious, please sort your clothes: whites/tans/light grays, blacks/darks, colors. This will keep them happy and stop bleed/staining. The washer has different settings for a reason. Also do your towels together with jeans as they’re both pretty dense. Jeans and things with zippers can also tear thinner clothing so it can be a good idea to do those separately as well.

3.) Dishes

           After you finish cooking your food, or if possible while you’re cooking, toss some water and/or soap into any pots, pans, or cooking utensils that have residue that may need soaking. This lets the dishes loosen before they have a chance to congeal, but also lets you eat your food hot instead of doing the dishes first and getting a cold meal. Now, I was told it isn’t good for the pans to do cold water when they’re still hot. I admit, I kinda ignore that these days and haven’t seen consequences yet, but you may want to use hot water to be safe. Then when you’re done eating, do the dishes immediately before you can procrastinate. Once they pile up, it’s a strain to want to do them.

           On the flip side, I’m the primary cooker in my family. My parents do more pre-made meals or leftovers from eating out. So, when they’re gone, I may not wash the pots or pans for a few days depending on what I made. Like if it was mac’n’cheese, I’d definitely wash it, but if it was just noodles, I’d rinse the starch and leave the pan because I’m likely to use it again. This saves me time, but likewise, can create a psychological burden as the pans mount and take up equal parts counter and head space.

4.) Going to the store

           When I go to the store, I always have a list, though often I get more than is on it. That being said, I recommend adding an item to the list the moment you know you’re running low. In our house, we try to have a back-up of things that aren’t fresh food. So one bottle of ketchup in the fridge, one in the cupboard. When we finish the fridge one off, ketchup goes on the list. That way we’re never out of staple food stuffs. Dad thinks it’s silly (though he complains and is frustrated when we’re out of things), but mom and I think it’s essential and time-saving. I enjoy shopping, but not the time it takes, so I usually buy a few of non-perishable foods that I use often so I don’t have to go back for a month. But I’m starting to realize I may need to accept the time hit and go more often because we just do not eat the produce fast enough, even when I buy less. Really, the issue is I’m almost the sole consumer of produce and it’s difficult to buy produce for less than two people. I’m thinking meal planning for the week would be a good way to go about fixing this, but I’m not quite there yet. So, I’ll keep it in mind for the future.

5.) Planning

           Do not put more on your plate for the week than you can hope to reasonably accomplish. I highly recommend finding a planner you like and using that, but once you do, gauge your energy level, what needs to get done, what you would like to get done, and how much work that will be with your standing commitments like work, family and school. Don’t schedule things that you know you probably aren’t going to get to. That just sets you up to collect a defeat, which is psychologically damaging and reinforces the narrative that you cannot succeed.

6.) Multitasking

           When you’re trying to be productive and multitask, remember not to mix similar task types. For example, if you’re writing something, don’t get into a messenger conversation. Those tasks both use the same part of the brain for language processing, meaning every time you switch you derail yourself. But if you’re cleaning and talking on the phone, that’s viable because you’re using different parts of your brain. For example, I always workout while watching tv.

7.) Prescriptions

           This country is a shit show right now with insurance, so I’m skipping that as I have no good advice and lots of anxiety. However, with prescriptions, it is helpful to know that pharmacies often have a recording system for starting a refill. So you can start your refill without going out or talking to a person (good news for introverts) and you can do it in the middle of the night (good news for vampires). Also, GoodRx is a free service that you can sign up for on your computer or phone and it’ll tell you where you can get your prescription the cheapest.

8.) Learning to Cook: Recipes

           Go to a bookstore and browse through the cookbooks. Used bookstores have a lot too. Find one that has a fair amount of things that look good to you and buy it. Then start cooking your way through it. I recommend making notes each time you make a recipe as you’ll find things they failed to mention or that you needed to know or didn’t like. Adding these will improve the recipe for the future. Even little reminders like “Gather all ingredients before you start!” can help with timing, which is a major factor in the kitchen. It’s also why I should not talk while I cook. I will inevitably fuck up the timing and things will finish in weird orders leading to part of the meal burning or being cold.

9.) Learning to Cook: Spices

           As my brother says, just play around with spices. You know how to do stirfry but you’re bored with the same seasoning? Sniff around your spice rack or buy a new spice at the store. You won’t ruin a dish unless you add too much, so just go slowly. You can always add more, but you cannot add less.

