Perfectionism or That Time I Thought I Failed Therapy

Standard

I read quite a bit about finding a good therapist, different approaches to therapy, the client’s rights in a therapeutic relationship, and how to get the most out of therapy. I’m a nerd for this shit, so it’s kind of how I spend my spare time.

So I’ve definitely run across the idea that some people feel like they need to give the “right” answers during therapy, or feel like they have to be a model client.

I’ve always felt that this wasn’t me. For the first five years or so of therapy I was the absolute opposite of that. I argued with everything my therapist said. I lied. I nodded and smiled in session, then left and promptly ignored everything she had told me. I never followed through on things she asked me to do. I was there because I had to be, and showing up was the maximum I was about to do.

So it took me quite by surprise last week when my therapist asked me if I wanted to talk about a particular topic and I said that today wasn’t a good day because I had to work after therapy. And then I felt guilty. I wondered if I was being a bad client. Was I avoiding the topic? Should I have been willing to open up on that topic? She had asked after all, I should be willing to talk about trauma in therapy. That’s why I’m there.

We had a moment of pause. Was she judging me? Should I tell her “no, it’s totally fine, let’s go ahead and dig into it, I’ll be fine!”? Was I failing at therapy????

And there it was. This conviction that setting a very reasonable boundary was failing.

There’s a tension here. At this point I’ve known both of my therapists for years. I’ve shared a lot with them, some of my most vulnerable points. I trust them, and generally if I’ve stuck with a therapist for this long I overall like them. So of course I would want them to think well of me. I don’t want someone that I trust to simply tolerate me for professional reasons. I don’t want them to think I’m a bad person. That all makes sense.

But in contrast to that, it’s also not actually important to my therapy and well-being that my therapist thinks I’m “good at therapy” or “being a good client” or “very fun” or even someone they’d be friends with outside of therapy (although I do think at least one of my therapists and I would be besties if we weren’t client/therapist).

And I don’t think that this concern was really about wanting my therapist to think well of me. I think it was wanting to make sure that I was doing this therapy thing right. Making sure I wasn’t being non-compliant (oh that phrase). Making sure that I wasn’t avoiding topics or refusing to discuss them when I needed to. And at heart that’s a good impulse: what’s the point of therapy if I’m not going to make an effort to do it in good faith and make it effective?

But the idea that having boundaries is being non-compliant is…well it’s a lot.

First of all it’s incredibly deep-seated. Being socialized as a woman it’s the kind of message that weasels its way into your life from every direction. As someone who has been mentally ill for most of their adult life, most of my boundaries have been thoroughly destroyed in therapy (sometimes in positive ways, often in negative ways). As an autistic, my boundaries are often seen as bizarre, nonsensical, and thus just temper tantrums. Non-compliance.

But it’s also fucking wild.

I suppose on a strictly tautological level, saying no to something is not complying with that thing. But the fact that the entire mental health field has a term that is basically used to mean “very bad”, and which literally means “says no” is HORRIFYING.

EVERYONE has the right to say no. At any time. For any reason.

In fact a huge part of therapy is often learning how to say no and set boundaries. So why is it that even within the discipline it’s seen negatively?

Therapy isn’t a place where you have to be open to any discussion at any time. You get to choose your own pace and your own comfort level. Maybe you never feel comfortable discussion a particular topic and that’s ok. Because therapy should be 100% driven by the client: if you want to keep feeling shitty and not discuss the thing that’s making you feel shitty, that’s up to you! Go for it!

I don’t need to live up to some ethical goal of “good therapy client”. This isn’t some kind of test that a harsh and judgmental God is giving me. It’s a tool. How I use it is up to me.

