I did it!!!

Whats-his-face (that’s his name now) is the instructor for the one course I’d decided “fuck it, I’m taking this no matter what!” The course met on Monday, so I had the opportunity to talk to him after class. He had the nerve to tell me to email him about something.

I glared at him until he told me, “You’re in the program!” And then I was so happy for the rest of the day, I didn’t know what to do with myself!

To be honest, being that happy all day was exhausting. It’s weird because I’m used to being kinda down, and in many ways that’s more exhausting, but I guess at least it’s familiar? Being really happy is strange and new – especially having it last all day. Maybe that’s what makes it exhausting?

I dunno, but I slept well and then I came to campus today and things have been working out fantastic! I went to talk to the music school miracle worker (aka admin). I expected a line, but she was free! There’s an ensemble I’ve joined that’s also a course? but it’s listed under undergrad… she registered me in a graduate equivalent so it will count toward my degree. She also told me I could substitute music therapy courses for certain requirements… I thought that would leave like a credit worth of work I’d still need to do – but actually we can use 2 courses to cover it completely! She emailed whats-his-face for me and he’s already agreed to make the substitution.

Also there’s a research methods course that I wasn’t able to register for because I didn’t know if I was in the program until after it had filled up… but the miracle worker said I might be able to substitute research methods in psychology. Which is really good because it’s the one requirement for the composition program that I wasn’t looking forward to.

Then I needed a new campus ID, so I walked across campus and went to the office, expecting to have to wait on line and pay for a replacement card. Instead there was one person in front of me and the admin said there was no record of me ever having a card. She had me fill out the form for someone getting their first ID card – which is free!!! I left the office carrying my new card within like maybe 10 minutes.

And then I went to a cafe that tends to get really busy, but there was only a short line. And the thing I wanted didn’t even require me to wait for someone to make it, I was able to just grab it and pay at the register – again, no line. It’s just fantastic!

So yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about life right now. Part of my brain is like “no way that’s gonna last” and I’m worried I might somehow jinx it? But you know what, no, it’s not gonna last. There are good days and there are bad days and there are days in between. This is a Good Day and I’m gonna enjoy it as much as I can!

Living… for fun and profit?

Long story short, I wasn’t able to enroll in composition lessons this semester after all. I was upset for a while, but then I started thinking about what I could do. Maybe I could find a private instructor elsewhere, for example. Someone not tied to an academic schedule. Who might be willing to do, say, 6 lessons over the next month and a half, ending by Yule, for a fair price. So I could make some progress between now and next semester. I sent the composition program coordinator an email updating him on the situation and requesting a referral – 5 days ago. Nada.

So I decided to go all-in.

I’ve brainstormed a business plan for being an independent composer / content creator – drawing on what I’ve learned from the EP, actually (I’ve been enjoying my role in that, by the way). What platforms do I want to be on? What do I want and need for a professional website? How do I copyright my music? Do I want to let people use my music in their works, and with what stipulations? (Generally speaking I have no problem with individuals as long as they credit me – tbh I’ll be honored! – though I do need to make money somehow. I just don’t want corporations profiting off my work without my consent.) What should my Patreon reward levels be? Etc. There’s still a lot that needs to be worked out, a ton that I need to learn, but it feels good to be moving in that direction. People have been super supportive. And Fox even agreed to be my webmaster!

Which so far has been good for our relationship, as we get to talk about and plan something that’s meaningful to both of us. I’m a bit torn between relying on his skills as a web developer to create something custom but without the bells and whistles of, say WordPress… and going with a platform that will let me post and edit all my own content directly with fancy widgets and SEO tools and all that, but with limits on how much I can customize the precise look and feel. (None of the themes I’ve seen quite fit.) The thought occurs that if Fox is managing the website for me I will have more time to focus on composing. He’s willing to learn new skills to accommodate my needs. And I think WordPress costs money, whereas Fox is willing to do this for… well, we share whatever money we make. Plus he’ll be able to include my site in his portfolio. Win-win!

