Whirl Wind

Gods its been a while. Where to start?

Last semester was fantastic! I got to have music that I wrote performed publicly for the first time, and everyone (seemed to) love them! Best feeling in the world!

The holidays are always a kind of rough time, but they themselves went well enough. I enjoyed spending time with friends and family and got some really awesome shirts. They’re kinda like “men’s” dress shirts but shaped for a “female” body, complete with extra buttons to keep the shirt from puckering(?) around the chest.

And they come in flannel! For some reason I’ve found wearing flannel to be super affirming. I just love how I look and feel!

Then there was January. I hate January. All the cheer and excitement of the winter holidays is over and it’s just dark and cold.

January is when my father was dying. And even 22 years later, it still hurts. It will probably always hurt.

But I realized I’m not mourning him anymore. I was able to talk to Wakana about it completely dry-eyed… until I got to the impact it had on my relationship with my mother. Then I started crying.

Mom and I still don’t verbally acknowledge what time of year it is. There’s that kinda glance that we both know, an unspoken agreement not to talk about it. It makes me sad.

But we’ve come a long way and for that I’m incredibly grateful. She’s more and more of a friend, someone I can … maybe not quite confide in, but definitely talk to about things that are important to me. And she’s super supportive about the composing.

Speaking of, when I said “composing would be living” I was right! I’m absolutely loving it!

I used to watch movies and point to the credits when they list the composer and orchestrators and say “that’ll be me someday!” I thought it was a pipe dream, just a fun thing to imagine while working toward a “safe,” “stable” career.

Then the opportunity came to compose for an independent short film. It’s a shit ton of work for a student director under a tight deadline and it’s unpaid. I’ve never formally studied anything about composing for film, I’m just kinda making shit up as I go…

… and I’m loving every minute of it! It’s challenging and rewarding and so far the techniques I’ve been trying seem to work. (They’re probably not the most efficient, but hey, I’m learning!) I’m more confident than I think I’ve ever been about anything that I can make this score awesome. And it’s gonna be shown at film festivals, possibly internationally. People will hear my music! They’ll see my name in the credits! It could be the start of my dream career!

And you know what, even if it’s not, it’s a great experience. I’m turning out music faster than I thought possible. I’m almost constantly being inspired. I’m choosing my job over other potential activities because I genuinely enjoy it more.

And even as I’ve been sick with a horrible cold, I have my world-ending coughing fit and then pick up right where I’d left off composing. Honestly with all the classes and socialization I’ve missed, and just the distress of coughing so much and so hard (it’s physically forced me to start crying), I think this project is what’s been keeping me going. It’s something meaningful that I can do in bed between naps and feeling miserable.

It’s also teaching me to be less of a perfectionist because I’m writing for a client. He needs to like the music in order for it to be included in the film. So there’s not really much point to me making a piece perfect before sending it to him, just to risk him saying it doesn’t fit with his vision or whatever. It gives me permission to jot down ideas, try to express them clearly (damn notation is hard!), and get them to him asap. That makes it more of an open, collaborative process that enriches both our understanding of the film and our respective arts.

His last couple bits of feedback made my heart sing! It’s wonderful!

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!

Back to School

I still haven’t received feedback regarding my portfolio, so I don’t know what classes (if any) I’ll be taking this coming semester. So I don’t know what my schedule will be. So I don’t know if I can do certain things that I would like to do, etc. My whole life is in limbo right now, and it sucks.

eff that shit

I’ve decided I’m going back to school. Even if somehow I’m not taking classes (I’ll probably end up taking something) I can come on campus and use the facilities. Like practice rooms to play around with musical ideas I can use while composing. Or the library. Or even the rec center.

And I dunno maybe if I do these things it’ll put out the energy I need to make what I want happen. We can be optimistic, right?

