A Chew Toy A Day (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Because I’m spending all my time at home, my dog has relaxed into a routine of playing with his toys more frequently in the afternoon than he previously did. He will chase a ball briefly and loves to “kill” certain toys. I purchased two new ones for him and they were delivered today. Before I could even remove the tags, he stole a small fox plush with a squeaker and ran off in delight. He has been playing with it for hours now and is semi-seriously guarding it when I get near. The joy and excitement it has brought him is making me smile from ear to ear and was well worth the money spent. I also bought him a small bull plush toy and he is loving gnawing on its ears. It was hard to judge the size and feel of each toy through a computer screen, so I’m pleasantly surprised at how well they have been received. If you have a pet, what is its favorite toy?

Perennial Blooms (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Last year, back when going to a gardening center was a totally normal and not at all potentially life-threatening activity, I purchased and then planted five perennial flowers. I don’t know what type they are and three of them died within a few months. Two plants, the ones with white flowers, not only made it through the winter but are now bursting with new blooms. Their endurance and resurgence, coupled with the loss of the others, is a reminder that there is a seasonality to our lives that is not fully predictable. I still can’t fully discern what lines the boundary of gratitude and grief, of loss and life, but I’m sitting with awareness of it today. What symbolizes this edge for you?

A Ride Down (In the Cards)

I’m feeling quite down today and decided to draw some cards to see what Spirit had to say to me. The messages I received included that this is a time of darkness, which fits both the world at large and the fact that today is a New Moon and that opening to inner power will bring new understanding to my life. I don’t feel powerful because so much of the autonomy I’ve had has been reduced by the pandemic. I (as well as most people in the world today) have to think about safety and protection from harm every time I venture outside my house. I feel helpless in terms of securing my future financially and guilty every time I give into a “want.”

I can’t shake my dream I had last night. I am forever riding elevators in my dreams. Typically, they spin around and get stuck between floors and I can’t exit. In this latest dream, I started out several floors up in an opulent hotel. Eventually, I was able to exit what had turned into a service elevator to a gruesome sight of people dying and suffering. I interpreted this as bearing witness to both the external horror in which we are living as well as my own half-buried fears of a protracted death.

Perhaps that is what I’m holding onto–is it possible to surrender to the forces of nature and retain one’s power? Does physical suffering–walking in the shadows–hide from us the beauty of who we are or can we still see clearly? Is decay only misery and always misery? When it is unjust, meaning preventable, it is hard for me to see it as anything else, but what happens when it is inevitable? These are philosophical queries I would never want to ask anyone other than myself to contemplate, especially in the face of real loss and tragedy. Where meaning-making fails, there is human kindness and solidarity and that is abundance itself. What I will say is that I can see now that I’ve fully conflated autonomy and power as one and the same and I think now that they are both more vast and filled with uneven terrain than I thought possible.

Dandelions Galore! (Today’s Moment of Gratitude)

My yard is currently teeming with dandelions. I live in a neighborhood where most people poison the weeds in their lawns into submission, so I feel both rebellious and a little chagrin at the overwhelming abundance I’ve managed to cultivate. They make me happy, though, because they only grow in large numbers in front of my house where the afternoon and evening sun are most abundant. My dog loves to eat the blossoms so we go dandelion-picking now and then. What natural abundance are you enjoying today?

Failures in Empathy

I am feeling angry today and I don’t know what to do with my anger. First, I’ve struggled for years to empathize and relate to people in the Boomer generation. Both of my parents fit into this generation so it was always destined to be the one I would have the hardest time with, but seeing multiple neighbors and community members playing games with social distancing by forming what look like extended tailgates is setting me over the edge. We shut down our entire society in large part to protect this generation, and the “thanks” I am witnessing in return is an adolescent belief of invincibility. I cannot muster a lot of grace for someone who purposefully puts themselves in danger when they would seem to be at a place where they should have had enough life experience to know better.

