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It was time for the quarterly review with my DSA mentor yesterday. The only thing I said of any interest was that because of her encouragement to take enough breaks, to plan them into my schedule, I'm realizing just how terrible I am at relaxing or resting. To the point where I genuiniely wouldn't count on myself to recognize those things. I tend to keep myself as busy as possible for as long as I can, and then I crash and stay in my pajamas playing games on my phone while watching stuff I've already seen on Netflix. Because my brain has associated depression and procrastination with most leisure activities available to me -- reading, movies, music, casual games, some kinds of exercise -- I can find myself thinking of them as things to be dreaded rather than enjoyed and I go through big phases of not doing any of them because I've made them too stressful for myself. Bigger ones like holidays aren't available to me because of cost, Andrew's unwillingness to do them, and my finding that planning a holiday just sounds like another thing to manage so I don't do it.

My mentor has been encouraging me to take and even plan breaks in when she asks me about my upcoming week. This has been suggested since my second mentor (I remember he always used to advise taking an hour off a day, a day off a week, and a week off every three months. I can't even imagine a week off. The only weeks I get away from my normal life are to go see my family, which is the furthest thing from "off"! But this guy lived it; he would only meet me on one day of the week and he was always talking about holidays he was planning or had just been on. He was in his fifties and his life felt very distant from me.)

So this morning a friend shared an article about beating procrastination< by scheduling all the fun stuff and letting the work fit in around it. Like every procrastination-beating technique, it won't work for everyone and it might not work at all, but it certainly intrigued me after what I'd been thinking about yesterday. And I do find I do well with this kind of thing: "I want to go out to the pub with my friends tonight so I need to work on this essay now." "I might have a date tomorrow so I want to get this work finished today."

It works really well for me: I still remember once last year when I had some uni thing that I needed to do, and it felt huge and difficult and in the afternoon I was staring down the prospect of working on it the rest of the day. Em J texted me and asked if I wanted to come over and see her and Stuart, I said give me an hour or two, and did all the work then that I'd thought would take me all day, and got to spend a nice evening with some of my favorite people.

I hoped this would work for me today because it's Games Night tonight, and I have a lot of uni work to do. But I've wasted the morning. I'm so intimidated by this project -- a known reason for procrastination is just not wanting to do something or worrying you won't be good at it. When of course I won't be any bloody good at if I don't get some work done on it this weekend, before the busy-ness of lectures and oh yeah I've got a job interview on Thursday (day before this is due) sets in.

Another tactic for fighting procrastination seems to be self-compassion -- like this article says, the idea that procrastination is a mental health issue is becoming increasingly mainstream. So even if I don't think I'm worth compassion, I can tell myself that it's more efficient in overcoming the procrastination and actually bloody getting somewhere with my work, heh.
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The prompt for this month's writing group was "New Year's Unresolutions, or Irresolutions if you prefer. Perhaps it's things you're going to let go off, or stop giving a monkey's about, perhaps it's things that you've no intention of giving up, even though you probably should, or the things you want to celebrate. Anything that isn't a New Year's resolution, or maybe kind of is."

It was such a great idea that I wish I'd been able to do something better with it than say I'm not going to lose weight and I'm not going to KonMari my house, haha.

We talked quite a lot about both things, about the desire for control but also about the judgment and shame and moral values that are put on the state of our houses and our bodies (espeically as women; this isn't a WI group any more but it's still "women writers").

Of course with the Netflix show, talk of KonMari is everywhere and I'd found it incredibly stress-inducing since one of my friends talked about it a lot last year (right before she moved on to talking about weight loss, actually...). It was such a relief to see this come up in the "Unfuck Your Habitat" facebook group I'm on, where while some people were saying aspects of it had worked for them, a lot of people were saying it set off their anxiety, it wasn't for them because they were too poor, too disabled, too neurodivergent. Here I was thinking it was just me, with my weird combination of feelings about all I abandoned when I immigrated here, about living with someone who finds tidying stressful and pruning the bookshelves not just impossible but undesireable...but it's not just me.

But as with everything popular, there is a backlash. The one against Marie Kondo seems to have focused on her advice not to own many books. This one-size-fits-all type of proclamation is a big indicator that she's not talking to people like me, and I'd leave it at that, but people have been absolutely vicious about this and I've seen several memes and "jokes" already and heard of more. Inevitably, these reactions have been racist and sexist to varying degrees, in a way I'm grateful to my Japanese-American friend for calling to our attention.