I decided to try it today. The music building was practically empty so it was easy to find a practice room (that simply does not happen during the semester!). I did some warm-up exercises on the piano, then started to play. I ended up recording something weird and kinda fun and jazz-like? Then I listened to it and decided to play around with the audio files…

And then I was completely and utterly exhausted. Like quite possibly from lack of food – I just kinda grabbed a snack on the way out the door and hadn’t eaten in a few hours. But even munching some extra food I kept in my bag didn’t help much. Now I’m in the library not being particularly productive (I tried! but I couldn’t focus) and feeling like I want to go to sleep.

Which wouldn’t be an issue except that there’s an Italian conversation group I joined last month that I haven’t been back to. I really want to go, but like last week I completely forgot about it and this week I’m too tired to drive almost an hour, and I feel a bit awkward if I’m the only one who gets something to eat, and I had trouble hearing people last time? (which makes conversing in one’s native language hard enough, never mind a second language) and I don’t really want to talk to new acquaintances about “well I’m trying to go back to school but I don’t know if it’s gonna happen and in the meantime no I’m not working I just kinda sit around all day maybe playing games but not being particularly productive.”

My therapist suggested trying to steer the discussion in the direction of “things we’re interested in” and I could talk about music and composing and storytelling… but I dunno if I have the energy to steer anything. I just want to take a nap.

Not Okay

He said I needed to submit my composition portfolio by July 1st. So I scheduled the email for 8am.

Okay, I was having some trouble figuring out what to do with the last piece. I probably could’ve done a lot better. But I thought the stuff I pulled together was interesting, at least?

At first I just wanted a break from composing like non-stop, and getting so anxious over the deadline I couldn’t focus. So for a few days to a week I played Skyrim.

And I didn’t hear back. I was still anxious. So even though I “should” do this and that, I’ve had trouble getting myself to. I’ve emailed him 3 times asking him to at least confirm that he’s received the portfolio. Nada.

And it’s just gotten worse, and worse. I started doubting whether I actually have what it takes. I imagined him saying I suck at this. I kinda feel like I suck at this. And I feel guilty for not writing a single note since I submitted my portfolio on July 1st.

I mean, if it’s living, then wtf am I doing?

Then Fox lost his job because the idiots running his company couldn’t make enough money to keep his store open (HR outright admitted that the employees were doing great, corporate screwed up). So he’s been dealing with unemployment and applying for jobs… but mostly we’re both just kinda at a loss.

I dunno, I did the dishes today, that counts as something, right?

Oh and I got a call from people fundraising for a local police association. I listened to their spiel, then asked what the association is doing about police violence toward people of color. The salesperson forwarded me to his supervisor, who said she’s just a paid fundraiser and gave me the number of the association. I found their deer-in-the-headlights response… interesting. I’m kinda undecided whether to call the number. On the one hand I’m genuinely curious about the answer. On the other I’m anxious about cold-calling anyway and I don’t know if the person will be nice and explain things or hostile or manipulative or what. But I’m kinda hoping getting questions like that will put pressure on police organizations to do something – like training cops to treat POC the same way they treat white people. Right?

I dunno, I talk big but I’m finding it very hard to do anything.

Fortunately one thing that was kinda hanging over my head has been resolved, so that helps me feel a bit freer to look into new possibilities. And I’m gonna follow up with whats-his-face (you know I’m mad at someone when I call them whats-his-face) on Monday. Depending on his answer – or if I don’t get an answer – I might start composing again out of spite. And possibly looking into other programs, or other careers. (I feel like a lot of the jobs I’ve seen and thought “hey that could be cool” require computer programming.)

Oh and Duolingo has an Arabic course. It’s… entertaining, at least, with some of the stuff it teaches you to say. So I got into that and now I can recognize all the characters and (mostly) associate the right sounds with them. My reading is very slow if I’m trying to sound things out, but I’m starting to recognize specific words as a whole. I can also sing the Arabic lyrics in “Beyond the Stars” by Myrath. And my library provides card holders free access to Rosetta Stone, so I’ve started its Arabic course. If I’m accomplishing anything lately it’s… basically that.