10.) Being on Time

           Set a cutoff time the night before so you get to bed with plenty of time. To figure out when that cutoff should be, time your average bedtime routines and cut off with the amount of time they’ll take plus 10 to 30 if you’re like me. I need about two hours but rarely give myself that. This leads to sleep deprivation and I am still working on that. Also, do everything you need to do for the next day, that you can accomplish the night before, before you cutoff and start your bed prep. For example, I prep my breakfast shakes, put my morning pills in my purse, pack my backpack, and lay out my outfit on school and work nights. This prepping means I can have a quick morning: get up, do Morning Pages (new addition and definitely more time consuming), meditate, get dressed, make tea and the shake, then go. It also helps to know where you’re going, how long it takes, and what parking is like if you’re driving. The less you know, the more time you should give yourself. Also Google Maps is a life saver. If you know you are always late, put all calendar, planner and phone reminders in a half hour before you actually need to be there. That way if you’re late, you’re actually still early. However, if you are late, notify those involved. It’s rude as fuck to keep people waiting without notice, so if you can, shoot a text or call. Honesty makes a better impression than excuses.

11.) City Driving

           I did it. I drove in the city. Several times. It sucks. Every time it sucks. But I’m doing it. I still can’t parallel park and when my friend did it for me, I love-tapped the car behind me trying to get out. I suck at spatial orientation. The biggest saving grace here is, again, Google Maps on my phone. We were never able to get my Jeep’s nav system fixed (apparently those systems are the biggest complaint Jeep gets; they’re not made by Jeep). But I bought a vent mount for my phone. This drastically reduced my driving tension when going unfamiliar places. If you use your phone to navigate, please get one. Holding it is not safe and is illegal in a lot of places. Because the location feature kills my phone’s battery, I have it charging while I’m navigating, ensuring I have a moderately full battery when I arrive. Charging it in advance also helps. I definitely recommend checking the route traffic before leaving and using the “switch route” option when it pops up, particularly if traffic gives you the jitters (yo). While I have no advice for the nightmare of people not letting you in, blocking your lane, or parallel parking, Google did add a parking tracker feature so you can pin your parking location and find your car in unfamiliar areas. Assuming you got where you were going in the first place this is neat. Back to timing, if cities aren’t your thing, leave extra early and if possible avoid rush hours. Also breathe. A lot. Deeply. Slowly. You will be fine. Smile. It won’t last forever. Just be in the moment and the anxiety will melt.

12.) Cleaning: Dusting & Swiffering/Sweeping/Vacuuming

           The final point is another domestic one. I dislike dusting and swiffering. Or rather, I dislike the idea of needing to do it. But here’s the thing: I feel better once it’s done and it’s not actually that difficult to do. There are two methods I use to get myself to start. The first is calling someone. I have a headset and put my phone in my pocket. Then I can dust and swiffer while I talk. It’s easier to do mindless physical activities when distracted mentally. The second is music. Music makes everything better, so if there’s no one to call or you don’t want to talk, pop on some tunes. I recommend, weather permitting, opening the windows before you start dusting. It makes the process feel less claustrophobic and brings in clean air to help you breathe easier. Also, if you have an air purifier and/or ionizer, it’s good to turn that on while you dust too. Regarding when to dust, I recommend doing it after you’ve done the linen and laundry, and after you’ve put your clothing away as all of that makes more dust. You also want to dust before you Swiffer/sweep/vacuum because inevitably you will not get all the dust and some of it will settle on the floor. The thing I do like about dusting is that it is a chance to move and handle all of your possessions and reevaluate whether or not they should be there, or even remain in your possession.
           
           I do a lot of tidying while dusting and rearrange and relocate things. It’s great for hitting that step and activity count. I am currently trying to get myself to dust and swiffer bi-weekly, as it is much easier when it doesn’t even look like it really needs to be done. But I know doing it weekly wouldn’t happen, so I’m happy with twice a month. One last thing: You will itch. Dusting is super itchy. And I think Swiffer products make it more so, but they’re really effective so I opt to suffer. If you shower at night, this isn’t a big deal, but if you don’t, you may want to make an exception on cleaning days, or at least rinse off and throw your clothes in the hamper.

***

            Tada! Adulting wisdom transferred. In the future, I plan to not do this in bulk again, but rather dedicate a post to each insight as I come across it, but for now, enjoy blogzilla and hit me with any questions or advice or whatever in the comments. Cheers and happy (or at least productive) adulting.

-L.

Managing My Mess

This is the moment I make myself.

In the Dragontree Dreambook and Planner, this was the mantra I wrote for my year, the power phrase utilized not only to trigger my future-oriented mindset while planning, as the book’s creators intended, but to check myself, to pump the brakes when I’m at the crossroads between the right call and regret. I have not used it as much as I meant to and I all but stopped saying it when planning. Even so, it resonates with me every time I remember it. It reminds me that the now, this moment, is all I have and every moment builds it, builds on the last, creating the next, making me what I am. It’s a lesson I shouldn’t ever forget. And yet I do.