And even on its own terms, the demonstrative love of books has crossed a threshold into a kind of fetishization, as if books are inherently sacred objects. I heard it called "owning books is a replacement for a personality" on Twitter and that sounds exactly right to me. One of the images-with-words-on I saw on Facebook said "It doesn't count as hoarding if it's books" which I think is terribly disrespectful and far too flippant way to talk about something as serious as hoarding, which is already surrounded in so much shame.

So anyway, I got home from writing group and the first thing Andrew said when I walked in the door was that Book Twitter had so annoyed him about exactly this subject that he'd done something I spent years trying to get him to do and always failing: he piled up some books to get rid of. They're mostly duplicates, and books he realized are really racist so he doesn't want them any more, he said. But it's something! There's a couple dozen books piled up on a chair now, and he did it without me even mentioning it.

He did it, in fact, because he thought Book Twitter had been so racist and obnoxious toward Marie Kondo that even though he knows nothing else about her or her tidying-up system or anything, he did the opposite of what they say just to spite them.

It's an unorthodox motivation to declutter, but I'll take it!

Essay

Dec. 19th, 2018 08:40 am
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I woke up at 3am, so tired my eyes hurt to have open, but I still couldn't get back to sleep.

I just couldn't think how I could fit more than half of what I need to do today, into the day. And I know eating up precious sleep time with ruminating about it isn't going to help, but knowing that never stops it.

Around 6:30 I gave up, got up, and sat down in front of the computer. The thing I was most worried about was my essay. It needs to be done before we go tomorrow, and I had broken the back of it yesterday but there was still a significant number of words I had to wring out of my brain and I've been finding that process stressfully opaque lately.

I've really been struggling with writing this essay. I was thoroughly confused about the topic, I wasn't clear on what was asked of us until way later than I'd have liked to be, I had no feedback on the presentation which formed the basis of what we were writing about. I finally got a hint of structure in the last seminar I went to, but even then when I sat down at the computer yesterday I still had no idea what I was going to say.

And I'd been mentally facing down that (metaphorical) blank page for so long in my head that it was looking pretty scary. I have been in this position enough times now that I know I always come out the other side, but I never seem to remember how I did it once I've done it.

Telling myself repeatedly that I've done this before and I'd be fine didn't dissolve that cold knot in the pit of my stomach. I had no idea how I was going to write this, and I'd had all the help I could get and it didn't seem like enough but now it was just me and I had to rescue myself from this stress and misery. I didn't feel like I could but no one else could do it. It's such a lonely feeling.

I'm done now. I've written enough words anyway; I'm going to leave it for a bit and come back and read over it again to find the stupid repetitions and proofreading errors before I hand it in, but I'm done.

I know my friends will smile and say "see, I knew you could do it!" and I'd probably have told any of them the same, but that is very easy to say. And honestly this time I did not know I could do it.

Right. Now, time to get on with some of the million other things I need to do.
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For some reason, I've been particularly thinking about this old thing I wrote for the last couple of weeks. November seems ever more like a month for the dead. I even saw a bunch of photos of Freddie Mercury shared on social media today and vaguely assumed it was something to do with the new movie about him until one of the photos had his dates on and I noticed that the second one was a November 24th. Even in something so utterly unconnected to my own life, I winced a little.

On Thursday I was attacking a homework assignment due the next morning, but I couldn't concentrate on it at all. I ended up reading a lot about the National Day of Mourning (I even watched a video that, except for the lack of captions, I don't hate and I usually hate video).

I wrote something on Facebook about how, much as I hate Thanksgiving, I also hate the lack of the holiday weekend. I hate having to try to do normal stuff like it's a normal day. In a reply there to a friend, thinking about what I'd just been reading, I said "It seems such a tiny mourning when there's such good reason for national mourning but... that's brains for ya." And another friend astutely said, "I dunno, it's not a tiny mourning in your life, much complicated, negative spoons, unfixable sad." Those last six words made me smile even as they nearly made me tear up (as much as I can identify a single catalyst for tears this time of year anyway). I've written so much more about the life since my brother died, and I don't think any of my thousands of words sum it up as well as those six.

I have certainly been suffering negative spoons this week. Wednesday and Thursday I missed class, I even missed work which I hate doing because I'm there to provide some quality-of-life improvements for someone else. But when I realized I couldn't even shower myself, I felt a bit less guilty about not being able to go to another place to help someone else shower. I could hardly stay awake on Wednesday, and then I got a migraine and Thursday was a wash-out too, until the evening when I went to my local Lib Dems' AGM (which at least meant an excuse for a nice meal in a pub and some time out with friends and Andrew).

I didn't finish that homework assignment, for the class with the inaccessible seminar which was the next morning. So on Friday I figured there'd be no point going since I didn't have work to hand in, but then I realized that since the topic was making no sense to me and I was utterly overwhelmed, I might as well go in and see if the explanation made any sense even if I hadn't been able to hand in the assignment.

