Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Where Did the Week Go?

It’s been a busy week. Possibly not much busier than weeks usually are, but the fact that it’s been in the upper 80s and humid in Chicago the past couple of days has made everything feels pretty overwhelming. In any case, here are a few of the highlights from the past week, complete with photos:

  • I got a tattoo on Saturday! An apprentice tattooer I’ve been following on Instagram had posted some flash that I thought looked great, and now I have a happy little plant on my ankle:

    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 7.28.23 PM

    It’s my first color tattoo, and the first one somewhere other than my forearms. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out, and it’s healing nicely.

  • We got to see one of our favorite folk duos twice last week! Wednesday night, we went to a songwriting workshop put on by Mouths of Babes titled The Political is Personal. It was inspiring and got me halfway to finishing my assignment for my regular songwriting class. Then on Sunday, we got to see them play at SPACE in Evanston. It was (predictably) a fabulous show.

    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 7.33.35 PM

  • I finished another nearly-two-year-old knitting project, though this one was much smaller than a sweater. A couple of summers ago, I bought a tiny owl kit from MochiMochiLand at our local yarn store. I knit the body of one owl at knit night the evening I bought it, and hadn’t picked it back up since. Over the weekend, I dug it out. I finished the first owl, and then started on another one:

    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 7.37.05 PM

    I finished the second owl last night, and found a spot for them with my favorite old wooden owl (that used to belong to my grandparents) on the shelf we refer to as our owlery:

    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 7.39.19 PM

    They were a lot of fun to knit, and I’m glad to finally have them done!

Digging In

The past week has been a pretty introspective one. I’m continuing to work on expanding my repertoire of self-care techniques. As I mentioned last week, I signed up for a three-week intro to yoga class, because it’s about damn time I started taking better care of my body. That started on Saturday. It came with the bonus of giving me free access to all of the other basic yoga classes at the studio for the duration of the three weeks, so I did yoga twice over the weekend, and am much less sore than I expected.

I’ve been continuing to try to reincorporate meditation and tarot into my daily routine. It’s been an anxious week, but I’ve been trying to give myself space when I need to in order to focus on my breathing and ground myself. This, along with yoga, has made me very conscious of something I was only dimly aware of before:

I am really bad at breathing.

I’ve never had a huge lung capacity, but wearing a chest binder for five years did me no favors in that regard. Today marks seven months since I had chest masculinization surgery, but even though I haven’t been binding for months now, I haven’t gotten out of the bad breathing habits my body developed over those five years. When I try to breathe deeply, I find that it all feels stuck high in my chest. Belly breathing is a mystery to me. I can visualize how it should work, but in my body, it’s not. At least not yet. So that’s a major piece of grounding that I’m going to be focusing on for a while, I think.

It feels like my life is taking a very meditative direction lately, and my initial reaction to that was to feel guilty: after all, there is so much to be done, such chaos in the world around me that needs to be confronted. I brought this up in therapy on Sunday, and my therapist pointed out that self-care is essential to resistance. Resistance is in large part about stamina, going in for the long haul, and that’s not possible if you don’t take time to dig in and build a solid, sturdy foundation for yourself.

I still feel guilty, but I recognize the truth there: I’m no good to anyone if I’m not taking time to take care of myself. I’m acutely aware of the privilege I hold that allows me to take that time. I hope that I ultimately use that privilege for good.

A Brain Full of Pollen and Bees

Spring has officially sprung and is out in full force in Chicago: there are fresh, bright green leaves on the trees, flowers everywhere, fearless bunnies in our courtyard…and pollen. Pollen, everywhere.

This is the glorious time of year when I want so badly to be outdoors, drinking in the signs of new life…but alas: I’m allergic to damn near everything outside. Trees, grass, flowers, weeds…if it can spew pollen into the air and over the sidewalks, it’s going to make me sneeze.

I’ve been walking around in a sort of pollen-induced haze for the past couple of weeks as a result. I’ve had a lot to get done at work, and I’m worried that I’m not doing enough of it, or that I’m forgetting important things because my brain is so foggy.