This semester has been a shit storm. Just check the dates between this post and the last. I drastically lowered my medication, my mood stabilizer of 13 years, to half the original dose. Even doing this with my shrink on board, it was shit timing. I was only just starting school again after over a year off, and I was not coping well. My parents routinely fight, making home toxic. Two of my best friends were going through break-ups and near-breaks ups, and my sister, who has five kids, is defeating a deeply abusive relationship. Everyone kept asking for my help with school, their own emotional needs, favors, watching kids, watching animals, editing, and even just boredom and amusement, and I kept saying yes. Throw in the group work in my classes, volunteering for the homeless and in-need, doing piles of bookwork, essays, struggling in a shitty French course, and my free time became sleep time. My partner was destabilizing due to his own mental health, living situation, and horrendous luck. Then, before he’d had even two days to breathe after his last crisis, his father died, leaving him a mess while I was a mess without either of us having a partner fit to lean on (which was predominantly circumstances rather than either of our faults directly). I broke. I broke hard and I said I was going to leave for a while, delete our chat app and deactivate Facebook. He didn’t believe me. And why would he? When I got dark I’d said that before but codependence and loneliness always spurred me back within a day, if not an hour (I call it the borderline bounce-back effect). But when he said, “I’ll probably see you tomorrow.” I just…I couldn’t. It resolved me to prove both of us wrong.

We ended up not talking for a month, during which I neared a nervous breakdown and fell back into the savagely dark and self-destructive side of borderline traits. I deactivated my Facebook for the first time ever, which was actually a smart move because it’s an addicting, shallow, and dopamine-driven timesink (I regret recently reactivating it as my addiction has completely surged). I dropped my French course because it was so poorly designed that the only way to pass was with Google and I was not learning anything, even with independent study to supplement it. I hate the idea of cheating, and the stress was chest-clenching so I dropped it to spare myself and my GPA. This choice also cost me my ability to double major in Communication and English, as the latter requires language credits which I didn’t get in high school. So boom, yet another worry, another stressor. Things got so bad that not only was I talking to my other two teachers about accommodations, but I got a note from my shrink. I got a fucking doctor’s note from my shrink.

It fucked me up. I don’t know why. I’m a mental health sufferer and outspoken advocate. I talk about my baggage publicly to normalize it, and yet the idea that I needed a doctor’s note to explain why I hadn’t turned in assignments and why my work was slipping chafed my pride. But why? If I’d gotten the flu or broken a leg I wouldn’t have felt shame or guilt. I’m friends with my teachers. They knew I was crazy long before it fucked things. So why did I feel so shitty about it? Because even I wonder how much is my head and how much is an excuse. I don’t think the line is clear. I’m not even sure there is a line.

But I know it was becoming self-perpetuating, an excuse. The more I focused on my condition, the more power I gave it. While I was away from my partner and Facebook I journaled and talked to friends who reached out. I vented, and initially, it helped, or so I thought. But the plan had been for isolation, contemplation and detoxing. That didn’t happen. It took me a couple weeks before I realized it. Instead of gleaning perspective, I fell into the BPD narrative rewrite mode, constantly repeating and bitching about my perspective and my view of the situations fucking things up. Constantly bitching about him. But it wasn’t all his fault. Yes, we have several years of unresolved issues. Yes, a fair chunk of that is on him. But the more I focused on that, the more I lost sight of the present context, of just how much shit had been dumped on him, how much bad had happened, how much he hurt, how stressed he was, and how fucked his head was. I objectively knew these things, but with each repetition, each venting of my own issues, I erased a little more objectivity with subjectivity, a little more him, a little more us, coloring it with a little more me.

When we started emailing to resume contact, his letter slapped me back to reality. Or as close to ‘reality’ as anyone can get (as Nabokov says, it’s a word best used in quotations). My partner wasn’t right about everything, maybe 60%, but he was right about enough. And I needed that reminder. I needed to stop talking about shit and start thinking about it. Interrogating it myself. Reminding myself to question my reads, assumptions, opinions, and feelings, to find the sources, to ask more than I claimed.

We’re doing better now. I’m no longer sick with terror that I’ll lose the love of my life. I’m no longer swinging like a broken pendulum at the slightest thought or stimuli. I’m not riding out rapid ups and decaying downs, or snagging on every fear until it tangles and traps me. My moods are moving with the destructive, reactive and unstoppable force of magma, melting away reason even as it tries to contain them. The lava leaked into the ocean. It’s hardened, solid. I’ve stabilized. I’m recovering in my two remaining classes and sorting out my head. I still don’t know if going to finish dropping my medication completely. I’m afraid to given the spiral it contributed to before. I don’t know if moving will happen in June or house-hunting in May. I’m not ready. But will I ever be? Is anyone ever? I don’t even know if my friend will be able to be my roommate. And my family needs me right now, but I’m so fucking drained. Stable, but depleted. They only seem to take anymore. It’s killing me. Everyone needing me is killing me. It’s no longer fulfilling, just emptying. I just need space to be. I need boundaries that are respected by everyone, and most of all by me. So I think a change is for the best, scary and fiscally idiotic though it may be. Even so, it’s difficult to know what the right path is, assuming there is one.

