vintagewitch: (Default)
 Went to see my grandma today. She is such a sweet woman, and really quite remarkable. Cut: Medical details )
There was a steady stream of visitors all day - five people other than my mom and I came and went while I was there. I got a good hour alone with her, which very rarely happens and is nice.

I hope I can go up and see her again soon - she does so well most of the time that it's easy to forget just how old she is, and how limited our remaining time together could be. I hope she's able to gain full movement in her arm - she still cooks everything from scratch, bakes all her own bread (and the bread for many others), reads, crochets, and plays cards. She's really worried about what it could mean for her if she can't gain mobility back.

My gratitude list is pretty closely related for today:

1. I am so so so grateful that my grandmother has good medical care, and an extensive network of family and friends that can help support her. 

2. I am also grateful that I live within a couple hours' drive of her, so that I could actually go see her.

3. I am grateful for my mother. She is an incredibly caring woman, and watching her help my grandma gives me new appreciation for just how loving and wonderful she is.

My pride list is mostly related to school:

1. I am proud of myself for managing my anxiety this week. Holy wow it's been stressful, but I somehow managed to be present for family and get my things done and sorted and move along for grad school.

2. I am proud of how I finished up my first week of grad school. It was hard at the start, but I'm feeling much more confident now after speaking with my academic adviser. 

3. Milestones. Just gonna recognize how much work it's taken to get here.
vintagewitch: (Default)
TRIGGER WARNING: I'm not placing this entry under a cut, mainly because I want to be open about my depression, which also means allowing this content to be that much more visible. There is no suicidal ideation - just depression and anxiety. BUT if you are really suffering right now and don't have the spoons or the energy to devote to reading this post, PLEASE skip past it. 

This week has been rough. I wasn't expecting that when it started. Most of Monday went very well, but then I got the call from my mom that my grandma was in the hospital and I totally flipped. Transitions are always hard for me, and I thought I was sooooo prepared for this one but clearly I was not. What came up for me this week was intense regret - regret that I haven't been able to make a career as a community organizer work without a master's degree, and shame that I'm starting school. It's a signal of failure. I didn't miraculously do it on my own - I didn't land the job I wanted to, I didn't accomplish what I set out to accomplish when I graduated with my BA.

Which the logical part of my brain knows is a total fallacy. I have made the best decisions I could make, all along this road, based on the information that I had. There are very few jobs in my chosen field, and about a dozen (or multiple dozens of) qualified candidates for each position, and so much of it is about being the right person in the right place at the right time. And when I'm suffering from depression and anxiety, it's so much harder to prove that I am that right person, or to see opportunities in spite of anxiety. It's so much harder to put myself in that right place.

Earlier today I read this fantastic article at The Hairpin - it's basically a conversation between very articulate women who suffer from depression. This conversation right here nailed some serious nuances of what it means to have mental health issues, and it really resonated with me. And particularly this quote:

"Relying on external validation is easy, right? We have so many examples of what it means to gain a sense of self from what other people say about us, what positions or awards or bylines we get, who chooses to associate with us. And all those things can be incredibly gratifying! But at the end of the day, depression will find a way to make you think every last one of those things isn’t worth a damn. The act of cultivating a love for yourself that isn’t contingent on markers of validation feels not just cute but imperative."

I need to cultivate that self-love. I need to truly accept that success isn't always about being offered the job you want, or about getting the grant, or about being honored with some award. And what's more - I can do everything in my power to get a job, to be that successful woman in charge of campaigns or research, doing what she loves - but there will always be things that are outside of my control. I can't make anyone hire me - I can only make the most of the opportunities I'm given, that I've worked for.

So I need to claim success on my own terms. And the biggest part of that? Accepting me in all my glory, no matter where I'm at or what I'm doing. No matter what my job is, or how many creative projects I have going, or how "stable" I feel. I need to recognize that I have power, that I have creative energy, no matter what my employment situation. I need to find ways to make validation come from within.

And that is not easy. 

Writing this entry is one step of that process. Articulating this journey in words is a step in a right direction.

A friend of mine posted that she was declaring this Self-Care September for her, and I think I'm gonna jump on that bandwagon. She's got all sorts of ideas that will work for her, and I have only a couple, but it's a start.

Here's my list:

1. Gratitude/Pride Journal: Each day write down three things I am either grateful for or proud of having accomplished.

2. Feed Myself: Make and keep food that nourishes me, that doesn't make me feel sick, and don't forget to eat when I'm at school. This will probably look like planning out my week around food every Sunday.