In the past couple of days, my brain has decided to up the ante: the pollen appears to have attracted bees.

I think I have mentioned on this blog before that ManicBrain feels a lot like having a head full of bees, and that is exactly what’s happening right now. Thoughts buzz around in my brain in so many directions that, at least half the time, I have no idea what I’m actually thinking about. So far, it’s mostly been the mental equivalent of bumblebees: busy, but generally harmless. I feel on edge, though, because my own personal hive mind tends to turn from bumblebees to wasps if the anxiety starts to spike, and if you’ve read the news or are even dimly aware of current events, you probably understand that there is no shortage of reasons to be anxious right now.

I’m working on expanding my repertoire of techniques for keeping myself grounded. After a couple of months’ hiatus, I’m getting back to incorporating tarot and meditation into my morning routine. I signed up for an introductory yoga class. I’m continuing to see my therapist even though a lot of the time I don’t have a clear vision of what I want to get out of therapy, because I find therapy a useful time to sort of check in with myself and a neutral third party about where my head is at. I’m trying to remember to breathe when I start to feel flustered. I’m listening to a lot of Deathmole.

Mostly, I’m just doing my best to dig in and hang on.

Sweaters and Weather

I have been feeling rather under the weather this week. A coworker came to work sick on Monday, and by the time I left at the end of the day, I was feeling completely miserable. Tuesday I still wasn’t feeling great, so I wound up staying home.

The upshot of this was that I got a bunch of knitting done. I’ve been trying to finish some old, languishing projects before letting myself dive into any (big) new things (all I want to knit these days are sweaters and vests). Yesterday, this sweater that I started just over two years ago finally came off the needles.

Two years and twenty-one days is a ridiculous amount of time to spend on an entirely stockinette stitch sweater.

Two years and twenty-one days is a ridiculous amount of time to spend on an entirely stockinette stitch sweater.

You can’t really tell from the picture, but the dark bit of the sweater is an impossible-to-photograph shade of deep, plummy purple. It is a little astonishing to me that this is the first purple sweater I’ve knit.

I really wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out – my gauge changed a little bit over the past two years, and this entire sweater was an experiment in combining Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sparse instructions with my own modifications to her suggested measurements. It’s a sweater made from yarn and math, really. I shouldn’t be surprised that it fits so well – after all, that was the point. But I’m still pretty chuffed about it.

I’m sure most people in Chicago would disagree with me, but I’m glad the weather is shifting cooler again for the rest of the week. Hopefully that means I’ll get to wear it out of the house at least once before summer hits!

Weekend Adventures

As many of you may know, I work for a Jewish organization, and one of the best things about this is the fact that I end up with lots of extra days off throughout the year for holidays I don’t personally celebrate. Passover was this past week, and because of where it fell this year, we ended up with a couple of days off last week, and Monday and Tuesday off this week. I had just enough Southwest miles saved up for a free trip to the Twin Cities, so I decided to use my long weekend to catch up with family and some friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

I flew into MSP Saturday afternoon, and dropped my stuff off at my partner’s parents’ house, where I was staying for the weekend. That evening, I got dinner with my parents and brother (which went more-or-less okay – sometimes it’s hard to find things to talk about), and then got drinks with an old friend from church youth group. Catching up and reminiscing was a lot of fun.

Sunday I went over to my parents’ house, where we were joined by my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. The time went well (better than I was expecting, to be honest). I was able to modify the Yoda hat I’d knit my nephew when he was just 7 months old so that it will continue to fit him for at least another couple of seasons (it was still big enough around, but was no longer covering his ears), and deliver the blanket I’d knit for him as a belated birthday gift. We enjoyed watching my nephew (who is three) and my parents’ dog (who is almost fifteen) chase each other around – they are best friends. We went for a walk to the park. All-in-all, it was a nice way to spend the day.

That evening, I went back to my partner’s parents’ house and was able to spend some time with them. We watched Moana, which was great, and I’m a little ashamed I didn’t get around to seeing it until now.

