Clean Your Room

Today is cleaning day and I normally start my cleaning in the living room, but today I started in my bedroom. I needed to clear off my dresser, which had accumulated a lot of clutter — papers that needed to be tossed or filed, unmatched socks that never found their partner, broken bits and pieces of flotsam and jetsam — I couldn’t take it anymore. So my bedroom was my focus and in my mind I heard my mother from my childhood telling me to, “Clean your room!!”

As adults, our homes take on our personalities, but our bedrooms are our sanctuaries (at least in my case it is – and in many of friends it also seems to be the case). The public spaces are nicely decorated, they speak of our likes and tastes, what we want to say to the world. But our bedrooms are where we keep ourselves to ourselves. I clean for other people sometimes, and I notice the difference between the rooms. I see the little trinkets people keep in their bedrooms, the stuffed animals from their childhoods they keep in a corner; the mementos and photos; the parts of themselves that they don’t share with the rest of the world.

As I’m cleaning my bedroom, these thoughts go through my head and I start to notice what I keep in my bedroom. What parts of me am I keeping to myself? My home is a shotgun apartment; people have to travel through my bedroom to get to the kitchen or to the back of the house and backyard. My bedroom is partially on display, although I finally have a door installed (it took 4 years for my landlord to do it, previously I had a curtain to keep the AC in one room).

I also wonder, does keeping your bedroom tidy or not say anything about how you see yourself? Regardless of how the rest of your home is kept. If your bedroom is who you are … and you see yourself as messy or neat (or ALLOW yourself to get into a state when you don’t really like it to be that way, as I did), what does that mean to your psychological well-being? Hmmm.. I know there are studies done on this but, I should get back to cleaning my room. Or the mom-voice in my head will start yelling at me.

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2018 in One Word, Sorta

I went back to my FB post of Jan 1 of this year (see bottom), where I focused on the One Word idea. I don’t like resolutions — they seem so negative to me and never last — so focusing on growing and creating just ONE thing in my life — that I could do.
My word was DISCIPLINE. I thought I could become more disciplined, and maybe find the motivation to move forward and do the things I want to do.
But as always, things didn’t quite work out as I’d planned.

Instead of truly being positively focused, my word “discipline” ended up turning into a negative of sorts. Discipline, in my mind, was to help me get on track toward making the “Right decisions” regarding exercise and diet. Needless to say, I lack serious discipline (and motivation). I just never keep to a plan, so trying to become “disciplined” toward it was a pipe dream. I was never going to start exercising daily or even regularly, or eating really healthily. Maybe if I’d chosen a different word, or approached it differently, I’d have gone down the right path. I don’t want to lose weight — I merely want to be healthy and strong and I know my cholestrol and blood pressure would appreciate such things.

But I did become more disciplined in other ways, and I can’t discount them. I maintained the boundaries I set regarding how I would allow others to treat me, and that is something I’ve always had difficulties managing. I’m a big softie, letting people get away with things that I should stop but don’t. My temper is a slow burn…but once it’s lit, it burns hot. So when I finally put my foot down and said, “Enough!” it really was enough. Toxic relationships were ended; I left a job that just wasn’t worth staying in any longer (was I fired? Did quit? Still not really sure but who cares. I’m done.)

I became more disciplined with how I spent my money, and that is a BIG deal for me. I’m poor, with little discretionary income. After my bills are paid I used to spend too much on filling my cabinets with food, as if I was going to starve. But I’d go overboard with it — every month, wasting food that wouldn’t get eaten. I’m only one person, I don’t need that much food in my house! So I’ve gotten better at budgeting my food, and then had a little left over at the end of the month for little “luxuries” — a digital movie, for instance. I’ve built a small library of Marvel and Star Wars films, buying them when they go on sale — movies I truly enjoy and will watch over and over again. Nothing big, but it’s a small expenditure that makes me smile.

I’m still trying to decide what my One Word for 2019 will be. I will be tightening my belt, financially, since I gave up that little job (but there may be a better one on the horizon crosses fingers) so I have some thought to put into it. What do I want to bring into my life that I don’t already have? There’s 45 minutes left to 2018.

Not a lot of time left…but then…I don’t really run on the Gregorian calendar. Ha.

