Thinking Out Loud

I’m thinking out loud here, trying to puzzle out my feelings on a somewhat complex subject for me, so bear with me please. 

As some of you may know, last year I participated in No Shave November for the first time.  Most women can do this rather innocuously – after all, it’s rare to wear sleeveless tops or shorts in November, so who’s to see your hairy armpits or legs?  For me there’s a bit more risk involved. Not shaving turns me into the bearded lady. It was a difficult month, to say the least, but in some ways also very rewarding, helping me to become a little more comfortable in my own skin. Something I haven’t really been since I was nine years old, when puberty was well underway. 

So when November rolled around this year, I decided to participate in No Shave November again, this time with a bit more self confidence in NY ability to navigate its challenges, with the support of those nearest and dearest to me. And it went well. Despite the election preliminary results proclaiming a president-elect Trump and the victory of his platform of fearmongering and hate. Despite the niggling voices in the back of my head, from my childhood and popular culture and media, shaming me for my body being made differently – more hairy than socially acceptable. It went well. Until just over a week ago. 

Out shopping with close friends, I didn’t think much of it when an older, rotund, man sporting a red “Make America Great Again” gave me a nasty look. I just smiled politely and kept going. But then I ran into him again. And again. Each time his scowl at me being more disapproving and disgusted. I kept running into him during the hour or more in this store, until it seemed I couldn’t turn around without running into him. I was so uncomfortable, self-conscious and even started to feel unsafe – that I found myself responding in ways I haven’t since high school. If I saw him approaching I turned and went the other way to avoid him, or even hid behind those I was with. Not just because he obviously didn’t like or approve of my natural unshaven appearance…but because in this frightening political climate – his disapproval made me feel like my very safety was at stake… 

I didn’t tell my friends why I was acting so strangely, they just thought I was feeling a touch claustrophobic from the crowds. 

The next few days saw unbidden returns of memories of prior shamings. And I tried hard to shake off the memories and their accompanying emotions. I didn’t always succeed – like when I was trying to dodge having my picture taken over thanksgiving, even though celebrating with friends and loved ones. 

Tomorrow is the end of November. By Thursday, I could shave again. And I find myself of two minds about it. On the one hand, part of me is desperate to shave again, to “pass” as acceptable again out in public. On the other hand….On the other hand it’s been 30 years of hating myself for something I can’t help. 
I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted from hating myself. From feeling ashamed of myself for how I naturally exist. From worrying if I’ve shaved before I go out or people come over. From the expense of razors, pills, waxing, sugaring, electrolysis- all things I have tried and still the hair persists. I’m tired of it all – and that part of me says screw it, just let it be. Especially when, on the moments that I can look in the mirror without all the weight of societal dictates about how a woman should look, I can even begin to see where my facial hair even complements my features – that it looks good on me. Something I never thought I’d be able to see. Even with the quasi compliment from a young child calling me Justin Timberlake! 

It would be so nice to simply exist. To not give a crap. Will I shave it all off December 1st? I don’t know. Will I shave it off December 1st to grow it out again after the holidays are passed, to not feel self conscious when people want to take pics? Will I say screw it and keep it, and just keep it trimmed nicely? Honestly, I don’t know. 

I don’t like feeling like a coward, hiding from other people, but neither do I like feeling unsafe for existing. Although, with this new political climate, I already do for plenty of other reasons: I’m female, I’m in an interracial relationship, I’m part of the LGBTQIA community. I’m already hated simply for existing, what’s one more reason? 

Will I, or won’t I? Even I don’t know for certain. 

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No Shave November… A Hairy Situation…

Some of you may know that I’m participating in No-Shave November.  What a good number of you don’t know is that my face has been growing a beard/goatee since around the age of 10.  No, I’m not talking about just a few random chin hairs here or there.

I’ve spent the vast portion of my life — over 30 years — trying all sorts of ways to rid myself of the hair that I have been repeatedly shamed for having.  At first, I was dragged to dermatologists, and given blood tests. The results of the blood tests were a big fat Nope.

There was no evidence of PCOS, and my hormone levels showed up the way they were expected to be.  Those avenues drying up, the never ending search for hair removers began: depilatories, waxing, sugaring, shaving, and finally electrolysis, which was costly and painful on the first treatment, and ineffective by the second. At worst, I had painful scaring and burning and it grew back within days.  At best, it still grew back within days.

