missroserose: (Warrior III)
aaaaaaaaaaaa

^^The feels I'm having when I've literally just finished my internship and my studio manager emails me saying "hey, we've got a C2 opening up in September Mondays at 7:30 PM, do you want it? It's plenty of time to get you ready to teach C2s, and I'd love to have you in another prime time slot."

I mean, yeah, without a deadline I'll probably never push myself to get there, so I'm not going to say no. Breanne's not going to leave me hanging on training, and she wouldn't have offered it if she didn't think I'd be up for the challenge. And this is a huge compliment - Monday nights are super-prime-time for attendance. But whoa, that's...a little high-stakes, relatively speaking.

Good thing it's just yoga. :)

(aaaaaaaaaaaaa)

(feels)
missroserose: (Freedom on a Bike)
It's been thirteen months, hundreds of miles, a few traffic near-misses, and a slightly embarrassing amount spent on accessories, repairs, and eventually a new bike, but I'm beginning to feel like a seasoned urban cyclist. I bike so much (and Brian works from home so much) that, for the first time since we moved here, I've given up our monthly transit pass subscriptions; it makes more sense now to pay as we go, or nab Brian a weekly pass if he's got an on-site job.

My unstated, very-unofficial goal for the spring/summer/fall has been to only use the car for trips involving at least two people. With the notable exception of my once-or-twice monthly Costco/Trader Joe's stock-up trips (I have yet to figure out how to load a pallet of toilet paper onto a bike), this has been surprisingly doable. Especially in a crowded city, biking is often faster than driving for short distances; it may not be quite as fast for longer ones, but that's balanced out by not having to search/pay for parking at the end. (The one exception currently on my regular schedule is the Sauganash studio, which is a fifteen-minute drive with a free parking lot at the end, versus a 25-30 minute ride. But that's balanced out somewhat by being a far more pleasant commute by bike, as well as getting to eat All The Calories afterward.) There's definitely been an adjustment curve with my physical condition, but I feel like I'm largely over the hump, even if my hip and glute muscles might not agree, heh.

All of which is to say, biking is feeling less like a novelty and more like a lifestyle change. I'm...torn on saying whether I'd consider it part of my identity; there's a lot of aspects of the urban-biker subculture I either don't fit into or am less than enthused with (I have zero desire to do triathlons or multi-city tours; I bike largely for commuting/eating purposes rather than recreation; I try not to look down on people who primarily drive, not all of us are able-bodied enough to pedal everywhere). But I think it is, to a degree; I like who I am better when I'm biking most places.

I'm not sure how this coming winter is going to shape up. Last year I put my bike away in late November when the temperature was regularly dropping below freezing; there was more than one period over the winter, however, when the mercury rose and I regretted not having it handy. I think I might try leaving it out this year and seeing how often I can ride it. I am nowhere near hardcore enough to ride in snow, but if the roads are clear and I have enough layers I don't see why colder temperatures have to be a barrier. I suppose a lot will depend on the weather.

In more fun news, I've been combing through Redbubble looking for stickers to decorate my new bike - hence the reflections on biking culture and where I fit (or don't) in it. Still, even with the hardcore athlete/snooty stickers discounted, there are some good candidates, even if my all-time favorite is untrue for me on every level, haha. I like the colors in this one, and the fanciful vintage air of this one; this one has a nice minimalist feel to it as well as being a good shape for a crossbar. This one probably gets the award for most accurate/most likely to be purchased, possibly with this one as a complement; also, it's nice to see an actively non-snooty message in a bike-oriented sticker.

How about you? Are there any subcultures you probably fit in but are hesitant to actively jump into?
Have you ever tried something new and discovered you hadn't even realized it was part of who you wanted to be? Seen any great bike stickers lately? Let's discuss!
missroserose: (Warrior III)
Almost exactly six months after I began teacher training, I have completed my first day of paid teaching. It's official - I'm a professional yoga teacher now!

It's been a long journey, filled with a lot of work, a lot of anxiety, a lot of learning about community, a lot of growth, and a lot of realizing exactly how much I have grown but hadn't discovered it yet. And now I'm here. Which is really only a brief stopping point - I have so much yet to learn. But it's still a point worth celebrating, I think.

I got this card to send to a dear friend, but hopefully he won't mind me using a picture of it here, as it's perfect to the moment:



Here's to learning, and growing, and doing difficult things we want to do in spite of our anxiety about them.
missroserose: (Default)
As of this morning, I have completed all paperwork, meetings, studio walkthroughs, and desk shifts required...and as of Monday, I'll be teaching my first yoga class! (My first two yoga classes, actually, since I picked up a sub that evening.) Earlier in the week, I was anxious bordering on terrified; after some breathing and journaling and other anxiety-acceptance measures, I'm feeling at least a little more sanguine about it. The manager at the studio has been super chill and supportive, including responding promptly and positively to my numerous emails about questions and small administrative details. And no matter how badly I screw up, I know I'm not going to be as bad as The Worst C1. (I don't think I ever wrote about it here; suffice it to say, the girl barely moved from the back of the classroom the whole time, she didn't touch anyone, she spoke in a soft near-monotone that sounded for all the world like she was reciting a memorized script, and her whole playlist was atonal noise rock, including savasana (?!). At the very least, I know I have a better playlist.) But there's still a lot of anxiety for me in getting up and being open (and thus, to a degree, vulnerable) with a whole group of people, for a whole class. Which, I suppose, is a sign it'll be a good learning experience, too.

Anyway, onto the book stuff!

What I've just finished reading

*hangs head* I have not finished anything this week, either. I strongly suspect I'm letting my anxiety occupy too many emotional cycles; I've noticed that I tend toward obsessive behaviors when it gets going - refreshing social media, occupying myself with ticky administrative details, looking over my calendar repeatedly, etc. (Why, yes, I do have a family history of obsessive-compulsive disorder, how did you guess?) It's surprising, how much time and energy it takes to be anxious. Anyway, I'm working on it.

What I'm reading now

The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon. Dialect or no, I've been finding myself wishing that I was reading a physical copy of this book; Peter Riegert is turning in a perfectly decent performance, but there are so many wonderful descriptions and delightful turns of phrase that I really want to savor but that just go by too quickly. I finally have taken to using a combination of Audible's "bookmark" feature and (for ones I think Brian will enjoy) transcribing and texting them to preserve their ephemerality: "the sudden awareness, like an inverse satori, that he has made a grave, if not fatal error...his jaws snap together, making each tooth ring out with its own pure tone as the impact of his ass against the ground conducts its Newtonian business with the rest of his skeleton." "The winter sky in southeastern Alaska is a Talmud of grey, an inexhaustible commentary on a Torah of rain clouds and dying light." "They all looked shocked; even Gould, who could have happily read a comic book by the light of a burning man."

For all the lighthearted metaphor, there's a very real atmosphere of melancholy and uncertainty in this story; not grief, precisely, but the recognition of opportunities missed, the sense of having taken a wrong turn somewhere without knowing precisely what it was. Perhaps this is appropriate to a tale of Jewish culture, even alternate-universe Jewish culture; I know it probably resonates with me more now, at this point in American history, than it likely would have even a year or two ago.

