Processing Over Plodding

I’m in a foul mood today after a sleepless night battling abdominal discomfort alongside crashes of lightening from periodic thunderstorms. I awoke to find water damage in my bathroom, the source of which I have not yet pinpointed, and found myself saying “no” to an obligation I later realized I could have met. I’m spiraling into feelings of unworthiness, hopelessness and guilt.

And, yet, I’m slowing down in this space instead of numbing myself through mindless entertainment or food. I’m making room for the small parts of self that are tired, frightened and utterly overwhelmed by what feels like crisis after crisis. I’m reminding myself of the positive steps I’ve taken and what I have accomplished today.

And, when I make space for myself, I find my fears are more vast and deeper than I first realized. My guilt at declining an invitation swirls until I am homeless because I cannot provide for myself–one wrong step and I lose everything. My sense of worthlessness holds my inability to tame my temper when I feel unwell–I become a monster when my body hurts. My hopelessness devolves into–there is nothing I can do; everything is always a mess and goes poorly for me. To sum it up, I’m a monstrous, incompetent fool who screws everything up.

I am none of those things and I do not know where to find the parts of myself that feel that I am that. What stood out to me immediately upon writing the last paragraph’s final sentence is the raging hatred I have towards anyone who emulates those qualities even slightly. I want them gone from my life, never to return. I hate incompetence, cruelty and needless failure. Yet, what grace do I offer myself when I start to embody an iota of any of those attributes? What grace do I offer others who might do the same?

This welcoming of the unpleasantness, this turning towards it rather than away from it, allows me to feel larger and more spacious than I did before. I am grumpy because I am sleep-deprived. I needed to rest and could not show up for my obligation in a way that would allow me to contribute in a positive manner. I have handled the situations the day has given me as best I could, and, in allowing myself time to process instead of plodding along, I will handle a similar day even more successfully. When is the last time you checked in with how you were feeling on an off day? What is your inner dialogue and commentary like? What peace do you make with the parts of self that are hard to welcome?

Finding Peace in a Time of Panic

Leaders around the world have begun to reference the global pandemic within the framework of a humanity facing a war. We are admonished not to panic, whatever that means. In my country, our leadership’s been rudderless and we’ve received daily contradictory messages. Things are not fine.

As a person with lifelong severe anxiety, including PTSD caused by childhood abuse, it feels like I’ve spent so many years trying to tell myself that the world was now “safe” and that I could let my guard down. I’ve felt so jealous of people who are carefree and secure in their daily lives. Now I’m not sure if it was they or I or both of us whose prior learning deceived us.

The truth, most likely, lies somewhere in the middle. Our lives are likely more fragile and less guaranteed than the “everything will be fine” but also on stronger footing than “we’re all going to catastrophically die now” crowd would have you think. As a group, we need a range of tolerances for risk, otherwise nothing or everything would be chanced.

I keep noticing a theme of uncertainty as a driver for panic, but those of us who live deep in the realm of fear might know a different cause: no good options. The unknown isn’t what frightens me per se, it is the potential unavailability of a solution to whatever threat I might face that I find intolerable. I know what it is like to be trapped with no way out; I spent many years living that reality and it caused me to split myself apart internally simply to exist.

I refuse to bind my peace to the notion that no catastrophe will ever arrive at my doorstep. I find it insulting to be told not to worry or to trust that the higher-ups know what they are doing. The peace I seek is simply this–that there is more beauty than pain in the world. That, even in the darkest moments imaginable, kindness and compassion remain somewhere to be found, if not by me, then by the next person.

I’ve been shocked to find myself arriving at an inner well of actually giving a shit about the people in my life, a place I thought long lost and dried up. I’m not resorting to “me and mine” to the extent I would have predicted. I believe that crises can bring out the best in us, not because we avoid feelings of panic and terror, not because a solution will arrive if we simply hope enough, but because there is something central about teamwork and collaboration to the nature of being human. We will find our peace in this, together.

Unbridled Joy (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

My poor pup has been cooped up more than usual as of late, between the winter weather and my attempt to avoid unnecessary trips during the health crisis. I had a few housekeeping items crop up unexpectedly today, so I decided it was worth it to head to a local home improvement store that allows dogs in. His incessant whining the entire trip there let me know he was very excited about the trip.

As soon as we arrived at the store, my dog started leaping for joy as his feet hit the ground. He found the nearest human and tugged me in their direction. There was a family with several small children, who did not quite know what to make of such a small dog (he’s a Yorkie) enthusiastically sniffing their shoes and looking up at them in bliss.

I found the light bulbs I was looking for and headed off to another area of the store. We ended up behind another family, and my pup joined right in with them, ignoring their personal space and acting as though they obviously wanted him to tag along. I normally keep very close tabs on him, but, between trying to locate and carry several items, he kept sneaking closer to people than I realized he was.

He met the first family again at the cash register. The young boy who had at first drawn back from him didn’t reach to pet him, but did give him more attention as he stood facing him. My dog was in heaven, surrounded by new humans who might, just might, let him sniff them and perhaps even pet them.