3. Allow Time to Recharge: I'm taking the train to and from school every day. I'm going to set aside at least one way of my commute for reading something not connected to school, like readin knitting, or to journaling. 

4. Implement an Envelope Budget: Basically, all the income for my full semester is going to be given to me up front (from loans and scholarships), and I have Anxiety about that. So, to make sure that I'm toeing the line, I'm going to operate on a mainly-cash basis. Every month, I'll withdraw an amount of cash that I have budgeted for specific things. And when the cash is gone - it's gone. Matt also really likes this idea, so he'll be helping out with it.

Those aren't huge shifts - They're more like being mindful of certain triggers. I didn't want to pen myself in to something I can't maintain, especially because there's just a huge schedule shift that's going to happen with grad school. But it's a start.

I think I'm most excited about #1 (and might share with you all.)

What have you found that works for self care? What strategies do you use to manage mental illness? I'd love to hear from you if you're willing to share!
vintagewitch: (writer between drafts)
 I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT!

After my post a couple of days ago, I really did get to sit down and write, and wow - 5,500+ words later, I have a finished draft!

I have learned SO MUCH from writing this draft. And it kind of blows my mind that after two years of writing, storyboarding, doubting myself, changing direction, I have finally made it to the end. I am SO excited to start the editing process, but I'm probably going to wait a month before digging in to that. I think distance will be key - granted, the first 50,000 words were written in November 2013, but I think even with that I still need a little space.

BUT HOLY HELL IT'S DONE!!!!!
vintagewitch: (UP Coast Perhaps)
 I've been meaning to write a sort-of retrospective on the year since my birthday, and haven't gotten around to it because summer is Crazy. (I'm 27, y'all, when did that happen?!)

I spent all last weekend at or traveling to the Remember the Kalamazoo event. Five years ago in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, the largest inland oil spill in US History happened, and because it was tar sands oil it sank to the bottom of the river, where it still sits. In order to get it out of the river, they need to dredge it, and even that isn't working.

So it was a weekend of sitting with allies in Michigan as they remember what was once here, fight to stop the pipelines and to stop this from happening again, and looking forward to a future. We also took a toxic tour of the BP-Whiting refinery on our way home, led by the only activist in the small company town. It was horrific - to see what refinery communities have to deal with, have to live with. I stepped off the bus and could barely breathe because of the particulate matter in the air. There's an oil spill that's been sitting there for basically five years, with no real clean-up efforts because it's on industrial land. 

The whole experience was chilling. Some might even say Orwellian.

But that all deserves its own post!

There's an all-day climate change solutions visioning workshop today that I RSVPd for when I got back from Kalamazoo, but now that I've gone through a week of intense stress about grad school logistics, I'm feeling like I really just need to have a quiet morning with my coffee, my computer, my notebooks, and my plans. I feel more like reflecting, and then getting a ton of job applications done, some of my commissioned research, and maybe even writing.