I'm a bit torn on the worldbuilding; there are hints of a broader global alt-history stemming from the decision to relocate Jews to Southeast Alaska instead of Israel, but whether due to my personal ignorance of world/Jewish history or simply to the fact that it all goes by a bit too quickly in audio format, I'm having trouble piecing together exactly what's different from our more recent history. That said, the tensions and troubles and cliques and feuds and foibles of this particular group in this time that never existed are beautifully rendered. The plot is mostly pretty standard religious-political-conspiracy stuff, and it moves a bit slowly, but one gets the feeling it's more of an excuse to spend time in this world and with these characters, and said characters are entertaining and well-drawn enough to be worth the investment. I'm wondering how it'll wrap up; the themes don't point for a truly happy ending, and neither does the alt-history-noir setup, but given the effort they're putting in to untangling this mess, I suspect Landsman and Berko will pull at least "bittersweet".

all about love, by bell hooks. This week's chapter is on community, and the importance thereof in giving us a place to practice love, especially for those of us raised in unloving and dysfunctional family situations. I've long been a proponent of making community connections a bigger part of our lives - it's something that doesn't get a lot of emphasis in our mainstream culture, with its deleterious emphasis on the nuclear family as the social unit uber alles - but I'm not sure I agree with her framing. She seems to come from a place of fundamental certainty that everyone participates in a community in good faith; thus, she believes that, while distancing is sometimes necessary, there is no reason to ever cut ties with a person; everyone can and will change for the better when presented with evidence of the hurtfulness of their actions. She cites one friend in particular whose family was incredibly hurtful towards her when she came out as a lesbian; apparently after some years, their attitudes changed and they were able to have a worthwhile relationship.

Obviously, I have a lot of issues with this paradigm. I'm all for giving people the benefit of the doubt; we're all human, we all make mistakes. But she seems to be falling headlong into several common social fallacies; the fact is, there are drama queens, and missing stairs, and other individuals that a community is better off without. Setting boundaries with these people, and actively limiting your social interactions with them, is a net social positive - not only because it increases your happiness, but because limited options due to social censure is its own lesson. I'm more torn on the question of whether they can learn; presumably, we need to give people the benefit of the doubt in order for them to learn, but based on my past experiences, I have a very difficult time trusting that someone with an established pattern of behavior will have any desire to change, let alone gain the self-awareness to do so. I'm sure it can happen, but I have a hard time trusting that it is what's going on in any given situation - especially when it's so much easier to claim you're trying to change without actually, y'know, doing any of the work. Maybe this is a reflection on me and my trust issues more than on anything inherent to humanity, I don't know.

What I plan to read next

Back before I put a moratorium on new book-buying, I had pre-ordered Cherie Priest's new book Brimstone, which just arrived in the mail. I have a feeling my to-read shelf is going to go neglected in my next selection...
missroserose: (Default)
As anyone who reads the little notifier at the bottom of my posts is aware, I've been crossposting to LiveJournal from Dreamwidth for years now. My reasons for maintaining an LJ account were numerous; partly for the fond memories, partly for the friends and acquaintances who hadn't transitioned to DW, partly for the ease of having a mirror backup.

However, given the recent move of LJ's servers to Russia, and the associated new terms of service, I feel it's time to leave LiveJournal completely. I doubt anything I post is likely to be of interest to the owners, but I can't in good conscience support a blogging platform that forbids "political solicitation". Open and free political discussion is the lifeblood of any democratic society.

After this post, therefore, I'm turning off cross-posting and will no longer be maintaining this blog on LiveJournal. I am genuinely sorry to do so, both for the nostalgia factor and for the connections I've made here. I hope I can convince you all to move to Dreamwidth with me; there are a number of links here with instructions on how to move your whole LJ over to DW. Having done it myself, I can attest that it's a minor pain, but you only have to do it once, and it has the advantage of preserving comment threads and privacy settings. Honestly, even if you don't plan to use DW primarily, it's not a bad idea; backups of years' worth of work are always a good thing to have, and LJ's future is more than a little shaky at this point.

If you don't wish to join me on DW, I will genuinely miss you; I hope we can connect elsewhere. As with all well-structured social networks, the people I've met on LiveJournal have been the best thing about it; I'm glad there's a similarly-structured substitute out there for those of us who like doing longer-form posts than a Facebook or Twitter post allows for.
missroserose: (Default)
My last post might have been lighthearted in nature, but strangely (and despite freezing temperatures today), it really does feel like spring has begun. I wonder if there's any actual connection between changes in people's lives and changes in the seasons. I know it's always felt that way to me, but I'm not precisely an unbiased observer.

In any case, we're due for a high of 72 on Friday. Time to get the bikes out!


What I've just finished reading

Paper Girls, vol. 2, by Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang. I'm completely entertained at how much DNA this series shares with Stranger Things, at least for the first couple of acts; refreshingly, however, the kids terrorizing their neighborhood on bikes are all girls, and this informs their outlook more than a little. There's less character-building and more action in this volume, as the futuristic elements teased in the first come into full play here. I enjoyed it - the thought of a Godzilla-sized tardigrade terrorizing a quiet suburb entertained me to no end - but missed the interplay between the characters, as most of this volume (understandably) consists of their splitting up to do detective work and figure out what's going on. There are some good moments, though; I'm hoping that the next volume, which is going to have to start providing some explanation, finds a way to keep the character development going alongside.

What I'm currently reading

The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon. I remember seeing promotional posters for this book everywhere when it came out, probably because it's set in Southeast Alaska and I had just moved to Juneau at the time. I'm enjoying Chabon's characters and the wryly vivid way he describes his characters and world: "The rest of Sitka's homicides are so-called crimes of passion, which is a shorthand way of expressing the mathematical product of alcohol and firearms." Interestingly, I'd barely noticed the dialect until reading a review that pointed it out, despite having had real trouble with it in other works (I couldn't make it past the first couple pages of A Clockwork Orange). I wonder if it's because I'm listening to it via audiobook; it would make sense, given my significantly-better reading (as opposed to audio) comprehension, that my brain would be worrying at the unfamiliar words and have trouble getting past them when written, but would be so busy interpreting and piecing together the sounds that it'd be more willing to sort of gloss over the unfamiliar words and pick them up from context.

all about love, by bell hooks. Given my general dislike of philosophy books, I seem to be reading a lot of them all of a sudden. Even when they annoy me, realizing I can journal about them and make them into a sort of dialogue helps them feel less preachy. But it also doesn't make for particularly fast reading - I think I've managed all of one chapter of this one all week.

The chapter in question is on values - and specifically, how many of our cultural values actively inhibit living by a love ethic. So it's probably not surprising that I found a lot of stuff I agreed with, haha. Still, this passage in particular caught my eye:
 
We see movies in which people are represented as being in love who never talk with one another, who fall into bed without ever discussing their bodies, their sexual needs, their likes and dislikes. Indeed, the message received from the mass media is that knowledge makes love less compelling; that it is ignorance that gives love its erotic and transgressive edge.

Speaking as someone with more than a passing interest in erotica, this kind of thing drives me nuts. Some folks really do dig anonymous sex, but in my experience they're a minority - and usually it's more the transgressive thrill of the act itself than anything particular in the sex that they enjoy. Seeing so many movies where the message is "these people are in love and that magically means they're 100% compatible in the bedroom despite their never having, y'know, sat down and talked to each other about what they like" both sets up an unrealistic cultural standard and actively suppresses a normal and healthy part of sexuality. It took me years and several partners to get past the "if I have to tell my partner what I like then clearly we're not really In Love!", and I know some people never get past it; opening up your mouth and asking for what you want is hard enough without that kind of baggage attached. (I genuinely wonder if this kind of problem has been more harmful to our collective sexual health than the oft-laughed at pornographic tropes; at least with the latter, it makes no bones about being a fantasy and not representative of real life.) Besides, talking about your desires is sexy - it demonstrates confidence and self-knowledge. Leaving that out of a romantic story means you're missing out on some seriously good stuff.