And tabletop RPG collective storytelling. I’ve GM’d a couple sessions recently, experimenting with different levels and types of preparation. I tend to write out guides for myself kinda like the pre-created adventures in D&D? To be honest it’s a lot of work and you end up having to improvise a lot anyway. (Pro Tip: If you want players to learn about a location by exploring it, do not tell them it has a library, or a hall of records. :facepalm:) But, I gotta admit, part of me is wondering whether that’s something I could find a way to get paid to do.

why I don’t like the term “Recovery”

Disclaimer: If you find it empowering, that’s fantastic! I don’t want to shake that. Your mental health and well-being are much more important than my opinion. This is post is about my personal relationship with the term.

CW: potentially ableist language, references to death, descriptive imagery of quasi-suicidal feelings

I don’t like the term “Recovery” because it suggests that there’s something to recover.

Which works if it’s like: “Last week I sprained my ankle and for a day it hurt too much to put weight on it. Over time I was able to start moving it around and whatnot… and now I can get around the house no problem. Though to be honest it’s still a bit swollen and painful.”

That is recovery because I remember a time when my ankle didn’t hurt, wasn’t stiff, and I could walk normally. I have a sense of there being something I had, then lost, and an idea of what getting it back would be like.

And for some mental health experiences I think that might make sense. If it were just a matter of my father and both my grandmothers and my dog who was like a brother to me dying within 5 years of each other during my adolescence, then maybe there would’ve been something there before those traumatic experiences fucked everything up that I could try and recover!

But there’s not.

Because my parents didn’t know how to parent me in the ways I needed. Which isn’t really their fault. They didn’t get the parenting they needed. Probably because my grandparents didn’t get the parenting they needed either. Because… well, there are reasons why my great-grandparents left their homelands and came to the U.S., possibly with small children – or in the case of one of my great-grandmothers, completely alone. I don’t know the specifics, but I can look into what was happening during that time.

This isn’t about that. “Recovery” isn’t about that. It’s about my life and experiences.

Which were shit.

Not all of them. But the term “Recovery” suggests to me that I should be looking back at my life before those traumatic experiences to find something I want to recover. Most of what I see is darkness. Most of what I feel is pain. And the moments that aren’t are ones I can’t get back, because the people they belong to are dead. And to be honest they’re overshadowed by the pain. The sorrow. Grief? Anger? that horrible sensation of being alone and hungry gazing into the Abyss while some terrifying monster eats you from the inside and you’re drowning and all you can hear are your own cries…

Or we can go with the language my therapist used: she called it Complex PTSD. There’s not one or more easily identifiable traumatic experience(s) I could pinpoint and say yeah, before that was good, let’s recover that. Instead there was a childhood of emotional abuse and neglect.

When I look back at what I had, I’m grateful that on a material level there was never anything I needed and couldn’t access. Food, clothes, shelter, and healthcare were all there. I was safe for the most part, physically speaking. There were aspects of my education that could’ve been better, but they were offset by things that were better, so… I dunno. I’m just trying to acknowledge that I’ve always had financial security, and that’s extremely important. And my grandmother was awesome. And my mom did what she could – at least, she meant well, she just… I’d say she could’ve done better, but if that were true she probably would’ve done better, is all I’m saying.

My point is: I don’t see anything that I want to recover.

I see things I wish I could go back in time and change. I see things that make me sad, angry, wistful, nostalgic, grateful, or glad that part of my life is over. I see strengths and areas for growth and things I’m proud of and things I regret and experiences I’ve learned from.

And I see myself hanging on through all of it – yes, loving people supporting me (including my mom), that’s very important – but it’s the choices I make that guide me from one place to the next.

The choices I’ve made are why I’m breathing today.

So there really isn’t anything to recover. The things that would be worth recovering are still there – are more there now than they were in the past. There have been things for me to discover, maybe – like being able to acknowledge my own resilience – but not recover.

It feels more like I’m BUILDING something. It’s constructive. I’m in Constructory.

I’m looking back at all this pain and realizing it didn’t kill me. And if I could live through that, I can live through just about anything. I’m giving myself permission and acknowledging my ability to recognize when I need to “just hang on” for a while, and trusting myself to do it, and to get my feet back under me when there’s something to stand on again. I’m learning to reach out for help when I need it, (and figuring out who and how to ask,) and actually using that help constructively.

