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

you can never go home again

I’ve been spending some time lately in looking back. This isn’t odd for me in any way – to the contrary, it is exceedingly typical. I suppose I do it, in part, as some sort of proof-to-self of growth. It helps me to realize that I am not, in fact, the same person I was a decade ago. Or five years before that. I have changed over time. Matured in ways.

But the parts of me that always feel a bit stuck are there as well. I realize now that some of these things are just fundamentally who I am. As a person who likes personality typing (thought not, I hope as someone who lives and dies by it), I can see that I have essentially always been an Enneagram One… who totally goes to Four in stress and Seven in growth. It’s a pattern I follow naturally and apparently always have.

 I wish I’d known about the Enneagram the whole time I was writing over at KMA. Might’ve saved myself some trouble had I realized how often I was writing from a Four place. 

Anyhow, the looking back has been instructive in the usual ways. There’s the part of me that wants to go back and shake Past Me until she got some sense and the part of me that wants to tell her it’ll be okay and she won’t have shitty jobs where she’s undervalued forever. I might also tell her to pay attention to blockchain when she first hears of it, because it turns out that could be a game-changer and it would be good to be ahead of the curve for once. 

It was also bittersweet, the looking back. There are so many people who used to be a daily or weekly part of my life and somewhere along the way I let it all slip through my fingers. While my days are populated with new people who thankfully have no notion of some what I was like ten to fifteen years ago, I can’t help but want to restore some of what I feel I have lost over time and through inaction. At the same time, I was often objectionable, so perhaps some of them wouldn’t want me back. 

Not much point to this overall and I am not going to extend it in an effort to find more purpose to it all. Just trying (as ever) to get back to some semblance of writing more. Otherwise, how will look back a year or two or three from now and know whether I’ve changed?   

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

of excess and roommates

Have you ever read a book that sort of ruined your life?

I did recently, and I blame book club. A few months ago, we read a book called “For the Love,” and it was okay. Not life changing or life ruining, but funny enough that when I was at the library and saw another book by the same author (7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess , by Jen Hatmaker), I thought sure, why not? and checked it out.

Since At and I have been going to work together and since I can’t stand to watch him navigate the rush hour traffic, I decided that reading to him aloud made good sense, and so decided to tackle 7 first.

The premise of 7 is simple enough. It’s about – well, mutinying against excess – in a time and a country when consuming is the order of the day. Not all of it made perfect sense to me, I’ll admit, and neither did all of the seven things that the author chose to reduce resonate, but overall? Yeah. It made me really stop and think about the ways in which I contribute to the problem and not the solutions.

It has touched off a lot of discussion between At and myself, mostly about our house. You see, not that long ago, I was hardly batting an eyelash over the fact that the two of us – plus two cats – have a 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 2600 sq. ft. monstrosity to call our own.[1. I feel like my European friends may have just died a little at that admission.]

It’s ridiculous.

I started batting my eyelashes over the size of my house a little more than a year ago, when I went to the UK, and got an idea of what living space can be like when one doesn’t have all the elbow room that we’re blessed with in America. Meeting a newly married couple who were so happy about their 400 year old house with the refrigerator tucked in a closet under the stairs gave me a bit of a pause regarding my attitude towards my 10 year old house with the refrigerator in my kitchen that I’m confidant wouldn’t fit through any of their doorways.

Sitting outside a cottage in Wales and feeling all the sheer perfection of that place, I told my husband that we needed to sell the house when we got back home. Sell the house, have a smaller mortgage payment and travel more. All the stuff I possessed back home was nothing to the experience I was having.

Obviously, we didn’t sell the house, since I’m still sitting around feeling appalled that we own it. In fact, we’ve spent the last year pouring a lot of time and effort into making it nicer and making it our own.

But reading 7, as I said, rather rekindled all my feelings about owning it in the first place. During one of the many conversations we’ve had since reading the book, my husband proposed that we might consider a roommate since we have the space and it could be a chance to minister to someone.

“Well,” I objected immediately, “God would have to make it pretty damn obvious that we were supposed to have a roommate in the first place. It couldn’t be just anyone and I am not going to put out an ad looking for some random stranger to come live in my basement. I will basically need this to be dropped in my lap.”

And that night? God dropped a roommate in my life.

We had a friend over for dinner and during the course of conversation, he mentioned that he was needing to find a new place to live. His landlady was jacking up his rent and he didn’t have the space where he was to really work on retrofitting his bus to make it into an RV anyway.

Glances were exchanged. I was heard to mutter, “It didn’t need to be that obvious!” to no one in particular. An agreement was made.

This was all about a month ago, and you guys, I am not going to lie. I’ve been having a tough time with the whole thing.

The new roommate is super chatty. I want to be left alone. The new roommate is of a certain generation where the general feeling is that if there’s a woman in the house, she is in charge of all the cooking and cleaning. I say, “Oh, hell no,” to that notion. The new roommate talks over the television shows when I’m watching something. I am biting my tongue more than I would like.

And I am convicted all over again, because I am not loving a friend any better than I am loving shitty drivers.

But I don’t question that this is the right thing to do. It absolutely is, and not least of all because it is challenging to me and is making me deal with my failings.

The really scary thing to me is that this morning, out of nowhere, I was thinking about another friend and it occurred to me basically out of nowhere that once the current roommate is gone, it might be good timing for offering my home up to this other person.

I have no idea if that is something this friend even needs or why I thought of this as it relates to them or why I’m looking ahead to new roommates when I’m having such a hard time with the current one.