Monday I ended up seeing two of my best friends from college: one for breakfast, and one for dinner. It was wonderful seeing both of them and catching up. I also got to unexpectedly go out to coffee with my best friend in the middle of the day, after she texted me saying her afternoon meetings were canceled. I spent the evening watching baseball with my partner’s parents while we all talked to my partner on speakerphone. It was easily the most delightful Monday I’ve had in ages.

Tuesday morning I got up for an early breakfast with my best friend before leaving town. My flight out boarded on time, and then sat on the runway for an hour – evidently, because of some crosswinds, they were using just one runway for all arrivals and departures, and didn’t really communicate this to anyone ahead of time. But I made it home eventually, and was ridiculously happy when I did. As much as I loved seeing people over the weekend, packing that many visits into such a short time frame really drives home the point that I am an introvert. Being social can be fun, but it is also exhausting.

Thanks to everyone who made time for me this weekend, and apologies to those of you I didn’t see – there are so many of you that I just couldn’t get to everyone!

I’m Back!

As some of you noticed, there was no blog post last week. My apologies for that! Last Tuesday night the blog went down for some reason, and in trying to fix it Wednesday, I inadvertently deleted the whole thing. Thankfully, the folks at my web host were able to restore from an earlier backup. Lesson learned not to try to fix this sort of thing by myself!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Some highlights:

  1. My octave mandolin arrived. She needed new strings, but since fixing that I’ve been having a blast with her. She still needs a name. 
  2. A new person started on my team at work, to take over the bulk of my customer service responsibilities so that I can focus on my new job. She’s very eager and determined to learn, which is great. 
  3. We rearranged our apartment over the weekend, then went on a trip to IKEA on Monday to pick up new shelving. Wednesday we put everything together, and it looks so nice in our apartment now!

Happy Moments in Mania

My apologies for the slightly late post today, friends. I have been feeling under the weather, and forgot until late last night that today was Thursday and that I should have written and scheduled a blog post earlier in the day.

Despite the fact that I have a cold and am allergic to everything outside, and despite the fact that this, combined with the stress of the new job, has been making me feel very tired a lot of time, I seem to be on a bit of a manic upswing. In recent history, mania has often been marked by uncontrolled anxiety and has not been very fun, but this time around there have been some happy things happening. Here are a few of them:

  • I ordered a new octave mandolin. A few years ago, the octave mandolin that I had met a very sad end (my failure to properly humidify it combined with a too-long stint outside waiting for a bus doing a polar vortex = some major cracks in the top). I’ve missed having one around ever since, but a new one has been quite a ways out of my price range. I found one on eBay this last week by an American builder who’s known for his eccentric designs that are a bit rough around the edges but that sound very nice. So that should be coming sometime next week; I’m very excited!
  • I have a new musical guilty pleasure: the punk-pop band PWR BTTM. (Yes, that is pronounced the way you think it is. Yes, they are super gay and gender transgressive, and it’s wonderful.)
  • Last night, I joined my partner and one of our good friends at the recording of Greg Proops’s podcast, The Smartest Man in the World (AKA Proopcast). My partner and the friend we went with listen to the podcast regularly. I sometimes listen, but rarely to an entire episode (they’re long…funny, but long), and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do sitting through the recording of a whole show. I enjoy his humor and his social commentary, but I definitely tend to zone out after a while when listening to the podcast. The live show was super fun, though, and I stayed engaged the whole time. If you ever get an opportunity to go to one of Greg Proops’s shows, I’d recommend it.

Distracted

I almost didn’t have a blog for you today, folks. I worked from home yesterday, and it threw off my internal schedule enough that I forgot about blogging until I was about to pass out at the end of the day. 

I’ve been feeling distracted this week, which is a problem. I have so much to get done, work-wise, and not enough time to do it in to begin with. I can’t afford to lose time to lack of focus. 

I keep losing track of what day of the week it is, too, which isn’t helping. As I’m writing this on the bus on my way to work, I find I have to keep reminding myself that it is not, in fact, Friday. 

