Accidental Fudge

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Tag: tarot (page 1 of 2)

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.

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.

Exhausted

I’m tired this week. I don’t know if it’s the weather, or the shorter days, or regular old Bipolar bullshit, but I feel like I’m spending most of my time completely exhausted.

In light of that, this is going to be a short blog, but I’m going to try to make it a relatively happy one, because I’m sure we could all use a little light this week. So here’s a list of three reasons I’m smiling today:

  1. My partner and I were able to get our passport applications in earlier this week. It took us a couple of tries to find a location where we could do it, but once we got to the right place, the woman who helped us was wonderful. It ended up being a lot less of a chore than we expected.
  2. The new Mouths of Babes album. Because I backed the Kickstarter, I got to download the album early (the official release date isn’t until next month). It’s SO GOOD. I’m listening to it as I write this. I expected nothing less than excellent from them, of course  and they delivered!
  3. The Slow Holler Tarot. It’s been a great week for Kickstarter rewards arriving! I backed this Kickstarter last year, and as of last night, the deck is finally in my hands. It’s everything I was hoping for and then some.

    Slow Holler Tarot

    I got the Kickstarter-only option of a canvas case, and wow! It’s beautiful.

Anxiety Management

Some of you may have noticed that there was no Accidental Fudge post last week. I did not intend to take a hiatus – truth be told, I spent most of last Wednesday and Thursday more than half convinced it was Friday, and it was Thursday night before I realized I hadn’t posted anything, at which point I felt like I really didn’t have much to say. So I apologize for that.

July is a packed month for us this year – visits from family and friends, plus a music festival, all on different weekends. It’s a little overwhelming to look at it all at once, so I’m trying to stay focused on a week or so at a time.

I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed and distracted the past few weeks. ManicBrain has come and settled itself in with no indication of when it might vacate the premises. Which isn’t so bad, as long as I can remember that it’s the reason I’m overwhelmed and distracted. It’s when I get so distracted that I forget…that’s when problems happen. Thankfully, I’ve been managing to stay pretty on top of things.

One of the biggest things I’m working on right now is managing my anxiety. I deal with differing levels and types of anxiety depending on where I’m at in my Bipolar cycle, but it’s pretty omnipresent lately, and that’s no fun. For anyone who’s interested and/or looking for ways to do this themselves, here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • I quit drinking regular coffee. Cold turkey.
    • I will still indulge in some decaf cold brew from our favorite coffee shops (or that we make at home), but mostly, I’m just getting really into tea.
    • Caffeine in small amounts is okay…in coffee-sized amounts, it does seem to amplify my anxiety.
    • I’ve been drinking coffee since age 12, so this was a big step, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. Mostly, I was just really sleepy for a couple of weeks.
  • I cut waaaaaaaaay back on my access to social media on my phone. I didn’t go as far as the author of this article, but I used some of the ideas there.
    • I deleted a lot of apps, including all the retail apps I sometimes get into the bad habit of searching late at night (Amazon, eBay, and Etsy were the big ones).
    • I removed the shortcut to Facebook in my phone’s browser, and turned off the “frequently visited sites” feature. And I committed to logging out of Facebook whenever I’ve finished checking it.
    • I also disabled my phone’s ability to use the web browser over anything but WiFi, which further limits the time I spend compulsively checking my phone.
    • Maybe it just means I’m lazy, but the fact that I’m not a couple of taps away from my news feed means that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve checked Facebook in the past ten days.
    • I left Instagram on my phone, because that’s my happy social media, which is way more carefully curated than my Facebook feed. Facebook has its uses, but it mostly just makes me sad/angry/stressed out.
  • I started developing a morning routine for myself.
    • I’m a creature of habit. As much as I sometimes like to be spontaneous and try new things, I am most comfortable in familiar places and patterns.
    • I was already kind of in a morning routine, but it mostly consisted of getupbrushteethgetdressedrunoutthedoor.
    • I’ve been pushing myself to get up earlier, so that I have time to do more calming things in my morning routine.
    • Now the routine regularly includes a quick tarot spread, a few minutes spent jotting down thoughts about the cards, and at least ten minutes of meditation. Which brings us to the last point…
  • I joined Headspace and started mediating in the morning.
    • This was unplanned. At the end of my company’s employee appreciation week last week, we were given a link and a code to get a free year of full access to the site. It sounded interesting, and since it wasn’t costing me anything, I figured I’d give it a try.
    • The little ten minute meditative sessions in the morning have been great, and I tend to feel a lot less stressed before work when I do them.
    • I do get distracted a lot, but the whole system is very low-pressure, which is really helpful for my scattered brain these days.