By this time though, I had already learned that my body (and especially hair,) was something that “should” always be hidden from others because it was grotesque. Did I mention I’m terribly short – not even 5’ tall? So began the jeers of ‘ewok’, ‘Cousin It’, ‘Hobbit’, ‘Dwarf’, ‘mini Sasquatch,’ and the like. It’s no wonder that I wouldn’t leave the house or let myself be seen, even by family, until after I’d managed to shower and shave.   Those taunts stung more than I ever let show.

It almost became a compulsion — the need to eliminate any body hair.  I’d resorted to shaving because nothing else worked. Electrolysis hurt. Waxing was back within a day and not the promised week. Sugaring was ineffective. Depilatories left me with chemical burns on my skin, and the hair still standing proud.  I remember how proud my mother was one day when the shaving went extreme and I did a swimmer’s shave. She exclaimed that my arms “looked so much cleaner!” simply because the hair was gone.

So, I gave up and just shaved.  And shaved. And shaved. Every day.  Without exception.

As I grew older, things didn’t improve.  Having partners who found body hair repulsive didn’t help the matter. One ex-girlfriend asked me if I was trans because of the facial hair, or had ever considered being trans. To have someone tell me that my body was not only unacceptable but wasn’t even the right one for me left me dumbfounded, especially as I’d never expressed any discontent with what actual body parts I have.  I quite like my breasts and other girly bits, thank you.  I didn’t know what to say, other than “No,” and trying to change the subject.  Some partners requested that I shave in specific ways for specific body parts.  I even endured the mortification of a girlfriend after a morning tryst, saying that I had given her beard burn.

I wanted to simply cease existing at that moment.

As time passed and partners came and went, I still wouldn’t leave the house without shaving. If I absolutely had to, I would try everything to hide my chin. It took me until a few years ago to build enough confidence to make a quick run to the corner store without shaving first.  Even then, I would hide my chin in my shirt collar.

In the past year or so, I’ve been forced to face this issue more and more.  Seeing articles about women like Sikh Harnaam Kaur from the UK pop up across the internet, I wished that I had that kind of courage and strength to be able to be comfortable in my own body the way that it is.

I can look at women like Ms. Kaur and see how beautiful she is.  But, I can’t look in the mirror without hearing the echo in my head of all the past taunts and shaming.  At times, it’s overwhelming.

The fact is, this is something that I’m still struggling with and even at times reduced to tears over it at the age of 38, and it feels ridiculous.  I feel that by this point in my life, I shouldn’t be having these kinds of arguments with myself anymore. Yet, here I am. Participating in No Shave November has been more than a little daunting for me as I grapple with internal guilt and shame over my appearance, along with the reactions of other people to my appearance.

My wife, bless her heart, is one of my biggest supporters.  She’s known for years the anxiety and hell that this particular issue creates for me, and has tried for over 10 years to get me to relax about it. Sometimes, she even begs me to let it grow.  Admittedly, she’s struggled to understand why it bothered me so much.  She thought it was different and therefore ‘cool’.  When I tried to explain not enjoying the taunts of being the ‘bearded lady’ or a ‘freakshow,’ she didn’t believe it would happen, no matter how many times I explained that it already had.

It’s been a week now since I last shaved… and there’s no possibility of hiding it.

7 days

Life doesn’t slow down or stop just because I’m uncomfortable.  I’ve gone out of my home – to attend church, to go to VA Hospital appointments, to run errands, and even going out to eat with my wife.  I’ve watched as people have struggled more and more to try not to stare as each day goes by; the way they seek to avoid looking at the lower half of my face, or to try to avoid looking at me altogether.  I’ve watched my wife’s face crumble as she watched me do my best to act unaffected by all the body language that spoke of how unacceptable my appearance was, even though most people remained silent.  One person found out why my chin was hairy for charity, the first words out of her mouth were “Does it bother you yet?”

As long as I don’t leave my house… no, I’m not bothered.  But the minute I do and face the condemnation that comes my way for being different… yes, I’m bothered a great deal.  I know why No-Shave November is such an exercise — it forces those participating and those observing to feel a similar pain that cancer patients who have lost their hair feel. It doesn’t matter if you have too much hair, or not enough – the world is plenty cruel.

