Categories
General Musings Grief

it’s not me, it’s you

I want to write about something I’ve been wrestling with lately. This is definitely somewhat related to my looking back post, but a somewhat different take on it. Namely, the relationships I do still have but which I question the overall desirability of keeping.

My heart keeps coming back to this place of tension due the fact that I am someone who generally values relationships, probably because I don’t build them easily, but there are several relationships in my life which no longer feel healthy for me to be in. Some of these relationships are with people and some are with institutions, but the common denominator seems to be that I have changed quite a bit over the past five years especially and can no longer relate in the same ways. 

My natural inclination has been to see if there is some way the relationships themselves can be adapted. If I have changed and they haven’t, is there some way in which the way we interact can also change so that all parties can move forward, albeit with different expectations?    

This feels like the right way forward… except I am not sure it is a way forward at all, when you get right down to it. By their nature, relationships rely on at least two parties, so if there is only one party attempting to make adjustments and the other party doesn’t seem to even register a need for such an effort, can the fundamental nature of any change be mutually beneficial?  

In the places in my life where I have noticed this tension, it has begun to feel more and more as though the onus to adapt to the new paradigm is only on me. This does not strike me as fair. 

An example, since this feels abstract: I have several long-term relationships with various people of the friends and family varieties While we’ve probably been drifting further and further apart ideologically for some time, the advent of the pandemic has really thrown a lot of the changes into stark relief and in a way where it’s not always possible to just accept we don’t agree and avoid the topic. I no longer feel comfortable being physically around these people, because they not only won’t wear masks if they don’t have to, they won’t get vaccinated and they associate with a whole lot of other like-minded individuals. 

I cannot ignore this. So the nature of the relationship has changed such that I will not put myself or my equally cautious loved ones at risk for the sake of spending time in person with this segment of my relationships. 

This is all bad enough, in my opinion, but what makes the whole equation feel even more unbalanced to me is that I don’t even feel like I can have an honest exchange of ideas with any of these people. 

Shortly after I got vaccinated, I was on the phone with a friend and mentioned I had gotten the Moderna and – honestly just assuming she would be getting the vaccine – asked if she had gotten hers or was planning on it soon. It didn’t even enter my mind that she wouldn’t. 

You know what they say about making assumptions. 

In one conversation that quickly turned very uncomfortable, I learned that not only would she and her family not be getting vaccinated, she is generally against vaccines and a whole bunch of other things I am not going to get into here because I don’t think it’s right for me to get into that level of detail about someone else’s beliefs. 

I will say that it wasn’t a productive conversation from there. Anything I had to say was met with a barrage of anecdotal evidence or statements that it appears I was meant to take as factual even though they lacked supporting evidence. My opinions on anything to do with regard to COVID-19 were – it became clear to me – uninformed, misguided and just wrong. (And, you know, I will absolutely admit I am not a scientist or a doctor and I am by no means an expert, but I do make the effort to have my opinion informed by those who are doctors – including my family doctor – and scientists and experts, not by random people on social media or pundits on the news. So there’s that.) 

After getting off the phone, I talked to Casey, and caught him up on the overall gist of the conversation. The only conclusion we could draw was that there doesn’t seem to be any chance of our getting together with this friend or her family any time in the near future, if ever. 

Then there’s my family. They mocked me to my face at my father’s deathbed for wearing a mask while they did not. Every time I insisted I would not eat at all or would eat outside in the Minnesota winter, I was met scorn and derision. “What is it about you that makes you so afraid of this?” my mom asked me at one point.

What is it about me?

There are layers of emotional response I am having in the wake of these encounters.

I’m annoyed that I have to be the one to set boundaries with friends and family because somehow being asked to wear a mask in public is the most horrific infringement of human rights that has apparently ever happened.   

I’m really hurt and saddened by the fact that my health – whether it is physical or mental – doesn’t matter one iota to people who have told me to my face they love me. 

I’m frustrated that there doesn’t appear to be any attempt on their part to demonstrate an attempt to understand or show empathy for me or my point of view when I feel I have tried to extend that courtesy to them. 

 I’m livid that all these people talk about God and their not-at-all-Christlike Christianity and think they have all the answers but honestly don’t seem to understand the really basic idea of love your neighbor. Even the one who you disagree with. (More on this in a future post.) 

Tension. It’s very present in my relationships right now, and I think the worst part is that somehow I am expected by all these various parties and entities to be the one who has to navigate it all with some modicum of grace. Doubtless this is because I am the one who changed. 

