Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Category: Blog Post (page 1 of 23)

Existential Angst

Yesterday I was in a meeting that began with introductions and an icebreaker question: what is the thing that has you the most distracted right now?

As we went around the room, there were a variety of answers: staff with elderly parents who were struggling, staff whose kids had some major life changes ahead of them, and the typical work-project-related distractions that you might expect. And then we came around to me. “I’m thinking a lot about where I want to be in five years, what I want to be doing with my life.” Everyone laughed (some a little nervously). We moved on.

But it’s true. I don’t know if this sense of existential angst around my career is a product of being about six weeks out from my 30th birthday, or if it’s because I’m nearing five years at my current job – the longest I’ve ever been in one place. (I’m also a bit on the manic side this week, which is an added facet of the angst but definitely not the cause.)

I started asking myself last week, as I was pondering these questions, “What if, instead of thinking about what I felt I ought to be doing based on external pressures, I gave some thought to what it is I want to do?”

In the past, when I’d asked that question, I was too afraid to answer (or was in a place where I was more focused on survival and conserving energy, and didn’t have the bandwidth to think of an answer). That’s shifting, though. As I continue to work to get the rest of my life sort of in order, as the non-career areas of my life stabilize, I have more and more bandwidth to consider that, while what I’m doing now is somewhat interesting and I’m pretty good at it, there are other options that might be more…fulfilling.

See, when I entered the workforce, all I wanted was a job that I could leave at work, that would pay the bills, and that would leave me time outside of work to do the creative things I love to do. I didn’t care if my job gave me any sense of purpose or meaning, because my creative pursuits did that. As I near 30, though, I’m starting to consider that perhaps it does matter to me that the thing that I’m doing 40 hours per week is meaningful and fulfilling in some way.

I have some ideas of what the future might look like. I’m putting together wish lists and five/three/one year plans. I’m not ready to put any of my thoughts on the internet quite yet, but I’m starting to talk with my partner, my therapist, and a handful of friends about the directions my brain is taking me. It’s overwhelming, but also incredibly exciting – it’s been a long while since I felt like I could plan further out than six months or a year for more than one thing at once.

And maybe I’m just high on the sunshine that finally came out today, but…the future looks bright. So here’s to bright futures and finding meaning in the mess of life. May we all work to get there together.

Vitamins

I have been trying, with varying levels of success, to turn myself into a morning person.

I used to be a night owl. But as I’ve gotten older, I seem to have lost the ability (not to mention the will) to stay up late. Unfortunately, that has not meant a shift toward getting up earlier. I’ve felt for a while like I just sleep all the time. I like the idea of having quiet time to myself before I have to get ready for work in the morning, so sometime five months or so ago I started attempting to adjust my schedule.

It worked…for a while. And then it didn’t. I managed early mornings again in February while I was doing FAWM, but lost momentum toward the end of the month and haven’t really been able to get it back.

In talking with a friend a few months ago, we somehow ended up discussing the ubiquitousness of vitamin D deficiency, particularly in places where winter is a thing (and goddamn, has it been a thing in Chicago this year). I remembered a doctor in Minnesota telling me I was deficient years ago. I also remembered never doing anything about that.

But I had an appointment scheduled with my doctor to discuss some other questions I had and get other labs drawn, so I thought I’d bring it up there. I deal with chronic pain, and that often goes hand in hand with chronic fatigue (being in pain is exhausting), but this has been feeling…excessive, even allowing for that.

Long story short, I got my vitamin D levels tested, and the results came back this week. Turns out I am SUPER deficient. So now my doctor has put me on a highly concentrated dose of vitamin D that I’m taking weekly for a bit, after which point, I’ll be taking a normal, over-the-counter dose every day. I did the math, and it appears we’re basically carpet-bombing my system with the stuff for the next several weeks.

My hope is that, at some point in the near future, mornings will get easier. I hope I feel less like I’m constantly in need of a nap.

It might turn out that this doesn’t help those things. But at least it’s not going to make it worse. It’s worth a shot!

Grief at a Distance

Last Friday was a hard day for my family: we had to say goodbye to our dog, Libby.

Libby, 04.26.02 - 03.30.18

Libby joined our family on June 26, 2002, when she was exactly two months old; I was 14, had just finished up my last year at the Lutheran elementary school I’d been attending since kindergarten, and was set to enter the big public high school in the fall. The first night she was with us, Libby was so sick and miserable – I remember waking up to her crying in the middle of the night and going downstairs to where her crate was set up, where, as I remember it, I sat and sang to her softly until she quieted down.