I know that the reactions are only going to get stronger, more obvious, and more outspoken as the month goes on, so I’ve decided to be proactive about it.  I’ve made a button that says “Go ahead, it’s ok… ask me why I’m so hairy,” and business cards that talk about No-Shave November. On them, there is a link to my No-Shave November fundraising page, encouraging them to donate.  The way I see it, if people can try to make anyone feel uncomfortable for something that is just a part of who they are, then I can make them uncomfortable right back.  That’s how this ingeniously crafted conversation begins.

Faith and Loss: What the recent policy changes of LDS church have meant for me…

Like many others around me, I was left dismayed and hurt by the policy changes made by the LDS church this past weekend.  I can’t claim to have been shocked, though I sincerely wish that I could.

I was raised in the LDS church in Utah, though shortly after my confirmation my family became inactive. Knowing that I was part of the LGBTQIA community and feeling largely unwelcome and unwanted by the church, I stayed away for over two decades.

Then almost five years ago, I decided to try again.  The church had stopped being quite so vehemently and almost violently anti-LGBTQIA, and I thought that perhaps I could find a place for myself within the church once more.  Maybe my presence (and the presence of those like me) now being treated more kindly within the church would help make it easier for the youth growing up in the church who were realizing they were different, wondering where they fit in, and scared of being rejected by their church and by their families.  With not a small amount of fear, but a great deal of support from my LDS friends and family, I walked through the doors of my local ward on an Easter Sunday, and returned to being an active member.

My ward surprised me in all the best of ways.  They showed me kindness and acceptance; not just to me, but also to my partner, though she isn’t Christian.  People reached out to me, extended a hand of friendship, and helped me to feel comfortable and welcome.  I really thought things were changing — albeit slowly — but they were changing.  I had hope that I could embrace my faith and the church without the fear, intolerance and even hate that I’d known when I was young.

After the policy changes were confirmed by church leadership on Saturday morning, I spent most of the day and evening listening and watching as pain unfolded among friends and loved ones all around me.

I spent hours throughout Saturday and Sunday, and even today, comforting many. First, it was trying to convince a young friend not to take her own life amidst her overwhelming pain and fear, who is now terrified someone will find out she identifies as LGBTQIA, and wonders what will happen to her when they do.  So far, I’m very thankful to say, she hasn’t taken her life.  Then, I read about a friend who was kicked out of her home by her parents because of the policy changes, even though she might be losing her job in a few days.

My heterosexual family, friends, and loved ones are struggling through what I can only describe as a crisis of faith. They have said, “This can’t be right…,” or “This has to be a bad joke.  Surely something will be done to reverse this…,” and even “It makes no sense… it goes against all the progress that has been made…”  as they wrestle with what their conscience tells them is right versus what the policy changes say.   While they pray, they are trying to figure out where their place is now, feeling torn between their church and their loved ones who are LGBTQIA.

I thought very long and hard about what the changes meant for me and my future within the church, and I grieved the loss that I knew was inevitable.

This last Sunday, I went to church with my pagan wife at my side. I gave hugs to friends, and tried to console one sweet friend in particular  who attends my ward. She has a gay daughter, and seemed to perceive my presence in the ward these past five years as hope that her child might find peace in the church.  When she found out why I was there, she burst into tears.

Turning in my letter of resignation was my decision to save us all the trouble, hassle and stress of a now mandatory disciplinary council. You see, my partner of 12 years and I finally got legally married just over a week ago, on our anniversary of Halloween. We were celebrating that I would now have health insurance, among other things. For wanting the safety and recognition of legal marriage, I have been branded apostate by my church.

To his credit, the Bishop was very kind about the whole matter. He accepted my letter without argument and with tears in his eyes, all the while telling me that he hoped I would still feel welcome to come and listen any time. He told me that I am loved by the ward, and that they still want to be there for me. Finally, he conveyed his hope that I didn’t feel judged.

I replied that it was rather hard not to feel judged, but that I wasn’t taking it personally – at least not from the ward. I told him that I am still living my beliefs and my faith, and still wish to be there and be of service for the many friends I’ve made in the ward. They have always been very kind to my wife and myself, and I will always be grateful for that.

On the whole, it went about as well as it could.