What I plan to read next

It's pretty up in the air at the moment - I've got a fair amount on my plate right now.  Still, I suspect I'll be eyeing something new soon - you can't keep a good polybibliophile down for long!
missroserose: (Default)
Massage work is picking up. I have a beautiful new tattoo. And I just accepted an intern position teaching at CorePower.

Spring has sprung.
missroserose: (Default)
I've always loved the archetype of the leap of faith. It shows up in literal form in more stories than I can count, but as with all archetypes, it resonates because it's a metaphor for an integral part of our lives. In any undertaking, there comes a point when you've done all you can do; you've trained, you've studied, you've worked hard, and you've sent the culmination of all that energy out into the world. You've propelled yourself forward with everything you could, and now all you can do is hang suspended in the air, waiting to see if your ballistic arc is wide enough to carry you to the other side.

Which doesn't make it any more comfortable to be in the midst of that arc, with no visible means of support and no idea if the opposite side is coming any nearer.

All of which is to say, I'm having a tough time waiting to hear back on my yoga audition. My default mode is simply not to think about it and get on with other aspects of my life, and that's working to a degree. But it doesn't help with the fluttery nervous feeling I get when checking my email (even knowing it's far too early to be hearing back), or buying tickets (what if I end up teaching a class right then?), or what have you. I'm used to a strong internal locus of control; it's hard to face the fact that significant forks in my life occur due to the decisions and agendas of people I have little to no influence over (and, often, don't even know exist). But it's good practice in patience and acceptance, I suppose.

Luckily, I have a number of (more prosaic) things to be grateful for in my life right now. My wrenched back is 90% better after less than a week - which surprises and pleases me, given that my wrenched knee took something like a month to get to this point. Massage work is picking up, thanks to the new spa management, seasonal changes, and my being more available post-teacher-training. I have a massage of my own booked for this afternoon. And after years of waiting, tomorrow I go in for my tattoo. There does seem to be something poetically appropriate about having a set of wings drawn in my flesh during a time that I'm hanging suspended from a leap of faith.
missroserose: (Default)
After years of attending classes, working on their cleaning staff, getting to know the teachers and managers, not to mention paying for and attending Teacher Training and Extensions, filling out applications, and getting my CPR certification...I've been invited to audition for a yoga teaching slot at CorePower.

Obviously I'm pleased about this. But it's turning out to be a bit more nerve-wracking than I anticipated. The grapevine has it that 75 people applied to the Uptown studio alone; presumably not all of them are auditioning, but chances are there'll be a lot of people looking to fill just a few available spots. This has always been my concern with CorePower's business model; they market teacher training heavily because it's a big moneymaker for them, but as the local yoga market has reached saturation and their regular teachers settle into their grooves, the number of classes they need taught has shrunk significantly even as their potential supply has grown commensurately larger. I feel like I have some advantages versus the crowd: I've been attending for years and know a lot of folks in the community, I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule, plus I'm already on their payroll, albeit in a very minor capacity. (Cleaning staff are paid minimum wage plus a half-price membership in exchange for at least 1.5 hours of work per week.) But on the other hand, if the rest of the TT groups this go-round were anything like mine, we're going to have a serious glut of talented, capable teachers looking for a spot.

Upon reflection, I suspect what I'm feeling is that sense of insecurity that comes from having put most of your eggs in one basket. I'm not a joiner by nature; I tend to spread myself out, preferring to build minor connections in multiple communities rather than become a central figure in a single community and thus beholden to its failings and dysfunctions. So this whole "being a recognizable face in a large group" thing is new to me. And...it's a little anxiety-inducing, realizing that I've invested a not-inconsiderable amount of time, effort, money, and social capital in a community that may or may not return my investment, whether due to a lack of affection or simply a lack of availability.

None of which is to say it'll be the end of the world if I don't make the cut. It'll mean some changes in my focus, which are always uncomfortable when you've gotten into a habit. But they'll also be opportunities for growth, just in a different direction than the ones I'll face if I do teach for them.

I suppose we'll see which of my patron Five Gods deities shows up on audition day - the Mother of Summer, or the Bastard...
missroserose: (Default)
I haven't been writing a lot here lately, and not even for the usual "I've been too busy" reason (although I have been fairly swamped). For once, I'm actually writing more elsewhere; specifically, part of yoga teacher training is a requirement that you keep a journal of the classes you attend (both yoga classes and training classes) and your thoughts/experiences along the way. It's been a little bit of a pain to find the time, but at the same time I've had a couple of experiences that have illustrated pretty plainly the advantages of having such a record; when you're prone to moodiness and withdrawal, it's helpful to be able to trace the pattern of your swings and see what's been going on in your life at the time. (You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to think back a week or so and figure out what might have triggered things, but brains are notoriously fickle about rationalizing away uncomfortable connections; this is why a common strategy for dealing with addiction is to write down the reason why you're staying clean and keep it in your wallet.)

Given the pretty significant changes that've been going on in my life, then, I feel like I should invest the time in keeping a more consistent record. But...I'm still hesitant to commit, and I can't quite sort out why. It's not like I don't have the time; even with teacher training going on, I can almost certainly stand to use some time I normally spend on Facebook over here on LJ/Dreamwidth instead. Certainly there's some vulnerability involved, especially with blogging on a public platform; but there are privacy settings to deal with that.

I wonder if it's connected to my tendency to avoid writing about unresolved situations/emotions. As I think I've observed before, it's much easier for me to write about something when it's over, or at least when I've made a decision about it; by definition, however, keeping a regular journal is going to mean admitting that there are times when I don't know what to do. Even though I can usually figure it out eventually, that's...difficult. It's important to me to be the person with the answers, who people can come to with their problems; admitting that I don't always have my own life in order, even to myself, is kind of terrifying. Even though (in the way of these things) it's more likely to foster connection with the people who care about me, and thus help make frustrating and unresolved situations more manageable.

In any case, this is some of what I've been ruminating on lately. I don't have an answer yet. But maybe I can use the practice in leaving things unresolved. And unedited. :p
missroserose: (Default)
It's been a weird couple of months.

Contrary to my hopes, the anxiety roller coaster continues. Sometimes I'm fine, content with my place in the world and the sheer good luck I've had to have the life that I do. Sometimes I'm...not depressed, although in some ways it resembles depression. Scattered. Inward-turned. Uninterested in making social plans (although usually if someone invites me, I have a good time). Unable to talk to people as easily as I usually can. Sullen. Brooding.

Some weeks ago, a Facebook acquaintance pointed me at the connection between panic attacks and hypoglycemia. Short version, adrenaline is a sort of ugly hack ([livejournal.com profile] thewronghands's on-the-nose description) when your blood sugar is low; not only does the resulting rush warn you that something's not right with your body, but it also signals your liver to release its emergency-stored glucose, which brings your blood sugar levels back up temporarily. Kinda neat biologically, but not particularly pleasant to experience.