I reject that. Emphatically. 

At the start of this post, I said I wasn’t sure that the relationships are worth trying to salvage. I still don’t know that there is a way forward. I don’t think it’s worth my time or energy to try to accommodate the incurious, the close-minded, the people who think they have found The Truth. There is literally no reasoning with such people. 

It’s not me. It’s them.

Categories
General Musings

courage

Several weeks ago, Casey and I were on the couch in the living room, winding down for the evening as we so often do with a drink and a selection of short clips on YouTube. While we mainly stick to clips from various late night shows and commentators on the news, we do occasionally find something else that looks interesting or funny enough to watch. 

 On the evening in question, a video about the different sounds cats make popped up and while I honestly don’t remember what prompted us to watch it, we did. 

Heimdall (these days his name has been warped into Memers) was on the couch with us and as the video went on, I noticed him move. He did so gradually, rising from where he had been settled with Casey, and slowly, slowly made his way across Casey’s lap, headed towards the edge of the couch closest to the stairs. As he moved, his gaze was locked onto the wall-mounted television. 

Then the video ended and in a blur of motion with the sound of scrabbling claws on the floor as he tried and largely failed to gain purchase on the hardwood flooring, he was gone, puffy-tailed and obviously freaked out. 

We laughed. Of course we did. Both because of the suddenness of it and because Memers is still pretty small and because our interpretation of events was that he had just seen some kind of giant monster-cat who was somehow perched above the whole room and who had recently been saying something that was perhaps in some way menacing or untoward. 

Immediately after laughing, I felt a little bad, but figured that he would soon be over it since nothing ever seems to keep his adventurous spirit down for long. 

It being late, we turned off the television and began to go through the stages of our bedtime routine. It was then that I noticed Talisker on the landing of the stairs, crouched low and half hidden around the bend of the stairs. He had caught Memers’ terror and I immediately felt far worse for him than I had for Memers, since Tal is nothing if not perpetually jumpy. We often wonder what happened to him in his early life to make him so wary and the caution that we noticed in him so early on has not left him in the 18 months we’ve had him. I don’t think it ever will. 

I’ve learned, over time, that Tal does not find it soothing to have human contact on any terms that are not his own, so I simply sat on the other couch, where I could watch him as he crouched on the stairs, obviously torn between his fear of whatever had just taken place downstairs and his desire to come down and take advantage of the fact that part of the bedtime routine is feeding the cats and Casey was even then refiling their bowls. 

For his part, Memes was hiding behind the other couch, between it and the wall, giving me a clue just how spooked he was. Memers is nothing if not a little pigger come feeding time.

Because I somehow ended up being the one to completely fall in love with these two cats, I delayed going to bed for a while, even as Casey concluded filling their bowls and headed upstairs to brush his teeth. Talisker disappeared for a while, running away when Casey started up the stairs, clearly convinced that he was the motivation of a human heading in his general direction. 

I called him, pointlessly, because he never comes when called unless he can see you have a special treat for him. 

Memes continued to hide behind the couch, only his face barely visible, his entire posture somehow expressive of his readiness to retreat further, should any giant demon cats emerge from nowhere. 

Eventually, Tal had gotten so brave as to make it down to the penultimate step before hitting the main floor. He paused for a long while, grandly ignoring me as I made small coaxing noises. With aching slowness, one paw touched the ground and then another, both back paws remaining on the step while he ascertained what he could of the room. 

And then? Then my sweet little Tal Tal, who so often seems afraid of his own shadow, crept into the living room. He circled to the left, still ignoring me, but craning to get a good look at the rest of the couch I was sitting on. No demon cats there. 

Staying low, he continued past me, scoping out the various new angles of the room as they came to him. Nothing under the coffee table. Nothing on the coffee table. There was a long hesitation as he tried to see the top of a tall cabinet that sits underneath the television, but he kept going until he had circled around the coffee table and back to where I was. 

I understood as he made this circuit that he was simply gathering information for himself. Was the room safe? Was he safe? 

He seemed a bit more relaxed as he came back to where I was sitting, and didn’t bolt when I moved to scoop him up. From my arms, I showed him the top of the tall cabinet and then took him past the stairs and into the kitchen, where we circled the island and then I put him back down. 

No demon cats here, buddy. It’s safe. You’re safe. 

I sat back down on the couch, watching as Tal went to where Memes was still hiding behind the couch. They sniffed at each other cautiously, they way they sometimes do, when there’s apparently some need to verify on an olfactory level that their eyes don’t deceive them and that other cat is who it appears to be. 