**** the FB post itself:

Happy New Year. So now it’s 2018 and what do you do now? I don’t like making resolutions, because to me it’s like waiting until one day to make a change when you can just go ahead and make that change when it occurs to you to do it, you know? A big giant list of things to try and achieve always seemed to insurmountable to me. Plus, most resolutions lists seem to be made of negative things to stop doing or to be rid of: lose weight, get rid of debt, work out more (get fit/lose weight), etc. And they never last (at least for me, it never did.)

But Irene wrote yesterday about the One Word idea. Just one word that you focus on. One word that you want MORE of, that you want to grow and create within your life. I like that. That’s something I’ve done in smaller doses but for a whole year to focus on? It’ll be a challenge. (And I like a challenge….)

So my word: DISCIPLINE. Hoo boy do I need some. And it’ll help me in other areas once I achieve having some discipline.

Turn the Page

When I was a kid I used to think that the world was a book being read by a God, (or maybe He was writing it) and when the day ended, He’d turned the page. I was raised Methodist so at the time, God was “He”. Now I’m pagan so God is “They, She, He, Them, the great unknowable IT” but for this post’s sake, if I refer to God, I’ll just use “He” because I’m referring back to that idea I had as a child. 

It’s a quaint idea, and sometimes I think nostalgically about it. How God would be writing His book of the world, all the things He had going on. All the lives, all the activity, all the dreams of all the people. It had to be a big book, I’d imagine.  So many characters! (This was me around….10? 12? I don’t remember what age exactly but it’s obviously an age where I was having more existential thoughts, before I was questioning whether God was a male God and my place in the Church but I was apparently looking at the world with eyes that wondered about how things really worked in the greater scheme of things. By 14, I was confirmed in the church and definitely not feeling it.  By 16 I was most definitely NOT Christian and considered myself agnostic but not really because I was tapped by *something* I’d come to recognize as a pagan Goddess a few years later. Save that for later posts.) 

I do remember lying in bed at night, thinking about how God would be writing his book and at midnight, as a new day would begin, he would “turn the page” for a new day to begin. A brand new page, white and clean, waiting to be filled with all the things that would happen. Some stories would continue, some would end. Maybe an entire chapter was over (like a war would be ending that day, time for a new chapter.) I’m not sure how I remedied everything for everyone around the world in my mind but I know I wasn’t just thinking of this as MY life — I considered this as a Big Book of Life for everyone, even if they didn’t worship this particular God  — it was an all-inclusive thing, not part of religion. It was the Book of Life, the Book of the World.  

I remembered this the other day, these simple quiet thoughts of a child who still considered the world (and God in His many forms) a pretty nice place. Even though this child grew up during the Cold War, did nuclear bomb drills and lived with the knowledge that a great part of her family was killed simply for existing (one side European Jews exterminated; the other side Jews exterminated during the Russian pogroms. We won’t talk about the Romanov relations because that’s a story for another blog post.) I was, and still am in many ways, a peaceful child , who looked upon the world with compassion and wonder.

And now 40 years later my world is repeating so many of the same things that I was told about – there are numbers on the arms of immigrants in camps — in America, not in Germany. Our political “leaders” are speaking in terms recalling another Cold War if not an actual World War in so many ways. The child I once was recalls that simple way of looking at each day and wonders…

… when will this particular chapter end so a much nicer one can begin. And can the author please stop repeating themselves?

Turn the Page.

All is as it should be.

A year ago, I was headed to DC to march against the incoming administration and EXACTLY the kind of crap that’s happened. Let’s shut the government down because we’re not going to fund children’s healthcare or keep DREAMers unless the WALL is built *among other things*.
 
Today — not one march planned in my city, Birmingham. I’d have to travel to attend one and after being sick with the flu for too long, that’s not going to happen.
 
That doesn’t mean the #resist movement or women’s march is over. Or that I’m done and have given in. I’m still resisting, writing, calling, etc. But I’ve also come to realize something:
 
All is as it should be. 
As horrible, painful, heartrending and downright dangerous as it all seems — there is hope underneath it all.
  1. Sexual harassment and predation is finally being taken seriously and the discussion, while triggering to many, will hopefully lead to changes in how we treat each other as human beings. That is good. But change hurts.
  2. Racism and white supremacy is no longer hidden in the shadows or 4chan chatrooms. It’s out in the open where we can see it, address it face on and come to terms with what we thought we had moved beyond. Even if a lot of white people weren’t outright racist, they were likely complicit in their behavior and they are learning now. That is good. But change hurts.
  3. Same for LGBTQ rights, disability rights, {insert marginalized community here} rights. (I should state that I am part of many of these marginalized communities…being on the LGBTQ spectrum, disabled, of Jewish descent, Pagan, Latinx, but also white as the fucking snow.) I admit to not even knowing about certain things as it related to disability, and I’m learning more every day. And sometimes — I feel a twinge when I realize that I have been complicit or judgemental. But it’s good, and change hurts. It’s supposed to. 