It...didn't help a lot but I was glad I went. It did seem that everyone had found the assignment confusing, our tutor said it was one of the most difficult subjects in the course, and I honestly think our lecturer vastly overestimated how much work she was really giving us. It was the first time the TA didn't get through it all in the time alloted for the seminars: he had only talked us through two sections of the three.

I'm also glad I went because I didn't want the curse of Not Doing Things to continue because I know how easily I spiraled into "Well I might as well never go to class again" the last time I tried to go to university. It was always an early-warning sign.

Plus, I had my second appointment with Third Time's the Charm mentor right after that and it was so wonderful. I didn't have to talk about my life at all, beyond deadlines and uni details. She made me write a list of things I was going to do this weekend, and okay yes I came home yesterday and slept all evening and felt like shit so I haven't done any of them yet, but I still feel anchored by having that plan in place, and I'm confident I can at least get started today before we leave or tomorrow between work and Doctor Who. I don't feel on-edge about a vague bunch of obligations; I know what they are, and I'm confident my to-do list is sensibly prioritized because it's been sanity-checked by someone other than me.

Yeah, we're going out in a couple of hours, something I don't normally make plans to do on this date. But a few weeks ago [personal profile] strange_complex emailed a few of us that there are M.R. James stories being told at the Leeds Library this evening, and such an inviting combination of event and venue and company should be good, surely.

I did notice the date immediately and at first not want to commit to it -- usually I just curl up at home with a whisky and try not to bother anyone with my unfixable sads -- but going out with friends and found-family seems like a good thing to do too, even if I am still on negative spoons.

Andrew's just emailed me ticket PDFs for tonight so I guess I've got to go fight with the printer -- one way of the universe telling me I've written enough here!
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I wrote this on Facebook a few years ago but I think it belongs here more.

Andrew's playing the record we sent into space on the Voyager missions in the 70s, and I'm utterly transfixed by all the different greetings in different languages. Even whales get to join in with that.

There's something goosebump-inducing about someone saying "The government and people of Canada would like to greet the extraterrestrials" and trying to explain the shape of Africa and so on. For once we had to think of ourselves as small beings on a small planet, transcending our politics and circumstances.

Oddly it seems so very of-its-time too, somehow I can't imagine this going out today -- and not just because we're not sending stuff out into the universe so much any more (though I wonder if there's anything like this on New Horizons...can't believe I haven't thought to check that until now*).

The golden record is expected to last for something like a billion years out in space. We will likely never know if anyone other than us listens to it. But I think it's good for us to listen to it ourselves anyway, if only to see how the humans of that moment saw themselves and wanted to present themselves to completely unknown potential audiences.

* The one comment on this post is me saying:
http://www.space.com/26332-nasa-new-horizons-one-earth-message.html

Looks like New Horizons might get some kind of crowdsourced last-minute digital message. All of which seems very of-its-time, too. While this article is pretty sneering about the original Voyager record being "a technology few young people today know how to use," (which could also be said of CDs, ffs), the record includes pictorial instructions of how to play it, and being an analogue thing I think is more accessible than whatever ends up stored in New Horizons computers. Considering I can't even get old Word files to open in new versions of Word, I am less impressed with this idea.
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I have just had to take books off unsalvagable shelves and shuffle them around already-full shelves elsewhere.

So I am having feelings about our furniture. It's all (except the dining table) inherited: left in the house, given us by friends or family. Some isn't really fit for the purpose I've put it to, or it's falling apart, or both.

Money isn't quite the limiting factor now that it was when we moved in, now what's holding me back is that thinking about what actually would work is just too bewildering and overwhelming.

I am, weirdly, ashamed of this? Of not getting it right, of not magically knowing from the start what I want and doing everything perfectly all along. Of, I guess, not living in the nice comfortable home I grew up in and not knowing how to.

I don't feel comfortable, mind. It's something I associate with more middle-classness than I have. I feel like I'm disappointing my parents.

They're visiting soon, that's probably what all these feels are.
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Woke up in the middle of the night, assuming I was in the bed I was in the last time I'd gone to sleep. For all it was hard work being at my parents', it was a good bed to sleep in and a nice early-morning routine. Enough to leave me homesick now.

Andrew asked on social media the other day why people talk about things he finds so brain-numbingly boring as what they had for dinner. He said he could understand people sharing recipes or restaurant recommendations, but just "we had pork but I made the gravy too thin" baffled and irritated him. Until enough people explained that sharing these kinds of details fosters a level of intimacy that people want. To know such unimportant or low-content things about each other really just means "this is the extent to which I want to share my life with you.

