Bullet Journal Day

I got to spend an awesome weekend with Banji – reconnecting, playing duets, enjoying wonderful food and excellent company, the works. I’d been missing my friends from college and earlier; this was just what I needed to feel whole again.

It seems whenever I hang out with Banji I end up learning about a new arts-related thing they’re doing; this time it was bullet journaling. It’s basically creating a customized planner using a notebook, pen, and ruler; you can add colors, drawings, quotes, anything really. People use bullet journals to keep track of appointments and tasks, make note of things they’re grateful for, track habits they want to develop (e.g. exercising regularly), brainstorm, any number of things. A whole community has emerged around it with people sharing their ideas, layouts, artwork, etc.

Video: How to Bullet Journal

Video: Beginner’s Guide to Bullet Journaling

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with life, and I liked what I saw in various videos, so I decided to give it a try. I ordered a journal with dotted pages; it was supposed to arrive tomorrow, but instead it arrived today!!! So I decided to start setting it up with components I’d learned about from various videos (an index, symbol key, “future log” – kind of like a year at a glance, August calendar, list of appointments & goals for August, and my very first daily to-do list!).

I also did a kind of custom thing: I dumped all the to-dos that have been stressing me out on one side of a spread and got so stressed I felt the need to write “Fuck it all!” at the bottom. But then I re-organized (re-listed) everything into four categories: Personal, Green Party, Academic, and House. Each category has its own color. Separating everything just made me feel so much better; now it makes sense in a way it couldn’t before with everything jumbled together. It inspired me to draw a butterfly – something I definitely hadn’t planned, but I loved getting to draw and color with some awesome colored pencils.

Video: A Dude’s Bullet Journal Walkthrough

I sent Banji a picture of the spread; they told me that it’s Bullet Journal Day – the anniversary of when this officially became A Thing and the website BulletJournal.com went live. How amazingly cool is it that I get to start bullet journaling on the anniversary of its launch – particularly because the primary item I needed to make it happen arrived early?!

I think my favorite part of my journal so far is my August monthly spread. The left page has a typical calendar with appointments filled in, and a note about this past weekend being awesome. The right page is separated into four sections: Personal, Academic, Green Party, and House. Each section has a list of the tasks I want to complete by the end of the month: my goals for the month, you could say. I feel so much more focused now, having it organized like that. I was feeling stressed out about the House category so I added a quote by Agatha Christie: “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” My hope is that will help me re-imagine chores not as a monumental life-stealing task but as smaller opportunities to invite creativity. … Whatever the actual result, I have the name Agatha Christie in my journal now and that makes me happy.

My next favorite part is today’s daily. I blatantly stole the layout from Boho Berry (video), including the adorable little weather indicator in the upper right corner. I added a quote: “You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens” ~ Mandy Hale. It might seem a bit ironic to include a quote like that in a tool for planning, but one of the things I love about bullet journaling is that the journal itself isn’t (or at least doesn’t have to be) planned in advance. It’s a continuous creative work-in-progress – kinda like life.

But my favorite part of today’s daily is that I only listed the specific tasks I intend to complete today. One of the items will “migrate” to tomorrow, but the point is that today I only have to focus on today, and I actually can accomplish the (other) tasks I set for myself today. No worrying about tomorrow. No feeling guilty about the stuff I’ve been procrastinating forever, no being distracted by the things I “should” be doing everyday (those will go in a tracker on a different page, if I decide to do that. Maybe starting next month? That’s the beauty of this system, I can do things differently each day/week/month/etc. as I figure out what works best for me!)

It’s so empowering! I only have a handful of things to focus on today. They’re totally doable. It feels really awesome to check them off; little things I can celebrate. Even the color coding and the little cloud in the corner make me happy.

So, I guess we’ll see how this goes …

Do you bullet journal? What are your thoughts on it? Do you have any tips, designs you want to share, etc? Please share in comments! ❤

Spring – er, Late Summer – Cleaning

Today was positively gorgeous. A tad chilly, with a very invigorating wind, just a handful of clouds in the sky. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

I wanted to get outside; while I was out I took the opportunity to clean up the plants in our garden. Most of the leaves on the basil have turned white, so I cut them away. This allows more resources to go to the healthy green leaves near the tops of the plants, and allows more sunlight to reach the newer, healthier-looking sprouts that have emerged. When I was done with the basil, I similarly cleaned excess, dead-looking stuff off the cucumber plant.

Once I was done pruning away the dead or sickly stuff, all that was left were (mostly) healthy plants, full of life. I thought, I wish I could do that for myself. Get rid of all the dead stuff, the clutter, and just keep what fills me with vitality.