An Uncertain Future

Standard

This week has felt immensely long. On Friday my work laptop stopped charging correctly. On Saturday I worked eight hours for a freelance site doing live updates on Trump’s health (ew). At the same time, I’ve finally had some much-needed downtime in terms of working out, and my body is incredibly grateful. I also got to do an aerial photoshoot yesterday and it was life-giving. Being the absolute center of attention for 10 minutes while people you love just yell at you about how amazing you are feels pretty fucking stellar.
October also happens to be the month that my goal planner designates as the beginning of “fall”, which means reviewing and resetting my goals. I’ve got to be honest, it feels fucking weird to be trying to do that right now. The planner asks each month what you’re excited for, and I haven’t had an answer since March. What the fuck am I supposed to look forward to? How am I supposed to make plans for the future? Goal-setting feels bizarre and almost futile.
And yet. When I look at the goals from the beginning of the year and the past couple seasons, I’ve made huge progress on them. I’ve built up almost ten new habits that are now second nature that have made my life significantly better. I’ve adjusted my living space in pretty large ways to fit my work at home needs. I’ve started volunteering. I’ve stayed in touch with friends and community. Jacob and I have come up with new ways to keep our relationship from becoming awful while we’re stuck in the house together. I fucking came out. I paid off half of our student loans. I’ve started refinishing furniture. I’m writing my blog again. I got a raise. I’m reading more than ever. I transitioned our whole office to a new database and got all of our old data moved over without murdering anyone.
Progress is still possible.
But somehow I feel like I’ve run out of space to move in this pandemic. I don’t know what to aim for. I don’t know where to go. And as much as I like routines, I hate hate hate feeling as if I don’t have a Big Thing that I’m working on.
Maybe it will be good for me to slow down and focus my goals on small changes to my quality of life right now. Maybe it’s good that I’m finally coming back to the things I write down in my goals over and over but never really focus on.
But boy howdy do I hate it. I feel listless and purposeless.
In other news, I started reading Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, and I once again find myself frustrated with everyone who gives advice on how to manage burnout or improve self-care or do the emotion regulation thing, because I ALREADY DO ALL THOSE THINGS and I’m still exhausted and burnt out. I keep hoping someone else has more or better ideas, but it’s almost always the same basic shit, which absolutely helps and is good advice! It just hasn’t quite gotten me to a point where I feel like I’m thriving rather than treading water.
What a bummer of a post. It’s cold out, my body is already transitioning to SAD, you can’t blame me.

Fall

Standard

I was born on September 27. In my part of the world, this is the beginning of the long decline into cold and dark. Winter eats away nine months of every twelve, and the sun goes down at 4 p.m. My birthday is the signal that the bad days are coming.

On my kitchen counter there’s a vase with bursting bright yellow flowers. Outside, the gray sky is dripping with lackluster rain. It smells like candles and petrichor. Yesterday I wore nothing but underwear and dripped sweat onto the couch. Today I pull on slippers and wrap myself in piles of blankets.

This moment is a peak. A pause. A wish that we could stay here just a moment longer and the knowledge that nothing can keep winter at bay. Autumn is balanced on the knifepoint between, a liminal moment of choosing and waiting and hoping. And always, ever, preparing.

I am not ready. My plans are not complete. Let me be weightless for another day. Don’t let the next year come crashing in just yet. I’m still waiting for resolution.

When You’re Always Depressed, Worldwide Trauma Feels Normal

Your author, flexing and looking surprisingly happy during COVID
Standard

A lot of my friends have been sharing this article about the six-month wall of the pandemic. It’s a good article. You should probably read it.

And yet when I sat down with it, I felt no sense of resonance with the experience it described. It says “Yet, just as we seem to have adjusted to this global disaster, many of us feel as though we have suddenly hit a brick wall. Right now, you may feel enervated and despairing.”

“No,” I thought to myself. “I just feel…normal. Kind of better than usual actually. Is something wrong with me?”

It’s not so much that I feel disconnected from my emotions. I’ve been having emotions, certainly. I cried yesterday. It’s that I’m not experiencing the same kind of huge impact that many of my friends are describing, where they feel as if everything is falling apart, or they don’t know how they continue like this, or they’re constantly afraid and overwhelmed.

That just doesn’t feel familiar to me.

And here’s the thing: I know that it’s not because I’m some sort of very stoic person who manages crisis well. I’m a clusterfuck when it comes to my emotions. I’m semi-constantly on the verge of a major depression.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? I’ve lived my whole life feeling as if the world was about to end tomorrow. Now that it actually is…well it’s just another day.

When I found out that I was going to be working from home indefinitely, I immediately sat down and put a plan in place. I figured out what my ideal daily routine would be. I brainstormed things that I could do to keep myself occupied and happy around the house. I listed out who I wanted to keep in touch with and how. I prepared sensory activities and a list of projects just big enough that I could keep feeling productive. I brainstormed how to re-create my aerial workouts at home. I prepared everything.