I'm one of many people who loved LJ originally for this level of detail: knowing what chores people had to do that day, if they had to get up early, and yes what food they ate, are things you'd know about a person if you were physically spending that time with them, and if you were doing that you'd know them pretty well and feel pretty close. So if they told you on the internet, you'd feel you knew them pretty well. (This is something I could do well to remember when friends are so interested in my course and I don't know why, it's probably this so I should shush and be nice about it.)

So when we'd been waiting two hours at MSP after my parents dropped us off on Tuesday night, I enviously said that my mom was probably in bed by then. Andrew said he didn't think my parents would be home yet but with my more precise understanding of how long the trip takes and of my parents' routines, I knew they'd be back and I knew she'd be in bed reading or watching TV almost immediately because she was so tired.

I told him my mental model of their lives was still pretty good a few hours later, but it'd diverge quickly. It made me a little sad.

And in the same way, now I've woken up with that second's worth of disorientation about where I am, I not only thought I'd be in the ridiculously comfy bed at my parents house, but thought I'd get up and my dad would've made coffee and he'd be watching the news.

Having that finely detailed mental model of which lights would be on in the kitchen and the stupid Christmas coffee cups my parents have and all that stuff is what really kills me when I leave again, really makes me acutely homesick.
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I had to remember to put my phone on silent before I went to church.

I don't think I've been to church since i had a phone to put on silent, except going along occasionally with my mom when I'm back visiting and I can't use my phone in Minnesota anyway.

I haven't gotten myself to church since I was, what, nineteen? Somewhere in my first or second year in college I went from the holdover of fairly evangelical Christianity I'd finished high school with to wanting to sleep in, and then working night shifts on Saturdays and somewhere amidst the practicalities my keenness drained away and my belief drained away altogether without me noticing until long after it had.

I've been to the odd wedding (including my own!) or funeral in church since, but not anything so closely resembling a normal service until today.

And today wasn't that normal; it was the baptism service for my fictive nephew, who was not christened or baptised as a baby and decided of his own volition this year that he wanted to be. He just turned eight today.

It was strangely familiar: the liturgy is more modern than I grew up with, but a lot, especially the congregation's responses, is pretty much word-for-word what I was used to, and it surprised me how much came back to my mind, just in time for me to say it. I fumbled through prayers, only remembering one line as I finished the previous one, and even remembering one of the hymns (though not from my fusty old church but from the Bible camps of my teenage years).

But it was also very different: so much more relaxed not just from the officiants at the front (both women!) but also from the congregation, who chatted incessantly beforehand, who didn't mind their kids running over to talk to their friends somewhere else, who clapped when a six-year-old read the gospel (and having a six-year-old reading the gospel at all!).

It was really special, including Jack using his dad's christening shawl in the baptism. And his Bible as, basically, a prop. "Jack's dad is giving him the Bible he had as a child," the vicar said, and the honesty of small children compelled Jack to say "but I have to give it back to him afterward," which got the biggest laugh of the event.

I'd never seen anyone baptised who wasn't a baby. Indeed my mom was fretful and slightly judgmental of family members who'd never baptised their children; baptism had an air of insurance about it, it was a layer of protection to get in place as soon as possible "just in case..."

The more evangelical Christians I fell in with as a teenager left me with the idea that baptism should be a meaningful decision made by the individual at an age where they can make it. But of course all the baptisms I saw were at my mom's Lutheran church or my dad's Catholic one, where the only way one differed from another was whether or not the baby cried when it got water on its face (and, when I was old enough to spot this, whether the family were regular churchgoers according to the grumbling judgment of my own family).

Whereas this clearly had Jack's personality stamped all over it, and I thought that was lovely. He bounded around, running to and from the front of the church as need be, reading out lines he'd practiced both in the baptismal service itself and as part of the communion service, disappeared to talk to a friend one time when he was about to be needed up front again, delivering that line about having to give his dad's Bible back with perfect comedic timing, and a million little things that made me feel lucky to know him well enough to recognize him here and to be a part of his special day.

At the end of the service the deacon said, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Stopping for coffee along the way." And it just made me grin. The first part I'm so familiar with, the second wasnt even an implicit part of the doxology I grew up with; at my mom's church people lingered to chat but at ours everybody scattered as soon as we shook hands with the priest on the way out. And even my mom's was too formal to have the coffee being mentioned.

When I got home and changed, I still heard my necklace rattling around on its chain around my neck. I wear them too infrequently these days, I'd forgotten all about it. It says "We're all stories, in the end" and I wore it because I got it as a Christmas gift from Jack's mum one year.