I’m just in a weird brainspace, and I’m not really sure what to do about it. Ordinarily my response in these situations is to just muscle through, but with this new job, it feels like the stakes are higher if I fail, and muscling through feels like an inadequate solution. 

So what do you do, friends, when you have a lot to get done and your brain doesn’t want to cooperate?

Coming Up For Air

Last month I mentioned that I got a promotion. I’m now project manager for my tiny IT department. Where I was primarily doing direct user support around our client database, I’m now responsible for taking our request list for changes and improvements to the database (a list which stretches back at least three or four years) and actually getting things checked off of it. And I’m still doing direct user support, because we don’t have a replacement for that position in the building yet.

It’s all very exciting, and I’m glad to be in a position where I can develop some skills and learn others. But it’s also rather overwhelming, because in the past couple of weeks I feel like my slow easing into the position has started to exponentially pick up speed. I was expecting this, for the most part, but it’s still been a bit of a wild ride.

I’ve been so, so tired this week. I’m mostly blaming allergies (which had plenty of time to wreak havoc before it snowed again), but that’s also made it difficult to do much outside of work. I haven’t been particularly productive. I’m trying to balance self-care and the rest of life, and it’s a constant juggling act that I haven’t quite mastered.

So this is me taking a brief break to come up for air and acknowledge the rest of the world outside of my windowless office. Everything I need to get done at work feels very pressing, very urgent and important, but as long as I can hang onto the perspective I gained when working at a hospital – that no one will die if I fuck something up – then I think I’ll be okay. Yes, my ability to do this job well will have a pretty big impact on a lot of the other employees in my organization, which is something I don’t take lightly (truly, it’s more than a little terrifying). But no one will die.

Performance Anxiety

Monday night, I had a gig.

It was not my first gig. It wasn’t even my first gig at this particular venue. But I was really, really nervous.

Now, I have stage fright. It’s a thing, but I expect it, and I know it’ll usually be gone by about ten minutes after I get off the stage. Usually it doesn’t hit me all that hard or for all that long.

But Monday night was different. Maybe it was because I’ve been so damn anxious about everything else lately. Maybe it was because I was playing a set comprised entirely of brand new songs. I don’t know. But I was barely able to eat dinner, and I felt sick to my stomach, and I really had no idea how I was going to make it through all seven songs in my set.

Still, I got up on stage, and I did it. I got through everything. I rushed through almost all of it, but since no one else in the room had ever heard the songs before, no one was really the wiser. The last song in the set, I had to start over after a few measures when I realized I had started singing it up to high, but by that point I was determined to just get it done, so I didn’t let it bother me too much.

I stayed nervous through at least half of the next musician’s 25 minute set. I’m not sure if the anxiety faded on its own, or if it was aided by the Jack and Coke I was drinking, but thankfully, I was able to enjoy the rest of the evening’s performances.

People occasionally tell me they could never get up on stage and perform something they’d written. Now, I’m not a seasoned performer by any means, but I’ve played a fair number of class showcases and a handful of small gigs, which is apparently enough to impress people. The truth is, though, every time I’m going to get on stage, I wonder what the fuck I think I’m doing. I don’t do it because I really enjoy it. I write because I enjoy it, and I enjoy whatever positive feedback I might get after a set, but the actual process of performing is not a thing I find particularly fun. I do it because it makes me uncomfortable. I do it because writing songs just for myself sometimes feels unsatisfying, and while I’m terrified to put my soul out on display by performing what I’ve written, I like knowing I’m not creating in a vacuum.

So if you’re a creative person who’s been wondering if they should share their creativity with the world: the decision is ultimately up to you, but I recommend trying it at least once. It might not be a thing you enjoy doing, but you might find that you and I have something in common, that doing a thing that scares you precisely because it scares you can teach you a lot about yourself and the people you surround yourself with.

But enough of me rambling. How about some weird music? For the curious, if you follow the links to the SoundCloud pages for each song, I’ve posted the lyrics in the descriptions. Here’s the playlist of the whole set, which for whatever reason SoundCloud has ordered backwards:

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