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?

Living with Complex PTSD in a Pandemic

I don’t know if I’ve been having more self-doubts than I normally do or if I am simply more aware of the “negative” thoughts I have than I would be were life not impacted by the pandemic. In either case, in the past week, I’ve noticed myself questioning my interpersonal capacity and feeling glum about my limited social life more often than I typically would. I’m both alone and lonely, an unpleasant combination.

The pain and rage I feel from being invalidated or rejected by others is so exquisite that I have spent years cultivating a buffer of self-reliance and self-care through which I can shoulder as much of the emotional burden of being a human on my own as I possibly can. I have a paradoxical capacity to appear vulnerable and open while not actually feeling the emotions that are supposed to go with the intimacy I am able to create; this ends badly when I cut off relationships abruptly when my bullshit capacity is reached while the other person had no idea of the grave threat I viewed them as posing to me. I show up as warm and empathetic without an underlying loyalty or commitment to maintaining the trust I engender, which makes me view myself as manipulative. This has led me to scale back how far I go in engaging with others because I don’t want to hurt them. Their ability to rend my heart has diminished over time as I expect very little good from anyone.

I applied for and was granted ADA accommodations at my job related to having PTSD earlier this year. Something in that experience helped me come to terms with the fact that, although I always hold out hope for healing, I am probably going to be someone with life-long damage and deficiencies due to the childhood trauma I endured. I am disabled and no amount of “trying hard” is going to magically create relationships in which people get my disability and relate to me in a way that works with rather than against my needs. I could be and in fact have been met on a deep level by others, but it takes skill, patience and an unyielding dedication that the vast majority of people I’ve encountered are nowhere near capable of providing to me. People cause me more harm than healing and that isn’t all my fault or all my doing.

Writing out these truths and lessons helps me a little to make peace with the inner judgment and criticism I’ve been feeling. I’m worthy of grace and worthy of effort. I know I lack grace and effort in how I respond to others; I cannot abide relationships that trigger me but I can at least own the reasons why I may need to end them. I did that with a long-standing friendship that had become toxic last year and I feel much more at peace with its devolution than I otherwise would. “It’s not you, it’s me” is ugly, but sometimes ugliness is truth.

It’s been almost six weeks since I had any sort of “normal” in-person human interaction, aside from half-shouted conversations with neighbors at a distance, and I’m not collapsing underneath the isolation and the loneliness because it is not that different from my life before lockdown. I may be disabled by my trauma and my PTSD, but I will make as much of my life as I can. I suspect some people live in terror of my everyday–“what would it be if there was no one there for me”–and yet the adaptability and the persistence of life, of being as a human, of the will to be here, in this moment, fascinates and motivates me to endure.

Enjoying Self-Depreciating Humor (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

My emotions have been rough the last few days; there is a point of anxiety I sometimes reach where I have to take some time for self-care before plunging back into action, otherwise, I will make rash decisions without thinking them through. Television and movies have been a traditional escape for me, but I find I cannot handle anything too serious right now. Because of this, a new delight has been watching episodes of the show “Nailed It!” on Netflix. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard.

My favorite moment each episode is the split screen between the dessert masterpiece and the ubiquitously failed attempt the home cook has produced. I like people who can laugh at themselves, and most of the contestants are good sports. The host slips in observant narration that moves beyond the farce at times and keeps me entertained. What’s your latest TV binge?

A Future-Oriented Identity

I’m a proactive person. That sentence right there has taken me about four decades to write and it is shattering the negative messages I’ve absorbed from others thus far in my life. Anxious, over-reactive and impatient are words I’ve used for myself after hearing them again and again in response to my proactive behaviors. I anticipate and respond and that’s a good thing! Now that I know who I am, I can make better choices in how I frame my own situation and how I interact with others.

A simple decision I made in the spur of the moment last year to not be proactive has now resulted in me finding myself facing a highly stressful situation this summer. I’m struggling to cope because my behavior was out of character for me; I hesitated where I would normally act and took the (at the time) easy way out. I’m offering myself grace in that there is no way to possibly anticipate every crisis that will come, but, wow, the feeling of relief I feel on a regular basis because I typically deal with the tough stuff first and avoid these types of outcomes is something I am deeply craving. I want to become someone who is capable of grace towards others in these moments; so often, my mind goes to “this could have been avoided if you’d only…”

What I’m visualizing in my mind is a bell-shaped curve of proactivity to procrastination, which the majority of people falling squarely between those two extremes–they act “just in time,” making deadlines but cutting it much closer than what is allowed for by my comfort level. I experience the most extreme stress when I find myself facing an unanticipated situation with time pressure. If I have time and warning, I’m much calmer, so I do everything humanly imaginable to hone those two resources.

Where I’ve made mistake after mistake is trying to move others onto my timeline, when they want to work at a much slower pace and tend to interpret my warnings as nagging or fear-mongering. I know now how to talk to someone when I see them headed 90 miles an hour towards a brick wall “I’m a really proactive person, so things tend to pop up on my radar before they would bother someone else, but, I see an potential issue here and can offer my thoughts if you are interested.” An invitation to consider rather than an a “WTF is wrong with you” when they don’t jump when I say danger is coming.