It was fitting anyway for today, a day where near-fossilized stories about my childhood joined up to stories about the people I'm glad to have in my life now that things are mostly so very different but still can be linked back to the old ones.

Only much later did I learn my necklace was a quote from Doctor Who, since I never watched all the Tennant episodes, and that made it a nice choice for today too, when I got home just in time for the news of who the new Doctor is, and the potential for lots of new stories.
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Sometimes the word "friend" feels really inadequate when you're poly.

Sometimes something happens to someone close to you and there are people you can't tell, or at least you can't tell them how excited or devastated you are at whatever kind of a thing it is (they've won an award, they have a serious illness, whatever) because you're not out, or they're not out. Or maybe because you wouldn't use a word like partner for them...but friend isn't enough, either.

We don't have the vocabulary.

And when it's a happy thing you're affected by, this might seem less of a problem because at least you're happy. When it's a sad thing, it seems extra sad that you can't even explain why you're so sad.
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Finally got the last of the unpacking done. I've never left it as long as this! A week and a half.

It's not hard work -- I just folded and (mostly) put away a load of laundry with about as much difficulty -- except that it's hard emotional labor.

New stuff. And we don't need more stuff.

There's nowhere to put what we already had.

I need a better system.

I need fewer t-shirts.

And sweaters.

I need Andrew to tell me which clothes he doesn't wear any more.

It's hard to get rid of stuff my parents got me, though. There is so little of them in my life as it is.

But... Some of what they've given me is control-top tights and I'm never gonna wear those; I've got tights that actually fit and aren't trying to make me into a different person!

I'd sort of like to be a different person in other ways, though. I'm angry so much of the time lately, which is so weird for me so it's disconcerting too.

I'm connumicating badly, to the extent it might've cost me one of my volunteering roles -- something that's still too stressful to think about enough to write it, but suffice it to say it's the one I'll miss least.

It'd be a relief not to be doing it except I don't know what's gonna happen with that thing now and I do really want it to happen, and because I think I was unfairly maligned which hurts my pride but honestly pride is pretty far down on the list of things I get to worry about.

Sleepy

May. 26th, 2016 12:55 pm
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I'm so tired, when I'm home I'm either sleeping or feeling bad about all the things I'm too tired to do, like clean myself or the house. I expected a day or two of that after my parents left, but it's been almost a week now.

I was so good at keeping on top of dishes and tidying and stuff while they were here -- partly to keep them fro grumbling or doing them for me, partly as an excuse to keep busy enough not to have time to think -- I hoped that I might be able to keep it up, as it's easier to keep things clean than get them clean... ha.

I kind of wish I'd been able to keep up the levels of willpower in getting chores done that I had for the previous couple of weeks. But then I think about how badly it exhausted me to push myself to do so many things when I didn't think it'd be good for me, and how I knew I could keep that up only because it was for a limited time. It's not very kind to myself to wish that I lived like that all the time.
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Yesterday [personal profile] haggis told me that instead of having specific New Year's resolutions this year, she was just thinking "make the easy things hard, and make the hard things easy." I've been thinking about that a lot since then, and the more I do the more I like it. Make the easy things -- spodding on the internet, procrastinating, etc.etc. -- hard, make the hard things -- sorting out house, doing errands, etc. -- easy. I'm not doing a great job of it so far, but since it's a general approach to things and not a hard-and-fast resolution, I don't need to feel bad about every time I fail to make the hard things easier or give in to the things that are already too easy. Even when I'm "getting it wrong" (like when I added to the clothes all over my bedroom floor rather than tidying them up, which is what reminded me I wanted to write about this idea), I'm finding the idea calming and helpful, and not something I'm berating myself for not living up to immediately and perfectly, not something I see as a chore or a difficult task.

Today when I saw [twitter.com profile] SurvivorKatie, she said that instead of typical resolutions about going to the gym or losing weight, she determined this year was going to be about self-care. And it was great to see that in action during our time together, as she was starting to buy clothes for the size she is rather than waiting to have things until she's the size she wants to be.

I've never liked the idea of New Year's resolutions much -- they've never worked for me, being so arbitrary and showing up in the middle of winter when my instincts are just to curl up and wait for spring. But this year I'm loving seeing my friends' ambitions, knowing that they have the skills and wherewithal to do great things in their lives, and for all of us to support each other in that.
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This is something I wrote a while ago and never posted, for reasons I no longer remember. It's not a resolution, but it seems as good a manifesto to start off this new year as any.