So far I have the possibility of composing for the EP, though I need to meet with my friend (the CEO) to work out details. Ron’s running for public office, so ze asked me to compose the music for zir campaign video(s). And another friend (jokingly?) said he might need me to help him come up with a song. So I already have multiple potential projects that I’ll be able to point to as examples of people using my work. But none of them are in progress yet.

After a while brainstorming – and struggling to focus on, you know, actually composing – I now have a specific project in progress. It’s an arrangement or orchestration of a traditional Christmas song, but I’m writing my own… I’ve been calling it a ‘countermelody,’ not sure if that’s the correct term… to weave with it. My goal is to have it ready by December. Ideally I’ll be able to post it and a couple other songs, so folks looking for holiday music will find my channel. Maybe they’ll share and subscribe, possibly even support me on Patreon? I dunno, right now it feels like a bit much to ask, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Right? Everyone’s gotta start somewhere.

And where I am feels absolutely amazing! I’ve been brainstorming like crazy. found a piano score online. orchestrated it for strings. experimented with different sounds. put all the instruments I like the timbre of in one score omg I hope I can narrow that down! scribbled all over the front and back of a page in my giant sketchpad, sorting out the feel I want. figured out what steps I need to take. came up with what I want the structure and story to be. suddenly sang a gorgeous 2 minute countermelody! which I interrupted notating to write this post. Because I want to shout it from the rooftops: I feel fantastic!

It’s kinda like being in love, only better, because it’s not focused or dependent on someone else. I feel fully alive, in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. Alive and whole and powerful and happy. This deep wonderful contentment. Like everything’s right – in my personal bubble at least. I don’t mean to discount what’s been going on in the world, but right now I’m writing about me. My internal state of being is one of joy and creativity!

About 7 weeks ago I wrote about putting my portfolio together for that initial application to the composition program:

It felt so good starting with something I was already proud of, seeing how I could make it better, carefully patiently meticulously caressing it like a sculptor working with wet clay, and then the magic when it sounds right… oh, by the gods, to do that for a living…

That would be living…

and I ended the post with:

If composing is my idea of living then I should live, and have fun with it.

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing! and I love it!

[A Suitable Metaphor]

So sometimes explosions can be helpful. Things did not go well within the EP the other day, everyone was very unhappy, and I came this close to resigning (or being kicked out)… but it made me realize how important the EP is to me. So the next day I apologized and had my meeting with Wakana and told her everything. She said it’s a thing that happens to people who’ve had traumatic experiences and who’ve been enmeshed and whatnot, like I have… I’m afraid to get too close and be overwhelmed, so I push people away. I get anxious about being on the outside so I create the situation where I’m on the outside because at least that’s familiar and oddly feels safer even though it sucks. I told her all about how it’s always been rare for me to feel like part of the group (I feel more like an outsider trying to interact with the group). And I told her all about my friend asking me to be his business partner, and feeling out of the loop, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing more, and feeling like I couldn’t do more because of various things happening over the summer and and…

She told me if something’s important to me I need to commit to it and actually follow through, even when it means doing things I don’t want to do, even when it’s work. She helped me realize that I had dropped the ball by not telling my friend that I was feeling out of the loop and didn’t know what to do and felt like I wasn’t doing enough and felt bad about that and so on. I realized that as hurt as I felt about the whole situation, when I stepped out of my own head and looked at the bigger picture, him giving me a much smaller role in the company makes a lot of sense. I’m actually the one who gave myself that role, if I’m being completely honest. Complaining about it to the people who have been working their butts off, instead of talking to him directly, was counterproductive. Well, except that it pulled everything out into the open and provided a valuable learning opportunity.

When I called my friend he was my friend. We he asked me about my efforts to switch programs and I told him how that’s going and he told me how he’s been doing and what he wants for the company and so on. He made it clear that what happened needs to never happen again. I told him how I’ve felt this whole time and apologized. He said that if I need to talk to him about anything I can call him. Overall I didn’t really get everything I wanted from the conversation, but we’re still friends and that’s enough. And talking to him helped me feel a lot more “in” the company.