This is not a foolproof plan, and I’m still dealing with anxiety. But I feel like I’m building up a good selection of resources and healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with it.

How about you, friends? How are you managing anxiety these days?

Three Things

  1. Over the weekend, two of our favorite ladies from the Twin Cities came and stayed with us. We cooked a rather ridiculous amount of food. We went to Zoo Lights. We enjoyed hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps. And we spent a lot of time just hanging out. It was really wonderful. I am so incredibly grateful to have friends who are such lovely and charming houseguests of the sort who don’t leave me feeling particularly drained when they leave. My people are the best people.
  2. There’s so much going on in my brain that I feel like I don’t even know what half of it is anymore. I really, really need to be more consistent with taking time to meditate in the mornings. I’m also thinking I maybe need to start utilizing some meditative techniques outside of tarot – focusing more on breathing and on posture.
  3. Last week, without realizing it, I hit the two year anniversary of this blog. I’ve posted something damn near every Thursday for two whole years! Sure, a few posts went up late, and one or two maybe never went up at all, but on the whole, I’ve been consistent. I often feel like I don’t have a lot to say; I’m often scrambling to come up with something to write about on Wednesday evening. But it’s a good exercise, getting myself to write something each week, and something I feel like I can be at least a little proud of. Thanks for being along for the ride, folks!

On Strength

I went to a tarot class last night. It was my first time reading and learning in a social setting with (mostly) strangers, and it was a lot of fun. The format of the class was straightforward: the first half focused on the meanings and symbols and significance of a single card, while the second half focused on a couple of readings riffing on the theme of the card. 

The particular card that was tonight’s focus was Strength, and as a starting point, the facilitator had us go around the table, introduce ourselves, and share how we defined strength, and how we defined weakness. 

Therewere definite themes that carried across all of our answers. Strength is mastery of self, acknowledgement of need, choosing to do what is necessary in spite of crippling self-doubt. Weakness is allowing oneself to be mastered by fear, refusing to admit ignorance, sitting by while external forces call the shots in one’s life. 

As a Bipolar person, a queer person, and a transgender person, I have been commended by many people for my strength. I’m never quite sure how to feel about this. Sometimes feels like “strength” really means “ability to pass for ‘normal,'” which is distressing and problematic. And, really, I don’t think I’m strong for those reasons exactly. 

Strength, to me, is self-awareness and self-determination. It’s asking for help when I need it. It’s choosing to deal with my shit instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s mastery of impulsiveness and emotion. It’s honesty. 

And it’s amplified by the people I have chosen to surround myself with. In those moments when I need to reach out for help, I don’t have to reach very far. When I can’t support myself, I have a community who will support me, just as I support them when they’re struggling. Individually, we are awesome. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. 

There is strength in solitude, and there is strength in numbers. I am lucky to have known a taste of both. 

Journeys Old and New

I feel like the past week has been a bit of a roller coaster. From a lovely weekend of domesticity to the incredibly sad news of the passing of a kind knitting acquaintance to some family-related angst, all while wrestling with intermittent vertigo (a hanger-on from the cold that laid me out last week)…it feels like there are a lot of things I could talk about for this week’s blog, which is giving me a different sort of “what do I write about this week?” struggle than is usually the case.