I meant to write this, and did mentally, dozens of times over the last couple months. It’s changed in form and content every time. I don’t know what I originally planned to write, and I know that there are things I’ve forgotten. I also hate that it’s mostly just an update again. Narrative is my strong suit, and thus it is equally my failing because it overshadows the takeaway. The point of writing should always be to give something, preferably to someone else, unless we’re talking journals (then that someone else is you). So then, what’s the takeaway?

Check yourself. Check-in, be critical but not cruel, be analytical, question, and play devil’s advocate with your habits and comfort zones. I’ve fallen off the wagon with all of these. Two of my goals for the year were to be mindful and to be deliberate, to act with both awareness and intention. I’ve grown reflexive and thoughtless. I need to slow down again, to talk less (so much less), to draw lines around my alone time and not cross them. Both mindfulness and deliberateness are practices. You do not stop practicing. They’re mental muscles that strengthen and grow, getting easier as you use them. If you use them. So I need to pick up the damn weights and start pumping again.

When I slouch, I need to straighten. When I gossip, I need to still my tongue. When I assume, I need to ask why and on what I base that assumption. When I get offended, I need to find the hurt behind that hurt, the reason it was able to touch me. When I repeat myself, telling the same story to multiple people, I need to ask why and if it is necessary. When I reach for the phone—for Facebook, texts, messenger, TV, whatever—I need to stop and consider if it’s the best use of my time. When I move to get a snack, I need to freeze and feel into my body, to feel if the hunger is in my stomach or my mind. Which emptiness am I trying to fill with these things? Why? Is that choice good for me? In the words of Lady Speech, I need to follow my fucking instinct. I need to hold space for myself and my silence, to hear what my body, my instincts have to say. I know what is right. And I can tell myself if I’ll just stop talking and doing long enough to listen.

So this is me managing my mess. This is me pausing to see it. This is me stopping to feel it. This is me listening.

This is the moment I make myself.

Anxiety

My chest coils, churning that icy pre-post-permanent adrenal response. It’s not permanent. Right? It just feels like it. I’ve been coasting on the edge of another anxiety attack since coming down from the first. Monday consisted of 13 hours of my autonomic nervous system getting stuck on overdrive. This hasn’t happened in a long time. But it’s familiar enough.

If you don’t know the feeling I’m talking about, imagine you’re in a group. Work, school, social, political—doesn’t really matter. Now imagine that group is chatting about something and suddenly decides that they’re going to present on the topic to a larger group.

NOSE-GOES!

Nose wha…shit. You’re it. Podium’s waiting. Gogogogo! Chest tight yet? No? Okay. You’re scared of heights: welcome to the rollercoaster. You’re scared of spiders: don’t look down. You’re scared flying: please fasten your seat belts. You’re scared of dying: dearly beloved, we are gathered here today. You’re scared. You. Are. Scared.

Welcome to anxiety. Except here’s the kicker: you don’t always get to know why you’re scared. You don’t always get to see cause, but you sure as shit get to live in the effect. I get to live in the effect. That’s been this week. Luckily, I’ve been to this party before. I’ve tapped the keg, know where the bathroom is, and yes, you can hide your purse behind that chair. I know anxiety, I know my anxiety. I just haven’t seen it in a while.

I’ve been medicated for it since 2007. Anti-anxiety medication let me start college, which petrified me. I managed to chill out a lot since then, particularly in the past year or so. Staying home alone doesn’t lead to a panicked spiral, Kermit-flailing, or weapon-snatching at the first stray noise. I figured out my fear of being alone was actually a psychological manifestation of my fear of my own inability to take care of myself. The more competent I became, the more it receded. And I don’t me martial-arts competent, just general competency. That wasn’t the only factor, though.

Meditation has also been huge. And of course, self-care. But sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes I realize that I went from slight nerves, to manic joy, to wow-that’s-a-lot-of-work-and-I-don’t-know-how-to-use-this-site-and-what-is-that-and-wait-how-many-assignments-are-there-and-they’re-all-do-the-same-day-and-FUCK. Seriously, fuck. Even typing this I’m tense. The adrenaline is fluttering, the icy-breathlessness is haunting my chest, and there’s a pressure on my collarbone like a thumb, pressing, pressing, pushing me back into my chair.