I started on LJ with a very annoying style, that of the cute precocious kid who was too old for that twee stuff now but hadn't yet learned what to replace the too-clever, artfully structured, neatly-tied-up-with-a-moral-at-the-end kind of writing that'd made my high school English teachers love me.

I like to think I've improved a bit since then, but I do still tend to write only when I've got something that will amuse or interest what I imagine my readership to be. So vehemently did I resist the everyday updateishness kind of journaling that my LJ wasn't a very good way to find out what was going on in my life: I'd happily write all about having Chipotle for breakfast but never mentioned that I had a girlfriend, or failed a class, or moved, or the kind of basic stuff that people usually tell each other when they catch up after some time apart.

It's a bit hypocritical of me, because I love to read that kind of thing from other people: I love reading about your dreams and how you got caught in the rain on your way to the bus stop and what you're making for dinner and what you drank last night and how work went and everything. Absolutely love it. But I've never been very good at telling that stuff for its own sake myself.

So it was kind of interesting for me to read this article on how writing about the ordinary experiences of your life can be even more cheering to you when you go back and read them as the extraordinary ones.

It turns out, people are bad at predicting how much they'll enjoy reading back what they've wrriten about their lives.

Which, actually, doesn't surprise me because I had to read Our Town in high school and it fucked up my brain, it appears, permanently. It's a play about ordinary boring small-town early-20th-C. Americans who do ordinary things like be born and deliver the milk and get married and all that.

The part that's always stuck with me is Emily, at the end. She's a young wife who's died in childbirth, and we see her among the dead, people she recognizes from her little town where nothing ever changes much. Those who've been dead any length of time don't feel any great connection to the living world or the things that mattered to them while they were in it, but Emily is new and still attached to what she loves. She wants to re-live her life. The old dead folks tell her that it's possible but advise her against it. She insists, though, and sees her twelfth birthday: her mother is up early nagging the children to get ready for school, her father comes home with a present for her. Small talk is made about the cold.

Emily starts out very excited -- "Oh,that's the town I knew as a little girl. And, look, there's the old white fence that used to be around our house. Oh, I'd forgotten that! Oh, I love it so!" "Oh! how young Mama looks! I didn't know Mama was ever that young" -- but as she watches the conversation unfold, she starts to get agitated: "I can't bear it. They're so young and beautiful. Why did they ever have to get old? Mama, I'm here. I'm grown up. I love you all, everything. I can't look at everything hard enough."

Finally she says, "I can't. I can't go on....I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed."

Well, ever since then, I've fucking noticed. Reading that play made me cry, not in class but after, and I think quite a few of my tears since have been shed thanks to this, in some way. Because I too grew up in a small town where nothing ever seems to change much, and while of course I didn't die I did move away, and that has had a similar effect to me: I'm still here, I can see it all in my memory, but they can't see me and they don't know how much I treasure these images, these people, their ordinary lives.

So I'm trying to practice writing about the everyday stuff that I have so long been so bad at. Let's see if it gets me anywhere.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?:
Got registered blind. Used a white cane. Got interviewed for Woman's Hour! Saw pictures of Pluto that are more than four pixels wide.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?:
I don't do new year's resolutions. I know they aren't going to happen.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?:
Andrew's niece. Here's me holding the two-week-old baby, while Gary the Wonder Dog tries to get my attention.

4. Did anyone close to you die?:
Terry Pratchett counts as "close to me," right?

5. What countries did you visit?:
Minnesota. Wales, for [livejournal.com profile] ejbigred's birthday trip.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?:
A proper holiday, which I define as more than a weekend long and not involving my family.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?:
According to Manchester City Council, I've been blind since the 20th of April this year. (I have a card that says so and everything!) It's marked a real change in my life, how I think about myself, and the services and support I've been gleefully able to take advantage of.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?:
Applying for PIP and being successful. After the years-long nightmare of ESA, it was relatively straightforward now and helped immensely with both the practical and emotional costs to myself of being unemployed.

Health work to get myself registered blind and make use of as much of what this makes available to me as I can benefit from. And I did a lot of hard thinking about careers and ended up with some great volunteering gigs (one of which I see I still haven't written about here so I'll try to do that before the end of the year, too).

9. What was your biggest failure?:
I've failed pretty hard at executive function, something that I do for two in this household. And failing at something for which I am relied upon really sucks too. I've been very avoidant of conflict, to the point of making the conflict worse when it inevitably arises -- not conflict like fights, more like not wanting to tell people things I don't think they'll like and then either making it worse when I do of course eventually have to tell them, or exploding with anxiety myself because I know I will eventually have to. Very old and very shitty coping (or, failing-to-cope) mechanisms are rearing their ugly heads lately.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?:
Only mental. And sinus infections.