Since then, I’ve mostly just been updating and then following that plan. When I start to feel too bad, I just look at what’s on my lists and tweak them. This is how I handle crises, and that applies to everything from stressful times at work to worldwide pandemics. Which means that right now I feel…about the same as I would during a stressful time at work. Except that this time everyone is making allowances for things and commiserating and being weirdly kind.

So for me, it’s just…normal.

This has brought me to two realizations.

First, I feel quite disconnected from the people around me and their experiences. I don’t find that I’m struggling because of pandemic. I find that I’m struggling because I can’t relate to other people.

Second, it hits me just how stressed I must be all of the time. I’ve seen some articles and posts floating around saying that if you’re more tired than usual that makes sense because of trauma and how we’re all doing huge amounts of emotional work right now just to manage. I don’t feel more tired than usual though. I feel normal amount of tired. By that I mean I need upwards of 8 and a half hours of sleep every night, I nap multiple times a week, and sometimes I just go ahead and sleep for 16 hours straight.

And then I think about how that’s normal for me. And how this whole situation feels normal. And a few things click into place.

And I have to ask myself…why does just living evoke a trauma response in me?

I don’t really have an answer. Just an unsettled feeling that it probably shouldn’t be like that.

 

Looking from a New Angle

Standard

I need a lot of support.

I don’t mean emotionally, I mean my body seems uninterested in doing the work of staying upright. When I first learned how to get dressed on my own, it never occurred to me that I might want to stand up to put clothes on. I’d lay fully flat in bed and weasel my way into my outfits.

I’ve never in my life sat upright on a couch. I lounge, getting as close to supine as possible. When forced to sit in a chair, I slowly slide down until my body is fully ensconced in the chair, and if that’s not possible I curl up with my legs tucked next to me.

It’s not that my muscles are weak (I don’t think).

No that’s not it. It’s that something about my sensory awareness of my body and the pressure of posture makes so many positions uncomfortable. I stand for more than 30 seconds and my hips complain, my legs get irritable, my back twinges. I just want to sit down. I sit down and my shoulders start to slide down towards the ground. Sweet, sweet laying down.

All of this to say that my ideal work situation would be in some kind of pod that keeps me perfectly supported with my monitors above me so that I can lay comfortably on my back all day long.

It’s a joke but it’s not. Like most jokes I make.

I mentioned on Facebook the other day that this has been a thorn in my side for years, and a friend suggested that I take it seriously: just lay under a table and velcro an iPad up there with a wireless keyboard. I giggled a little bit. And then I stopped. I looked at my computer set up. My monitors were probably too big to make that work. But moving to the floor? Now there was an idea. Full support all day long.

I hauled a couch cushion into the corner, set up a table over it, and plopped down.

Holy. Shit.

I’ve been there for the last three days and I’m never looking back. It’s the comfiest, most natural working environment I’ve ever been in. I have my back against a corner, so I feel snug and secure, I get the soft cushion with the firm support of the walls, and I have enough space to place all my bits and bobs and sensory tools. It’s like the solution had been sitting there waiting for me.

All it took was one sentence: lie on the floor, and suddenly I knew what I needed.

One of my biggest challenges with making accommodations for myself is that I often can’t imagine an accommodation until I’ve seen it. Fun fact: there are not a lot of examples of adult accommodations available. My job in meeting my own needs is to be immensely creative.

Sometimes that means trolling through a thousand products on Amazing to find the one that makes the most sense. But sometimes it means looking from a new angle: instead of at table height, moving to the ground and working up from there. In fact quite often it means thinking in levels: can I add height? Can I take away height? Can I define a space differently?

We’re not taught to think this way. Spaces are supposed to be thought of as floor (which is only for walking on), seating (which is a certain height), tables (which you sit at), and nothing higher than that for our usage. I want ways to climb my walls and perch near the ceiling like a fucking cat. I want to be able to burrow down in blankets under the table.

I want furniture and accessories that are MADE for these things, not repurposed attempts.

But I suppose for now I’ll have to keep looking from new angles. Sometimes you find the unexpected. And then you end up with the support you didn’t know you needed.