Yesterday my newest tarot deck arrived in the mail. It’s the simplest and, in some ways, most abstract of the decks that I own. It’s called the Nømad Tarot, and is a lovely thing of deep, dark navy (nearly black) backgrounds with white edges and white line drawings. The cards have a gorgeous linen finish and are a joy to shuffle, and I’m super excited to start working with it.

The deck was a bit of an impulse purchase. I’d been looking at it off and on for many months, but I still felt a little apprehensive after placing the order – I had been wrestling with the impulse to order a new deck over the weekend, weighing the fact that I really like the collection I’ve got against this feeling like there was a certain element missing from that collection. I debated back and forth among three different options (all of which had been on my wish list for ages) before finally caving and going for the one that seemed like the best combination of characteristics that would make it fit what I was missing.

Now that it’s here, I’m happy with it. I’m glad I went ahead and did something to get me a little more excited about meditation again, because I fell out of the habit a month or so ago, and I’m realizing more and more that it’s a habit that I really need to get back into for the sake of my overall well-being.

The fact that it’s called the Nomad Tarot feels fitting for this place of movement that I’m finding myself in – movement in relationships, in identities, in beliefs.

For the creature of habit and ritual that I am at heart, the fact that my life has been sort of ruled by regular upheaval for the past several years can be kind of exhausting. At the same time, it’s an exciting journey that’s taken me to places and people I never would have dreamed were possible.

So here’s to movement, and change, and not getting stuck in a rut. There are lessons to be learned in the stuck places, for sure…but I’m ready to get back to forward motion.

I’m Back!

Hello, internet! I have returned from my tiny hiatus! I honestly didn’t give a whole lot of thought to what I’d kick things back off with once I returned, and I haven’t really done any writing in the past few weeks. So in order to shake some of the rust off the writing gears in my brain, I’m going to go with the old fallback of a five-item list of things that happened while I was away:

  1. I went to Seattle for 16 hours to attend my high school best friend’s wedding. It was lovely; she and her husband are adorable, and I am so, so, so happy I was able to be there!
  2. Between Seattle and another trip with my partner, I went through airport security four times in two weeks…and got patted down every. single. time. Dear TSA: your security lines aren’t moving slowly because someone forgot to empty their water bottle or take their laptop out of their bag. They’re moving slowly because you’re making everybody go through those goddamn useless body scanners twice. (The first thing you see once you’re through security at Midway is a Ben & Jerry’s. Well played, sirs. We definitely had coffee ice cream for breakfast on our way out of town.)
  3. I threw out my back. Thankfully, it hasn’t held a candle to whatever the hell I did back around Christmas, and I’m already feeling better. But since my partner currently isn’t supposed to lift more than five pounds and can’t raise his arms over his head, it’s made for an interesting week.
  4. I had my intake call for mental health services at our local LGBT clinic. I’ll find out later this week if they’re able to fit me in with someone there; if they can’t, they’ll work with me to find a competent provider elsewhere. It’s definitely time for me to work through some of the heavier emotions I’ve been ignoring.
  5. After a couple of weeks of letting it slide, I started getting back into the habit of taking at least a few minutes each day for guided meditation with my tarot cards while we were out of town. Since I’ve been feeling a little rocky this week (mostly, I think, due to the back pain), it’s been a really great, stabilizing influence.

Learning

It’s been a week full of lessons.

My grand plans to get up early and exercise didn’t see much follow-through beyond the first week (in part because I got slammed with a cold the second week and never got back into the habit, in part because I just didn’t have the energy in the long-term). I tried not to beat myself up about it too much – now that the weather is (kind of, sort of, maybe) getting nicer, I’m going to be more inclined to go for longer walks and generally be more active anyway. I did find, though, that I missed something about the way getting up early allowed me to ease into my day. I’ve often found myself rolling out of bed and running out the door in the space of about fifteen minutes. Last week, I was late to work almost every single day…only by about five minutes, but it still bothered me that I couldn’t seem to get myself going in the morning anymore.