Since discovering this, I've been making a concerted effort to be extra careful with my food intake, keeping simple carbs to a minimum and eating lots of protein and whole grains. It's helped some; certainly my incidences of adrenaline-fueled acute anxiety attacks are down. But, strangely, there are times when I get the mental effects of such attacks (obsessive thoughts, feeling of impending doom, withdrawn and sullen affect) despite lacking the actual adrenal involvement. It's almost like my body's conditioned to respond that way to stress now, despite my knowing that it's not a good coping strategy. (Which would jibe with Brian's observation that at times it looks like I'm intentionally looking for things to be anxious about.) Frustrating.

I'm not sure what to do about this. My profound (and, I think, justified) aversion to our screwed-up physical and mental healthcare system has kept me from seeing a doctor about any of this so far, but if I can't figure out a way to get myself more stable, that may be the next step. Writing or talking about it helps, but that's tougher when I'm in the middle of an episode, since one of the most obvious symptoms is how I suddenly lose interest in either. Breathing and mindfulness exercises may help in the moment. Past that...well, we'll see. One thing I noticed about massage school and yoga both was how, while I was actively learning new things, anxiety attacks were rare. With that partially in mind, I signed up for CorePower's teacher training for this fall. (I still have the same reservations about their corporate culture and business model that I did before, but it wouldn't hurt to have an additional less-physically-intense income stream to supplement massage, and the knowledge crossover and reinforcement is a very real plus, and the community involvement and journaling it'll require both seem likely to be beneficial. And it's not like I have to stick with CorePower exclusively - I'm looking at working for them as a starting point rather than an end goal.)

As an aside, I was recently laughing in rueful recognition at [livejournal.com profile] thewronghands's description of physical fitness as a constantly moving target; as my life has gotten busier and my yoga attendance has dropped, I've gained back a good ten pounds compared to my peak fitness there. Uncomfortably, I'm beginning to realize mental health is much the same. I mean, I thought I had this whole anxiety thing sorted out, and it turns out, nope, that was just temporary. I guess I could be frustrated about that, but I'm going to try and think of it as an opportunity to expand my toolkit instead. Just as soon as I'm done reading this article about the election and how we're all doomed.
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I've written quite a bit about my struggles with anxiety and depression, both in terms of how they feel and how they manifest in my behavior. Yesterday, however, a friend linked to an article that resonated quite a bit: Living With High-Functioning Anxiety.

My experience is somewhat different from the writer's. For one thing, mine tends to move in cycles; there are times when I can't stop the stream of internal criticism, and other times when I feel perfectly normal and happy. For another, even when I'm in an anxious phase, my symptoms aren't usually that severe. But I feel firsthand so much of what she's written. The perfectionism. The need to constantly be busy while avoiding important or high-stakes tasks. The inability to ask for help, because that means admitting you're not capable of handling things on your own. The vacillating between "everyone has it together but you, what's wrong with you" and "other people have things so much worse, what are you complaining about".

Those of you who've been around the past couple years have probably noticed my increasing focus on self-care, mostly through increased physical activity and better diet. (I know that, to some people and in some circumstances, I've come across as more than a little evangelist on this point; to those people, I owe an apology. Yoga and self-care have been quite literally life-changing for me, but I suspect in my exhortations I was ignoring the twin contributions of a move to a much better-for-me environment and a significant socioeconomic boost that came about at the same time.) This has done a lot to stretch out the periods of feeling happier and more balanced. But these past several months, I've been feeling the anxiety creep up on me even with those efforts; this latest bout has lasted some weeks.

Another link from a friend, Life Hacks of the Poor and Aimless, has shed some light on what's been going on in my subconscious. Laurie Penny posits that my demographic's obsession with self-care isn't in spite of the scary events going on in the rest of the world, but is in fact a reaction to that very sense of helplessness. We can't refill the Ogallala aquifer, or stop ourselves hurtling past the carbon emission point of no return, or fix a broken political system, or avert any number of other disasters that seem to loom over the horizon. So we turn our focus selfward instead, and convince ourselves that by practicing "radical self-love" we can find happiness - and, on this philosophy's darker side, feel as if we're insufficient when our self-care practice fails to adequately substitute for a stable and functioning social contract.

And yet, the answer can't be to give up self-care entirely. One of my favorite yoga teachers would probably fit Penny's description of an "Instagram happiness guru", or at least an aspiring one. But I go to her classes regularly, because she makes a real effort to make them a safe place, where we can work on self-improvement without judgment. When it feels like the world is falling apart around us, where there's no good answer or right thing we can do to stop things hurtling toward a horrible conclusion, there's a real value in that sort of centering, in exercising that little bit of control we do still have. I always leave her classes feeling more hopeful, more able to focus on the positive aspects of my life. It doesn't always overcome the overall sense of helplessness, but it provides a bulwark, a small protection for my sanity that helps me keep a more even outlook.

And let's not kid ourselves - outlook is important. It's a lot easier to focus on the positives, to work towards making the world a better place in those hundreds of small ways that seem insignificant but are far more likely to ripple out into something lasting, if we're feeling energized and stable and hopeful for the future. Zeitgeist matters; the more we become convinced that the world is headed for disaster, the more likely it is that we will bring that disaster on ourselves. No single one of us can prevent it, no, but by each doing what we can to help raise each others' spirits, perhaps we can improve our collective future.

That's what I feel in my more hopeful moments, anyway. During those times when the anxiety starts to build, when (to paraphrase Brian) I spend more and more time either absorbed in news articles or staring off into the distance, I start to think that this is what my friends and family felt like during the Cold War. Those awful moments of hope mixed with increasing dread, that encroaching certainty that the worst will happen, it was just a question of how and when. It's not a fun feeling; I especially hate how it robs me of the ability to enjoy things in my life here and now, when the worst (whatever that might be) hasn't yet happened, and may not at all.

I've been thinking, too, about my earlier post on paradox, and how essential it is to our existence, even though it's uncomfortable and difficult for us to accept. Perhaps this is how humans get into these destructive spirals in the first place: we don't like uncertainty, we want things to be good or bad. And if things stay uncertain enough for long enough, if the constructive future feels too difficult or too far away, eventually we pick the bad option, just for the relief of knowing the uncertainty is over. Perhaps this is why it's so important to practice holding our paradoxes: that anxiety and depression are challenges to overcome and perfectly reasonable reactions to an increasingly scary world; that we need to focus on taking care of ourselves and fighting for a better society; that we can contribute meaningfully to our collective future and we're dependent on other people to help us build that future.

My head is not the happiest place, of late. But I hope getting these thoughts out in the open will help, if only in the sense of lancing the wound. And to everyone whom I owe letters, or a phone call, or words of comfort - I'm sorry I've been so unresponsive lately. Hopefully this will go some measure towards explaining why.
missroserose: (Default)
Happy summer, world! Technically the solstice isn't until the 20th, but proper summer weather has finally shown up here in Chicago (in all of its roller-coaster glory -- 93 today, 68 tomorrow, 90 on Monday, and high seventies for the rest of the week), and this weekend is Andersonville's Swedish Midsommarfest. Which I'm sure Petra would say is hardly a proper Midsommar, not being in Sweden and not even on the right day, but there's live music and booze and good food and hey, this is Chicago. Någon förevändning för en fest!