Creativity as Rest

Standard

Part 1: The Writer Who Doesn’t Write

Today is a rainy and cold day. In the past three days the temperature has dropped 40 degrees, which means that I have been desperately trying to transition with great difficulty. Like many creative type people, the grey, rainy days make me want to curl up with a cup of tea and read or write or make.

It has been so long since I have felt creative. Specifically it has felt so long since I have felt creative around writing or creating fiction, which used to be something that was constant for me. When I was ten I wrote a novel that was close to 500 pages long. In high school I drafted a novel I actually thought I would submit for publication. Creative writing has been a part of my identity, my mental health care, and my self-expression for years.

And yet I can’t remember the last time I wrote a story.

There’s a tension that I feel so often: I am tired. I am tired all day every day. I can’t remember the last time I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep if I just closed my eyes. I struggle to pull the words out for the work I have to do. It’s no surprise to me that I haven’t had the excess to pour out into creativity.

And yet.

Every week and month that I go without trying to describe the pillowy soft fog outside my window or the taste of the air when it’s damp and the summer is melting through my fingers no matter how hard I try to hold it…I get more exhausted.

One of the things that I have spent years trying to articulate to others and to myself is the need for many kinds of rest. There is the rest of literal sleep. There is rest that comes from turning off your brain and being quiet. There is rest that comes from being with people who do not judge you. And there is rest that comes from doing the things you’re passionate about. The things that make you feel creative: and I do mean creative. Building something, whether it’s a story or a chair feeds some deep human needs and in my experience fills us up.

I have felt so empty.

Enter Dungeons and Dragons.

Part 2: The Lonely Creator

Writing is a solitary activity. The writer is struck by some kind of inspiration and the story has to get out. The writer is an observer and notices things that others don’t, finds inspiration for their work.

These are some of the lies I’ve been told about writing.

Let’s be clear here: writing is a process of connecting with other people. Language exists only between two people. The idea that writing and creativity are done in isolation is fucking weird.

I was approached a few weeks ago about the possibility of joining a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I love D&D, and I am always up for it, but it wasn’t until I started to hear about the setting and the world that a whole mess of things clicked together for me: I can’t create out of nothing, alone, sitting in the dark and staring out a window like some angsty teenager.

Creativity for me is play. I felt something come awake in me that had been sleeping for so long. I was suddenly writing a backstory and building a Pinterest board and falling in love with my character. Someone had just tossed me the ball and I wanted to be a part of this game. I felt so full.

I’ve been feeling for so long as if I am not as creative anymore: I’m too tired or too overworked. But maybe I just needed someone to play with. I just needed someone to point me in a direction or give me a prompt.

I’ve missed it so much.

Weekly Check In 9/7

Standard
Somehow it is Monday again already. It is unclear to me how this is possible, but as we all know time has lost all meaning.
 
However that does mean it’s time for a check in.
 
I am, perennially, constantly, dealing again with exhaustion and sleep problems. Almost every day this week I have unintentionally napped for 3+ hours, then stayed up later than I intended and gotten not enough sleep overnight (read: 7.5 hours rather than 9-10).
 
It turns out that this is a massive pain in the ass that is interfering with work and aerials and eating and cleaning and basically every possible part of my life. I’m so wildly sick of thinking that I have it under control and then having it hit again and leave me with not enough hours in the day.
 
When I first started taking stimulant medications I was incredibly sensitive to them: a half pill was enough to keep me awake all day. Now I’m finding that even with my meds I can still fall asleep, which is a big NOT what I wanted. I’m thinking I may experiment with taking a full pill instead of a half pill (don’t worry, doc has given me full leave to go up to two pills per day depending on what works for me).
 
Of course that brings me to concern 2: my GP has retired. Now this is a bummer because I liked her in general but it is MORE of a bummer because she prescribed me my anti-depressants. I’m starting to run low and boy howdy do I not want to try to find a new doc right now. Of course I have the doc who worked with me on my sleep issues, but I’m not 100% sure if he’s good with prescribing me my anti depressants. Basically I would very much like to just be able to call my doctor and continue having the medication I have been taking for years that is incredibly effective for me and instead I now have to do some stressful problem solving and maneuvering in the medical system which is NOT a thing I want.
 