I told Casey all about it and I am telling the story here, because I was so moved by it. Living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, as I do, I have often said that if I were a cat, I would be Tal – or that if he were a person, he would be me. He gets scared and runs to hide whenever he hears someone coming down the stairs (even though it’s always just me or Casey) in the same nonsensical way I get scared of trying a new food (even though I have never shown signs of having any allergies to anything other than pollen in my entire life). 

To see him confront the danger of the unknown in such a practical way was another kind of parallel. I often badger Casey to Google things on my behalf (hypochondriacs shouldn’t look up medical information on the internet, I’ve found), and it’s for exactly the same reason. I need to understand the lay of the land and have information so I can have some assurances I am safe. I need to clear my mind of my own demon cat fears. 

And I think there was good lesson in there for Casey, as well. It doubtless seems ridiculous to him that I am, in Talisker terms, afraid of him coming down the stairs, even though every time I run and hide it’s always for no reason at all. 

“I can’t control this,” I told him. “But I can be brave, like Tal was brave, and I can seek out information until I feel like I know enough to feel safe.” 

Just because something doesn’t appear to be brave doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Just because someone doesn’t appear to be brave, doesn’t mean that they aren’t. You never know when something that may seem ridiculous to you is, in fact, something that requires great courage on the part of the person – or cat – doing it. 

Categories
General Musings

bydand and other things

Hello?

I wanted to say, “Hello!” all Hannah Hart style but, uh, it’s been a while. A long while. A long while made longer by the fact that I am constantly starting posts and never publishing them.

So here we are. March something or other and a few months down the road from what is usually my annual post about #OneWord365 and I am just as scattered and incoherent as ever I was back in those good, old KMA days.

I bring up KMA, because I miss that time so desperately as of late. I miss the person I was and the freedom that I had to talk about anything I wanted and in pretty much any manner I desired. I miss Alas and find this Lesley person to be a grave disappointment in many ways.

So even though it’s March and I’ve been AWOL for quite some time, I wanted to spend some time talking about my #OneWord2018 and I also just want to spend more time here in general. I am not sure that will happen, seeing as how I am stretched oh so thin these days what with school and work and a social life and MOAR school, but the desire is most definitely there.

Unlike last year when I agonized over my #OneWord and then ended up settling on three words, this year came easily and dropped outta nowhere. (Not quite nowhere. My husband has some Gordon heritage.)

As you are supposed to do, I have been spending a fair amount of time contemplating my #OneWord and it’s been a very different kind of experience for me, this year. I’m not 100% sure why that is, but I do have some thoughts.

I think part of it is that my #OneWord is kind of a big word, with a lot of different directions that I am able to associate with it. I chose – or it chose me – bydand, which is a Scots word and the motto of the Gordon clan. It means ‘steadfast’or ‘abiding’ or even ‘stand and fight.’

I’ve been thinking about how I don’t fight enough these days. I have been more inclined to shrug and think that people can have their opinions, which is true. But I am also entitled to my own opinions and even to sharing them with people who I know won’t necessarily agree.

On the flip side, a quote from Bosch (the TV show, not the books) got me thinking about the corollary.  To paraphrase wildly, Bosch said he had gotten some “squid” tattoos on his knuckles: “Hold Fast.” His partner asked a question about “Hold fast to what?” to which Bosch replied, “To everything good, to anything that matters.” (Still paraphrasing. Wildly.)

YES. All the yes.

I have done a poor job of this in many ways. There are relationships I let lapse and I bitterly regret that. There are aspects of myself I have buried in what is commonly acceptable and this is just as bitter to me, because giving up who you are is always a tragedy (unless who you are is a raging asshole. I hope this is not true of me, but… y’know… let me know!).

Likewise, there are things that are not worth keeping around. So, yeah, hold fast to the good things that matter, but if you have toxic shit in your life? Throw it out as fast as you can. Like, yesterday.

Hold fast and let go.

Two sides of the same coin.

I think more about holding fast, mostly because these days I am holding fast to only one or two things when I would like to be retaining a dozen. I also think about it the context of my mental illness and the fact that I am so insanely good at believing terrible things but instantly scoff at the idea of anything good happening in my life.

This, despite all the arguably amazing and wonderful things in my life.

It makes no sense, but when have I ever?

Steadfast.

Abiding.

Stand and fight.

I am not sure where bydand is taking me in this year. I do know I have already been challenged in many ways and that the outcomes are going to be mainly positive for me (or at least, I hope so), if only I can step outside of mental illness and discomfort and into some kind of positivity and hope.