I’m a highly anxious and impatient person, but those characteristics are only born out when I’m missing the timely warning and feel trapped in needing to make a quick response. I was utterly confused as to my lack of panic when the pandemic was announced, but I had been paying attention and making arrangements for months beforehand, so my anxiety and impatience were not highly triggered. Owning my identity as a prepper and a proactive person helps me feel proud of who I am, rather than ashamed of it. It makes me incredibly curious as to the characteristics myself and others possess that may be equally misunderstood and mislabeled. Are there any you can identify in yourself?

Biking and Birding (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Shelter-in-place has led my pup and I to discovered a local pond teeming with birds! I’ve been biking to it with him nearly every day. This morning there was a wide variety of birds which I greatly enjoyed.

  1. Canadian geese: There is a nesting pair right beside the pond. One of the pair sits on their nest every time I’ve gone past, while the other goose stands guard, facing the path down which I ride my bike and looking like it is contemplating attacking my dog and I every time we ride by. One day, it was sticking its tongue out, which I believe is meant as an aggressive gesture. I’ve told myself it knows who I am now as it doesn’t seem to give me much mind.
  2. Mallard ducks: There are multiple pairs of ducks in the pond; I love watching them take flight and paddle around. I haven’t seen any nesting yet.
  3. Egrets: Today I felt very blessed to witness a pair of white egrets taking a brief pause in the pond before flying on. I live near lots of protected areas so they aren’t the rarest sight, but they are not something one can find every day. They scared me as they took off across the road next to the pond as they flew very low near the vehicles.
  4. Red-winged blackbird: These are not my favorite bird as they can be quite aggressive. In the past, I’ve had them swoop near my head much closer than any other bird where I live. They sit on the top of stalks and reeds and have a loud call. The one I saw today seemed less attentive than they normally are and didn’t seem to notice my presence.

I am really grateful to be able to have found an area I can visit in a five or ten minute bike ride that holds such an abundance of nature. I noticed two small trees had been felled beside the pond and was upset that a person had caused damage to a place that is fast become special to me, but I then saw the circular chew marks and realized a beaver must also be making the pond its home! I hope I continue to make regular trips to the pond even after shelter-in-place is lifted, as watching the plants and animals change over the seasons seems like a worthwhile enterprise to me.

Spring Sprouts (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I’m growing herbs! They aren’t yet anywhere close to being ready for harvest, but watching their progress each day brings me joy. I cannot explain how unsuccessful I’ve been at growing plants in general, so the fact that the seedlings are sprouting at all feels like a win.

I am using an Aerogarden (not an affiliate) and like the fact that the plants grow hydroponically rather than in a soil base with their own dedicated light source. Minimal maintenance and attention is needed, which is a must for me. I hope that I will eventually have a yield that can add flavor to my home cooking and perhaps even inspire new recipes. Are you growing any plants this season? What is your favorite method of growing herbs? Do you use them in cooking and/or medicinally?

Taking Stock (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I’m sorting, storing and organizing more than ever as I try to make my house a fortified source of provisions, rather than relying on grocery stores and a “just-in-time” supply chain that is showing strain. I took my preparations one step further and decided to create an catalog of the items I have, along with their cost, frequency of use and potential sources. I’ve always been slightly confused by the process of inventory in stores and am only now realizing how much different my daily life might be if I outsourced some of the obtaining of goods to subscription services and reliable resources, rather than needing to “run to the store” multiple times a week.

I’ve been shopping online for at least a decade and a half, but have used online stores to browse items or to find products I might not be able to source locally. Now I see an entirely new potential for streamlining how I allocate my funds as I track my usage over time. I fear that the environmental impact of getting everything delivered is likely higher than obtaining goods from stores, but I also then consider that the meat I ordered was shipped directly from the farmer with dry ice, rather than burning electricity on its way to, from and in a grocery store freezer. Increasing my awareness of how products make their way to me has been an interest of mine for a few years, now it is more vital than ever as I would not only put myself and others in danger by shopping in person, but would also take away resources from those who might have only in-person purchases as an option. How much attention do you pay to where the items you use come from, or how they get to you? How has the supply chain in your area been holding up? How might the concept of inventory apply to your inner world?

A Shift in the Wind (Today’s Moment of Gratitude)

I’ve been experiencing brief moments of intense grief since the pandemic began; today’s was a doozy. A friend whose baby shower was cancelled stopped by to pick up her gift. I stood by the window with my pup. He was so thrilled to see her and then seemed saddened when she left again right away. The realization that I won’t be able to spend time with her in person before she gives birth and may not get to see her newborn baby till who knows when really hurt my heart.

It’s been humid and unseasonably hot for a few days here. I walked outside a few minutes after my friend left to discover a sudden change in the weather. The wind was swirling the tree buds in every direction and the temperature had dropped considerably. I felt my grief surrounding me instead of locked inside me, as though nature was responding to the exchange that had just taken place. I came inside and snuggled with my dog as I re-calibrated my equilibrium, not quite the same person I was earlier today. Each loss, each moment of grief, however small, registers a note in the symphony of our life that we ignore to our peril. Witnessing nature play the melody for me was truly a gift.