I bounced back and felt fantastic telling our new social media person she’s awesome (it’s the damn truth!). I took an article about something I wasn’t particularly interested in, learned about it, and was happy. I got to be creative figuring out how and what to write about it. I also got to finally post an article I’d done a lot of research for over the summer, which felt fantastic not just to see it up there and getting views and whatnot (so glad we waited) but there was also the satisfaction of having two things to offer the group. I want to do this work and I feel more a part of the group than before for the first time, thanks to how everyone has moved on from the explosion.

And today we got a request from someone who wants us to interview them and write an article!!! We were all squeeing because this is the kind of thing we were dreaming of a few months ago and now it’s happening!!!

… and speaking of It Happening… I finally heard back from the composition department… around the same time all this stuff was going on, that’s why I hadn’t written about it yet. The chair expressed appreciation for certain aspects of my composing, but said there are other aspects I need to work on – and I agree with his assessment wholeheartedly. He said I would make an excellent addition to the program after addressing the issues he’s concerned about, hooked me up with another faculty member to take composition lessons with, and suggested I take the theory courses so that if I reapply and am accepted I won’t have wasted any time! So instead of waiting until next semester to start I should be able to enroll in composition lessons next week… OMG IT’S HAPPENING!!! And it’s happening now!!!

I’m so excited! but also for some reason I’m kinda fixated on the fact that for the first time ever I’ll just be studying music, not in conjunction with or alongside something somehow related to behavioral science. The form, the relationships among frequencies, the interplays of rhythms and melodies, the sounds that can be made by various instruments, how to intentionally weave all of this into something… well, it depends on what you’re going for. Expressive. Magnificent. Soothing. Arousing. Inspiring. Divine… All of it, right there.

 

And Banji’s home. And my mom is awesome. And I’m getting to connect with nifty people doing stuff we enjoy. And I survived dusting my desktop for the first time in way too long. And everything just feels… balanced. Like right now there’s this perfect harmony going on, but it takes a lot of concentration to maintain and things are going to tip one way or the other, it’s not sustainable as it is, there’s a certain energy and tension and yet calmness, focus, maybe even peace. That moment of silence between the cadence and its resolution. The calm before the storm… Which I guess is oddly appropriate since it’s Mabon (either today or tomorrow), the Autumnal Equinox. Everything is in balance for this brief day and night and then we descend into the darkness and cold of winter. But there’s a certain power and strength and majesty to the darkness that I love and that I can…

okay, let’s be honest, it’s feeling more and more like Halloween. I could go into the significance of Samhain and the sabbats and so on but seriously. HALLOWEEN!!! Who doesn’t love this time of year? I need to stop writing and start figuring out my costume because damnit I’m dressing up this year and it’s gonna be awesome!!!

I successfully ran the campaign office for an evening, with the help of another very dedicated volunteer. We set up and sent a couple volunteers canvassing. Then he did some phone banking while I called volunteers who hadn’t arrived yet. One said he hadn’t gotten the email with the address, so I told him and he came. So I got to send out another canvassing team.

One of the volunteers I called cancelled for today, but signed up for most of the remaining events this week. She asked The Question and I almost panicked – I didn’t want to lose a(nother?) volunteer… But I was able to diffuse the situation by saying I’m too focused on helping Bernie win the primary to think about the general. She accepted the answer and we had a very pleasant conversation. Whew!

I did some of my own phone banking, chatted with the volunteers when they came back, and did data entry. The dedicated volunteer was very helpful and we had a good conversation.

All in all a good shift and I feel like I accomplished a lot by empowering others to do the actual work that needed to be done. Well, the direct voter contact part, that is. I like having a leadership position and getting to meet all sorts of interesting people who seem happy to work with me. I feel so much more confident.

Edit: I should probably mention that all this was after I did some useful stuff at home, then took a nice long nap. I felt refreshed and energized going into it.

The Revolutionary Won – with Help

Fox and I just got home from an organizational meeting for the Bernie Sanders campaign in my state. I introduced myself in front of a group, shared why I support Bernie and admitted to some of the insecurities that have kept me from being more involved, attended training to be able to canvas and phonebank … and signed up to be a co-leader of the campaign in my town. Wait, what?