Great Things About This Last Year:
  • Took a couple of great vacations with Matt - to the UP, and again to Lutsen Lodge
  • Applied to and got in to grad school
  • Deepened some friendships, let go of one particularly toxic friendship
  • Quit the horrible, soul-sucking job back in January
  • Was extremely productive with my writing - I am >thisclose< to finishing my first novel!
  • Got much more involved in environmental activism again - finding my place in the movement, after I was forced out by my previous job
  • Committed in a new way to my spiritual practice, with rituals almost every month. It feels like I'm really taking charge of life through spirituality.
  • Got commissioned to work on a huge march, which was really gratifying - yes, I have worth and am offering something to the movement.
  • Found out about Dreamwidth! This has been fantastic - and has also kicked my butt to journal a whole lot more.
  • I've seen some GREAT music live this year.
  • Women's weekend was fantastic - spending time with family was definitely a priority last year.
  • Figuring out that I need to cut dairy out of my life, and committing to being a healthier person physically, mentally, and emotionally. This has become more of a constant in my life, and I'm so thankful for that.
Challenges From This Last Year (OR: Why I'm a Much Stronger Person Now):
  • The parts of this year when I was working at Horrible Job were horrible. Dealing with constant ageist microaggressions, trying to change my boss' racist ways, feeling completely controlled and helpless, trying to work toward justice with people I was organizing with but being undermined by my boss and my organization's goals ... all bad news that meant almost daily anxiety attacks. That was hard, y'all.
  • It was really, really hard to break up with my old friend, but it had to be done. I'm still feeling really emotional about this in some ways, but it's getting easier.
  • This year, Matt and I went through a streak of being either apart or having tension in our relationship for 5 months. I think we've rounded the bend, have had some deep and open conversation, and things feel like they're finally coming back to a normal place.
  • MONEY. I had saved enough to cover a couple of months before I quit the job, but finding money and making ends meet has been a near-constant problem.
  • Depression has reared its ugly head, but I continue to work through it.
Looking FORWARD: The Year To Come
  • HOLY SHIT Y'ALL I START GRAD SCHOOL IN A MONTH.
  • Trying to find a balance with grad school and my volunteer work - which, while stressful, really gives me a sense of purpose.
  • Unforeseen opportunities: internships, research assistantships, meeting new people, building my network, all those great things
  • Finishing my novel! And starting the editing process.
  • Continuing my spiritual practice. I'm particularly excited to start in on the Alternative Tarot Course by Beth Maiden.
  • Matt and I are going to try to fit in some awesome backpacking trips! We're probably going to do an overnight this coming week, and will be doing a section of the Superior Hiking Trail. More camping and nature in general!
  • More live music, travel, festivals, play with friends, good times yay!
  • More writing - I want to write more about things like climate change, spirituality, feminism, anti-oppression work, my experiences as a queer woman, etc. Not only that, but I want to write more short stories - I'm not ready to dive into another novel, but I want to keep my chops up
Whew! What a year it's been, what a year it will be! I'm so excited for the things that I don't know about, and I'm so grateful for all the experiences of the last year. I'm a much stronger person now than I was before, and I look forward to this next year.

Thank you, everyone who's had a part in this, and to the Dreamwidth community! You're wonderful, and supportive, and this site has been a truly fantastic discovery.

Peace and love and kindness to all of you!
vintagewitch: (twin peaks still life)
It snowed today. Everyone was grumbling about it, but I actually really love this weather - unseasonable as it may be, I like it when the transition seasons last a while.

GI issues still very much with me. Boss-man took us out for lunch today, and I thought I was being good ordering a soup and salad. I mean, I knew the soup (tomato basil) would be creamy and the salad would have a dressing, but I didn't expect to feel as bad as I did. We ate at noon and I didn't feel "normal" again until probably 6 tonight.

So I had oatmeal with strawberries for dinner, because I'm at a loss. Not feeling great, but also not as terrible as I could be feeling?

ANYWAY.

I'm getting back into the groove of writing more and more. Now that I am officially starting grad school in the fall, I have some pretty incredible motivation to finish my first draft. I would love to be at a point of editing, reading, and rewriting the first draft when the semester starts.

The novel has a complex structure right now (a framing character who speaks in third person, a diary contemporary to events happening, transcripts of interviews, etc.), and I feel like I've been losing the power of the story through trying to keep these simultaneous structures going. I do write in Scrivener, which helps ME keep track of it all, but it's become very scattered and difficult to find a way forward. 

Tonight I had long talks with Matt about it (basically me nattering on while we played a round of backgammon), and he listened, and I think I've figured out the structure issue. It needs to be found-footage, which means it needs to be in first person all the way through. That's how I envisioned it when I outlined, and that's how I'll finish it. 

That will also help me play up the fact that it's a fantasy/mystery/horror. There are some things the reader will NEVER find out.

So now I just have to charge forward with my wordcount and get it all on paper!

I've been looking for a good community on DW to share writing goals. There are many out there, but it looks like most of the ones I was interested in open up membership in December for a yearly goal (75,000/year seems the standard). Then I found one that lets anyone in, lets you set and change your own goals, and is fairly active.

The community is: [community profile] words_count ! If you're working on a project, you should join me over there and we can hold ourselves accountable!

Man, accountability is great.

I feel like I had other thoughts that were more about my life and things happening personally, but I am a little too addled to remember them now due to Big Writing Thoughts.

I have a lot of reading to do - not because I *have* to, but because I want to. My book club is reading "Love Medicine" b. Louise Erdrich in May, followed by "The Goldfinch" b. Donna Tartt for June. Both are fairly hefty, and take some thinking as you go along. And I've got some books on Midwestern folklore and mythology that I'm perusing/taking notes on for the novel.

Anyway, that's enough about stories for tonight. 

Here are some things I'm grateful for: 

1. Backgammon with my partner
2. My lovely, mischievous cat
3. Yoga, and myself for getting back into a more regular practice

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