In further summer-y news, I finally have a working bike! Last fall I bought a 1985 Schwinn Sprint road bike from a friend who was moving; what with the colder weather coming on and my having zero experience with urban biking, it promptly went into the storage unit. I'd almost forgotten about it until our local bike shop opened a pop-up right by my train stop; after a couple weeks of procrastination, I finally got the bike out of storage and did some research on it. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't an expensive bike to begin with, and this model (and ten-speeds in general) seem to be pooh-poohed by the cycling community, at least in the threads I found. Still, it felt solid enough, so I took it to the shop for an exam and (presuming it was road-worthy) tune-up. After a minor repair, the mechanic said it would absolutely get me around fine; it's not the fancy fendered Dutch cruiser I'd been envisioning, but even with the steel frame it's a heck of a lot easier to carry up the steps and store on our porch. (And, not to put too fine a point on it, it's not going to be a target for thieves the way a newer/fancier bike would - this is Chicago.)

Yesterday I took it out for its inaugural journey, a half-mile stretch along Broadway with its relatively new bike lane. There's one intersection in particular that can get a little hairy, with a loading zone for a stretch of restaurants where trucks regularly park partway in the bike lane, right before all the turning cars cross over to get in the turn lane. I ended up stopping behind the parked truck on the red light, and letting all the cars go by after the light changed before proceeding. (Luckily there weren't any impatient cyclists behind me; I can't imagine such a tactic going over well in traffic.) I also noped out of attempting a left turn to get to my destination - in my defense, the intersection is under a train overpass and in the midst of construction both, with obscured sight lines everywhere. But it wasn't precisely difficult to hop off the bike, roll it onto the sidewalk, and cross at the crosswalk. Another advantage a lighter road bike has over a cruiser -- I can walk it one-handed.

On the whole the trip was actually a lot less scary than I thought it would be, despite being made around rush hour. Having a designated bike lane definitely helps, as does already being familiar with the traffic patterns in my neighborhood. And while I'm definitely less protected on a bike than in a car, I'm also much more maneuverable, and speedier than on foot -- although I can see why some folks look down on ten-speeds; there's definitely a point where it feels like I could be going faster if I had the gearing. But I don't need to zip down the road at that speed quite yet. So I think I'll do okay -- at the very least, it gives me another option for getting to the yoga studio if the bus is running late. Now to get a rack and panniers for grocery runs.

Partially related: this morning I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a truck, despite having slept ten hours, and having tried to be more aware of my activity levels the previous week. I suspect the combination of a busy couple of days at the spa, plus yoga, plus the (short) bike ride and various walking-around-in-nice-weather activities all kind of added up. Luckily some Advil and Emergen-C and a nap (my personal cure-all) did the trick; hopefully my body will acclimate to the increased activity level soon.
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My life looks very different now as compared to a year ago.

On the whole, it's a set of changes I'm pleased with. I've made a number of friends; found a career path; found a clinic job, a couple of fill-in gigs, and a number of private clients; I've enthused about my new career to lots of people and handed out lots of business cards, and generally made a start at establishing myself as a therapist, especially in the local yoga community. I'm in the process of making my first major job change, from the clinic to a spa in a swanky hotel, working for a woman I like and respect very much, with possible future management opportunities if I want to pursue them. I'm making an effort to continue learning in my field. I'm bringing in some income again, with a lot of potential ahead for more. My social calendar is filling up and my work calendar is as well, and so far I've been pretty successful at juggling the two.

The tradeoff, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been a corresponding increase in anxiety, despite regular yoga-going. Of course, being me, I didn't realize it at first; I'm excellent at sublimating anxiety and turning it into fuel. I merely attributed the stiffness in my shoulders to unaccustomed workload and figured I was just focusing extra hard and therefore not particularly talkative, until Brian finally sat me down and said "So...you've been really moody and hard to live with lately, what's going on?" and I put two and two together, took a deep breath, and almost broke down crying.

I've been trying hard not to berate myself over it; it's perfectly reasonable that the measures I took to keep my mood issues in check for the past couple of years aren't going to be sufficient for such a dramatic lifestyle change. It's hard, though; some part of me feels like this is a failing on my part, that I should have at least seen this coming and accounted for it. Then there's the ever-present fear that it was the even-keeled-ness that was the exception, that the stress => anxiety => moodiness => depression cycle is my natural state that I'll always return to. And it certainly didn't help when, roundabout the middle of the month when things hit a nadir, I sabotaged myself by subsisting almost entirely on junk food for a week, until I put myself in the blood sugar loop-de-loops and nearly passed out at work. (Brownies. Not breakfast food. Also, my Achilles' heel.)

So I'm working on climbing up out of that trench...again. Awareness is turning out to be a big part of the equation - noticing when my focus starts to narrow, when my stride starts to get that extra spring in it, when I start having difficulty keeping the flow of a conversation going because my brain keeps circling around one particular topic. Self-care comes next; massage is helpful, as are meditative exercises (and keeping focused on the meditative aspects when at my yoga classes). Eating well, of course, which means planning out time for grocery shopping and food prep rather than letting all of that slide so that the only thing available for breakfast is a brownie. I've also invested in some bottles of Soylent, despite my dislike of the "high-tech disruptive food of the future!" cult that's sprung up around it; the fact is, it does a good job keeping my blood sugar steady on days when I don't have the time to make/eat a full breakfast, so I'm going to keep some around regularly, Brian's aesthetic objections notwithstanding. ("It tastes like watery oats and sadness!")

I may also try reiki in the future. I'd tried a couple of sessions as part of a massage trade, and they were pleasant and produced some interesting effects, but nothing I would have called "therapeutic", exactly. But yesterday I had an interesting experience. I took a yoga class taught by the woman I'd done trades with; it was an excellent class in its own right, but towards the end when we were all in savasana, she was going around doing a bit of reiki on people. Busy floating along on endorphins, I wasn't even aware of where she was; then at one point I felt a discrete tingle all through my lower torso, and I had just enough time to wonder what had caused it before her hands came down on my hips. And...well, I'm not quite sure how to describe the sensation; y'all know I'm a little distrustful of experiences that can't be quantified. But physically, I could feel myself relaxing, and emotionally...I felt like a dried-out sponge that someone had just put into a pan of water. After class, she commented, "You were seriously ready for that reiki!" and I couldn't disagree. So perhaps I'll see if she wants to do another trade or two in the future.

And then there's needing to take time for myself. I think this might be the biggest piece of the puzzle; I was looking at my schedule recently and realizing that, while I've had some downtime between shifts/appointments/social engagements, it's been a few weeks since I had a solid day or two with no commitments. Some people can function just fine being "always on"; unfortunately, I need to face the fact that I'm not one of them, and I need downtime. It's frustrating, because there's always something that needs doing, or someone I haven't seen in a while whom I'd like to hang out with, which makes it easy to feel guilty; I think letting go of that guilt over prioritizing myself is going to be key to sustaining this pace.
missroserose: (Default)
It's 6:30 AM on Christmas Eve, and rather than sleeping like a normal person (or a normal person without children), my brain is apparently wide awake. Not unpleasantly so, oddly; I think knowing that I have plenty of time to catch up on sleep is helpful in keeping the "must get back to sleep/can't sleep, going to be short on sleep/must get back to sleep" stress cycle at bay. But enough that coming out to the living room and making tea and sitting and admiring the Christmas tree felt like an attractive option.

