Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Author: Alyx (page 1 of 19)

Things I Wish I’d Said

Tuesday, on my way to pick up the rental car I would be using to drive six hours round trip on Wednesday for a meeting in Dixon, I was stopped on the street by a man selling banana bread for Jesus.

Well, okay, that’s not the whole story. He was part of an organization that aims to get people out of substance addictions and into religion of the evangelical Christian variety. (His t-shirt literally said “Addicted to Jesus” on the back.) The banana bread was to raise money for the organization. 

Despite the fact that he said repeatedly that he wasn’t trying to start an argument or to save me, his actions told quite the opposite story. I tried to gently tell him I was truly happy that his beliefs worked for him (which was true), it wasn’t for me (also true). He insisted on asking what I believed, and when my Minnesota nice kicked in and prevented me from speaking because I didn’t have kind words in the moment, he gave me the advice that, “Now that you’re an adult, maybe you should try Jesus on your own terms instead of how he may have been forced on you as a kid.” As if I hadn’t spent several painful years of my life doing just that. 

So, without further ado, here is a list of:

Things I Wish I’d Said to the Man Selling Banana Bread for Jesus

  • The fact that you are grouping atheists together with the majority of the world’s belief systems into a category of “atheists or nonbelievers” is incredibly disrespectful. I don’t call you a nonbeliever because you don’t share my beliefs. 
  • I know you mean well, but your enthusiastically evangelical verbiage is making me flash back to my own evangelical days, and that’s triggering a panic attack that I’ll be fighting for the rest of the night. Thanks for that. 
  • I believe in banana bread with chocolate chips.
  • Please don’t assume that the fact that I’m not a Christian now means I just didn’t try hard enough at it when I was one. You know nothing about me. I’ve probably forgotten more about the Bible than you’ve learned yet. 
  • I don’t do gluten or repressive social systems. (Thanks for that one, N!)
  • I believe that if there is a God, then they’re capable of connecting with different people in different ways. To say you have the only answer is to put God in a human-imposed box. 
  • Jesus and I are cool. I have no problem with him, and frankly, I’m pretty sure he has no problem with me. We’ve just decided to see other people. It’s a great arrangement for everyone involved. 

A Quick List

I am writing this post on the bus on my way to work. This is mostly because I had no idea what to write about yesterday. I still don’t, but it’s Thursday, and therefore I need to write something. So how about a quick list of things from the past week?

  1. I saw Wonder Woman. Again. This time, my partner joined me. It was just as great the second time around. 
  2. I’m almost done reading a book I bought last week – The Library at Mount Char. To say that I like it would be…if not inaccurate, then an oversimplification. It’s a weird book, and I’m pretty sure it’s crossed my usual threshold for book violence several times. But it’s riveting. There have been a few times this past week that I completely lost track of my surroundings while I was reading, because I was so deeply engaged in the story. It’s definitely well-written. It’s weird. It’s pretty gruesome a large part of the time. I haven’t felt this unsure of my opinion of a book in a while. I guess we’ll see how I’m feeling in another 65 pages, when it’s over. 
  3. I am extraordinarily grateful for our little window unit A/C. It’s been hot and humid in Chicago all week, and I am not enjoying it. If we didn’t have that window unit, I’d probably be a super cranky mess all the time. 

Birthday Reflections

As I mentioned in last week’s post, my birthday was on Saturday, and as a present to myself, I took a five-day weekend. I feel like I managed a pretty good balance between packing in the things I wanted to do and taking time to take it easy. Here are some thoughts and highlights from my birthday week:

  1. I got a ton of things done around the house. Not quite as many things as I was initially planning on, but I still made some significant progress. I’m pleased with and proud of the work I did.
  2. Friday was the day of celebrating with friends. I got breakfast with a friend from work who had also taken the day off. In the evening, I met up with some friends for drinks, and then some more folks joined us for pizza and sangria. It was fantastic, and I felt (still feel) very loved.
  3. Saturday was the day of celebrating with my partner. It didn’t go quite according to plan (the weather was threatening thunderstorms that never came but that made us want to stay closer to home), but it was a really lovely day.
  4. Sunday, I went to see Wonder Woman. I have so many feelings about Wonder Woman, but a lot of them are summed up in this lovely tweet that’s been floating around the interwebs:

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    “I’ve lived to see my childhood princesses become generals.”

  5. Monday night, I had the privilege of playing an Acoustic Explosion show at Sylvie’s here in Chicago, along with three of my songwriting classmates and a couple of other cool acts. Four of the seven performers had June birthdays, which added to the fun. I went last (at 10:30 pm – way past my bedtime), which meant I was two drinks into the evening before I got up on stage; apparently, that is the magic number for me to relax enough to perform my songs at a reasonable pace. I actually had to cut a song out of my set because I hadn’t blasted through all of the things I’d prepared! Below are the two new songs I played in my set; the rest of the set was older material that’s already elsewhere on my SoundCloud page.

Homemaking

It’s Shavuot, which means that this week, in addition to getting Monday off for Memorial Day, my office is also closed Wednesday and Thursday. Since my birthday is on Saturday, I decided working Friday was for chumps, and am taking it off as well.

I didn’t make any official plans for my five-day birthday weekend, but I went into it knowing that, in addition to taking time to relax, I wanted to spend some time tidying the apartment. My partner is fantastic at envisioning ways we can make our space more homey and inviting, and while I am, in theory, more than willing to help those visions along, I have historically not done the best job pulling my weight in that regard.

I’ve never been great at cleaning. Past roommates could tell you stories of my mild hoarder tendencies. When I lived alone, I mostly managed to keep my apartment from falling into complete chaos, but I rarely vacuumed, tended to put off the dishes until they were spilling out of the sink and over the counters, and ended up throwing out a fair number of what should have been reusable food containers, because the food in them had probably developed sentience and I didn’t have the mental space to deal with it. On more than one occasion, I decided to go to Target and buy underwear and/or socks to avoid doing laundry. The only time I remember dusting my old apartment (aside from when I was moving out) was the night my partner came over to my place for the first time, and my nerves demanded I do something while I waited for him to arrive.

When my partner and I moved to Chicago and into our first official shared apartment, I was determined to do a better job of housekeeping. I had visions of equally divided labor around the house, and was convinced I’d be able to develop new habits in a new space.

It didn’t happen. I had convinced myself long before that I functioned better in a cluttered space, that a tidy home was a home that didn’t feel lived in, and that wasn’t what I wanted. (I have all sorts of theories about why I had such a major mental block against cleaning, but that could be a whole blog on its own, so we’ll skip it here.) There were all sorts of reasons things didn’t work out the way I was hoping, of course – for the first nine months we were in Chicago, I was underemployed and miserable at my job, and while my partner was kind enough to share his (already established) friends with me, it took a while for me to feel like they were really MY friends, too, and not just putting up with me because they liked him. My mental health was in shambles, I was increasingly dysphoric, I was wracking up all sorts of credit card debt just trying to get by. By the time things got better, I was even further entrenched in my bad habits.

Eventually, though, I started to realize that having a tidy space actually felt…nice. (I wouldn’t have figured this out without my partner’s Herculean efforts to keep up with housekeeping when I was being less-than-helpful – neither of us are perfect, but I wouldn’t have experienced “tidy” on my own.) When my partner read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and suggested that we actually go through all of our stuff, I decided to go along with it, ostensibly to make my partner happy…but I also realized that a lot of the stuff I had acquired over the years had stopped bringing me joy (or had never brought me joy in the first place).

It’s been a couple of years since we started the process of going through everything we own, bringing a greater intentionality to our purchases, and trying together to keep the house tidier. I still feel like I’m not great at housekeeping, but I’m basically a different person for how much I’ve changed and grown in that regard.

So this week, since I have so many days off, I decided to make a departure from what I often do with long weekends (read: overpack my schedule and/or avoid responsibility), and actually try to tackle some areas of the apartment that have felt neglected recently.

Yesterday, I tackled the kitchen and dining room. I don’t have before pictures, because I didn’t think to take any, but I did all of the dishes, completely cleared and wiped down the kitchen table, cleaned the stove, and swept the floor, and when I was done, I was actually surprised at how much better I felt about our apartment.

clean stove, empty sink

Clean stove, empty sink

The kitchen table hasn't been this clear in at least a month

The kitchen table hasn’t been this clear in at least a month

I have other things I want to get done this week/end – particularly laundry and cleaning up some areas of the apartment that are distinctly mine (and distinctly disorganized) – and I know there is more I could do in the kitchen, but I feel really accomplished. Not just because I kicked ass and cleaned a bunch of things, but because I actually recognized an area of the apartment that was stressing me out because it wasn’t tidy, and I did something about it instead of pretending it wasn’t there.

Last week I ran across the idea of the “hearth” for the first time in a while, and how most modern homes don’t have a hearth in the traditional sense of a fire in the center of the house, but there’s still an area that is the gathering place, the metaphorical center of the home. Our kitchen is tiny, and our dining room has not always been the most comfortable place, but it felt like an important (and perhaps even necessary) place to start what will hopefully be a more extended cleaning spree than I usually go on. Of course, the trick is to keep it tidy once I’ve lost steam, but I’m less worried about that than I used to be. Because I’ve learned that I really do like my space tidy. I like knowing what stuff I have and where it is in my home. I can be creative without clutter. It may not seem like much, but right now it feels like a huge victory to be able to say that.

Intentions

It’s a new moon today. For those of us who tend toward the more “woo” end of the spiritual spectrum, new moons are often seen as a good time to set intentions for the next month (until the next new moon).

Now, I’ll be honest: while I’ve been aware of this practice for a while, I haven’t really participated. I think I’ve generally felt about new moon intentions like I feel about New Year’s resolutions, which is to say they seem like a lovely idea, but I don’t like setting myself up for failure. However, about a month ago, when the last new moon happened, I was invited to join some folks for tea and intention-setting, and I decided to go. I’d been feeling rather fragmented, and while I wasn’t sure how I felt about my chances of seeing an intention through to fruition, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

And you know what? It was a lovely evening, and I set my intention (to be fully present in myself), and went home and did a little new moon tarot spread, and I felt a little more at peace. And as the month went on, I found myself coming back to that intention, using it as motivation. And yesterday, as I looked back on the month, I realized that yes, I had made substantial progress in feeling more at home in my skin. And that had more to do with choices I made and actions I took than anything. However, I do think that if I hadn’t taken the time out to think about what I wanted to accomplish, I probably wouldn’t have done as well.

So for now, I think I’m going to keep up this practice of setting myself a bigger-picture goal each month. Because I think that’s really the takeaway here: it’s easy for me to just sit back passively and let life happen. There was a long time when I was dealing with some pretty substantial mental health stuff, and thinking beyond the next week (or day, or hour) was more than I could handle. I got out of the habit of planning long-term. A lunar cycle might not be particularly long-term, but it’s a bigger chunk of time than I’ve been working with in a long time, so it seems like a good place to start.

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:

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    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.

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  • 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:

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    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!

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