All I know is that I blame 7. And God.

Categories
General Musings

so it begins

I had a really bad panic attack a few days ago.

I’m not entirely certain as to why it happened, although I had kicked off the morning with a mimosa and then several hours later had been the one to drive my two friends to the airport so they could return to their lives in Chicago.

Drinking champagne – excuse me, sparkling wine – makes me nervous. I do it anyhow, mostly because I want to challenge these irrational fears that so often spring up as a result of my generalized anxiety disorder. After Saturday’s excursion, I’m not certain that I ever want to do so again, because the panic attack was that awful.

But I also have to recognize that it wasn’t just the champagne sparkling wine. It was also the trip to the airport in extremely bad traffic with my husband unable to shut up from the back seat about what he thought I ought to do and which route I ought to take.

It was also on top of a week of having two extra people under my roof and in my kitchen and wanting to get out and do things, all of which was perfectly reasonable but which also couldn’t help but be a strain on my introverted sensibilities.

By the time we arrived at the airport, I was shaking and sweaty. My hands and left leg had a pins and needles feeling. I proclaimed myself unequal to driving home and made my husband take over. We hadn’t gone a quarter of a mile before everything intensified. I felt dizzy and was gasping for air but not feeling like I could possibly get enough oxygen. In the irrational grip of panic, I figured I was probably hemorrhaging blood from somewhere, possibly internally, and was about to die there in the passenger seat of my car, out on the industrial northwest side of town.

“Jesus,” I said over and over, not a curse but an inchoate prayer.

My poor husband tried in vain to talk me down. “You’re okay,” he soothed. “This is all in your head.”

“Shut up,” I snapped. “Shut up, shut up, shutupshutupshutup. Shut. Up.”

I felt bad for it even as I said it, but couldn’t stop myself. We finally got to a likely exit and stopped at a shopping mall. Neither one of us needed a thing, but I bolted from the car as though it were on fire and the relief was nearly palpable. I wasn’t trapped. I could walk off some of the massive amounts of adrenaline that was coursing through me. I could maybe take one more breath. And then another. And then more until I ceased to be so conscious of the effort.

Eventually, I was able to find the wherewithal to get back into the car and drive home. The rest of the day wasn’t easy. My throat was so tight I couldn’t eat or drink without the fear of choking being perched on my shoulder, although I know from a year and a half of dealing with it that my dysphagia is an artifact of my anxiety, just like the pins and needles feeling in my limbs, or the tightness in my chest, or the headaches that last for days, or the nights where I wake to the sound of my own heart beating madly away and can’t drown it out enough to sleep.

Lindisfarne The reason I mention all of this as the maiden post of this blog is because of the next day. Sunday.

I woke up and felt more myself after a good night’s sleep, although my throat was still noticeably tight. After coffee in bed and laughing at the cats and their antics, I pulled myself together and we went to church. Somewhere in the middle of worship, which is always my favorite part of any church service, I realized that I’ve been spending the past several months asking God for a healing of my mind. I haven’t always been this person who gets panic attacks and struggles just to make it through a day, and a wholeness of mind is still something I hope to someday have again.

Somehow though, I never spent any time praying for release from the physical manifestations of my anxiety. So I did pray then and there and my throat gave a twinge and then… nothing. It’s been remarkably normal ever since.

Hallelujah.

After the service had ended, I didn’t bolt immediately for the doors as is my usual practice. The pastor came over and asked my husband and me if we would be interested in helping to run the media booth and we said we would be and then I fell into conversation with another woman and we fixed a date to have dinner together, which is sort of freaking me out a little, because I’ve never even met her husband. The last thing we did before going was to stop by and sign up to help out with a carnival that our church is putting on for the residents of the local neighborhood.

And to the point now – that whole weekend was a perfect microcosm of my life as a whole, and the best way I could think of to illustrate the syncopated rhythm of my days. In the background is that I spent many years being angry at the church and some of that emotion sort of splashed over onto God. If I had never needed Someone bigger than myself and capable of all things, I might have stubbornly remained in that state, because after all, it wasn’t as though I were rejecting the idea of God Himself or renouncing my belief in the path to salvation provided by Christ’s death and resurrection.

I just didn’t want to bother myself with the collection of broken humanity who would say in one breath that they were following Christ and then do anything but live by that example. My distaste for that hypocrisy was perhaps my greatest blind spot, for there was no meaningful way in which I was any different. Perhaps I was worse for all the moral superiority I felt but did not possess.

But now I’ve arrived through circuitous means back where I started, realizing that not only do I absolutely require God and a real relationship with Him, I also have a great need for community.

John Donne once wrote that:

No man is an island,
entire of itself ,
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main…

How right he was. How much more stable my life is becoming with the additions of people who are both immediate and accessible, who have loved me and allowed me to love them in return.

So, in part, this blog is about that. One can never just start writing and expect to have community happen overnight, but with patience and work,  it can be built over time. I was fortunate enough to do so before and I have hopes that I’ll be able to do so again. After all, I am an introvert and I find online friendships are the best supplement I can possibly have to the few people I manage to connect with on a personal level and face-to-face.

Isle of Wight

To me, my anxiety has been and is both a blessing and curse. It has been – to paraphrase Charles Spurgeon – the wave that has thrown me against the Rock of Ages. And in fetching up in that place, I have also rediscovered and am beginning to rekindle those needful human interactions as well.

Welcome to my deepest life.