I've been writing letters to, and gradually getting to know, a friend-of-a-friend who's going through a tough transitionary period in her life. We've been Facebook acquaintances for years but (as transitions often are) she's pretty lonely right now, with a lot of difficult issues and contradictory beliefs and unhelpful coping mechanisms to sort through. And at one point, she said something along the lines of this: "Tell me about your life. Because I read your posts and I wonder if you're really that happy."

This hit a bit of a nerve, and has resulted in quite a bit of rumination. Not because I'm unhappy, but because of the context. See, one of the issues I've struggled with most, both in person and on social media, is the desire to always appear happy and content, no matter my actual emotional state. It's both a way of defending myself and my life choices - if I'm happy, no one can question whether I've done the 'right' things in life, can they? - and, in a way, a form of revenge. All those people who've wished me ill over the course of my life can just eat it.

Obviously there are a lot of problems with this; for one thing, as I've discovered over the past decade or so, vulnerability is a powerful social tool, and studiously refusing to use it hamstrings your interpersonal interactions. But the more pertinent issue here, I think, is that it's just not possible for anyone to be happy all the time. We talk about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in this country as if the first two will naturally lead to the third, and perhaps they do: the key word being pursuit. Even "hap", the root word of "happy", literally means "luck" or "chance"; hence why we also see it in "happenstance", "haphazard", and "hapless". For all that our culture is poised to sell you happiness at a moment's notice, guaranteed, we completely ignore that most of our moments of happiness are more like a cat in a sunbeam. Even if we don't change, the sunbeam moves on; our mental balancing point reasserts itself. (The flipside, of course, is that people who go through horrible experiences also eventually get back to that balancing point. It just doesn't make sense, from a survival standpoint, for us to be constantly on one end of the scale or the other.)

And then there's the question of whether we're talking about short- or long-term. When I woke up and opened my computer, I had about two-thirds of a blog post written, complaining about a bunch of miscellaneous stuff - petty things like waking up and being out of coffee, or forgetting my work clothes and having to block off the first half-hour of my schedule so I could get new ones; all the way up to more overarching things like being exhausted from a six-hour shift at the chiropractor's and my crazy schedule making it feel like I'd practically missed Christmas this year. But before I could finish it and click "post", Brian and I had dinner and watched some Star Trek, and the food and relaxation time helped recharge my cope - enough that I decided not to post my whining, since none of it was really all that important; I simply had been losing perspective thanks to exhaustion and low blood sugar.

Long-term, though, could take us all the way back to the beginnings of this blog, almost exactly twelve years ago, which was the first time someone asked me if I was happy with my life. I would say I'm much happier now than I was then, in large part due to figuring out a set of goals, and how to achieve them in a way that fits with my strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, that doesn't mean that I don't get frustrated or upset at times. But I think the better life circumstances, combined with learning and practicing better self-love and self-care, have helped to move my usual balance point up the happiness scale. And because I like myself much better, it's much easier to genuinely care for others, too.

So yes, ultimately, I think I am that happy. I know it's partly due to several spectacular runs of luck, and that it's an ongoing project (once again, the key word is pursuit); I also know that it's probable that I'll have less happy periods in the future, whether due to loss or environmental change or just the pain that comes as an inevitable part of living with and caring for other people. Which is partly why I try to spend less time complaining about petty things, and more time being grateful for what I have now, and the people I get to share it with. <3
missroserose: (After the Storm)
Longtime readers might remember Adora Belle, a cat we adopted some years ago as a companion for Dexter shortly after Mr. Jerry Brown died. She'd had an unhappy past, shunted between multiple homes as her various families left town, at least one of which had mistreated her, but was a very sweet and affectionate cat when she wasn't feeling skittish. Unfortunately, when Brian and I went on our honeymoon, she ran off, probably afraid that she was going to end up somewhere else unhappy. I can't really blame her, but as you might guess, we were rather sad about it - I think Brian in particular felt like he'd failed her.

Six months or so after we moved, we got word that she was still in the area. As it happened, one of our former neighbors took her on, making up a warm dry place for her to sleep under the house and putting out food for her. They've gotten to be friends over the years; Taf (the neighbor) spent quite a lot of time hanging out on her porch talking to her, while Adora Belle sat on the stump nearby and listened.

A week or so ago, I got a message from a mutual acquaintance that Taf was in the process of selling her house and had decided to trap Adora Belle and take her to the humane society, as that seemed the best option. I got in contact with Taf, who was more than a little torn up about the decision - she's an older cat, and with her history might have trouble finding a home, especially in Juneau where options are limited - and assured her that we'd be happy to take her in. She did manage to trap Adora Belle, and took her to the humane society for assessment and to make sure she was still in good health; luckily they said she was skittish but still in good mental shape, and got her shots and dewormed and de-fleaed. (Taf was kind enough to foot the bill for all of this; she must really love her too.) Thanks to them and our friend Jeanne (who, serendipitously, works for Alaska Airlines), she got on the red-eye flight last night, and will soon be waiting for us at the cargo office.

Last night I cleaned up the second bedroom, and we went over to the PetSmart that (conveniently) just opened on the next block over, and got her a bed and a new litterbox and a few toys and food dishes. So now I just have to go navigate the massive distortion of space-time that is O'Hare's satellite neighborhood and find the Alaska Airlines cargo office (no mean feat), rescue Adora Belle from the labyrinth, and bring her home. I'm excited, if also nervous - she got along with Dexter fine, but we've acquired Leo and Tripp in the interim, and frankly we never had plans to be a four-cat household. But Taf has told us that if she doesn't fit in here she'll take her once her house is sold and she's moved, so she won't be without a home no matter what happens.

I do hope everything goes well and she fits in here, though. I've missed her more than I realized.
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Last Friday night, I had a very bad reaction to NyQuil.

To call it unexpected would be something of an understatement; NyQuil has always been my go-to cold medicine. When I've got a sore throat, am coughing too hard to sleep, or am otherwise miserable with a cold, it's always been there for me, willing to knock me out for a few hours of much-needed rest. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say I've probably taken it a hundred times over the past several years. Even this past week I'd taken it a few times - I've been dealing with a lingering cough and scratchy throat from the Swedish flu, which seems to get worse at night.

But this time, something in the chemistry was off. Instead of falling asleep and waking up in the morning, I awoke after two hours, heart pounding and blood pressure skyrocketing...only to nearly lose consciousness as it bottomed out a few minutes later. I had tremors, sweats, chills, nausea, and all the other symptoms of a bad flu, made worse by the clockwork shots of adrenaline that jolted my system every half-hour or so.

Since sleep was out of the question, I put the time to use doing what few things I could - Googling the symptoms (they all checked out as less-severe uncommon side effects of the drug), making and drinking tea to stay hydrated, and taking deep breaths and firmly telling myself that this was temporary, that I would make it through this. That last was rather more difficult than it sounds with the regular adrenaline dumps, but it was pretty much all I could do, so I did. (I would like to add with some minor grumpiness that, had I been in Sweden or just about any other first-world nation and could go to the ER without it costing literally thousands of dollars, I would have checked myself in for observation - "liver failure" was listed as a "severe" possible side effect. But I decided against it and instead checked my skin and the whites of my eyes every hour or so to make sure I wasn't showing signs of jaundice.)