I get why it’s important to have docs check in on meds like this, but fuck. After like 2 years can’t I just HAVE them? Especially for people with executive function challenges and social anxieties, this is a huge barrier to accessing services.
 
In conjunction with all of this I’ve been really struggling with keeping a coherent and reasonable schedule. It’s making it tough to be online and “at work” during the hours that are normal. Instead I’m working on Labor Day because I fell asleep at 3:00 on Friday instead of finishing out my work day.
 
This makes a lot of sense when I spend all day every day just sitting on my couch and there’s very little to indicate what I should be doing. I’ve been thinking a lot about both the benefits and costs of working from home, and what my ideal set up would be if we ever start going places again.
 
I’m feeling really torn between two things: going to an office HIGHLY increases my ability to focus for long periods of time and gives my brain a clear “this is working time” signal. On the other hand, before quarantine I was driving approximately 2-3 hours every day, which was a massive waste of my time. Add in that working from home gives me the freedom to throw in a load of laundry in the middle of the day, or take a five minute break to sweep the kitchen, and there’s a lot of effectiveness that’s coming out of working from home.
 
I’m an optimizer and I don’t feel like I can optimize and let me tell you that just pushes my buttons.
 
I’m definitely at one of those places where I want to START things. I don’t need to start new things. I have plenty to occupy my time. I don’t need to learn how to draw, or embroider, or build databases from scratch, or take on multiple new freelance clients, or start running social media for a volunteer organization.
 
But I’m getting stir crazy. And that’s what I do. I’m just trying hard to keep it to one or two new things instead of five or six. Here’s hoping it works.
 
Positives of this week: I have made HUGE progress on a couple of my aerial goals and feel SO GOOD about it. Also I’ve gotten some expectations of consistency from a few freelance clients which I am very much looking forward to. Weirdly it has been a pretty dang good week, even as I’m overthinking absolutely everything. What a surprise.
 
 
 

Weekly Check In

Standard

If you know me in my personal life, you might know that I’ve recently been doing a weekly check in on my mental health and life each Monday.

I’ve decided I’m going to start sharing them here for a few reasons: first, quite a few people have said that they find the check ins helpful as a way of modeling vulnerability, mental health skills, and connection. Second, it’s easy for me to forget to update my blog when I’m not here very often, and popping over to post the check in is a reminder that I can use it for other things. Third, I feel like it.

So here’s this week’s.

This week has felt like approximately one thousand years but also like nothing much has happened, so normal COVID time I guess.
Last week I started volunteering with TCMAP (which is a very cool resource and you all should take a look at it). It feels really really really good to be jumping into a new project that is interesting and has a lot of room for growth and feels meaningful and is with lots of smart, interesting, kind humans.
It’s also really exciting to see an organization that isn’t AuSM and how that works, and realize how much I actually know and have to offer. Sometimes I get very in my head and assume that AuSM is just a small pond which is why I feel competent at things, but if I were to leave AuSM it would turn out that I actually don’t know much at all and have very little to contribute.
Plus it feels good to get EXCITED about a project. I love AuSM, but very few things feel really new and shiny right now (this is my own fault for getting involved in almost every department in the organization). Something totally new and different that is ripe for someone to come in and create processes and organization is like someone waving my drug of choice in front of my face.
I’ve also been feeling just really GOOD about my aerial and flexibility lately. I’ve hit a couple of new milestones (hell yeah forearm stand progress! Hell yeah backbend progress! Hell yeah suddenly being able to comfortably hit splits in the air in poses that seemed unreachable a few months ago).
Especially after being out of the air for almost 3 months, it’s incredibly affirming to see progress again. It’s ESPECIALLY affirming to see both my strength and flexibility increasing because many times those two can work against each other.
For quite a while I’ve been feeling quite lonely and disconnected. I’ve been having a hard time actually having emotions or caring about things (and people). This last week has felt like a major victory against anhedonia and dissociation.
Even in personal relationships there’s been some nice developments. Jacob and I finally got some things off our chests about wanting to connect and the ways in which each of our needs weren’t getting met, something I think both of us have just been too blah to talk about for a while. We even finally managed to come up with solutions to ongoing problems and I’m SO SO SO psyched about it.
Weirdly I kind of credit it to listening to way too much Esther Perel and reading Come As You Are (both quality pieces of media if you’re not already on that train). It isn’t like either of these pieces of media was telling me a bunch of stuff I didn’t already know, but being reminded actively that you deserve to express your feelings and that the best way to get what you need is to tell your partner clearly is SO healthy.
This is yet another example of “media has such a big fucking impact in ways you don’t even consider”, and sometimes I think that gets said in a kind of woo woo fashion, but I want to pull out something very concrete and literal about it: you think more about the things you hear and see regularly. Choosing your media is to some extent choosing the fodder for your brain. There are an infinite number of things we all could be thinking about at any given moment, which means that it’s incredibly easy to lose important stuff in there. What you surround yourself with is you choosing what you think is important and what you want to remember over time.
I’ve been spending a lot of my energy on fun, fluffy things for a while. That’s not bad. Actual play podcasts rock. But incorporating a few things that prompt deeper thoughts is a balance I want and a balance that’s incredibly healthy.
So I guess this Monday morning feels bizarrely positive, and I’m just going to go with that.