11. What was the best thing you bought?:
Possibly my railcard, or my CEA card that for the princely sum of six pounds lets me take someone along to the cinema with me for free now that I'm officially disabled.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?:
You know what? Mine. I dealt with a huge amount of bureaucrazy (that is a genuine typo, but I'm keeping it because I think it's my subconscious trying to tell me something) in looking after myself and an increasingly-poorly Andrew, in going to some extreme lengths to help dear friends move house, in doing some hard thinking about careers and volunteering and stuff. Yeah. I will pat my goddam self on the back this year, however uncouth it is!

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?:
I rejoined Twitter this year which gave me all kinds of new reasons to be appalled. Most politicians in both the country I'm from and the one I've moved to, really.

14. Where did most of your money go?:
Plane tickets, mortgage, boring awful stuff like that.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?:
New Horizons! Getting a Disabled Person's Railcard and bus pass (the temptation to go on completely unnecessary journeys just because they're free still hasn't left me). Going to Brighton/Hove with [personal profile] magister. My volunteering placement to help visually impaired people enjoy the Museum of Science and Industry.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?:
Possibly "Ship to Wreck"?
I didn't think much at all of Florence + the Machine's first album, but I find this song absolutely captivating. Every time I heard it on the radio I was like "I love tthis! What is it?" and when I finally found out I was surprised as well as happy. Nearly bought my dad this album for Christmas, because I know how he likes his chanteuses.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you
i. happier or sadder? This is really hard to know. Both, maybe?
ii. thinner or fatter? Slightly thinner, if the fit of my clothes is anything to go by. Even unintentional weight loss like this can be really hard on my mental health so I'm having to be careful not to think about it too much.
iii. richer or poorer? Andrew got a bit of a pay rise, for being such a hard worker, around the same time I started getting benefits, and the combination of these just about equalled the minimum-wage I'd likely be bringing in if I were working, so I feel a lot richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?:
Reading. I miss reading.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?:
Procrastinating. [I said this last year too. I think it's probably going to be the thing I wish I did less of every year forever.]

20. How will you be spending Christmas?:
Same as always: with my family in Minnesota. Mom is dropping ominous hints that this might be the last year Christmas Eve is where it's been every year of my life, though.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?:
Not with anyone new.

22. How many one night stands?:
Oh gods my life is just so not set up for one night stands to ever happen.

23. What was your favourite TV programme?:
Doctor Who. I said this last year too, but I've enjoyed this year even more than last.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?:
Probably Donald Trump, because not only is he completely awful but he's also personally responsible for the increased dread and terror a lot of my friends -- any POC, anyone who is even a little bit different or weird -- is living with in the U.S. these days.

25. What was the best book you read?:
After Terry Pratchett died I read or re-read a lot of early Discworld books, and was delighted to discover they're as good for me even with the sadness of knowing there will be no more than they were when I read them with an anticipation of a new one to buy Andrew for his birthday each year.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?:
I think it was quite how hugely music affects my mood, and how I need to be careful with it because of that: rather than just listening to things because I like them, I can and indeed should tailor them a bit more when I'm not doing well. I've found ambient/space music incredibly useful for calming me down when I'm anxious, which is handy because I do also enjoy listening to it (though Andrew heard me playing some without headphones once and thought the noise meant my computer or the fridge or something must be broken). My favorite source for this at the moment is this, though if I'm in the mood for even more space in my music, I also like Mission Control which plays Apollo audio -- wonderfully mundane stuff about cameras and checking levels of things -- over the music.

27. What did you want and get?:
A diagnosis for the pain and misery Andrew's been in (he has psoriatic arthritis, apparently, which at least is very treatable; treatment should happen after Christmas).

28. What did you want and not get?
A holiday of more than a couple of days. I had a couple of nice weekends in London and one in Brighton/Hove, but that is not enough, especially considering how demanding a year this has been otherwise.

I also wanted a lot of stuff changed/improved in and around the house that did not happen, due to lack of executive function as much as lack of money.

29. What was your favourite film this year?:
Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian. So pleased I got to see them both in the cinema.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?:
I'll be 34 on Tuesday. I've no plans. But I've already had some completely amazing presents: a Night Vale hoodie ("mostly void, partially stars"), the KATI tea-brewing system from Katie who swears by this herself, Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?:
Better politicians.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?:
I bought a few pairs of black combat pants and seem to wear them all the time. It's good to be able to keep everything in my pockets.