Thankfully, that first night didn’t define the rest of our time with Libby – she was a playful, curious, and sweet dog who was (thankfully) pretty consistently healthy.  She was my confidante – I told her the secrets I couldn’t voice to anyone else, and if those secrets came with tears, she would hop into my lap and lick them away. She was my cuddle buddy – she slept in my room for most of the time I was in high school, and managed to take up absurd amounts of space in my bed (she actually pushed me out of bed onto the floor one morning…she only weighed 20 lbs!). She was my nurse when I didn’t feel well – if I was curled up on the couch, she’d come and lay in the triangle of space between my knees and the back of the couch, and rest her head on my hip. I taught Libby almost all of the tricks she ever learned (although we never mastered leash manners). She taught me so much more.

Libby taught me patience. She taught me the value of play, and that just about anything can be a game if you want it to be. She taught me responsibility. And more than anything, Libby taught more about unconditional love than I will ever be able to express – both about giving it and receiving it.

A few years ago, I cut off contact with my family for a while. When that happened, I thought I was never going to see Libby again, and that broke my heart. When my family and I started talking again, and I did have the chance to see Libby, I wasn’t sure if she’d recognize me – it had been so long, and I looked so different, and she was so old and couldn’t hear me anymore (and would that have just confused her further, because I sounded so different?). She was a little hesitant at first, and honestly, there were a couple of visits where I was pretty convinced she just thought she’d made a new friend. Which was fine, really – I was just glad to be able to spend some more time with her as she got older and started visibly slowing down.

This past Christmas, we all knew she didn’t have much time left. The strength in her back legs was rapidly deteriorating, and she had a growing number of skin lesions on her body that oozed and itched, and necessitated her wearing a toddler-sized t-shirt (which was adorable, if the reason behind it was sad). I was absolutely certain this would be the last time I saw my dog, and I had no idea going in if she’d know who I was – she’d been acting a little off in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

When we walked through the door, she was happy to see us, but I couldn’t really tell if she knew who I was or not. Later that day, though, the smoke alarm went off – it was apparently one of the few frequencies Libby could still hear, and she was terrified. She was trembling. But she came right to me. She knew I was a safe place for her, and she let me hold her and tried to hide with me. Whether that was recognition or not, it meant the world. Saying goodbye that night was so hard, because I knew it was the last time I’d be able to do it.

She seemed to rally for a while. But a couple of weeks ago, my parents got home to find that Libby could barely get out of her bed – one of her legs didn’t want to unfold, and they realized they were running the risk of someday coming home to find she’d gotten herself trapped somewhere and was in distress. I know it was incredibly hard for my parents to make the decision to put her down, but it was time.

Had Libby made it another four weeks, she would have hit her 16th birthday. She was around for more than half of my life. It doesn’t feel entirely real to me yet that she’s gone, because I’m so far away. I’m doing my best to figure out how to grieve long-distance. I’m so grateful that I was able to see her at Christmas and say goodbye, and, as hard as it was, I’m grateful that I knew at the time that it would be the last time. I think it made this past week easier.

There will be other dogs, and I know I will love them fiercely. But there will never be another Libby.

Falling and Floating

It has been, on the whole, a very decent week…with one or two large caveats.

Saturday, I had an afternoon volunteer shift at the Old Town School, where my partner and I were also going to catch a show that evening. When I got off the bus, it hadn’t pulled all the way to the curb, so I had to step onto the street. When I went to step onto the curb…I sort of missed. My toe caught on the edge, and I went sailing forward in what felt like slow motion – I kept thinking I could catch myself, and then there was the awful moment when I realized I couldn’t, and I crashed, hard. I landed on my bad knee, ripped a hole in the palm of the fingerless glove on my right hand, and hit my head. The travel mug I had been carrying and the water bottle that had been in a pouch on the side of my backpack both went flying.

I was pretty shaken up, and my knee hurt like hell, but I managed to get up and hobble to the school, where I texted my partner (who was at the March for Our Lives), and then, like the millennial I am, posted about it on Instagram.

It was horrible, but before too long, the day started turning around. I got some ice from the cafe for my knee, and no sooner had I gotten downstairs with that than a friend showed up with a gluten free cupcake for me. My partner came and met me for dinner between my shift and the concert, and that was lovely; the concert was also a lot of fun.

Monday I had my first gig in a couple of months, and I was able to try out some of the material I wrote during FAWM. I managed to actually look at the audience more than my lead sheets for the first time ever, so that was a big win.

The rest of the week has been fine, and I’m going to the doctor today to get my knee checked out. (Also, if you’re thinking, “didn’t he just fall a month ago?” You are not wrong. Gravity and I are not getting along these days, apparently.) The fall was a bit of a nightmare, but it could have been so much worse – I could’ve cracked my head open, I could’ve broken something else…I landed a few inches from an iron fence. And I have good people that have been checking in on me and taking care of me. It was an unfortunate situation, but a good reminder that my people are the best people.

Here’s hoping I can stay upright for a while!

Spring

Tuesday was officially the first day of spring.

In Chicago, we had just-above-freezing temps and some pretty brutal wind to ring in the new season. A lot of places in the US got a significant amount of snow.

The weather may not feel very spring-like here yet, but I am trying to tune into the change of season on a mental level. I want to appreciate the lengthening hours of daylight, and celebrate the chance for new beginnings. I want to clear out some mental clutter I’ve been hoarding. I want to keep getting better at keeping my apartment relatively tidy.

I’ve been in a quiet, introspective place for a while, which has sometimes made it hard to blog. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface, but not a lot I’m ready to articulate.

I’m starting to feel, though, like as spring emerges, I am also entering a time of emergence. Ideas are getting closer to the surface, closer to being ready to bring into the light of reality. As overwhelmed as I can be by new endeavors, I think I’m mostly looking forward to letting the energy of spring sweep me along for a while.

I still don’t have much to articulate quite yet, but I think it’s coming. Meanwhile, I’ll lean into the feeling that new life is emerging around me.

Taking a Week Off

Hello, lovely readers! I am only posting this week to let you know that, because I am still fighting this cold and am therefore pretty fuzzy-brained right now, I am taking this week off from writing a real blog post. I’ll be back next week! Thanks for your patience.

Forced Pause

It has…not been the greatest week.

Saturday I went to bed with a slightly stuffy nose. Sunday morning, I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.

I’m writing this on Wednesday afternoon from my couch. I called in sick on Monday, and have worked from home the past couple of days, because I’m out of sick time and technically able to get work done, but don’t feel right bringing my germs into the office.

So it’s going to be a short one this week. How about a quick list of things I’m looking forward to in the next week?

  • Thursday, when this posts, assuming I am feeling well enough to go, I start a clawhammer banjo class at the Old Town School. I am super excited about this. I took at Intro to Banjo class about three years ago and haven’t gone any farther than that; this should be a fun experience.
  • After banjo class, we have tickets to see Mary Gauthier play at the Old Town School. We sat in on some of Mary’s classes at Song School over the summer, and it was a life-changing experience. She’s fabulous, and I’m so, so hoping that I am feeling up to going to the show!
  • Sunday I have volunteer orientation at a local animal shelter, where I will hopefully end up with a regular gig taking care of dogs. I am struggling with the fact that our current schedule and budget are such that dog ownership isn’t really an option yet, so this should be a nice way to get my puppy fix while also, you know, doing a Good Thing.

So there are some happy thoughts for the week. I will try to come back with some more substantive content next week, when I will (hopefully) no longer be fighting through plague-brain.

February Lessons

March has arrived, which means FAWM is officially over.

February was an interesting month, and it taught me a lot. Some of the lessons I learned this month:

  • Inspiration is more likely to come if you give it a space to show up in. I didn’t feel super inspired every time I sat down to write, but it happened enough of the time to convince me that scheduling writing time is actually a really good idea.
  • If you want to write 14 songs in 28 days, you need to sit down and write songs. Showing up and putting in the work is how we get better at things. The more days I got up early to write, the easier it was to get up early to write.
  • I’m an overachiever. I’m sure some of you who know me are rolling your eyes at me, because obviously. But I really had convinced myself that I wasn’t, and I was a little surprised by how quickly I was shooting for a ridiculous stretch goal and how easily my brain can turn “you wrote 19 songs instead of 28” into a feeling of failure.
  • I actually write better under time constraints. The key here, I think, is structure. Open-ended songwriting sessions meander a lot because I am easily distracted. Sitting down to write when I know I have to start getting ready for work in an hour helps me focus.
  • Plans get derailed sometimes, and that’s okay. One of the reasons I didn’t hit my stretch goal of 28 songs was that I was dealing with the spasmed muscles in my shoulder and neck, which made it hard to write (it hurt to look down for any length of time) and play guitar. It was discouraging. But I still hit (and passed) the actual goal. Even if I hadn’t hit the goal, though, I think the fact that I showed up and tried something new is worth celebrating.

I’m pleased with my progress and like a fair number of the 19 songs I wrote last month. I’m excited to polish some of them for a gig I have coming up later this month!

Getting Through

It’s been…a mixed week.

I didn’t write much, compared to the rest of the month (only two songs instead of ~1 per day). I am reminding myself that I hit my goal, and two songs in a week is still a lot. But after so much productivity earlier, it feels a little like failure.

We had a friend in town over the weekend, which was fun. It was great to see them and have excuses to eat at several of our favorite places.

Saturday, though. Saturday was less fun.

See, by Friday night the pain from my spasmed shoulder had moved and settled quite solidly in the back of my neck, and it was…a lot. Acute, throbbing pain that came in waves. So Saturday morning I called our clinic, and managed to get an appointment with my doctor for that afternoon.

At the appointment, my doctor poked and prodded a bit and let me know that it didn’t seem like I’d slipped a disk (something I was starting to get paranoid about), and that it was probably just a bad muscle strain. He gave me a prescription for muscle relaxers, and sent me on my way.

The muscle relaxer is a controlled substance, which meant I had to turn the paper prescription into the pharmacy – they couldn’t call it in ahead. The pharmacy on site at the clinic didn’t have it, so they called around to two or three other Walgreens and finally found one that carried it.

Here’s where things went awry. I should have headed straight for that pharmacy. Instead, I checked the store hours and decided I had time to sit with my partner and our friend at a coffee shop. (If you are thinking, “But Alyx, the store hours are often different from the pharmacy hours,” you are correct.)

When we finally made it over to the pharmacy, they informed me they were closing in five minutes, and that I should try a different pharmacy about a mile away that was open later.

This is where I made my critical error. I should have just handed them the prescription and come back to pick it up in the morning. Instead, I went out and called a Lyft to get to the other pharmacy.

It had been snowing, and the ground was slushy and slick. As I waited for the Lyft to show up, I took a wrong step and came crashing down on my left side…and on my phone, which I’d been holding in my left hand.

The phone screen was shattered all to hell, and I was now hurting in more places than just my neck. But I went to the other pharmacy, hoping things would improve.

Things did not improve.

After being casually misgendered by the pharmacist and waiting several minutes (during which time I was at least able to determine that I had insurance on my phone, so I made an appointment for Sunday to get the screen replaced), I was informed that they were out of stock.

Basically, this had turned into Alyxander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I grabbed a bottle of ibuprofen, took back my prescription, and headed home.

The day ended with delicious pizza, our friend was with me the whole time, and I was able to go back to the pharmacy that had it in stock first thing Sunday morning and get the meds, so it all worked out in the end. But it was still a really rough day.

I’m still sore – the muscle relaxers and ibuprofen are helping, but it feels like awfully slow going. Still, I’m proud of myself for handling things as well as I did given the circumstances (I wanted to cry and throw a fit several times, but didn’t).

Now I’m just trying to get back into my songwriting routine.

Here’s hoping this weekend is rather less eventful than last weekend was!

Ride It Out

I mentioned last week that I was making unexpectedly excellent progress on writing for FAWM. I’ve continued to write, and I hit my goal of 14 songs in the month of February on Sunday, the 11th. (Favorites so far have been posted here.)

I don’t know where I’m finding inspiration. I am trying not to ask too many questions. I’m just going to ride this out as long as I can, and find out just how many songs I can write in 28 days.

On Thursday night last week, it snowed a whole bunch here in Chicago, and my office was closed on Friday. Which was a good thing, because thanks to whatever wonky position I slept in, I woke up with my right shoulder/neck muscles spasming.

As you might imagine, this was super discouraging and not at all conducive to writing, not to mention super painful. But I pushed through and wrote anyway. As of this writing on the evening of Wednesday, the 14th, I’ve only gone one day this month without writing. I’m really proud of that.

This weekend we have a friend coming to visit, so I may or may not get any writing done, but that’s okay. I’m happy with where I’ve gotten to so far, and excited to see where I end up by the end of the month!

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