Fuck My Body and Fuck Yours Too

Standard

Bodies are assholes.

Anyone who says different is lying.

They hurt and they hunger and they exhaust and they NEED endlessly. Oftentimes the best that they give us is that they’re not actively asking for anything and so we can ignore them.

I’ve been reading Come As You Are.

One of the themes that has come up over and over and over again is that every body is perfect and beautiful just as it is, and in order to have better sex lives and less stress and less angst, we just need to learn to love our bodies.

Guess what Emily Nagoski: my body isn’t perfect and it isn’t beautiful, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been duped by a shitty culture (which I have been, but that’s a separate issue).

Let’s give an example.

I currently take a stimulant medication every morning. If I don’t take that medication, approximately 50% of the time my body will simply decide it NEEDS sleep somewhere between 2 and 5 p.m. It will sleep for 3-15 hours. Even if I sleep for 5 or 6 hours, I still sleep for a full 8 overnight. None of this has any correlation with sleeping less at night: I get more and more consistent sleep than any other person I know.

I miss appointments. I flake on friends. I skip important tasks. I miss out on time with my husband. It fucks up my life. It’s unpredictable, it’s a huge pain in the ass, and it absolutely is not perfect or beautiful. It’s annoying and frustrating and loses me money and time and opportunities. It makes me angry and sad. I do not like it.

Or another example:

I have chronic headaches. So far nothing in my life has been able to get rid of them for good. I manage them through massage and chiropractic, but that’s expensive, so mostly I manage them by trying not to get too stressed out, and Ibuprofen, and ice packs. It doesn’t work well. Last month I had a low grade headache for three weeks straight (sometimes it was more than low grade).

I am in pain a significant percentage of the time. Nothing about that is beautiful or perfect. It sucks and I wish my body were different.

In some strands of feminism and body positivity there’s this impulse to say that our basic state of being is one of joy and happiness with our bodies, as if all dissatisfactions come from culture. It’s a kind of weird version of the naturalistic fallacy: if we just accepted our natural relationship with our bodies we’d all be so happy!

Do these people not have bodies that exhaust too easily or create random pains? Do they not experience the frustration of a body that can’t do the things you ask it to, or that randomly decides it’s going to behave differently today than it ever has before (hey thanks ocular migraine that appeared once a month ago and has never come back)?

Embodiment is the way that the world acts on you and it’s often not pleasant. It’s sweat and stank (and hey Emily? Not liking butt stank doesn’t mean that I’ve internalized cultural messages about disgust and shame around sex, it means that sometimes bodies sweat and create bad odors), it’s being too hot or too cold, it’s hangovers and sore muscles. It’s all part of living as a body and it’s a hugely mixed bag.

A lot of the time the most we expect out of our bodies is that they’ll shut up enough that we basically forget they exist. Times of active physical pleasure are not the norm. Maybe that’s part cultural, but it’s also because it takes time and effort to create physical pleasure. It takes resources. It takes self-awareness and knowledge of your own body. It’s WORK.

My body isn’t perfect, and I don’t love it. Right now I accept it. I may never love it. I definitely will never think it’s perfect, and I don’t actually even know the point of thinking that it’s beautiful (what a useless value anyway). Acknowledging the reality of our frail bodies, dealing with that reality is far more radical and body positive than pretending it’s all sunshine and roses.