We were talking about stuff I’d been considering anyway. It was so motivating to hear the message: these things are important and we’re going to support you in doing them. And if I’m a leader I’ll be helping people organize who already share something in common with me: we’re all Bernie supporters (as my therapist assured me on Friday). There will be less pressure to reach out to people who may not share views or may even be hostile to them.

It was so cool to be surrounded by people – there were about 30 of us – of all different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds who all believe in Bernie and the political revolution. We talked about how it’s particularly relevant to us as individuals, to our towns, and to our state as a whole. I felt energized, connected, powerful, like I can make a difference. It felt good.

It’s a first step. The other co-leader said he’d call me tomorrow so we can begin organizing. I’ll need to start figuring out how to do things like registering voters at local schools and securing meeting places and setting up events to canvas, phonebank, etc. It will be work… but it will be good to have something meaningful to do, something that will make a difference. And something social.

Fox helped me get out the door & figure out where to go. He reassured me when I felt uncomfortable. He cheered me on when I was outgoing and proactive. He backed off when it became clear that I was engaging fully and with confidence. It was everything I needed. And he said he’ll support me in my leadership position, which is really awesome.

Find out about events near you at Map.BernieSanders.com/

Also please check out feelthebern.org for information about where Bernie stands on the issues, how to vote, and how to get involved in the campaign.

Now Let’s Actually Play Skyrim…

My computer problems seem to be resolved. I did a clean install of my operating system, let it update itself, and I’ve been slowly replacing programs. Fox asked me to back up his level 50-something character, so we have all our save files from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Today I played with my level 39 character – who has more gold than she’ll ever need, owns multiple houses, and makes the best gear in the game. (Better gear will become available as her smithing skill improves.) It provided a nice break from all the reality I’ve been dealing with lately.

I played for a while, decided to take a break, and was pleased to discover that my computer did not crash when I closed the game. Since I’ve been so obsessed with the idea of doing a Let’s Play, I decided to give it a try. Like anything else, videos that combine gameplay footage and audio commentary don’t happen because a gamer wants them to. They happen because the LPer gathers the necessary software and equipment, presses “record,” and does their best to make whatever happens entertaining. It takes a lot of courage and self-acceptance.

I started a new game just so I could practice recording. There are some things I need to work out in the introduction, but it goes smoothly enough. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the comments I made during character creation bore little resemblance to the lines I’ve been compulsively practicing.

I want to share my thought process while choosing my character’s race, but actually making the selection in character creation takes me about 2 seconds because I’ve already made my decision. Do I let the video become static while I talk, or do I make my selection quickly? If I do the latter, should I try to talk about the race I chose while tweaking the character’s appearance? It seems like character creation is set up so it can happen quite quickly, without breaking up the action that is going on at the beginning of the game. I’m torn between going along with that and taking some time to share my strategy.

Perhaps I should record post-commentary: instead of talking while I’m creating my character, I can record my comments while watching the video later. That will leave me free to focus on character creation while recording the gameplay footage, then focus on sharing my strategy while recording my commentary. Yay not multitasking!

The point is, I’m finally trying things and learning what does or doesn’t work, instead of just obsessing over them. I even made a short trial episode! Perhaps as I practice taking a more “hands on” approach to the Let’s Play, I’ll feel more confident about working to improve my skills, complete quests, and level up in reality.

I just submitted the last assignment of my last required course as a music therapy master’s student. Next semester I take thesis seminar, and then I get to write my thesis. Holy fuck.

And I need to find an internship (I feel like finding the internship will be harder than doing the work for it). Once I’ve got that, my certification is practically in the bag and I get to spend the rest of my life doing what I love

It’s so close, I can smell it. I can even sorta taste it. But I can’t see, hear, or touch it quite yet. It’s driving me crazy.

Good Things Thursday

Last week Wakana suggested I make a list of all the good things I do. I wrote my list as a blog post draft that I updated daily. I loved doing it so much, I’ve decided to try making it a feature. Enjoy!