Quite frankly, I was fucking terrified. In precisely the primal, hindbrain, violent sense that phrase evokes.

---

It's occurred to me, as I've been listening to the book on trauma that I was wrote about in my last post, that this qualified as a mildly traumatic experience - I was in fear for my life and I could do very little about it; even once it was past, I couldn't shake the feeling that it could recur, despite (obviously) avoiding NyQuil since then. And as I started to pick up the pieces of my daily routine, I realized that I could observe all the stages of healthy-person trauma recovery that Dr. van der Kolk discusses. I found words to describe the experience (naming and articulation). I reached out to friends and family for support (social connection). When I experienced some minor avoidance and flashback issues -- difficulty getting to sleep the next night despite being exhausted; performing a massage in an unusually warm room yesterday and, as I started to sweat, feeling my heart rate and blood pressure rise -- I dealt with them using deep breathing and centering techniques, reminding myself that this was not the past (reestablishment of temporal perception). And, gradually, my brain has been able to put the experience in the past (integration), instead of being constantly on alert, convinced that it will happen again.

---

Recently I've been ruminating on The Pictures are Pretty but the Struggle is Real, a plea for us to "be real" on the Internet. The author's a little fuzzy on the definition of "real", but suggests that we need to be honest about the things we're struggling with, to allow some of the rougher edges of our lives to show, in the hopes of better connecting with other people.

My feelings on this are...complex. I applaud her intent, but I think she glosses over a lot of the complexities of honesty and sharing. I think [livejournal.com profile] alexmegami had an excellent point over on Facebook: "The Internet is also home of the overshare. I question the ability to be fully yourself with an audience of hundreds or more. While I'm not opposed to honesty...a fight with your spouse is not something to be blasting across the tubes the day of or the day after or even within a week or two, especially without their okay." Vulnerability is powerful; misusing that power to hurt others is not cool, even if you genuinely need help.

And that's not even addressing the question of degrees. Is saying "I'm having a rough time of it today" any less honest than saying "My partner and I had a huge fight over moving today"? Is making a joke to put a humorous spin on a scary situation, as I did with NyQuil by announcing our breakup on Facebook, any less "real" than admitting how terrified I was, as I did above? Heck, is it somehow less honest of me to wait a few days to blog about it, until after I'd had some distance and time to process, than it would have been to write a mostly-incoherent in-the-moment accounting?

There's a lot to be said for the power of vulnerability: used conscientiously, it can be a powerful invitation to sympathy and connection. As [personal profile] peacefulleigh put it: "I strike a balance, or at least I try to, with triumphs and moments of frustration. But even in the latter, the point is not honesty, it's connectedness. I know that my friends have either felt that way too, or we can all laugh together at my foibles later."

And there, I think, is the key. There's nothing wrong with honesty (or "real"ness) in and of itself, just as there's nothing wrong with preferring to present a more polished appearance to the world. But neither of them are an end unto themselves. The point is connection; remembering that we need to strike a balance between reaching out from a position of power ("Look how thoughtful and smart and together I am!") and vulnerability ("I'm really scared about this and need help"). Maybe one's success on social media (and in the social world in general) is best measured in connections made. I think that's what I'm going to experiment with, ultimately; if I feel like I'm not engaging with people, I'll check to see if I'm spending too much time in one mode or the other. Which, yes, will probably require me being vulnerable a little more often. Sigh.
missroserose: (Default)
--My goddaughter is here! Sophie was born last Wednesday, and (judging by the pictures) is tiny and adorable and only looks a little like a squashed potato. (Or Winston Churchill. Or Yoda. Newborns. *grins*) I can't wait to meet her in a month! And to see Donna; it's been far too long.

--The first week of my new job went well. Lots of requests for the standard fluff-and-buff, but I did get to work on one man who was right up my alley - his muscles were all knotted up from schlepping suitcases around, and some myofascial and trigger point work did wonders. The receptionist told me later that he couldn't say enough good things about me. He's not local, sadly, but his employer has an office here; I did tell him I'd love to see him again when he's in town next. We'll see. So far this upcoming week is looking pretty slow, but that's life at the bottom of the totem pole - priority for appointments is given based on the hours you were available in the previous month, which with my current schedule should put me solidly in the middle of the pack come November.

--Brian was in Dallas for work all last week...and has to go back today for another week. Boo. I don't mind the time alone, in principle - I can set the thermostat to whatever I want, or better yet, turn off the A/C completely and throw open the doors and windows! - but two weeks at a go starts to feel lonely. As independent as I fancy myself, I've lived with someone else nearly continuously for more than a decade now; that kind of time spent leaves an imprint in your life and habits. (And let's face it, he's pretty cool to have around. Half of my more clever quips I steal from him.)

--I picked up a copy of The Body Keeps The Score on an Audible Daily Deal, and it's turned out to be completely fascinating. I initially thought it would be about the ways our body reacts to trauma, a useful thing to learn about for a massage therapist; as it happens, while it touches on that subject, it's turned out to be more about the neurological effects and how they affect the body and mind of trauma victims both. Fascinating stuff, but what's really been eye-opening for me is the discussion of victims of childhood trauma - neglect, abuse, molestation. These people display a well-known constellation of symptoms - difficulty with emotional regulation, propensity toward obesity or anorexia, high likelihood of self-harm, high predisposition toward autoimmune disorders like lupus or fibromyalgia, and a significant lack of bodily awareness, among others - but the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the "psychiatrist's bible") has no separate diagnosis for the condition, and the completely drug-oriented treatment framework that's sadly the norm now doesn't help either. So they'll reach a crisis point and seek help, and be diagnosed with depression, or bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, or (if they have a particularly observant therapist whom they trust enough to open up to) post-traumatic stress disorder, and be given drugs to 'treat' that disorder, which won't help long-term because their problems stem from neural patterns and behaviors that were (tragically) adaptive in their earlier years.

This particular bit of knowledge slots nicely into a gap I've been wondering about for years now. I was initially a psychology major in college, but I got discouraged precisely because the field seemed to be all about figuring out which drugs treated what problems, regardless of the person's background or experiences or anything else about them. In all fairness, I know some people for whom such drugs are life-changing; however, in the years since then, I've also had a number of friends who fit exactly the profile described in the book - they've been in and out of doctors' offices for years, trying to figure out why they feel broken and nothing seems to help. Many of them have managed to have amazing lives nonetheless; now that I have some idea of why life has been so difficult for them, I'm even more in awe of their accomplishments. I'm looking forward to listening to the section on treatment strategies, as well; it's good to know there are people working on strategies that actually help these people, even when the medical establishment refuses to recognize their problem.

--I was petting Dexter the other day when I realized that he's developed several more little white furs on his face. In retrospect, this is hardly surprising - he's twelve or thirteen years old, after all - but it startled me a little that I hadn't noticed until now. We humans are so good at seeing what we expect to see, and it's sometimes a little discouraging how easily we fall prey to the assumption that life is fundmentally unchanging. Often it takes something momentous - a birth, a death, a wedding, a career change, a betrayal - to make us realize exactly how time's been passing, and things and people have been changing, despite our merry assumptions of stasis.

I don't really have any great conclusion or insight to this observation, but it's interesting to me how even though we experience time in a linear fashion, we certainly don't perceive it that way. It reinforces my conviction that it's important to take the time to really listen to each other and connect, rather than just taking each others' presence for granted.