I want to talk about it more, and I hope I can find the time and space to do so here. Y’all know I’ve always processed through writing.  Whether or not anyone ever reads this is somewhat immaterial because I need to bleed my thoughts in order to analyze them.

If you’re here, if you care or don’t care, thank you for reading. I appreciate it.

Categories
General Musings

three word

I don’t really believe in New Year’s Resolutions.

For the past several years, I’ve chosen a word for #oneword365, the details of which can be read about here. [1. the details of OneWord, that is. The details of my past words are scattered across the interwebs, but to summarize: focus, hope, adventure, abundance] I’ll be the first to admit that I often don’t quite focus on the word I’ve chosen all throughout the year, but I do find enough to mediate on and enough to challenge me that it seems worthwhile anyhow.

This year? This year, I have no damn idea what my one word is going to be. It’s annoying me, like woah.

I’ve certainly had words occur to me. In no particular order, three have stood out:

Immanuel.

Humility.

Kaizen.

I started with Immanuel, but something about that seemed too safe. God with us. God with me. Very comforting and certainly a needful reminder on a daily basis and most particularly when panic attacks strike, but I’ve spent the last few years bogged down in my anxiety and how it’s affected me and I am just over it. I want to move on. [2. Wanting to and actually being able to not being the same things. I do get the sense I have a lot more to process before it’s all said and done.]

Humility. Okay. Less safe. More, um, humbling. Not a bad dose of medicine for me, all in all. But it dovetails too much with Immanuel only in a “more of you, less of me” sort of way. [3. Give me any topic and I can probably find a way to relate it to my mental illness in about half a second, flat. It’s a gift. A terrible, pointless gift.]

And then I landed on kaizen, which got me fairly excited. For those who don’t know, kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement? Sign me up!

As I look ahead into 2017, there’s so much I want to improve, some of which has already been in a state of improvement. I’m going back to school. I want to improve my mind, and yes, my socioeconomic status. I am – and have been since well before the turn of the year, thankyouverymuch! – determined to get back on track with healthy living and eating. As of this writing, I can honestly say that working out has become a regular part of my routine several days a week. I want to improve my relationships, to get to know my new friends on a deeper level and to rediscover my old friends, getting to know them as the people they’ve become in the years of our separation and to allow them to get to know the person I’ve become in the meantime.

Even if that person is sometimes usually a neurotic, self-absorbed mess.

I felt pretty good about kaizen, from the time it occurred to me on December 31, right up until I went forward after the church service on January 1, and received a word of prophecy. I babbled something, not about my #oneword dilemma, and the woman I was speaking to just looked at me and said, “You’re not a mother, but you have this incredibly comforting nurturing presence. Just by being in the room, you bring comfort to people.”

And then she prayed over me. “Immanuel. God with you. God within you. God all around you. God as your rearguard.”

And I was like, dang, maybe Immanuel is my One Word?

The upshot is that I still don’t have a single One Word for 2017. As the proud recipient of not only a Generalized Anxiety Disorder diagnosis, but also an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder diagnosis, this does not thrill me. I feel like I haven’t got 2017 nailed down in my mind and at this point, we’ve lost a whole five days and how many more of the remaining 360 will I spend feeling all untethered and incomplete?

Don’t worry. I know how ridiculous that sounds. I mean, I still feel that way, but I get that it sounds a bit unhinged.

I have written and subsequently deleted several iterations of this post, hoping to find clarity through writing as I often do. And I have told myself what I recently told a friend: “Do whatever you want! Your One Word is for you and no one else’s opinion matters!” The problem is that my opinion very much matters to me and in my opinion, I should have a One Word and it should be a One Word, not a three word.

And now I’ve just sort of blown my own damn mind, because “three word” just reminded me of part of what I read to the husband today during our commute:

“Note this for now: the principle of one is lonely; the principle of two is oppositional and moves you toward preference; the principle of three is inherently moving, dynamic, and generative.”

Fr. Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance

So maybe it’s okay to have a three word. Maybe I can embrace humility, Immanuel and kaizen all in the same year.

At this present moment, that’s the first thing that has made total sense to me in this whole exercise. And with that frayed and unglued corner of my mind feeling a bit more settled and secured, I think I am for my rest for now. Doubtless I’ll have something to write about any or all of these words in the future, but that will come when it will, if it does.

Just now, I feel a bit more whole. And I will take what I can get.