Over the weekend, after poking around at various online resources, I signed up for The Alternative Tarot Course, because it seemed like a good way to get myself back into the business of meditation and reflection. One of the exercises for the course is to draw and meditate on a single card first thing every morning, as a way to get more familiar with the deck and the symbolism of various cards (whether intended by the artist or interpreted by you). I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it, given last week’s track record with over-sleeping, but I wanted to try, and so far…it seems to be working. (Turns out it’s a lot easier to get out of bed to go quietly meditate and breathe and mentally prepare for my day than it is to get out of bed to go force my body to do things it doesn’t want to. Imagine that.) And the timing couldn’t have been better: that return to meditative practice has definitely helped keep my overactive brain from running wild this week…

…which it was especially tempted to do on Monday, when I heard a coworker misgender me to another coworker. This was not the person who I’d had an issue with earlier this year, but it was someone who has done this pretty consistently since I started at my job a year and a half ago. Usually, I just sort of shut down, but this time…this time, I got angry.

I waited until I was able to compose myself enough to be mostly civil, and then I sent him an email, the gist of which was:

I want to be very clear on something: I have never, in the entire time I have worked here, been a “she”. Referring to a coworker by the wrong pronouns is both unprofessional and enormously disrespectful. When it occurs persistently, it can also be classified as harassment. If this continues, I will not hesitate to call in HR – not because I have any desire to “tattle” on you, but because I believe everyone, including myself, has the right to feel safe and respected in their workplace.

It was hard to hit send, but I did it (though, admittedly, I waited to send it until just before I left, because I wanted some more space before I had to deal with any further interaction with this coworker). I received a fairly prompt response insisting that there was no malice behind his actions, that it was a totally unconscious thing, and he didn’t know why he did it. I figured that was probably the best I was going to get, and resolved to continue to advocate for myself if the issue came up again.

And then Tuesday rolled around, and he swung by my office in the morning requesting a meeting for that afternoon. I didn’t want to, but I said yes. And you know what?

I went to the meeting.

I remained aware of my body language and retained an external appearance of calm.

I made eye contact, even when he didn’t.

I didn’t explode when he talked about how his behavior was annoying to him, how, “it’s like a tic, really.” (I wanted to explode. I wanted to tell him to a) not use someone else’s disability as a false defense to hide behind and b) take some goddamn responsibility for his actions. But I did not.)

I was not aggressive, but I explained that I wanted to be sure he was aware that this was problematic behavior.

I thanked him for his apology.

I did not say the words, “It’s okay.”

It was obvious that he expected me to say them. He kept looking at me like he was waiting for more. And my first, socially conditioned response would have been to say exactly that.

But it’s not okay. It’s never okay. And I’m not going to pretend that it is. I am not going to sacrifice my comfort for the comfort of someone else when that person clearly isn’t interested in doing the same kindness to me.

It was kind of a revelation.

I can thank someone for their apology without saying that the shitty behavior that necessitated the apology in the first place was okay. I can be gracious, but that doesn’t mean I have to shut up and pretend the hurt never happened.

So I’m learning.

I’m learning to center and to ground myself in the midst of mental chaos.

I am learning how to get angry on my own behalf. Defending others is a wonderful thing to do, but self-defense is equally important.

I’m learning that self-advocacy is still hard, but if I remain grounded and centered, it’s possible to do it. It is even possible to look aggressors in the eye and maintain control of the conversation, if I stay focused.

I’m learning that I don’t owe absolution of guilt to anyone who isn’t motivated to change their behavior (and that a true change in behavior eliminates the need for absolution anyway).

I’m learning. And as I learn, I grow, and evolve, and slowly (ever so slowly), I am becoming the man I want to be.

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