My first thought when I sat down to write this week’s blog was to whine, at length, about the horrible day I had on Tuesday trying to get to and from jury duty in the suburbs without a car. But I am trying to be a more grateful, centered person, so I’m not going to do that.
I’ve been feeling…a little off, lately. Not grateful or centered. I’ve been feeling frazzled about work, questioning if this is really where I want to be, or if I’m just staying here because of the good boss and good health insurance, and whether that actually matters. I’ve been having a lot of complicated feelings about gender and identity and privilege and what that all means (I regret none of the decisions I have made, but living in a world married to the concept of binary gender is frustrating). I’m trying to balance long-term planning (I’ve charted out how to pay off my credit card by 2020) and living in the moment. To be stable and flexible. And I feel like I’m not doing a very good job of any of it, like I’m just hanging on as the world spins, desperately wishing it would stop for a few minutes (or days) and let me catch my breath and figure out where I am and where I’m going.
I guess I’m in the midst of a minor existential crisis?
But back to the original point I think I was trying to make…I want to be a more grateful, centered person. I’m not doing a great job of it. But I do feel like the Universe is gently nudging me in the direction, despite the fact that I’ve felt like a cranky mess for the past few weeks. From my no-longer-daily-but-I’m-trying tarot meditations to sweet messages from friends to cute pictures of puppies on the internet, I run into reminders pretty regularly that really, I am okay. Even if I feel off-kilter, even if my allergies are driving me crazy and fogging my brain, even if I feel overwhelmed by a lot of things, even if I don’t know what (or possibly who) I want to be when I grow up, even if there’s plenty in the world at large to be terrified of right now, right now, in this moment, I am okay. And that’s really all I can ask for.
After being completely miserable with a cold last week, this week is shaping up to be truly fantastic. I am genuinely happy, and here a handful of reasons specific to this week:
- I’m mostly over my cold. I’m still a little sniffly and coughing a bit, but compared to last week, I feel great. I’m ready for it to be gone altogether, but I’m not forgetting to be grateful for simple things, like being able to breathe through my nose 90% of the time.
- Work is dull, but the rest of my week is not. I’m the only person from my team at work who isn’t on vacation this week. There are things I could be working on (and I am working on some of them), but mostly it’s just boring. Which is fine (it’s less stressful than the norm, for sure). The rest of my week, though, is full of friends and music and knitting and it’s just plain wonderful.
- I’m feeling inspired. This is largely due to the fact that my week has been full of people and events that inspire creativity. Last week I was invited to join a new D&D-type game that’s just getting off the ground, and I spent a substantial chunk of the beginning of the week digging into the character I came up with, writing up a back story. I haven’t written prose outside of the blog in a while, and it’s been ages since I’ve done much fiction writing, so that was a lot of fun! This week has been a lot of music (thanks, Joe!) and hanging out with other people who like to create, which generally does a good job of feeding my own creative impulses.
- I’m feeling connected. I am, at the core, an introvert. But my relationships with other people are incredibly important to me, and I feel like I’ve been able to foster new connections and strengthen old ones this week, and it’s helping me get out of my head.
- I’m feeling extraordinarily lucky. Things are, for the most part, going really well right now. And a lot of places this week has taken me have made me feel like I really do lead a very charmed life. Gratitude is not hard to find in weeks like this one.
This post is going live on Thanksgiving.
I’ve gotta be honest, folks. The older I get and the more history I learn (and live), the less comfortable I am with this holiday.
I’m all for gratitude. But I am deeply uncomfortable with the way we gloss over the bloody history of white colonialism in the name of giving thanks.
I will not be thankful that I have little to fear from police, when police are murdering people who don’t look like me. I will not be thankful that my life is seen as more valuable because of the color of my skin. I will not be thankful that my position of privilege comes at the expense of other people’s lives.
I’ve struggled the past few weeks to not be overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness in the face of so much darkness in the world (and particularly in the two places I think of as home), because if I allow that feeling to overwhelm me, it is so easy to become complacent.
I’m not sure where to go next, but there are people out in the world who are doing important work, so I am starting here, lending support to them in the most straightforward way that I can right this minute.
Donate to Black Lives Matter – Chicago
Donate to Black Lives Matter – Minneapolis
Last weekend, I finally went on the solo retreat I’d been planning for over a month. I went camping by myself up north near Lake Superior.
Before I left, I had sketched out a rough plan for what I wanted to get done while I was away. I was going to spend a lot of time meditating and playing my guitar and hiking around the north woods.
Almost none of that happened. The weekend wound up being somewhat different (at least in terms of activities) than I had planned…but it turned out to be exactly what I needed:
- I didn’t talk more than was absolutely necessary. (I was appropriately charming with the waitstaff and cashiers I encountered, but other than that, I didn’t say much.)
- I didn’t check social media at all. (I had my phone on so I could use the flashlight feature and keep track of the weather, but it spent most of the time in airplane mode.)
- I rested. I went to bed ridiculously early both nights I was camping, and spend a fair bit of one of the days napping as I listened to the wind ruffle the leaves of the trees.
- I spent a lot of time thinking, but not much time worrying.
- After I was done camping, I spent a little bit of time debriefing and catching up with a couple of particularly dear people.
And then I came home, feeling much more human and much more alive than I’d felt in several weeks. I have a lot more thinking to do, and there are other things that need to be done in order to stay in a place where I feel human and alive. But taking time to be quiet and relax seems to have been an important first step.
I’m scrambling to write this On the bus Thursday morning. Life is particularly busy right now, and writing has fallen a bit by the wayside.