Wednesday

  • Realized I’m at least partially responsible for how others treat me and committed to learning more adaptive behaviors
  • Tried to go to class
  • Practiced self-care by coming home when my symptoms interfered with my ability to attend class
  • Waited on my way out of the parking garage so someone could pull out of their spot
  • Played with my pet rats, gave them a puzzle to solve, taught them their names, & set healthy boundaries
  • Skyped with Banji & worked on my paper instead of playing The Sims 3
  • Got gas for my car

Thursday

  • Worked on my paper
  • Played The Sims 3 for a reasonable amount of time
  • Took a shower
  • Relaxed
  • Engaged in respectful discussion of a difficult topic despite someone twisting my arguments
  • Met with the instructor of my piano class, attended class, role-played for a classmate, and asked useful questions
  • Used supportive self-talk to cope with difficult emotions in class and get home safely
  • Requested a paper extension (assertiveness)
  • Received & appreciated support from Mom
  • Practiced piano
  • Enjoyed “family time” with Fox and our pet rats

Friday

  • Enjoyed a few quiet moments when I first woke up
  • Let Fox sleep in on his day off from work
  • Spent the day with him talking about our life goals and other things that are important to us
  • Dealt with dirty dishes
  • Enjoyed spring weather & celebrated Beltane

Saturday

  • Practiced piano
  • Had a good conversation with Fox’s sister
  • Posted supportive comments in response to posts about difficult topics on Facebook
  • Provided supervised outside-the-cage playtime for my rats when they seemed to want/need it
  • Emailed my instructor with specific questions to help prepare for the final exam

Sunday

  • Spent the day composing and practicing piano
  • Cleaned the rat cage
  • Gave the rats a tunnel to play in
  • Asserted that it was “family time” after giving Fox some time to unwind following a late shift at work
  • Worked toward my personal goal to (regularly) eat more fruits and vegetables

Monday

  • Reworded the preceding “good thing” to reflect that it is a personal goal. Different people have different nutritional needs; each person’s food choices are their own.
  • Made conscious decisions about how to spend my time
  • Took pleasure in simple things, like hearing my rats eat
  • Realized that “listed the good things I’ve done today” should be the penultimate item on each day’s list
  • Followed by “re-read the whole list and felt happy/proud”
  • Decided on my (potential) thesis topic and thought of one (potential) means of researching it
  • Answered the question I was going to ask my instructor by thinking about it in more depth
  • Continued composing and practicing piano
  • Enjoyed the beautiful weather
  • Went out for dinner and a movie with Fox

Tuesday

  • PIANO!!!
  • Started clicker training my rats
  • Set & kept a boundary with Mom
  • Helped make dinner
  • Realized I was over-practicing one song for my piano final and took a break from it
  • Played The Sims 3 for a reasonable amount of time

Assertiveness

I had my long-awaited periodontal treatment yesterday! It was surprisingly straightforward: she accessed the inside of my gums, flushed the area with water, did the bone grafting, and stitched me up. I estimate the whole thing took maybe 45 minutes. The worst part was getting the local anesthesia.

I was very proud of myself. The radio was on when we were first setting up; it sounded to me like people were yelling at each other. I found it was amplifying the anxiety I already felt about having the procedure and anticipated feeling while people were working in my mouth. So, I requested that it be turned off “to help me manage my anxiety.”

(I think my mom was the one who actually got the staff to comply with my request – not the doctor. I don’t think she would have done that if I hadn’t said something. I’m grateful that she advocated for me.)

As soon as the radio was turned off, I instantly relaxed. It was like I had been naked under a thick, heavy blanket made of an abrasive material that covered my whole body and shrouded me in darkness. When the shouting (on the radio) ended, it was like someone had removed the blanket; I was suddenly wearing comfortable clothing in a room with just the right amount of light. I could breathe easier – literally. It was amazing.