Saying that everyone can and should love their bodies can have some serious unintended consequences, from further alienating disabled folks and those in chronic pain, to creating a new standard of perfection that says if you don’t love yourself you’re not living up to the standard. For some people, it can even go so far as to feel like it’s your own fault if you feel bad about your body. Even though we live mired in a world of sex negativity and body shaming and absolute bullshit, somehow you personally should have the astounding ability to stop listening to all of that, ignore any real frustrations you have with your body, and live in perfect harmony.

Nah, that ain’t it.

Bodies are hard. Being embodied is one of the hardest parts of being a conscious being. It doesn’t really make sense and none of us really get how this part of us that we think of as us fits in with this meatbag that we’ve got.

So fuck my body. Fuck yours too. Sometimes they’re assholes. But fuck them in the way that you’d say it to a friend you love but who sometimes does the absolute worst things. Fuck my body in the most complex way I can imagine the word fuck. Let it fuck. And let it fuck up.

Have the relationship you need with your body.

Paying Attention

Standard

Oh hi there folks.

It’s been a minute.

Or two.

Or a month.

Or a year.

We’ve had a pandemic. All of our lives have changed and shifted in fundamental ways. My communities have had riots and protests and murders.

I feel like I’ve circled back on myself and relived moments of college and high school and depression, then skipped through time and found myself somewhere new entirely. I don’t think this blog will keep being what it was. It will probably be weirder and more self-reflective and more stream of thought.

Because here’s the thing: writing has been my Thing since I was about 8 years old. It has saved my life a thousand times over. It has given me a career. It has helped me through the few hours of a dark and awful night when I thought I wanted to die, and has helped me to make plans a year or two or three into the future, full of hope.

I haven’t written just for me in years.

I write for my job. I write to freelance. I write to work on a book that I intend to sell. I write for other people. But I don’t write to let out that insistent, ever-present hamster-wheel of thoughts that lives in my head all day long.

Last week I started to have a slip in time. My brain reverted to the moments in college when I couldn’t find a foothold of joy. I didn’t know why I existed. I didn’t know what I brought to the world. After being in social isolation for nearly six months now, spending every day in the same place in the same room, I started to feel like that again. Everything felt like an oversized treadmill: I just keep running and never going anywhere.

But I had a few things hit me in the face since then. My therapist (because hey, it turns out therapists are actually really wonderful) listened and engaged and saw through that ruse to the part of me that was just feeling isolated and unmoored and disconnected. I felt like my work didn’t matter. My hobbies had become pointless time fillers. I didn’t live out my values anymore.

Fact 1: meaning is important to me, and when I lose meaning I start to pretend that I have to find a meaning that will satisfy some kind of cosmic importance.

Over the weekend I started listening to Dear Hank and John, a wonderfully earnest podcast in which two brothers answer questions and share facts about humanity and science and the world. And I remembered that once upon a time the media that I consumed was far less about nonprofit fundraising, or organizational strategies, or even the very important work of dismantling systems of oppression, but instead was about the impossibly endless joy of exploration.

Fact 2: I am curious. Learning all the wild and poetic things that our universe has to offer makes me feel connected.

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to address this disconnect in me, this yearning. And it seems obvious to me: pay attention to different things. Attention is both overappreciated and underappreciated in our world. People act as if focusing your attention to be productive is the greatest thing you can ever do, but they ignore how impactful your attention can be in the more passive moments. The attention you give to TV and music and media. The attention you give to learning or simply existing. The attention you give to yourself or the rest of the world. Where attention leads, time and energy and values follow.

Fact 3: I want to give my attention to the small beauties. I am a painfully sincere person. I’ve never really been ashamed of it, but one of the things that I believe I’ve lost is the sincere wonder of finding out cool damn things about existence. We don’t really know how eels reproduce. Isn’t that fucking wild? Or when you stop to think about it, all our cells are held together by the energy of sunlight. So that’s fucking weird.

There’s a big difference between learning skills and learning about. I miss learning about. I miss the excitement of uncovering the ways in which the universe falls towards order and joy.

We have a lot of work to do to continue that trajectory, but right now, for me, I need to spend a bit of time basking in it.

So let’s get weird.