I am in love with the innocence and earnestness with which my dog approaches people. Me in dog form would totally be bearing teeth and foaming at the mouth at anyone who approached; thankfully, he is not me. The fact that he seems to believe he owns the entire warehouse, barking loudly at any other dogs who dare to enter, and prancing around as though it’s been too long since he took stock of his playground, never ceases to bring a smile to my face. I’m reminded of what seems to be my grounding statement this year–there is more beauty than pain in the world. I am so happy to have witnessed it today.

A Kind Word (Today’s Moment of Gratitude)

I received several “thank-you’s” today, and they meant something to me. I’m starting to really experience the contrast that occurs when someone values my input or actions and when they don’t. Being taken seriously and sincerely draws me out and leads me to want to deepen my engagement, in the same way that being dismissed makes me want to withdraw. I

am all for being who I am, take it or leave it, but I’m also human. How I’m treated by others has an effect on me, and, for whatever reason, there was more added than taken from me today and I want to cherish this moment. What is a compliment or “thank-you” you’ve gotten this week?

An Unexpected Kindness (Today’s Moment of Gratitude)

I reflected yesterday on the topics of abundance, gratitude and contentment. A manifestation of gratitude on which I wanted to act was to create a new category of “Writing Everyday” which focuses exclusively on building my capacity for thankfulness. My task was made easier when a neighbor went out of their way to do something nice for me.

My day started off chaotically as the roads were covered in icy snow and I made it to work with literally a minute to spare (I am the sort of person who is fifteen minutes early to everything, so being on time stresses me out!). On top of that, I had to juggle managing multiple situations in the moment while being internally distracted by upcoming events. By the time I got home, physical labor like shoveling snow felt like it was only adding to my burden.

I shoveled a path for my dog and to the mailbox, and turned to the sidewalk, which I try to keep open. It was then that I noticed it was already neatly cleared, much more expertly than the job I normally do. I felt relief and gratitude sink into me, not only because I could spare my shoulder and back potential injury, but also because it meant that someone thought well of me and wanted to help me out.

I decided I don’t have to try to extrapolate lessons or think about ways in which I should have been kinder in the past. For today, I can simply rest in appreciation that a simple physical action by another lightened my load and made it easier for the good in me to shine. Thanks, anonymous stranger! What’s was the last unexpected kindness you received?

Buying a Small Gift (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I have been stuck in customer service hell on top of all of my ongoing ADA accommodation and other stressors. Multiple online processes in which I have normally been able to engage without any issues have turned into hours and hours on the phone without resolution. Moments like this convince me we are living in a computer simulation and that my sector has a glitch! I decided to channel my energy into generosity by buying a few people in my life a gift.

I have a lot of hesitancy both in receiving and in giving gifts. Something about the process feels very vulnerable and fraught with potential rejection. The moment of buying the gifts I did as of late, however, felt like an act of generosity. One of the recipients told me my action was kind. Kind is not a word I am used to hearing in relation to myself; I have repeated a mantra that I am not a kind person.

I think the root of this is that I want to be intimidating in my presence; I want a type of power that engenders respect. I would like to be able to soften over time as someone gets to know me, rather than to have to toughen and toughen again when they assume, based on my appearance, that I must be naturally soft. A lot of my gender dysphoria connects to this. Being kind by giving a gift seems right, now that, due to T and such, my physical appearance looks tougher than it ever has. Gifts are concrete and crude compared to other acts of connection, so they suit me in their inherent awkwardness.

If I dwell on it, I find my way of being is more nuanced. I’m drawn to the idea of practicality as well as romance as it relates to gift-giving–at times, I’d rather give someone something they’d use whereas, at other times, I’d like to give them something sentimental. I thrive on being able to help out in a practical way but also in being emotionally supportive. I can blend the “masculine” and the “feminine” in the same body and spirit and that makes me euphoric.

Do you like to give gifts? How do you express kindness? How, if at all, do the ways in which you show you care to others connect with your sense of your gender?

Encouraging a Friend (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I wrote recently about encouraging a stranger which was a task I found challenging. It was a lot easier for me to reach out to a friend in an uplifting way. Even so, I think that I hold myself back at times from doing so because I worry I won’t have the right comment to add or that I’ll seem overly-invested in their life in a way that disrupts the balance of the friendship. As a single person, I assume that I need positive input more than my partnered friends who have someone else in their life. When I step back, I realize that isn’t necessarily the case as people may share and receive kindness in different ways.

I am also aware that I bring some expectations to a check-in with a friend. When I ask someone how they are doing, I’m really asking for an answer and I feel closest to those who give me a full update rather than a curt “all’s well” in reply. I pity those who ask me how I’m doing with an expectation of it being merely a greeting, as I usually have a steady stream of consciousness about the current state of my life ready to go. How often do you reach out to those with whom you are close to encourage them? How does it affect your relationship?

Encouraging a Stranger (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

“If you’re reading this, you are an awesome person!” isn’t really my style. I attempted to satisfy today’s simple pleasure through my use of social media, by writing positive comments on posts I read, but I felt very unfulfilled in doing so. I struggle to be uplifting and kind at times, and I think attempting to be nice to others in a way that feels forced is especially doomed. So, instead, I plan to look for ways to brighten someone’s day in the next week that arise naturally and feel on target. Who was the last person you encouraged? How did they respond?