I tensed up to varying degrees throughout the procedure, but was reassured when the periodontist checked in and told me what she was doing. The worst was when she needed to give me an extra shot of painkillers. There was adrenaline in the mixture and it made my heart start racing. I managed to communicate my distress; she told me to breathe deeply, counting to five, and exhale slowly. That made the rest of the procedure much easier to endure – even when my sensitivity returned before she was done with the stitches. (I decided I’d rather endure that discomfort than the pain of another needle.)

I was irritable and out of sorts afterward and actually told my mother I needed her to stop talking to me about stressful things. I took the medications they’d prescribed and relaxed for a couple hours.

And then I went to class. Not only did I exist in class, but I was fully present. I took notes and contributed to class discussion. I did my best to support a group member for whom the material hit close to home and disclosed that I am actively struggling with depression. My group mates acted like it was no big deal; I’m simultaneously relieved that this revelation probably won’t impact their acceptance of me… and annoyed that I didn’t get more attention! But perhaps they handled it in the way that’s best for everyone involved. I need to be just another person in this big scary world, not someone who’s considered different, deficient, “other.”

I even role-played a member of the most difficult population for me to face: cancer survivors. I’m very fortunate in that I’ve never had cancer myself, but it has had devastating effects on my family – and, as a result, my mental health. I have mixed feelings about survivors: of course I wish them well and support them in their efforts to overcome a horrible illness – especially the social pressure they face to “stay positive” during an extremely stressful time. I also… experience them as a painful reminder of what – who – I’ve lost. Some of my most painful memories.

I consciously and very actively set up mental blocks to protect myself emotionally. (e.g. “I have no idea what cancer survivors are going through.”) The blocks prevented me from getting – and staying – in character, but it was what I needed at the time. I saw a threat, made a conscious decision, established and maintained a boundary. Yet I was able to talk about it with my group mates, remain present with them, contribute to their learning (I hope), and learn quite a bit in the process.

The periodontist said the prognosis for my tooth is poor due to the location of the bone loss (between the roots).

I say eff that! I want to keep this tooth, so I will! I’m going to make a full recovery.

One Small Victory

I received a phone call yesterday informing me that my periodontal treatment has been approved!!! I almost fell off my chair. I have an appointment to receive treatment on Wednesday; my mouth is expressing its approval by aching.

For anyone who doesn’t know, getting this approval from my dental insurance has been quite the battle:

  1. I was in unbearable pain in August, but couldn’t even get an appointment to see my dentist until late September
    1. She sent me to get a root canal for the tooth adjacent to the one that was bothering me (“Endangered Molar”)
  2. I saw an endodontist in late October
    1. He couldn’t do anything for me due to swelling in the gum above Endangered Molar
  3. I had to go back to the dentist, who submitted a referral for me to see a periodontist
  4. Unknown to me, the referral was approved in early December
    1. I didn’t find out about it until I called my insurance about something else in January
  5. I had my periodontal consultation on January 22nd
    1. They sent the request for treatment authorization on January 26th
  6. I had to call my dental insurance multiple times, finally talking directly to a supervisor, before they even acknowledged that they had received a request for periodontal treatment.
  7. They denied the request. Immediately. I didn’t receive the call until Wednesday March 18th, but the rejection letter was dated March 13th – the first possible day they could have reviewed it, assuming they’d only just realized they had it in the first place.
  8. I appealed the decision immediately and sent the periodontist’s office all the information I had from exams at other facilities (to help them build their case). I was planning to follow up with my own written appeal.
  9. They actually approved the request just over a week after I appealed; the letter I received was dated March 27th.
    1. I’m grateful that the periodontist’s office called me as soon as they received their letter and that they held the first possible appointment for me.

I’m a bit annoyed that my appointment conflicts with my group music therapy class – the one where I feel like a valued member of a mutually-supportive group. I mean I could ostensibly go to class a couple hours after receiving surgery in a quarter of my mouth… but something tells me I’m going to need some time to recuperate. I might miss my Thursday class, too. But the periodontist is only available on Wednesdays this month; there’s no way I’m waiting any longer than I have to.

At least it’s happening now, and not closer to the end of the semester when everything will be due.

I’m relieved that I don’t have to write an appeal, or take my dental insurance to court, or call them again …. hopefully not ever. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders!