Blessed Imbolc

Monday, February 2nd was the Pagan holy day (or sabbat) known as Imbolc, Imbolg, Candlemas, (Saint) Brigid’s Day, etc. My understanding is that it is a festival of lights celebrating the strengthening of the sun (e.g. days getting longer) and looking forward to  spring. In some areas the first signs of new life are beginning to show; where I live it is (I hope) the coldest and most wintry part of winter. This sabbat is a very well-timed reminder of the life that still thrives buried underneath all the snow, waiting to burst forth when the time is right. The Wheel of the Year continues to turn, and seasons will change.

My observance of Imbolc has thus far been limited to taking a few moments out of shoveling to just Be in the silently-falling, surprisingly peaceful, and beautiful snow. I felt the Child so full of wonder inside me, bursting with joy just to breathe in the cold air and see how everything sparkled. I used to love winter when snow meant a day off from school that I could spend building igloos and snowpeople, then come inside for hot chocolate. Now by the time the shoveling is done I’m usually too tired, achy, and grumpy to enjoy additional time in the snow. But I’m trying to get back some of that joy.

There’s been a lot of change in my life lately.  Classes starting up again is one of the best things that could have possibly happened for me. It’s given me structure, purpose, motivation, and a reason to get out of the house. I have opportunities to socialize with my classmates before, after, and sometimes even during class. I find that my attitude toward the classes has changed: where in the past I’ve felt self-conscious and deficient, I now feel like I have something unique to offer as well as opportunities to be creative and to learn. Being on campus opens other opportunities as well. In addition to the extracurricular social/support groups I plan on joining, there is also a psych counseling group for people who are in the process of “coming out” as LGBTQ+. It seems like it could be really helpful right about now, for multiple reasons.

I’ve also started decluttering and cleaning the apartment. I put old clothes aside to be donated and reorganized the rest of my wardrobe to fit in drawers instead of being thrown on the floor. I recycled and reorganized the kitchen to make it a pleasant place to cook and eat. I even cleaned part of the living room!

The process isn’t just about physical cleaning, it is an emotional restructuring and reclaiming of a space I’ve felt like I’ve had no control over. I needed Banji (my best friend) to witness all of it over Skype: the ambivalence, the temper tantrums, the catharsis of throwing things away, the pride in looking around the newly-cleaned space. I needed her encouragement to keep going. I needed her to hear my stories, to commiserate and celebrate with me. In return I did my best to be supportive of her doing schoolwork. I think I got the better end of the deal.

some backstory: About 5 weeks ago, I had a conversation with Wakana (my therapist) that I feel speaks for itself. I had been talking about how much more alive I feel when Banji is around, and how we’ve come to appreciate each other more since she moved away.
Wakana: “Are you in love with her?”
Ziya: “Yes. I have been for years…”

I remember being aware of such feelings even back in high school; the amount of attention I paid them kind of waxed and waned over the years. We’ve always been very close and valued our friendship highly. Even though we don’t express particularly romantic feelings toward each other, I’m pretty sure they’ve always been there. This was the first time I used that kind of language to talk about it with another person, though.

It’s been a bit of a landslide. I feel like a part of me that’s been hidden and silenced is finally bursting forth, fully alive! For the longest time I felt confused and guilty about valuing my time with Banji more than my time with Fox (my husband). I’ve wished there were traditions in our culture to give the same recognition and importance to close friendships as to romantic/sexual relationships. I’ve felt like I’m not being fully honest by calling her my “best friend” and making a huge deal out of my relationship with Fox in front of all our friends, both our families, the government, and Facebook. I feel like I slapped her in the face by telling her she was my “maid of honor” when I decided to marry Fox, instead of asking her to marry me.

Now all these feelings finally make sense! While I can’t take back my years of being dense, I can be more self-aware and genuine in the present and future. To be clear, that includes continuing my relationship with Fox: I love him and find joy, comfort, and opportunities for growth in our marriage. He accepts me as I am – even when I find it difficult to accept myself – and was actually the first to bring up an interest in polyamory. He wasn’t surprised or upset when I told him about being in love with Banji.

Taking to her about it was a bit more difficult because I was afraid of losing her (again). Above all I want our relationship to be a safe place where we can just relax and be fully ourselves, without any weird expectations that might come up if someone starts talking about “love.” Among the holiday insanity I tried talking about the importance of our relationship and the life I want to have with her – basically expanding on plans she initiated and that we’ve been talking about for years now – all without mentioning “love.” She said she sees the three of us as a polyamorous V with me in the middle, so I took it to mean we were on the same page. But were we really?

Finally, on Saturday – when I’d decluttered most of the kitchen and could no longer put off finding a home for some of the stuff from the wedding – I decided I just had to be honest about it. I told her I love her as a lifelong partner and that I don’t need anything about the way we relate to each other to change, but it’s important to me that she knows. She said she loves me too (squee!!!) and that she’s known for a while now (*facepalm*).

We talked a bit more but weren’t able to get into too deep a conversation because she had a lot of homework and a tight deadline. She said that in the past she hasn’t been sure whether to envy me for having boyfriends… or my boyfriends for the relationship they got to have with me. She also kept saying “it’s complicated.” I could hazard some guesses about what might make it complicated – beyond the obvious fact that polyamorous family structures are more complex than monogamous ones (oh, yeah, and we currently live a 5-hour drive apart) – but I’d rather talk with her about it. I worry that I might assume things that aren’t true, so I’m trying not to get too preoccupied with all of this. (oops)

In some ways it’s big and scary and new. It definitely flies in the face of dominant cultural norms. She’s expressed not caring what people think, nor feeling anyone needs to know. I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops (just my blog, lol) but I don’t want to hide it, either. I’ll admit to some anxiety about being discriminated against and/or ostracized from my recently-expanded family. I care about others’ approval – perhaps moreso than is healthy for someone as ‘outside the box’ as me. “But if that’s love / it comes at much too high a cost.” (Elphaba in Wicked: “Defying Gravity”) One of the things I’ve been working on in therapy is experiencing myself as someone who is worthy of my own love, without the need for others’ approval.

And, well, it has us talking about our relationship in ways we haven’t really before. She’s dropped some hints here and there, but I was being dense to escape feeling guilty about what she was – or kind of wasn’t – saying. *facepalm* Now I need to be more honest. I can’t be so enmeshed with her, primarily requesting her support in dealing with my other relationships (like Mom does to me). I respect her as a separate, awesome person with whom I’m dedicated to maintaining and growing our meaningful relationship.

In some ways I find it all very comforting. The earlier cognitive dissonance about these relationships has been resolved. I feel whole – or at least a lot closer to being whole. I feel secure knowing I don’t have to navigate whatever happens next on my own. I’ve got my two favorite people on either side of me. ❤

New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

Last year I resolved to remember that my episodic mood disorder NOS is part of me – not all I am, but not somehow different from the “real me” either. I think I did a pretty good job of that throughout the year.

This year I want to renew that resolution and make a few more:

  1. to be physically active – let’s try 10 minutes per day
  2. to join and regularly attend in-person meetings of a group
  3. to express my spirituality
  4. to do something musical every day
  5. to keep in touch with people I care about

Why these resolutions?

1. I’ve been saying for a while now that including physical activity in my daily routine would be good for my physical and mental health. I feel so much better when I do something that gets the blood pumping – usually walking for longer than it takes to get from one room of the house to another, or dancing. I’ve seen what an extremely sedentary lifestyle has done to my godmother (who is still in the hospital, doing better but Mom wouldn’t say she’s “okay” yet) and it scares me. The extent to which I was winded after carrying a chair up one flight of stairs yesterday scares me. I don’t need to be in tip-top shape, but it’s important that I improve my stamina. I want to be able to do things. I want to feel alive.

2. I’ve gotten a lot better at being with myself or interacting with one other person, setting boundaries and asserting myself and the like. I’ve always been more comfortable with one-on-one interactions. However, especially since I realized I’m an extrovert, I have increasingly felt the need to be a part of some group. I had my friends over yesterday to celebrate the holidays and, as crazy and overwhelming as it got at times, I felt great. I was tired last night but today I want to do it again; I hate the idea of being alone. I know I can’t be interacting with people in groups all the time, but I need it to be a more regular part of my life. Hopefully the classes I’ll be taking in the Spring semester will help, but I need non-academic social groups, too.

One group I’m considering is Clutterers Anonymous because I don’t even know where to start trying to clean my apartment. Fox is just as much of a clutterer as me – if not even moreso – and I learned the behavior from Mom. Ideally the three of us would all go … but he has work and I don’t want to be dependent on her to interact with this group. I need to be able to attend it myself regardless of whether they come with me. I would have specified this group in my resolution, but if it doesn’t work out for some reason, I want to be able to find another group and have it count. The most important thing is to get out of the house and be social.

Another possible group is that Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance support group I attended once and haven’t been back to since. There are also a ridiculous number of Meetup groups in my area; all I have to do is join and actually show up. I’d even be willing to count going to different groups’ meetings toward this resolution, as long as I stay remotely consistent with it (say, at least twice a month?).

3. Spirituality is an important part of who I am that I had been neglecting until very, very recently. I used to feel at one with nature, dance under the stars, direct the energies of the various elements as they flowed through my chakras, practice zen Buddhist meditation, and pray. Even though I didn’t always agree with the lyrics, I found the act of singing or playing sacred music to be a profound spiritual experience. All of that fell apart as situations changed and I withdrew instead of adapting.

Now Fox is going to work most days and I worry about his safety. About a million things could happen to him; I could lose him. You just never know these days, and the world just seems to be becoming more and more dangerous. If I get caught up in thinking about this stuff, it could destroy me. So instead I pray: “Keep him safe.” I close my eyes and visualize him coming home to me. I send out my love and wishes for his protection and clothe him in armor made of positive energy. It helps me feel better. And so far he’s been safe.

I want to expand on this to more fully live my spirituality, especially acknowledging the seasons as they change.

4. Music is another important part of who I am, that I’ve also been neglecting. Among other things, I got too caught up in trying to do it perfectly; I was so worried about making mistakes that it interfered with practicing! That bright, cheerful, simple song would become painful and strained, until I’d drop my instrument and start crying. I was trying to force something that wasn’t there, and suppressing what I needed to let out. I need to find a way back to making music that is for me. It starts with picking up an instrument – any instrument – and trusting myself. Wakana helps in our music therapy sessions, but I only see her once a week. I need to build on what she’s given me.

5. This resolution is kind of difficult and I’ll be honest, I’m tempted to take it off the list for this year. The people I care about are kind of scattered, living in different states and/or busy with their own lives (and/or lacking funds for transportation). I intend to call or text or email or contact via Facebook or something, but then the time just keeps going by and … nothing. People aren’t exactly the best at contacting me, either; many of my family members go through Mom.

I want to maintain and strengthen the connections I have, so I want to try and reach out to them more often. Maybe send a text when I’m thinking about them or something. Emails. I still need to send out thank-you cards. I need to address why I don’t like calling people on the phone. This could probably be its own post, but at the moment I’m struggling not to fall asleep…

Yuletide Blessings and Happy New Year!

It’s ironic. I talked Mom into decorating for the holidays even though she didn’t want to. She put up a little ceramic Christmas tree and an ice palace. She put garland around one of her tables and she has some cute holiday-themed stuffed animals that I assume she’s going to put around the house. It’s just a little bit of cheer in her apartment that’s kind of nice.

I had all these plans: I wanted to put lights outside the house, but that didn’t happen and now it just seems kind of pointless. I wanted to get a tree and even cleared an area for one, but now I keep looking at the floor there; I want to vacuum, but if I’m gonna vacuum I should vacuum the whole floor. There’s so much stuff on the floor and nowhere to put it. And I need to dust but there’s so much stuff on the surfaces I need to dust and I don’t know where to put it! there’s so much clutter in this house and I don’t know where to put anything!

So I’m just sitting here crying and talking to my phone (to write this post using speech-to-text). I feel like such a hypocrite because I got my mom to decorate for the holidays – Mom would’ve been content not to bother – and yet I – the person who cared about it in the first place – haven’t done anything! I might not be able to do anything. I don’t know, Fox said he might be able to help me out a bit before work tomorrow because he has the late shift; I hope we’re both up for it. I want to do something myself. I want to something that I don’t need him to lean on for, but I can’t. I need somebody. I need some kind of support; it doesn’t have to be much. I just feel so alone.

We all know it’ll never happen, so why do we waste our breath?

The things I seem to struggle with the most are knowing my limits and setting boundaries. By “setting boundaries” I mean asserting them and enforcing and defending them no matter what efforts the people I love make to tear them down. This keeps happening, over and over and over again. And at the end of the day, who’s hurt by it? Me. I might say or do some things that hurt other people, too, but guess what? That also hurts me!

The past couple weeks have been crazy. The end of the semester is always insane. Then on Wednesday 12/19 I had to pick my best friend up at the airport and pack for a 2-day road trip. Thursday and Friday we drove around like crazy people so she could find a new apartment. We’re thrilled because she’ll only be 4 hours away instead of 14! But it was also a lot of driving with her dad (who is awesome! – but: 1. adding a third person changes the dynamic so we interact less, and 2. I seem to fall asleep the instant I’m in the back seat of a moving car). So, I feel like I lost 2 days. Saturday my roommate had a party at the apartment, which was fun but also a bit draining (for an introvert).

My mom is having the area of her house where I’ll be living fixed up, which is incredibly nice of her. I’m really excited about it. On Sunday we went to the hardware store to look at paint colors and some other items, with limited success. Spending time with her and my fiance simultaneously was nice … but can also be quite stressful because somehow I end up being the one who has to deal with the things they both do to get on each others’ nerves.

Monday has its own post and there isn’t much more to say about Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday were crazy. I was at Mom’s while the contractors were working. I blinked and suddenly two rooms were painted, with ALL THE THINGS in a third room and a fourth room – my new bedroom – completely empty. The contractor wanted to paint the bedroom, which is the only room I hadn’t picked a color for yet, so I had only a handful of hours to make my decision. We went to 2 hardware stores and picked out several color swatches, then came home and helped move everything out of the bedroom, then Mom asked if I’d picked a color. Of course not! I had to consider colors with Mom and the contractors watching me, making me feel like I was being indecisive and taking forever.

Finally I made a decision, then rushed over to my best friend’s parents’ house to celebrate the holidays with her and five of our mutual friends. We had the gathering yesterday because my fiance and I had plans with his family for today and two of our friends wouldn’t have been able to come if we’d had it tomorrow. I enjoyed spending time with people, but found it difficult to remain engaged. I was too tired to put in the effort to fully participate. I feel like I missed out on a lot.

I wish I’d known my limits well enough to anticipate that I would need a day or two between events to recuperate. And I wish I’d set boundaries by scheduling in those days, regardless of protests by others who would be inconvenienced by them.

Today I was supposed to go celebrate the holidays with my fiance’s immediate family, who already consider and treat me as one of their own. Driving to their house can take up to 2 hours and tends to be very stressful. I would have had to make the drive alone.

I thought I’d be up to it, but this morning I woke up feeling dead. I explained my decision not to come, but they tried to talk me into coming anyway with promises of tasty food and information about why today is really best for them. I abandoned my attempt at a boundary by agreeing to come, but in the evening instead of afternoon.

Then they asked (via text message) if they should wait for me to have dinner, and I snapped. Dinner is the family coming together to share a meal and connect with one another; it is nourishment for the spirit as well as the body. They shouldn’t have needed to ask if I wanted to be a part of that. They should have wanted to share it with me and decided on their own to make that happen. That they would even consider not doing so felt like the gravest offense – especially after the sacrifice I had agreed to make out of consideration for them!

I sent an angry text telling them to have their dinner and holiday celebration without me, ignored my fiance’s calls and even turned off my phone. I did my long-neglected laundry. I took a shower for the first time in almost a week. I scribbled in my sketchbook and wrote this post and relaxed in bed. While it was still light out I looked out the window and admired the beautiful blue sky.

Maybe I’m starting to feel human again. And as a human I know I can’t go on like this. I plan too much because I want to make everybody happy, but I ignore my limits and my needs. Then instead of asserting myself and maybe making someone a little unhappy, I let myself get pushed and pushed and pushed until I have no choice but to push back. We all feel horrible. Rinse and repeat.

This is the time of year when everyone’s probably posting their New Year’s Resolutions, so I guess I’ll jump on the bandwagon and share mine:

  1. I will figure out what my limits are. For some things I might be able to write out “rules” to follow later, such as “I can only plan 2 social events for one week” or “I must get 8 hours of sleep.” For others I’ll just need to listen to what my body is telling me in the moment.
  2. I will set my boundaries. That means letting others know my limits and using my limits as a guide to set boundaries with others. It means maintaining my boundaries no matter what. I will not compromise until I learn to do so without sacrificing my own needs. I will risk hurting someone’s feelings a little bit now to avoid hurting them (and myself) a lot later.

Christmas Eve: An Emotional (and functional) Rollercoaster

On Christmas Eve, I awoke knowing I hadn’t gotten enough sleep and determined to claim the last hour or two I required. My fiance got up, got dressed, and tried to wake me gently. Eventually I acquiesced, had breakfast, and took my morning pills (Zoloft, omega-3, vitamin B, and vitamin D).

Then we launched into baking cookies. I did most of the work mixing the ingredients while my fiance cleaned and got some Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas music playing. We worked together to put the cookie dough on the trays and get the trays in and out of the oven in a timely manner.

I was on top of the world through the whole process. Between the music and sharing a favorite holiday tradition with someone I love, I simply could not imagine anything better. And the results of our labor were some of the most delicious, satisfying, euphoria-inducing cookies I have ever had. I couldn’t wait to share them!

I felt like everything was right again and I could stop taking my medication.

Then my fiance took about half the cookies and left to spend the holiday with his family, an arrangement we’d agreed on days earlier. I worked on a project with my best friend over Skype, an endeavor which was fun and satisfying but also more stressful than I think either of us had anticipated. Once we finished, it was time for me to get ready to go.

The plan was for me to spend Christmas Eve with my best friend at her parents’ house, then go to my mom’s that night so I could spend Christmas Day with her. I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of not only getting ready to visit with people, but also having to plan what I would wear for another day or two and put together an overnight bag.

I’m moving back in with my mom in a couple of months, so she had suggested that I bring some things over with me as part of that transition (which is stressful in its own right). Deciding what items I could live without for a couple of months – and packing them so they’d be manageable to carry, along with the other items I was bringing – was just too much for me to handle. I decided pretty quickly to let that one slide; there will be plenty more opportunities for me to go through things and bring some of them to Mom’s.

I showered, then sat down on my bed with my towel draped over me. It’s an organizing tactic that admittedly slows me down, but feels necessary when I’m stressed about going somewhere. My roommate was watching a movie in the other room with the sound so loud it was making the whole apartment vibrate.

I froze. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t tell you what emotion(s) I was feeling.
I was stuck.

All of my energy went into holding my rigid position and taking things in through my senses: I saw the objects within my range of vision, heard the catastrophically loud music and sound effects and walls vibrating, felt the bed under my hips and legs and the towel draped over my shoulders. I was aware of my heartbeat and respiration. That was all I was – that, and a sense that I should be doing something else.

Finally, I got myself to move. I stuck out a leg, suspended it horizontally from the bed, and froze again. My intention had been to get up and start getting dressed, but I became stuck in this new position. My leg shook slightly with the effort of keeping it in place, but I did not move. Waves of fatigue, sadness, and anxiety washed over me.

Eventually, with much effort, I was able to get dressed, put together an overnight bag, remember to bring my viola so my friend and I could play string music together for the first time in seven months, check the weather and decide I should wear my winter boots in case of snow, etc.

I forgot to get gas so I had to drive around in a circle. Then I got boxed in at the gas station. Then when I was about a third of the way to my destination I realized I had forgotten the one Christmas present I’d managed to pick up – my present for my mom. I felt horrible. I was already an hour late for dinner, the weather was getting gross, it was dark, and I was tired. I kept driving toward my friend’s parents’ house, furious with myself for “messing everything up.”

The thought of committing suicide entered my mind, but I fended it off with the conviction that it would be horribly cruel to subject my loved ones to that much sorrow – especially on Christmas Eve.

People were still eating when I arrived at my destination, so I joined their meal and conversation. It was very pleasant. My best friend and I played a few duets, then it was time to exchange presents. I felt awkward receiving presents when I had none to give, but I was happy with the gifts I got and enjoyed seeing the exchanges among family members and friends.

Once the exchange was complete, we went back to making music together, which at least started out as an enjoyable activity. I felt insecure about sight reading, but did my best and had some fun playing Christmas duets.

Unfortunately, I had to stop playing viola before long. I’d fallen back on bad habits, was holding my left wrist in a very awkward position, and had pain shooting down my left arm whenever I moved my fingers. I felt depressed and tired, but my friend was understanding.

We sat down on the couch to listen to some recorded viola music and I fell asleep, occasionally twitching.

Soon after I woke up we watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, one of my most favorite movies ever. I love the music and I resonate with the message behind the story: no matter how much pain you have experienced, you can still find love and cheer if you’re open to it.

I sang along to all the songs and felt fantastic!

Visiting with Mom after that was very enjoyable. She didn’t seem angry that I had forgotten her present. I enjoyed opening the presents she had gotten for me and expressing my gratitude for them. Eventually we went to bed, tired but content.

Today Mom and I were late leaving to visit with family, but otherwise had a pleasant Christmas. Yes, I took my medication. My mood – primarily content – was a lot more stable than yesterday. My energy levels fluctuated from moderate to low enough that I had to fight to stay awake. Speaking of which, this entry needs to end because I’m losing my current battle. Good night!