We as a nation are being shocked and shaken out of our complacency. I’m not pleased about our administration — far from it. I voted against it. I think what’s happening is absolutely horrible and fight against it as often as I can but at the same time: It is what it is. We do as we can. Keep on keepin’ on and all those pithy sayings. They all boil down to what my therapist called “radical acceptance”. I (and the country but I can only speak for myself and my perspective) am in a terrible position and while I am pretty terrified of the future, I narrow my focus down to “what can I do now?” and “what have I learned from the past?” in order to deal with the now.

I have hope that we as a society and a species will pull out of this downward spiral, but I may not even see it in my lifetime. Rather than letting that thought dishearten me, I put myself out into the world as a beacon of light and hope to those that will turn things around. Acting with compassion and kindness and love, even when all is awful and terrible and scary (and I’m just as scared and angry — and oh, believe me — I’m angry. I yelled at Trump on the TV the other day, scaring my dogs *again*) is hard. 

Forcing myself to say, “No, I will not give in to hate” when I say to to the TV, “You motherfucker, I hate you. Go to hell.” or some other hateful words is hard. Instead I take a moment, let the feelings wash over me, breathe and move on to focus on making positive change. Which is good. And hard. And sometimes it hurts.

And personally … I now have come to realize that my entire life … as difficult, and full of strife and hardship and loneliness and whoo boy — some major shit …. is as it should be. Hard. The lessons I’ve learned and am learning, are as they should be. Doesn’t mean I like it, that I’m happy or that I think all is well. (There’s a difference between “all is well” and “all is as it should be”.)

Radical acceptance. Because change is good. And it really, really hurts.

Things Better Left Unsaid

There are some things you just do.not.do to a person who suffers from depression and anxiety. Some things you just do.not.say. Believe me, we hear it all the time as it is — from our own minds. Our “sock monkeys”, “jerk brain”, “psychotic roommate”, “demon”, etc. Many of us have a term for those voices in our heads that, if we’re somewhere close to stable, have managed to dial down to faint hum but are always in the background, muttering.

Muttering things like, “you’re not good enough”, “no one wants you around”, “why even try?”, “maybe you should make another attempt, and do it right this time”. A friend of mine had a bad day, and posted about her anxiety sock monkey giving her a hard time. Her friends commented, boosting her up, sharing their experiences with the same kind of thing….doing what friends do. Doing the RIGHT THINGS for someone that was suffering and having a bad day. Another friend posted about having a tough time accepting herself — and the same thing happened. Compassion is a beautiful thing to see, especially in relation to anxiety sock monkeys.

Then I posted about mine. I said I was feeling lonely – and whether it was loneliness caused by my anxiety sock monkeys working overtime or some other reason…I was also treated with compassion and other friends shared that they too also felt the same way at times. It helped to a certain extent, knowing I wasn’t alone — even though the loneliness remained. There’s no magic pill that suddenly makes everything better, especially when you’re already suffering a downturn in depression.

(I’m coming to my main point, but this is an important tangent. Part of all this is that I was told I “share too much”. Really…I wonder how many of my readers — those who are actually on my Facebook and consider themselves my friends — know just how deep into a depression I’ve fallen. Have I shared that? Can you tell? Have I actually said anything, to anyone? I don’t think so. Not until this very moment have I said one thing to anyone…that’s how close I play it. I post a lot but rarely do I “core dump”. This….this is a core dump.”)

Ok, where was I? Oh yes. So I made the post, went on with my life. I didn’t expect anything from it – I was getting something off my chest, letting out a little of the darkness and I felt better. Now, one of the cardinal sins in mental health is giving an actual voice to those sock monkeys — literally say to a person who is suffering: “Maybe you’re lonely because you really are {insert anxiety reason here}”.

*record scratch* *blinkblinkblink*

WAIT. WHAT? SAY THAT AGAIN?

WTF Jackie Chan

It’s taken me an entire day to process this entire conversation. I’ve slept on it. Talked about it with other friends. Gone over it in my mind, word for word. Made sure I didn’t take it the wrong way. Nope. Armchair psychoanalysis is DANGEROUS, man. Dangerous. And it’s a damn good fucking thing I’m as stable as I am (even though I’m struggling, STRUGGLING, right now). I realize I’m struggling. I know I’m struggling and that I’m hurting and depressed and freaking falling and I know the abyss is over there, in the corner, beckoning. That’s STABLE, because I KNOW IT. I’m so fucking aware of how close to the edge I am. I’m grounding and centering and BREATHING and meditating and doing everything I can to keep myself together.

And I’m suddenly told, “Maybe the reason you’re lonely is because {insert anxiety reason here}”. Jeez, lady. Why don’t you just hand me the fucking gun? Why don’t you just put a pharmacopeia into my hand? ‘Cuz you just freaking pushed a suicide survivor (and you know the recidivism rate on those?) two more feet toward the edge….and “I like to psychoanalyze people so I’m really just trying to help you.”

First off: I have a therapist and psychiatrist, thank you. Second: I have a psychology degree and post-graduate education and training. Only thing you’re qualified to analyze is rocks. Third: Fuck you. Really…fuck you. Seriously? ARE YOU SERIOUS? You actually thought that saying that to me was HELPFUL? How, exactly, was that supposed to be helpful? I’ll wait while you come up with an answer. Especially since I’ve ‘overshared’ and you already know my past and the reasons I suffer from PTSD and all the shit….so, come on. How was that “helpful”?

Whew. OK. I’m done being pissed off and writing about this because people — really — THINK before you speak. Chris Cornell just committed suicide, so all the memes and posts about suicide prevention are going around again. As a survivor, I can tell you that when someone is really, truly ready — they’re not going to call a hotline or a friend unless they have a moment of clarity and those moments are fleeting. And if a person is struggling with the decision, or just struggling in general and are having thoughts — a careless, thoughtless, “helpful” person saying something like what was said to me just might be the ammunition needed to push them over the edge.

This is a warning, so to speak. If you have a friend or acquaintance that is depressed and suffering and you don’t know what to say or do, and you’re afraid they’re possibly going to attempt suicide — GO TO THEM. Don’t wait for them to come to you because they won’t. Don’t berate them, don’t list all their character flaws or all the ways they make you crazy or frustrate you. Don’t criticise them or tear them down. DON’T use their honest Facebook posts against them. DO tell them they matter, that you care, that you love them, that you want them around even if they’re sad or anxious or feeling like a slug.

Words matter. How you use them matter. The people you use them with, and to, matter. Think before you speak.

Disabled, and Differently-Abled

I have a chronic illness, a hidden disability that sometimes causes me to be utterly incapacitated to the point where I can barely walk or even move. I’m in pain 24/7 to varying degrees and each day greets me where I have to force myself to push past it to just get out of bed and feed the dogs. But I do it. I do a lot, considering it’s a constant battle against the entropy and the “You Can’t Do It” demon in my head and it’s minions out in the “real world”.

Those of you that also have disabilities know that demon. The one in your head that questions whether you can actually do a thing that you’re actually in the middle of doing. If you have difficulty walking, and are enjoying a day at an outdoor event with a lot of ground to cover, that demon is saying things like, “Are you SURE you should even be here? You’re holding up your friends. They’re moving slower, waiting for you and your cane/walker/chair. People are looking at you.” That guy…Gods, I hate that guy.

But his minions out in the world are worse. You can ignore the demon in your head, but his minions inhabit humans and what do you say to them? How do you tell a person that thinks they’re showing concern for your well-being that they’re actually undermining you? That they’re being ableist by saying things like, “Are you sure you should be doing that?” or “Maybe this job isn’t for you.”  What are you supposed to say — unless it doesn’t matter whether you ream them out, because believe you me, I can tear someone to shreds when I want to. But I’m at a loss with this one especially since I’m pretty sure it’s unintentional.

I’m already on SS disability because I CAN’T work a full time job due to my disabilities. But I do some part time work, have a small (very small) business making dog collars, and volunteer where I can. I do what I can when I can because I NEED to be a productive member of society and have a lot of skills from when I was in the workforce. I have a college degree. I don’t want to be a drain on resources, or someone that’s pitied or looked at with scorn. So when I say in conversation that my body doesn’t always function the way I need it to and that it’s frustrating, I’m not looking for pity or sympathy — and I’m definitely not looking for any type of response like, “Isn’t there someone else that can do __________ for you?” The answer is, no, there’s not. It’s just me, but that’s besides the point — that question shouldn’t even be asked.

Do not presume what I can or cannot do, I’ll be the one to determine that. Sometimes, I’m not even sure. It changes from day to day. Today I might be able to run a mile (hahahahaha). Tomorrow, I might not even be able to walk to the bathroom. We are all differently-abled, even those without any kind of disability. All it takes is ONE injury or illness to knock you out, and you can find yourself in the same boat as I and many others — begging for a chance to prove oneself worthy of consideration and equality.

On Finding Compassion

Compassion. The dictionary definition is: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Such a simple concept isn’t it? Another is suffering, and I wish to heal them of their suffering. It differs from empathy in that empathy is when you feel others’ distress but don’t necessarily work to alleviate it.  To feel compassion necessarily includes feeling empathy, but empathy doesn’t always include compassion (although the western world often conflates the two.)

Compassion has been spoken about a lot lately by my yoga teacher, by other yoga and Buddhist friends and teachers, and has come up a lot in discussions with other friends of spiritual dispositions – from ALL different paths. We’re all in agreement – the world and the state it’s in is a direct result of the lack of compassion between human beings. So why is it so hard? Why is LOVE so hard? Because that’s what compassion is — loving others through their pain and suffering, through your own, and wanting them to be healed. Even if those other are the cause of your pain and suffering, showing compassion for them will be healing to YOU, if not them.

There’s a video making the rounds of Facebook, saying that racism is a form of mental illness, a type of PTSD. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia — any of the forms of hatred — stem from a lack of empathy (and ignorance) and compassion for others. Buddhist thought would say that this is indeed a form of illness, of suffering and through compassion and understanding, we can help those suffering from this and heal them thereby healing society and ourselves. We can even take it outside of Buddhism into the Judeo-Christian realm — Jesus preached love and compassion even for the least of us. As my dear friend (a southern Baptist. Yep. The Witch has a close, CLOSE friend that’s a southern Baptist) said, “But as a Christian how can one justify hate? Which directly conflicts with the edict in the BIble they swear by to care for widows and orphans? Because as far as I’m concerned you can’t claim to “follow” Jesus and hate you can’t do so and deny any responsibility for your fellow man. JESUS would probably tell them that one never wins anyone over with hate and force and if they wanted to “win” believers they are doing a piss poor job by showing a picture of Christians that looks a whole lot more like Pharisees than followers of a man who lived his life preaching love and tolerance and forgiveness.”

Compassion. Something so lacking in our world lately. (Or maybe all the time, it’s just a lot more noticeable what with the Leader of the “Free World” tweeting threats and banning entire segments of the population and threatening war with anyone that disagrees with him.) Compassion seems to be the one thing that is truly separating the “liberals” from the “conservatives” these days — and I don’t even want to use those terms anymore because they almost don’t apply as the political lines are blurring past the point of recognition.

Those that have compassion are protesting the mistreatment of others, not because they want illegal immigration to continue unchecked (I agree that there needs to be some kind of immigration reform but a blanket ban or a WALL? No, that’s not going to work but that’s a whole different post altogether) but because they think human beings should be treated with respect. ESPECIALLY those that are already vetted and have green cards and have been in this country for years, LEGALLY. We marched on D.C. the day after 45’s inauguration because we know his policies and cabinet and SCOTUS picks will do harm to the minorities of this country. White suburban women, tardy to the party, finally found their compassion and stepped up and said, “No more”. Even those lucky people who will likely not be affected too badly by the coming tide of fascist authoritarian changes (the few white cisgender heterosexual christian males of moderate and stable financial means, long may he remain with us) maintain compassion and try to stave off the tide of hatred.

But….why are we doing this? How can we continue when “the other side” is so hellbent on destroying us? Logically, rationally, it makes no sense to look upon the face of an “enemy” and feel compassion for them when you know they feel nothing but enmity for you. Because if we don’t, we become just like who we’re fighting against. We must maintain our compassionate stance, even when it’s hard. ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. Change may never happen, there may never come a point where we reach an understanding  but remaining a compassionate person amongst the hate and turmoil is  good for *us*. It’s self-care against the tides of hate and chaos. You might not end their suffering but it’ll change you and potentially help you find an end to yours.

So don’t give up. Breathe it all in and love it all out. And remember that there is nothing more fierce  than unconditional love, more courageous than compassion. This is our strength.

Peace.