So I went back in the house, opened all the windows so it would be full of fresh air and sunlight from this beautiful day, and proceeded to clean. I started with the bathroom and cried as I scrubbed the bathtub. I fought the mean voices that told me I was either in my rightful place as a woman (on my knees cleaning) or that I was demeaning myself by doing housework. I reorganized items so the sink looks presentable and the contents of the medicine cabinet are useful, not past their expiration date. I got that picture I don’t like off my wall, and cleaned up the stains it was covering (using white vinegar diluted in water, a paper towel, and some elbow grease).

When I was done, I moved to the kitchen. I started by reorganizing all the plastic containers we keep for storing leftovers, so they’re mostly on one shelf, sorted by shape and size with lids readily available. They look neat and there’s most of a cabinet free for storage of additional items – which is good, because the house as a whole is still intolerably cluttered. Soon after Fox got home he took care of the dishes, while I sorted through trash and recycling, found homes for items we wanted to keep, and cleaned surfaces. Before long we were sitting together in a very pleasant, relatively clutter-free kitchen, sharing a simple but delicious dinner. It felt so good to finally be at peace with my environment while in that room.

I did a lot of good work – quite the accomplishment, especially considering I didn’t see much point to getting out of bed this morning. But I’ll admit, I’m a bit disappointed that the only cleaning I got to in the living room and bedroom was trying to remove the dirt from the windowsills. (Seriously, how does dirt get on windowsills? It’s not dust, it’s dirt, like the stuff on the ground with grass growing in it outside! And it’s thick and hard to pick up. Gross!) I really wanted to change this space, make all of it more liveable. But I guess I just need to be patient with myself. Patient, and persistent.

It drives me nuts that unless we make a constant, conscious effort to maintain this, it’s just going to get intolerably gross again.

I don’t know how to assess my depression. Fox thinks the SAM-e is making me more irritable and anxious; I think he has a point. Last night I almost cried myself to sleep because I saw no point in living, no reason to care about sleep, waking, no point to even trying to do anything … and I felt trapped. I can’t end it, there are too many people who would be hurt. The thought of just going on, suffering horribly, my whole life pointless, just so my loved ones would be protected from the pain my death would cause … it was too much to bear. I couldn’t help crying.

Fox heard me, of course, and asked what was wrong. I started telling him all this stuff and somehow the conversation turned to composing music. I said, “I really like exploring different sounds. That could be a good reason to live.” Next thing I knew, I had a melody in my head that wanted out. I got up and started writing; a few hours later I had the melody written down, a list of instruments with timbres appropriate to the mood I want, some ideas for harmony and counterpoint, and the beginnings of a composition in Notion. It felt so good to be intentional in making choices that created the effects I was looking for, while also allowing for spontaneous creativity (e.g. a second melody that practically wrote itself).

So I have severe symptoms of depression and anxiety – including some suicidal ideation – alternating with incredible energy that I can consciously direct: last night into a new piece of music; today into improving my environment.

It doesn’t make any sense. It seems horribly contradictory. … or is it?

Unpleasant as they may be, those intense emotions are overflowing with energy. At their core is an intense desire for (possibly mixed with a fear of) change. “I can’t live like this anymore!” really amounts to “I want all these things – maybe even everything – to change!” And what greater change is there, than death?

We have to admit, looking our fear in the face and accepting it, taking direct action to cause such a huge change – THE huge change we are wired to do everything in our power to avoid – that is an incredibly powerful act. Not a good or desirable or advisable act, mind. But a powerful one, nonetheless. Like Voldemort.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I’ve had the support and force of will to take that power, that immense energy, and channel it into something less self-destructive than suicide. Even something creative. Last night, for better or worse, a new musical being entered the world. In the past I’ve sculpted and drawn and improvised music. Today I removed a lot of gross dead stuff that was standing between me and the life-giving sun.

If the price of such power is suffering, well, I guess I’m willing to pay it – as long as I can still have my moments of joy, which I do. I’ll take this power and put it toward making the world a better place. For myself by cleaning my house, and beyond by doing Spock knows what. I have the power – the raw energy – to do it. I just need to get better at using it instead of feeling overwhelmed.

Virtual Mansion: Escapism, or Canvas for Creativity?

Depending on your perspective, I was either entirely unproductive, or extremely productive over the past couple of days.

The case for unproductive: schoolwork, household chores, errands, organizing all the stuff that was displaced in the move, training for the overnight walk, even updating this blog, etc. – EVERYTHING ground to a halt. If it is at all meaningful in the “real world,” then I took no part in it. (Am I proud of this? No. But I think I needed a break.)