To top it off, I took my dog to the park and finally found a large open space where we could walk without any chance (or so I thought) of running into another person. Right as we were making our way between reservoir areas, this absolute f*ckhead got out of his car and starting hitting golf balls in our direction of travel, effectively blocking off a vast area of land from us. The park was most definitely not a golf course. I had a lot of nasty thoughts go through my head because it seemed intentionally sadistic–“hey, here’s this person trying to enjoy a walk, let me ruin it!” He got in his car and drove away after I’d walked quite a distance across the parking lot in the other direction.

I am someone who wishes bad things on those who are intentionally cruel. I want them to suffer. On an intellectual level, I know that this is where grace is supposed to enter the picture, I’m supposed to think of the times I’ve been mean on purpose and therefore empathize with that sentiment. I can think of a few, but I generally try to lighten other people’s load in life, not to add to it. I make many mistakes and react with impatience, but I do not go out of my way to mess with someone trying to, for example, enjoy their day. I want justice for those who are victimized by the sadism of the powerful; I would go further and say I lust for it.

But, stepping back, I know my desires are too concrete and too rigid. They lack the nuance of awareness of the interwoven systems within our society. For example, idiotic leaders who tell their acolytes that social distancing is impinging on their “freedom” to get sick and die in service to America’s “economy” (aka the rich and powerful) are in part to blame for the poor decisions of some Boomers to treat the shelter-in-place as a joke. The idea that the thinly-veiled threat of violence cis white men can hold towards people like me who are queer (as well as those who are PoC, poor and so forth) is not limited to one human specimen who decided his “recreation” included obstructing my freedom of movement, but is embedded in the patriarchal, heterosexist white supremacy inherent in American society. I can acknowledge those truths intellectually, but I still wanted respond aggressively to the flaunting of privilege and ignorance I witnessed. Once I calm myself after episodes like this, it usually leads me to redouble my efforts at constructive change, but, if I’m being totally honest, I do truly savor the schadenfreude that results when the powerful get what’s coming to them.

Exploring a New Culinary Idea (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I can be a bitter person but I generally don’t enjoy bitter foods. However, I cooked pork for the first time in months after receiving in a subscription meat box I ordered, and had a flash of inspiration that a honey-mustard sauce was needed. I only recently learned that the yellow in mustard is from the inside of the mustard seed, so I ground up some mustard seeds in my mortar and pestle and added vinegar, salt, honey, avocado oil and pepper flakes. I then emulsified the entire mixture in my blender and added it to my pork, spinach and rice dish.

The meal had an bitter flavor but it was a pleasing sharpness rather than a blunt bitterness that can overpower all the other flavors. I’m still amazed by the fact that the reason spicy mustard looks the way is does is because it made of crushed seeds. My mind never questioned why it looked the way it did before! What’s your latest culinary creation?

Every Connection Counts (Today’s Moment of Gratitude)

In a recent post, I shared about a really negative interaction I had a few days ago. Since then, I’ve been able to talk in person (at a safe social distance) as well as virtually with a few friends and acquaintances. I’m feeling a lot of gratitude for the social support I’ve received.

I’ve also given in to peer pressure and ordered a gaming device so that I will be able to play video games with my friends. I feel like even something as silly and lighthearted as inviting a friend to see my decorations in Animal Crossing might be what I need to make it through all of this. Is there someone in your life with whom you’d like to check in? How are you finding ways to connect despite the need for distance?

Snow in April (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I chose to store all my winter coats away last weekend and, well, it appears my assessment of the arrival of spring was slightly premature. It has snowed not once but twice this week, which is unusual for where I live this time of year. There were a good few inches of snow, so it is sticking on the grass but is also melting quickly as the temperature is near freezing. The most enjoyable sensory experience I had as my dog and I walked around my yard was the fresh smell of green grass and snowflakes. Each breath was rejuvenating even if I’m craving a bit of sunshine and a bike ride. What part of nature did you enjoy today?

The Blame Game (Today’s Daily Remembrance)

I’ve spent today getting blamed repeatedly for something that isn’t my fault and having every offer of help I’ve given batted out of my hand. I’m being cast in the role of villain in another person’s story and wow is that triggering as f*ck to someone with complex PTSD. It is so difficult for me not to take a personal attack to heart.

I was able to give myself a little space and realized that what was happening was that I was being manipulated with a “give me what I want or I’ll leave you” to which I said and meant “okay leave if you must” which only caused a further escalation of emotions. I hold my boundaries sacred and refuse to allow myself to give into manipulative tactics, but the emotional waves I have to ride in doing so are quite large. I feel angry and anxious.

It takes a lot of social support to resist the efforts of someone who is being abusive, which I’m sure is why abusers try to separate their victims from loved ones. I immediately sought out others who might be influential in the situation I was facing, both to make sure I was protected and to process my reactions. They helped me parse apart the practical part of the situation from the emotional aspect of it, which is allowing me to be dispassionate in my overt response.

I’m still reeling a bit and am not certain if the situation is resolved or if it will continue to escalate, so my anxiety is intense. I’m trying to calm myself and ground myself in the here and now but it isn’t working very well. Having someone else dump what is their responsibility on my lap and blame me for the mess makes me want to clean up what I didn’t spill. I need to brush myself off and walk away, leaving them to manage their own outburst and to seek me out if they choose to do so once they’ve found a better way to communicate. How do you handle being unfairly attacked and blamed for someone else’s issue? What do situations like this trigger for you? How do you protect yourself mentally when faced with another’s scorn and wrath?

Calling Forth Opportunity (In the Cards)

My anxiety has been spiraling so I decided to pull some oracle and rune cards. I received the “Opportunity” card from my Inner Tree Oracle Deck (which I purchased on Etsy). The admonition that was written on the card stated “Use the ripe fruits.” This made me chuckle as I have a store of apples I’ve been thinking I need to cook. The card I chose from my Womenrunes deck was “The Wand,” which is a rune of blessing. One of the notes on it relates to calling forth, so my mind coalesced these messages into “Calling Forth Opportunities.”

Opportunity and change are intertwined, and I believe I tend to respond well to what I’m given unless it threatens health and safety. For example, I had to become highly creative in moving to remote work, and, although there were unexpected stressors, I did not feel crushed by the experience. Although I cope well when the basics of my livelihood remain intact, I struggle when my day to day seems threatened. I circle and circle again the reality that there are things that will happen to me in the future that could have been averted if I knew they were coming or if I exhibited 100% efficiency. These moments to be present opportunities, but I am wired to hold only the threat in the center of my mind. For example, I am having anxiety that my fridge might die at any moment, a fear that I think is only slightly supported by the evidence at hand.

Were that to happen, I would be presented with an opportunity to get highly creative with my cooking, to hone my food preservation skills and to shop. There would be costs, but the long-term impact on my life would be negligible. Even so, I am highly tempted to purchase another fridge as a backup, even though it may not be needed, solely so that my anxiety will dissipate. Multiple this by dozens of decisions every week, all made on a “how high can I tolerate my anxiety going” versus “what will this boost in my sense of security cost me” balancing act and you have a glimpse into what occupies my time. In unambiguous situations, there is no calculation and I am sometimes less stressed; it is the decision-making that taxes me relentlessly.

I don’t know if “what opportunities might I be missing out on by not letting this play itself out” would mean anything to my anxious self, but I did notice a shift as visions of quiche and pies formed in my mind as I saw the contents of my fridge repurposed. I don’t know that I’ll ever get to the point where I welcome or call for opportunities to present themselves to me in terms of wanting more challenge in my life, but I do want to open to the idea that they might exist in places that, up to this point, have been hidden from me. Do you call forth opportunities for change? What might that look like right now in your life?