As you can imagine, it sucks. But again, my sideways luck strikes. I know why it’s happening. Superficially, and obviously, it’s my workload. I’m taking two sizeable Communication courses with teachers who believe in academic rigor (not a bad thing, just intimidating), one five-credit French course online (it involves quizzes, tests, fill-in-the-blank, discussion posts in French, a digital textbook, a metric shit ton of audio files, written lectures, a couple of essays, interactive slideshows and I can’t get the French keyboard I installed to work), trying to move out, trying to gain life skills, trying to drum up more editing business, sacrificing relationship time, trying to get this whole AM/sleep thing sorted, attempting to combat health issues and insecurities, and of course, writing two blogs and a book. But that’s just the surface.

It explains the stress, but not the anxiety itself. You see, I’m a recovering perfectionist. The idea of getting less than an A disturbs me, and the idea of not doing my best results in lip twitches, while the idea of my best not being good enough? Well, that’s the kicker, isn’t it? This is a lot of work. What if I can’t manage it? What if I drop the ball? What if I don’t complete it? What if I can’t understand it? What if I fuck it all up again? What if I fuck it all up again? Again. That’s the source. I’ve let myself down so many times. And I’m actually succeeding right now. I’m mostly on track. I’m getting better. And that’s fucking terrifying. Even me writing two posts a week is scary.

It used to be not doing things that upset me. I’d hide from the mountain of work and will it away. If I failed because I didn’t do it, then I failed because I didn’t do it, not because the work wasn’t good enough. I controlled the failure and protected my worth. But now I’m controlling the success, and that involves way more moving parts than failure. Success is also more finite and impermanent. For me, it’s also more abstract because I’m consistently moving the goal post. I’ll never be done succeeding. There will always be more to do, which means I’m stuck like this. I’m with the switch ON.

I can’t take a break. I can’t turn it off. To turn it off, to relax, that risks backsliding. I know me. I don’t want to work, and if I lose momentum, I’ll stop, I’ll curl up and escape into fiction and pretend that things will get better without applying effort. They won’t. They can’t. But after so long conditioning myself to avoid, hide, and only perform in small, violent bursts of procrastinator panic, consistency is fucking exhausting and terrifying.

When I wrote the first draft of this Thursday, I spent the majority of the day on social media and talking to my coworker. I was invited to things (to help the literary magazine I used to edit, as they’re short staffed; to a slam poetry thing yesterday). I avoided work. Then when I decided to start, bleakness settled in. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to work.

Yesterday passed in a similar state, except I let avoidance win. I tried to convince myself that it was rest, and maybe it was, but then it carried over into today. I’m only just now, at midnight settling in to work, and my schedule swung again. I’ll be trying to get to bed early, but I know I have to do things first. There’s just so much. I’m struggling not to look up and out at the miles of unchartered territory I have to traverse to succeed. Hell, even the easily mapped stuff makes me woozy.

Between my life and the state of the country, of the world, it’s constant overwhelm. I’m trying to stay logical about it. I know thinking about it only makes it worse, just as typing this all did (but that realization was worth the strife). The only thing that helps is looking down and focusing on the actionable steps, occasionally looking up to note my progress and make any necessary adjustments. It’s a struggle. Fear is infectious and not easily cured. Work is the only solution.

This is something. This is work. A month ago, I wasn’t writing. I’ve written over 15,000 words since then. That matters. Going to classes matters. Just as I matter, regardless of passing or failing or the quality of my essays, or the skills I obtain. My worth is not dependent upon any of this. The problem is, only the logical side of my brain believes that, and even it adds caveats. If I do nothing, what can I be worth? But what’s the point of that argument? I am doing things. And now you see the problem. What I know isn’t the same as what I believe, or what my instincts twitch toward. This is anxiety. It doesn’t care about logic or reason. This is the entrance to the rat’s nest snarling up my mind. The deeper you go, the more things get caught in the brambles.

Anybody have some shears?

Scheduling *or* Dancing with the Day Star

Goals: so many goals. It’s always a struggle to narrow my focus to the next step, to the one I need to take. Always aching for the horizon, my eyes abandon the path. But a horizon isn’t much help if I’m about to trip. Wanting the clouds can’t keep your feet safe from a sightless walk. You must look down. I must look down. So, I am.

What’s the next step? Well, yesterday I filled out credit card applications for the first time. I have no credit and I make just below-poverty-level income. Dad thinks they’ll reject me, and they might (naturally, we both hope he’s wrong). My finance books suggested going for a gas card to start, and I’ve heard PayPal is pretty accepting, so we’ll see.

This is something I’ve been putting off for years. I was hoping to have some advice or insight to impart on the matter, but right now there’s not a lot. I filled out the forms online (and grabbing my tax return to figure out how much I make; yes, I really should know that I’m aware). They said they’d get back to me in one to two weeks. I guess it’s just waiting. Maybe I’ll have something to say once they do. That step is taken, though. So again: what’s the next step?

Right now, my primary focus is getting on a set schedule. I’ve been at war with this for literally a decade or more. When I initially left high school sophomore year my schedule swerved nocturnal, and it’s been swerving that way ever since. It started because I could be alone at night and all my friends, who I roleplayed with, were nocturnal. Gradually, things became more of a swing-shift.

I’d wake up for classes, and later work, roughly on time, but often at the expense of sleep. This only worsened as time went on. Last year was a breaking point. I’m too old to subsist on only four hours multiple times a week. Sleep deprivation literally poisons your brain with waste products that can’t be removed as efficiently while you’re conscious. You can’t make it up. That’s why chronic sleep deprivation kicks your ass so hard. It’s long-term poisoning.

Thus, sleep has become a huge priority. I strive not to go below seven hours (I’m ironically pushing that limit as I revise this), and if I do, no more than once a week. It’s an adjustment. Work and classes just started, and I failed to get on my new, dramatically AM schedule over Winter Break or even the interim, two-week semester, which I worked. So basically, it’s make-or-break time.

My classes are at 9AM Monday/Wednesday and 10:30AM Tuesday/Thursday, followed by work three of those days. That means my usual bedtime of 4AM to 7AM is not remotely viable. Nor is my ‘right schedule today, opposite schedule tomorrow.’ I need to be in bed midnight to 1AM depending on the day. Preferably 11PM. It also takes me on average two hours to do my bed prep stuff (tea, pills, journals, teeth, shower).

It’s a struggle. Luckily, my partner is supportive and gets why I need to be gone (he’s more likely to send me to bed than I am, to be honest). I’ve also used my phone calendar to give me work, school and bedtime alerts—little alarms that tell me to sign out of chats and why. It really is my messenger and Facebook use that are the biggest culprits in both my lack of productivity and my sleep deprivation. But I think I’ve hit enough of a breaking point and period of self-awareness to motivate me to dial them back.

Last week was the first week of school and work. Surprisingly, I managed alright. I got to bed around 1AM to 2AM on average right up until Friday, then I veered. I also had some sleep issues caused by anxiety (fought to get to sleep, suffered false-start wake-ups, etc.). Once my weekend hit, however, I fell into waking at 11:45AM, then noon, then 1PM yesterday. It’s frustrating, but ultimately, not an awful backslide. The goal is to make this week better.

Right now, though, I’m pretty much subsisting on alarms and willpower, while trying to cement a new and definitive bedtime ritual that’ll put my brain in sleep mode. After a decade of a schedule constantly in flux, it’s going to be a challenge. If anyone has any ideas how to improve the process I’m open to them. That said, I already take herbal supplements, have bedtime tea with valerian root oil, journal, write a gratitude list, check my planner, use a Himalayan salt lamp, sometimes burn essential oils, and before all of that, prep my stuff for the next day. I know meditation and yoga would help, but that’s a matter of time. I don’t want to cut out more time when I still haven’t managed to use what I have and do what I need to effectively.

Speaking of, I also need to schedule more than work and school. After I get sleep down, I need to start having set times that I do homework, eat, workout, play, talk, exercise, etc. It’s a bitch. Zero to over 9000 in a week. I know that I need to not focus on that stuff right now. I need to focus on getting the foundations laid: sleep, work, classes. Fit in homework where I can, as early before it’s due as I can, prioritizing whatever is due first. But again. It’s…a challenge. I’m trying to look at it as a good challenge instead of a WHY-ARE-YOU-RUINING-MY-LIIIIIFE challenge. Particularly given it’s fixing, not ruining, my life. Unfortunately, the changes are causing a lot of stress and anxiety when coupled with the colossal amount of shit I have to do and have chosen to do. But the anxiety, so sayeth my 12-hour attack and tension and fight-flight-or-freeze-adjacent mode yesterday, is a big enough topic for its own post. I’ll probably hit it next time.

For now, you hit me with ideas about how to make getting to bed and sleeping better and easier. Have you switched from a fluctuating (as someone in the Amanda Palmer patron group I’m part of said: broken cuckoo clock) schedule or swing-shift sleeping pattern? Nocturnal? How did you come to terms with the day star? Inquiring L’s want to know.

Where I’ve been, Where I’ve Gone, and the Borderline in Between

I’ve been all over the place. Impressive considering, as aforementioned, I’m still here. I’ve gone to Dallas with friends (and handled logistics nearly solo), to Paris with people—the majority of whom—I’d be happy to never see again, I went back briefly to California for a funeral and a friend, to Ohio for love, to the city, to a dungeon, to work over and over, but mostly, I’ve gone to the far reaches and dusty divides of my mind. It’s a mess. Admittedly, an enlightening one.

I recently accepted that I have borderline personality. Previously, it would’ve been the disorder, but I’ve achieved a state of functionality and balance that prevent it from really impeding my life in ways I can’t overcome. A lot of luck was involved. I was originally diagnosed as bipolar. It never really fit. I always fell into the ‘other’ classification at the bottom of the thirty-some-odd listings on the Wikipedia page. My shrink, who I’m fond of, didn’t challenge the diagnosis, but then, he only sees me in controlled environments, so it makes sense, and I do have upswings and downswings. They just aren’t cyclical. I turn like a hiphop ballerina—back-forth-back-round-down—in seconds, seamlessly. This may not sound lucky, but it means I don’t get stuck in moods (not typical of everyone with borderline, by the by). Rather, I learned what stimuli can snap me one way or another.

Fiction is my recovery go-to. Furthermore, because the mood swings were more prominent than the depression, which was just one of many common states, maybe the most common at the time, I was put on a mood stabilizer. Again: lucky. Mood stabilizers are a good treatment for borderline. So, I was better. I still wasn’t well. But I was better. I didn’t have any reason to think the diagnosis was wrong.

This all goes back over a decade. Borderline personality was first brought to my attention by a friend who suggested, after an Abnormal Psych class, that it seemed to fit me better. I just kinda kept it in my brain for years, occasionally glancing at it, but not really digging into it.

I only recently learned, after having looked into and accepted it, and then discussing it with my shrink (I use the term fondly, honest), that anger is a big thing with borderline personality. And man, did I have a temper. I mean, I still do, but I police and manage it now. From infancy on, I had rage. More off-tilt luck started me on the path to dealing with it.

The first step was arguing. I used to argue about everything well past the point where I knew what I was talking about. Well, maybe seven or eight years ago, I was in a toxic friend-relation-not-but-kinda-ship. We clashed. Hard. Ironically because we’re at once extremely alike and fundamentally different. We argued a lot. We argued so much people actually attempted to intervene (we not-so-kindly told them to fuck off). We argued into tears and torment, into agony and sunrises, into fits and circles. We would routinely stop hanging out for multi-month stretches to detox from each other, then we’d hang out again, honeymoon for a month, and promptly dissolve into mutual toxicity and conflict. It went on like that for years. Long story short, I burnt out.

I think he may have too, though it wasn’t quite the same. For me, I lost my desire to argue. I started to draw lines. It initially was hostile. I got irritated once it became clear there was a disagreement. I blamed the other person. Gradually, it receded into something more healthy like, “Look, I don’t think that’s right, but I don’t actually know, so…” Sometimes, particularly if I’m low on spoons, I regress and get a little toothy. But I try to stay mindful, to recognize that differing opinions aren’t personal attacks. Likewise—and this one I learned from massive conflict in my current relationship—it’s okay to be wrong. You don’t need to try to convince or convert when you talk. You can listen openly, and if it turns out that they know more than you (woe to those with brainy spouses), you can adjust your thinking. It’s hard. It’s really hard, but it gets easier, and you get happier. Again, luck in the form of conflict.

All these epiphanies fall under the types of things you’d cover in BPD-specific therapy. I learned them the hard way, but I learned them well. There’s probably more that I’m forgetting, but whatever. I promised myself this would be a low-pressure blog and I meant it. This is a record, recorded to process and ponder outside of myself.

Anyway, I got tangential (that never happens). The point is, I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I work. BPD is a big part of that. We’ll likely get into others (sleep is essential, discipline is a bitch, meditation changes everything, referring to yourself in the second person disowns responsibility, etc.). For now, though, I wanted to talk about some of the mistakes I made that caused me to fuck up and drop this blog, as well as…way too many other things.

A big mistake is over-planning. If I can barely get myself to write, forcing myself to write this, then that, then this, when maybe I want to write that other thing over there is going to cause me serious issues. This can be applied more broadly to life as a whole. I need to not set myself up to fail by over-planning and trying to take on a mountain when I can’t even tie my shoes. I need to pick reasonable, small, manageable goals. They add up.

I went to TEDxMileHigh (speaking of places I’ve been) last year and there was this talk the punchline of which was “collect the 1s.” Essentially it means collect small victories instead of aiming for the big ones first (in terms of the talk, the 1000s). The 1s add up to 1000 eventually. What’s more, they motivate you to keep going because they’re tangible results. On the flip side, while failure can teach you, every time you fail, you encode the idea that you can’t do the thing you failed at. So, if you’re constantly failing at the same task, it becomes increasingly more difficult to do every time.

Basically, I’m saying this hot, tangential mess of a post is a 1 rather than 100 (maybe a 10; I just realized it’s pushing 1500 words). But I felt better even as I wrote its initial draft. Because I was writing it. I was actually doing what I intended to do (still am). I didn’t get hung up on the fact that I really meant to talk instead about ‘hey, so here’s why I failed before, and here’s what I did right!’ in a nice orderly and catchy post. And, frankly, I did talk about those things. I talked about them like I would if I was holding you captive in my office and you made the mistake of asking “What’s new? It’s been forever!” No joke, that question involves ducktape and no potty breaks if you expect the whole answer (I lose my train of thought easily; I’m sure you’d never guess).

And speaking of what’s new, in lieu of a better transition, since this is just a brain dump apparently: silence is another change. Ironic timing, but it’s true. Silence: I’ve tried to find it and feel it. To accept I don’t need to live in the spotlight 100% of the time, and that attention elsewhere has nothing to do with my worthiness or value (that last bit about worthiness, specifically being worthy of love, comes from my shrink and was an intense process Fall 2015). Silence blossoms. When you’re quiet the world can get in. And honestly, not every thought needs to be heard by others (another trait of borderline personality is needing to give an action to every emotion, and for me that is usually talking). This one is still a work in progress obviously, and I’ve kinda fallen off the wagon the last couple months. But that’s partially because my partner and I were binging on each other.

We aren’t going to have any time coming up here because of my super tight Spring schedule (we’ll also get into that). Speaking of, I need to go the sleep asap if I want to meditate in the morning. It’s 11:24pm and I have class at 9am. So, sorry to end this abruptly. Maybe I’ll edit it to be tidier. Maybe I’ll leave the snarls and tangles and brambly bullshit for posterity. I mean, if you’re coming on this ride, you should know whose driving. This is a pretty clear picture of the license.

-L.

 

 

Post Script: Reread this prior to posting and opted to leave the stream-of-consciousness, even though the last page or so led to deepening winces. In my defense, I was racing the clock. (I lost, by the way.) Hopefully, the next post will be more focused. I’m still playing catch up so we’ll see what happens. Things will continue to develop organically, but will likely find a form eventually.

Still Broken (but under repair)

It’s been four years. Ow. Four years, and by my own definition, I’m still broken. Still here. Still hopelessly at home. It’s difficult to know what to say. If you’d asked me, as I published my last entry on the Passenger Mentality, where I would be now, the answer would not have been at home, or at least, not at my parents’ home. It is both painful and embarrassing to admit it. But here I am.

This blog was designed initially to spur accountability, though as every failed blogger knows, one must first be accountable to themselves before seeking external pressure. Or at least that’s how it works for me. The opinions and pressures of the outside world push me deeper inside when I’m a mess, and motivate me once I’m cleaning things up solo. So, consider this me trying to clean up again. This time will be similar to the last, though perhaps a bit more casual and less planned. I want space to stretch and breathe, to relax my mind and unfurl the lessons without pretension. And honestly, perfectionism is a poison. It erodes my willingness to work because I know there will be more work. Again: ‘casual’ is the watchword.

I still plan to dig into things and philosophize and interrupt myself (don’t know that I can stop). I also still plan to document the steps I take toward becoming the adult people tell me I already am. Admittedly, few of those people see me sitting here on a yoga ball, bound in an Alice-in-Wonderland hoodie and Dark-Side Darth Vader pj pants, musing over my failings and successes since last I wrote whilst idly bouncing and listening to unnervingly eclectic music. So…failings and successes…

The short list is: I’m officially a freelance editor and I have a day job at a community college tutoring Communication (and previously writing); I have my associates degree and am pursuing a second over two semesters, which will be followed by a Bachelor’s in Communication (and possibly writing); I drive places I don’t know aided by Google maps and my phone (but I still can’t parallel park and refuse to go into the city); I’ve successfully maintained a five-year relationship; I’m learning how to actually cook and working through a recipe book; I meditate daily; and I’ve managed to deal with a lot of my mental baggage. On the flipside, I still don’t know how to handle my finances, deal with my medical paperwork (let’s be real: any paperwork), or make remotely enough to support myself; I have minimal accountability or discipline; my body is a mess; I’m high strung; and, of course, general life skills are still seriously lacking.

But hey, I’m not exactly where I used to be. Just…close.

So here we go. Again.

Broken Boomerang Learns to Fly: Act I (The remake)