The case for extremely productive: I built a mansion from scratch … in The Sims 3. Okay, so I had a very strong sense of what I wanted to do going into the project, but I did everything – from clearing the lot I wanted to build on, to moving in the family that’s going to live there and placing a few last-minute items – in 2 days.

I built this 4-story mansion in 2 days!

From left to right, the mansion includes: a 2-car garage with a game room on the second floor and grilling/party space on the roof; a barn capable of housing up to 6 horses; an art studio; a garden for fruits and vegetables; a gorgeous 2-story entryway and banquet hall; a giant library with multiple rooms; 7 bedrooms; 2 kitchens; a state-of-the-art gym; a very large, gorgeous bathroom multiple sims can use at once and still have privacy; a hot tub and pool with grilling/party space; and a children’s play space.

Best of all, I got to listen to some truly awesome music while doing it! 🙂

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Harnessing the Dark Horse

On Wednesday I had my first music therapy session in nearly a month. I told my therapist how stressed I’ve been about moving back in with Mom, including the changes, mess, and decision-making involved in fixing up the house.

Our conversation came to the difference between merging and bonding with another person.

Merging is becoming too emotionally involved, to the point where there aren’t really two people relating to each other any more, but rather a “blob” as I tend to put it. When I’m merged with someone I can’t tell whether what I’m thinking and feeling are my own thoughts and emotions, or the other person’s. I feel pressured, imposed upon, like I’m losing myself and have no control over my actions. I get very angry, but it’s hard to focus that energy into anything other than lashing out.

Bonding is sharing a special connection with someone, but remaining separate and able to relate as a unique human being. When I bond with someone I feel very happy. I’m aware of my own thoughts and emotions and can express them fully. I can appreciate the other person for who ze is, including the things ze does that annoy me.

My therapist, who I’ll call Wakana, asked if I felt merged with her, and I said, “sometimes.”

Wakana: What would help?
Ziya: Just listen.
Wakana: You want to play alone? And I’ll listen to you?
Ziya: Yes.
Wakana: Okay.

She sat back from the drum she had been playing and watched me. I picked up two mallets and started playing on a cymbal. I love crashing the cymbal, it makes such a sudden, loud, complex sound!

I played different rhythms and volumes. I hit the cymbal several times, then took a mallet and rubbed it gently along the top. One tone emerged from the chaos, which varied in pitch depending on how close to the center I rubbed. I mentioned this to Wakana and she shared in my enjoyment of the discovery.

Then I started playing again, hitting the cymbal very, very hard. It rocked on its stand so hard there were times when it was almost completely vertical! The tip of one of my mallets flew off, but I kept playing. The loud crashing sound filled the whole room, to the point where I yelled something to Wakana and I don’t think she heard at all – I could barely hear my own voice! It felt so wonderful, just to let all that energy flow. I felt like I was in complete control.

When I stopped playing, Wakana observed that I had a lot of anger. She described it as a fire that can burn down the house, or be contained in a fireplace for warmth and light, or be harnessed in an oven to bake pottery. Anger is necessary for setting boundaries. It can be channeled into creativity. It can be an impetus for change. It’s great that I have it.

But my anger, energy, emotions, life force, creative energy, etc. are a dark horse, wild and untamed. The horse rampages around inside the prison where I have suppressed zir, snorting and kicking and crashing into things; trampling and biting and otherwise hurting me. When ze breaks free, ze destroys things and hurts other people.

Wakana said that if I tame the Dark Horse, ze can be a powerful ally. The Dark Horse will fight to defend me, or help me flee from danger. If I can take control of the Dark Horse, I can run free with the wind and go wherever I want.

I’m not crazy about the word “tame” because I think part of taming an animal – especially a horse – is breaking its spirit. I have suppressed the Dark Horse for far too long, and I fear what might happen to me if I try to change any part of hir nature. I can harness the Dark Horse, however – come to understand zir, bond with zir, form an alliance, and eventually take the reins so I can guide zir where we want to go. This is ultimately a part of myself, after all, so I have more to gain from working with it.

I resonate so strongly with this theme, I’m tempted to make it the focus of this blog. I’m considering changing the blog’s title to “Harnessing the Dark Horse,” but I’d want to change the URL to match and I don’t know if that’s something I can do on WordPress. Whether I change anything about the blog or not, I will definitely be writing about this topic again. This is not a process that can be completed overnight, but it is key to my recovery.

I wanted to draw the Dark Horse, but I couldn’t get a firm enough image in my mind’s eye to feel comfortable trying, and there were many distractions. I decided to make a horse in The Sims 3 Pets – who, by the way, is Aggressive, Ornery, and Untrained. This picture of my sim horse will represent the Dark Horse for now, but in time I hope I’ll be able to draw (paint? sculpt? etc) other satisfactory representations.

sims-dark-horse