I have had ample reasons to smile despite a slightly overwhelming schedule, though. Here are a few of them:
- After feeling really burned out at work for a few weeks (to the point where I was brushing up my résumé in case I decided to look elsewhere), I had a great conversation with my department manager on Tuesday that has me feeling much better about where I’m at and where I’m going, and much more appreciated for what I’ve been doing.
- I’ve been hanging out with friends a lot lately. There was a long time when we moved that I felt like all my friends were really just my partner’s friends, but we’ve developed our own relationships now and can spend time with mutual friends without feeling like we both need to be there. It’s been so great finally feeling like I’m really connected here in Chicago.
- There’s been a lot of medical stuff going on at our house (everyone is going to be fine, don’t worry), which has been pretty overwhelming at times. Generally, though, it’s served to remind us how well cared for we really are. I am incredibly grateful for our support network all over the country.
The next two weeks, my partner and I will be out of town, and I’m going to take those two weeks off from blogging. I’ll have something up again on the 27th!
I’m not big on this holiday that’s mostly all about making colonialism look heroic. However, there’s certainly something to be said for taking the time to be grateful, and I have a lot to be grateful for this week.
- Last Thursday, I went to bed feeling a little stiff. Friday I woke up in pain. I tried to push through it, but when I realized I could barely make it down the stairs let alone to the bus stop, I decided to call in to the office and work from home. The pain got worse as the day went on, and my ability to move decreased drastically, to the point that I asked my partner to pick up a cane for me on his way home. I ended up needing the cane to get around all weekend long. This might seem like an odd story to start a list of points of gratitude, but there are two big things I’m thankful for in retrospect: first, that I have a partner who is super supportive and willing to adjust plans when my body won’t cooperate, and second, that even though I deal with chronic back issues, they rarely get that bad and the intense pain has so far been limited to a few days at a time.
- My name change hearing was Monday. I was joined by a volunteer from TJLP (the organization that helped me the day I filed for the change), and a friend who happens to be a minister (and who wore his clergy collar, just in case). The hearing lasted all of five minutes; the judge was kind. I have multiple friends whose name change hearings were before judges who were not at all understanding, asked invasive and unnecessary questions, and only granted the name change after making it very clear that they did not at all affirm my friends’ identities. I am grateful that this was not my experience; I am well aware just how lucky I am. I was also able to get my new driver’s license right after the hearing, and because Illinois prints their IDs while you wait, I walked away with my first form of ID bearing my chosen name (and a much better picture than my old ID, which was the thing that taught me that I have “resting angry face”).
- I changed my name with the social security office on Tuesday. I am thankful that the process was quick and (relatively) painless, that the clerk was helpful, and that I heeded my boss’s advice to go to the office in Evanston rather than the one downtown: I was in and out in 20 minutes.
- Both my direct supervisor and my department manager checked in when I got to work on Tuesday to ask how the hearing went. My manager said that he was glad they’d been calling me by the correct name all along, and glad that the government was on the same page now. The HR contact for our department has been helpful in letting me know what I need to send them to change my name in their systems. I am beyond grateful (particularly in light of the experiences that I have seen more than one friend go through after coming out at work) that my workplace has been supportive throughout the time I have been here. I am inclined to say that I do not deserve this kind of luck, but I think a more accurate statement would be that everyone in this situation deserves this kind of luck, and too few people have it.
- I’ve received many words of encouragement from many people this week, whether via text messages leading up to the hearing or via Facebook comments or a stop by my office to offer congratulations in person. Every kind thought has reminded me that I am surrounded by incredible communities of people who support me, and I am humbled by and grateful for every one of you. I’m a seriously lucky human.
It’s not often that a single day provides a snapshot of the kind of life I have, but this Monday sort of did just that:
- Monday morning, I took the last pills in my existing bottles of psych meds. I had placed a refill order last week, and knew that both my prescriptions were ready for pickup, and I knew I needed to collect them on my way home from work. Unfortunately, my pharmacy is in no way, shape, or form on the way home: in fact, I have to pass home to get there, and go twice as far in the opposite direction. I spent the entire day at work trying to talk myself into going. Finally, as I walked the half mile to the bus (which would take me to the train, which would get me within a block of the pharmacy), I realized the solution: I would allow myself a silly indulgence if I otherwise behaved like a responsible adult and picked up my meds (more on that in #2). Long story short, for the first time in many, many months, I picked up my prescriptions on time and didn’t miss a single dose of anything.
- The silly indulgence? While I was out running my post-work errands, I swung up to Barnes & Noble and picked up a copy of the newest Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. I had been kicking around the idea anyway, because starting the end of this month I’ll be joining a D&D game run by someone my partner met in college (who happens to be a minister and is doing this game as part of an independent study for a class he’s taking at Loyola), and we were planning to meet Monday night to work on creating a character for me to play. The more I researched the newest edition of the game online over the weekend, the more excited I got, and so I went for it. It was very helpful to have a copy of the book for each of us to look at while we rolled up my character (a dwarf sorcerer – this would probably prove to my family that I am a godless heathen) that evening, and now I’m all set for the future games I’m sure I’ll be playing. Nerdery abounds!
- And then Monday night happened, and I laid down to go to sleep…and waited…and waited…and waited…and my brain just wouldn’t shut down. I wasn’t even perseverating over anything in particular; the gears just wouldn’t stop turning. Thanks to the insomnia and the fact that I needed to go in to work early, I ended up running through my Tuesday on approximately 3.5 hours of sleep and two shots of espresso and crashing by 8pm.
This is my life: learning to be a (sort of) responsible adult, discovering new and exciting depths to my capacity for nerdiness (and probably disappointing my relatives in the process), and never knowing exactly what to expect from my brain. It’s an adventure, and not always grand…but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.