I’m looking back at the things that have made me feel alive – and the things that haven’t – and choosing what to keep, what to discard.

And unlike with my ankle, where I know what it’s like to walk normally, and I’m trying to get that back, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M BUILDING. It’s not something I had before, it’s something new and it’s both exciting and terrifying. For example, I was freaking out for much of the semester because I’d never felt so happy and it was great but it was also overwhelming. Like in April when I had a fantastic meeting with my advisor and he told me I was getting an A in music theory… then I sat on the stairs for an hour crying… and then I went to the library to do my homework.

I’m embracing and building upon my love of music. Composing. (and theory!)

I’m composing myself.

Terminated

(for some reason my brain wants to go “pew pew!!!“)

I’ve been “in crunch time” for my current composition project for a couple weeks now. During Thanksgiving week I accepted 3 articles for the entrepreneurial project (EP) and ended up spending Mon-Wed writing them instead of composing. Then I spent 3 days straight with family – and when I wasn’t with family I was too exhausted to do anything. I didn’t fully explain all of this to the Editor in Chief (EiC), etc. when I said I couldn’t take a 4th article – twice – but I kinda feel like I shouldn’t’ve had to.

What I did do was talk to my friend / the CEO, who told me to talk to the EiC, who proceeded to ignore the message I sent her saying I couldn’t write 3 articles about frankly stupid topics every week because I need to focus on composing. (All unpaid, by the way. If this were a paid gig I would’ve handled it differently.) Last week I flat-out said “no.” This week I accepted the articles but realized I wouldn’t be able to meet the deadlines, so I said “I’m sorry I can’t do these.” Well to be honest I think I should’ve also resigned at that point in time but I dunno, I’ve been feeling ambivalent about this for months now…

They made the decision for me. In the form of an email notifying me I’d been “terminated.” No explanation, and there was certainly no discussion – at least not with me. I was upset for a while, but then I told a friend who was like “wait a minute: you were terminated from a volunteer position that wasn’t even what you wanted to do?” I laughed. And I will be laughing still, in the end… except that something about it is still bothering me.

Continue reading

it’s never really gone

dunno… ever since I went all-in with composing things just seemed to be… fantastic. I loved what I was doing. I was getting so much love and support from the people close to me. there were a few blissful days when everything just felt right, and I was genuinely happy. like not 100% happy 100% of the time, I still felt the full range of human emotions. I still got frustrated, and doubted myself, and felt guilty about composing while other people (e.g. Fox) work soul-crushing jobs to put food on the table… but for once when people asked how I was I could honestly say that my life is good.

for once I wanted to talk about my life. and people seemed to enjoy watching my face light up when I did so.

and every day I’ve been loving my husband more and more, appreciating him more and more. (especially since he’s being so super supportive!) we went away last Friday to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary, just a night at a bed and breakfast, and it was wonderful. tbh we hadn’t been sleeping together – in either sense – for quite a long time, and we both wanted to change that. well, it seems all we really needed to do for the more entertaining interpretation of that phrase was spend some time cuddling in a comfortable bed with the intention of being close. no distractions. no technology. just our love for each other. it was amazing!

we had gaming on Sunday, which was awesome and fun [and interestingly enough involved one of the other player characters (PCs) getting married. among other things, my character coordinated with a third PC and some intelligent animals to incapacitate mercenaries who had stolen dishes and kidnapped part of the catering staff. I had a blast sneaking around, shooting arrows past the mercenaries’ ears, throwing things to mislead them regarding my location, and scaring the pants off one of them – ironically enough, while naked (to make better use of my character’s camouflage mutation). then some intelligent flying squirrels volunteered to serve food at the wedding, and somehow most people were okay with that…] gaming went on for a long time though, with kibitzing afterward, so by the time Fox convinced me to get off Discord and go to bed I was completely emotionally exhausted. like ready to cry exhausted.

Continue reading