33. What kept you sane?:
Sertraline and beta blockers. Hugs and conversations.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?:
I...don't know? I used to say Peter Capaldi, but he's too good at being the Doctor now for me to fancy.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?:
Most of them! UK general election results (and the resulting "shitting on the poor/disabled/brown/foreign/etc from a great height"), #refugeeswelcome. #blacklivesmatter. Bombing Syria. I've tried to balance combating the FUD about Donald Trump (who I'm convinced cannot be President) while acknowledging that just by getting the oxygen of publicity he's doing damage even if he doesn't get near the election.

36. Who did you miss?:
[personal profile] magister, of course -- we'd see each other most weeks, but some of those weeks in between seemed awfully long. [personal profile] mother_bones and [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours don't live around the corner any more, and I really miss that/them, while acknowledging that their new house and everything about it is otherwise superior in every other respect. It's been a year of me and [personal profile] trinker particularly missing each other, too.

37. Who was the best new person you met?:
I met [twitter.com profile] SurvivorKatie before this year, as a rarely-seen friend of friends, but this year we've really gotten to know each other, found we have a lot in common that we don't necessarily have with many other people, and basically always had a completely awesome time in each other's company.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:
The exact flavors of bullshit that drive you crazy are the ones that keep you alive.

39. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?:
My parents and James, I imagine.

40. Quote a song that sums up your year:
Under starry skies we are lost.

41. What was your favorite moment of the year?:
It's very hard to choose a favorite of a whole year.

42. What was your least favorite moment of the year?:
Hearing a name and voice again that I'm really much happier without.

43. Where were you when 2015 started?:
Brighouse, I think?

44. Who were you with?:
I don't remember. I probably wasn't very awake.

45. Where will you be when 2015 ends?:
Brighouse, if we're up to it after flying back home earlier in the day.

46. Who will you be with when 2015 ends?:
Either Andrew or Team Brighouse or both.

47. What was your favourite month of 2015?
August was pretty good: enjoying my volunteer course, looking forward to my placement, did a couple of Prides.

48. Did you drink a lot of alcohol in 2015?:
On occasion, but overall less than previously.

49. Did you do a lot of drugs in 2015?:
Only caffeine and sugar and the aforementioned booze.

50. What are your plans for 2016?
Get British citizenship (via a Kickstarter book I still haven't kicked off, oops).
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
1. What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now?

In my bathtub? I first read this as "in your bathroom." I don't have any in the tub, but we keep all our shower stuff along the edges of it: Lush juniper shampoo and any random shower gel for me (right now it's one I got for Christmas last year, though I actually got it in about March I think); tea tree shampoo and coconut oil (for his beard) for Andrew.

2. Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?

Not now! Wrong time of year! I'm too cold to want to eat watermelon right now. And my veg box has made me aggressively seasonal in my eating because it's very rare indeed I buy fresh fruit or veg outside of it. This week we got plums and bananas.

Read more... )
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
There is one thing I've been struggling a bit to wrap my head around in the last month or so.

With the surprisingly easy (and quick! I was told the decision would take 6-8 weeks but it was more like two) awarding me of PIP...and this happening soon after Andrew's annual review at work where he was given a small raise in recognition of how hard he works...

...the combination of these two things happening close together means that our income has now increased by just  about as much as the wages I tend to get in the jobs I have done.

We are basically as well-off now as we were when I was working, without me having to work.

Which isn't to say I don't want to, of course. I function much better with structure and nice people around and feeling I'm "doing" something. But it has starved the gnawing guilt and anxiety about me not working -- which Andrew always told me I shouldn't have anyway, but that never affected it -- and it means I can be a bit more careful about what kind of work I pursue. It means volunteering will be okay for me. It means I don't have to take jobs that ruin my mental health for the sake of keeping us housed and fed.

It feels like the greatest luxury of my life.‎
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Today I'm trying to sort out our home insurance, which I've been informed needs to be renewed in the next thirty days.

That means it's only a month short of a year we've been living in this house now. Which is hard to believe: it either feels like we've been here forever, or that it's no time at all and I still have excuses for why nothing's been sorted out yet.

It's been a terrible and difficult year. I am anxious for the weather to improve and life to improve this spring.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.
I do try to thoughtfully compliment people as often as I can. Sometimes I worry about being the effusive American, about embarrassing people. (But, I now realize, I worry less than I used to!)

And, thinking about the rest of that article, I do think I fall in love easily. Mostly I've led a life safe enough that I could stay pretty vulnerable most of the time. Spending an evening like that described here sounds like lots of fun to me!

When I first read it as a teenager, I was intrigued by Heinlein's "The more you love, the more you can love — and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just." He's wrong about so, so much but I still think he might be right about this.

But, having no particular time or energy for things like falling into any more love just now, though, I still like the idea of handing out thoughtful compliments all the time.

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hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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