And I should definitely spend more time petting my cat.
missroserose: (Default)
Some years ago, I was in a production of King Island Christmas - a somewhat idealized yet genuinely touching musical telling of a crisis that happened to a rural Alaskan island in the 1950s, and how the community overcame it.

The music is genuinely good - inspirational without being cloying, up there with the best Disney musicals. Unfortunately, there was only one cast recording made and it doesn't seem to have made it into the digital music stores, or onto YouTube, so I don't have a link or even a lyric reference sheet. But one of the songs, sung by the Oomiak (a walrus-skin boat traditionally used for hunting/transport by many Alaska native tribes, and a pivotal character in the story), remains one of my favorites. Mostly what I remember is the chorus: "Everything must change, it has always been this way/Tomorrow you and I won't be who we are today/It used to make me sad that my walrus life was through/But now I'm feeling glad that I'm doing something new."

It's occurred to me before, often, that our (referring to Western, mostly white culture) attitude toward disconnections - breakups/divorces, rejections, firings/layoffs, deaths - is somewhat incomplete.

In our cultural narrative, we treat social disconnection as a tragic experience to be avoided at all costs. And often it is! But in our focus on the pain in the moment, we so often overlook the other half of the story. Because without destruction, without disconnection, there's no room in our lives for anything new to grow. You can't build a new house without pulling down the old one that's sitting on the foundation. You can't build new friendships if your time is taken up with people you're ambivalent about. You can't find a job you genuinely enjoy if you're working full time at something that's kinda meh.

None of this is to minimize how tough this kind of disconnection can be. Even when it's been a long time coming and you know you'll be better off for it, it's difficult; in cases where it's sudden and traumatic, it can blindside you with the pain. Opportunities for growth always come twinned with times of profound vulnerability; like a crab shedding its shell, someone in a state of disconnection is going to need time to regrow their defenses.

This is why it's so important to reach out to people we care about when they're experiencing disconnection. Yes, it feels awkward, and maybe like you're bothering then when they want to be left alone. Sometimes they may even lash out at you, and in those cases there's often nothing you can do. But being there for someone in crisis, as much as they'll let you; listening to them if they want to talk, or just sitting with them so they don't have to be alone, is a profound thing in itself.

And although I don't have statistics to back it up, I would bet solid money that the quality and timbre of a person's social interactions in such a period have a measurable effect on the quality of the life that they rebuild for themselves.
missroserose: (Incongruity)
I've been in Anchorage a few days now, and driving around quite a bit. It's still the town I grew up in, but it's also growing rapidly, even since I was here over Thanksgiving. I see more and more names I recognize from other places - Mens Wearhouse, Target, Massage Envy, Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, Sephora. Mid-tier chains and franchises that until now I've mostly associated with Tucson, or Phoenix, or Chicago. I even saw a sign for an outlet mall coming soon.

And yet, through it all, it's still Alaska. The Chugach range still sits to the east, watching in its timeless stoicism even as houses creep up along its foothills. Rather than groomed public parks with carefully-planted trees, most of the green is patches of wild overgrown birch and spruce forest left between even the newest housing developments. Wildlife wanders unafraid through people's yards, or visits the zoo of a morning.

Sometimes I feel like I can see the seams between the place I grew up and the place that's here now: the slightly brighter paint where such-and-such a section of the Dimond Center has been renovated to make way for a new anchor tenant, or the grocery store that now sits on the field where I used to braid daisy chains. Sometimes, if I tilt my head and unfocus my eyes a little, I can almost see them both there, in the same space at the same time, and I wonder if our nostalgic mourning for things lost is fundamentally shortsighted.

---

While colorful hair is not unknown here, it's somewhat rarer than it is in Chicago, and I thus get rather more comments when I'm out and about.  

The other day, I heard a little girl in a shopping cart squeal "She has pink hair!" I told her that where I live, there are people with pink hair and purple hair and green hair and blue hair and orange hair. Somewhat to my surprise, this didn't seem to shock her at all - in fact, she added with some certainty, "And violet!" I nodded and agreed, yes, violet hair was quite common.

I suspect that she already spends some time in a world where people have hair in every color of the rainbow. So I was merely confirming her knowledge that such a place had to exist in this world as well.

---

When I told my acquaintances that I was going to Alaska for a visit, I received numerous exhortations to post lots of pictures, mostly from my yoga friends.  I suspect they thought I was coming here to go hiking, or camping, or fishing, or any of the numerous (and wonderful!) outdoorsy opportunities, and would thus be posting pictures of Alaska's awe-inspiring landscape.

In truth, though I may wander out to Thunderbird Falls or a similarly-easy hike later, for now I'm pleased simply to spend time with my mother, who doesn't go many places other than home and work.  So here are some of my vacation pictures so far.

The house at the edge of the world
This is my mother's townhouse, which a local friend referred to recently as "the house at the edge of the world".  It's surprisingly apt - it's on top of the hill, overlooking the Seward Highway, an interstitial space if ever there was one.  In the summer it's a tree house, with the living room's large picture windows surrounded by birch trees in full leaf.  In the winter, it becomes a hilltop castle, overlooking mountains and rivers and even the ocean in the distance.

View from the edge of the worldThis is the view between two of the trees on the left in the previous photo.  Normally the Chugach range is visible here, but last night it went to bed early and pulled the cloud blanket up over its head.

My mother's living room
This is my mother's very comfortable living room.  I like to sit here with a lap desk and read or write letters while she bustles about in the kitchen behind me, or does beadwork nearby.

The path behind the house
This is a bike path that runs along my mother's subdivision.  Its destination (a business/shopping complex with a supermarket and a post office) is perhaps a bit prosaic, but it's surprisingly pretty along the way.  There's enough dense growth even in these cut-down little greenbelts to get whiffs of that proper mulchy forest smell, especially in autumn.  

An Alaskan attempt at charcuterie.Alaska, having long been ranked #50 out of 50 states when it comes to good restaurants, has been making great strides of late, especially in Anchorage.  Unfortunately, it's still got a ways to go, as this rather sad attempt at a "charcuterie board" at a passing-for-trendy local hotspot shows.  (Sharp-eyed readers may notice something missing.) Still, they're trying - they've got a nice mixture of relishes, here, and the presentation is nice.  And in all fairness, it was only half as expensive as a charcuterie board in Chicago.

Brian (by his own admission) has an Argo Tea problem, to the point where he will at times walk five extra blocks to get to an Argo Tea because "it's on the way".  I was entertained to find a rack of their pre-bottled tea at the Natural Pantry up here, and texted him this picture with the comment, "It's *always* on the way!"

Fireweed - my birthday flower
Growing up, we nicknamed fireweed my "birthday flower", because it always first starts to bloom in mid-July.  It's one of the things I truly miss about Alaska, and more than once I've tried to dye my hair this color.

Turnagain arm, just south of AnchorageSomething else I genuinely miss:  having drives like Turnagain Arm literally just south of town.  In Chicago, I almost never drive if I can avoid it - it's a chore, something you do to get from one place to another.  Out here, there are so many beautiful places only accessible by car.

Balcony garden
My mother's balcony garden always seems to me to be the essence of the phrase "a riot of color". You can almost hear those firecracker begonias crackling and popping, the strident purple pansies demanding your attention while the miscellaneous hubbub of the violas fills the cracks.

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