For my own part, I could shrug it off, as I’m sadly accustomed to this type of treatment from growing up in Utah. But, my heart is grieving for the lives that have been and will be lost over this policy change, and for the families that are and will be torn apart. That is what has me gutted; what I find to be not only cruel but unconscionable actions against innocent minors, families of LGBTQIA Mormons, and LGBTQIA members.

In the end, I still have my faith and beliefs; I’m not resigning those. I am keeping what is of God. I am only resigning the parts that are of man, and my belief is that man is fallible.

To those of you that might take issue with that last statement of belief, Mormons and the Church of Latter Day Saints strenuously reject any official doctrine of infallibility as papish, idolatrous nonsense. As the old adage goes: “Catholics say the Pope is infallible, but don’t really believe it; Mormons say the prophet is fallible, but don’t really believe it.”  On Saturday, I think many of us began to believe it, or at the very least allow for the possibility, once more.

In Which I Break My Own Rule…

Given the admittedly volatile nature of the internet, I have a rule that I have tried to keep – whether in my blog or on various social media.  That rule is that I will NOT discuss politics.  I have so many friends from so many different and varied paths in life and respect them all and the diversity they bring to my life.  Even when I disagree with them, I pretty much just let it go.  They have every right to their opinion as I do.  And I respect them enough to remember that every experience a person goes through molds and shapes them into who they are today.  I can’t say that if I had lived their life, I wouldn’t view the world around me the same way.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve heard a lot of arguments from a lot of sources over Marriage Equality.  And I just can’t take it anymore.  So if you want to know what I think..read on – and pay attention because I’m only going to say this once!  If you’d be just as happy not knowing… here’s a cute picture of a kitten to squee over:  adorable kittens in 3..2..1…

I’ve heard two main arguments against Marriage Equality:

1.  “But it oppresses my religious rights because the Bible and my ‘insert religious leader’ told me all the gays are evil!”

2. “Marriage is ONLY for procreation.”

Ok, so lets go with the second argument first shall we?  Marriage is not solely for the purposes of procreation.  If it were, then couples where one or both parties are infertile (due to age, medical condition, result of injury, happenstance of genetics, whatever the cause) would not be granted a marriage license.  Also, couples who have exceeded the age of being able to reproduce (or lost the ability to any number of causes) would see their marriages dissolved immediately.  We don’t do that.  So can we please finally leave this argument in the dust of it’s hollow grave?

Now onto the questionably trickier argument.  Allowing LGBTQI individuals the right to a civil(LEGAL) marriage, is NOT going to oppress your religious freedoms.  No one is going to force any church or religious entity to perform or even recognize such a marriage.  After all, there are plenty of religions that already DO perform such unions happily – no one has to force those who don’t want to, to do so.

There is not a single “holy book” that has come handed intact directly from the hands of whatever Diety that you choose to worship that has not passed through the hands of hundreds and even thousands of very human, very fallible, human beings!  By that very progress – got news for you, it’s flawed!  There are mistakes.  Anything produced by human hands will have them.  It’s a fact of life.

But the fact remains, that even if there WERE such a miraculous book, the point is moot.  You see in the USA we have this lovely document called the Constitution of the United States of America.  The first 10 amendments to this document are called the Bill of Rights.  The First Amendment ratified in 1791 reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

For anyone that needs a refresher – this means that there is no official religion of the United States of America.  We allow the free exercise of every religion with none held above another.  That means that EVERY religion – whether it is yours or not, whether you agree with it or not – is allowed to be practiced without interference.  That means that if your religion doesn’t perform gay marriages – guess what?  That’s OK!  BUT… it also means that if another church, of another religion down the road DOES – guess what?  That’s also OK!

Marriage Equality is not a battle to force churches to perform gay marriages.  Really, folks, it’s not.  It’s about a civil, legal, document that allows two people to enter into a contract to spend the rest of their lives together – that gives rights of survivorship to the one who outlives the other, grants the rights and abilities to visit each other in the hospital and make decisions for each other.

Marriage is not a SOLELY religious rite.  It isn’t!  If it were, then Athiests would not be allowed to marry.  And guess what folks – they do!

The LGBTQI community that is asking for Marriage Equality doesn’t want to storm your church.  They want to be granted the same rights and responsibilities under the recognition of the government of the land separate from the control of any one specific religion.  That’s it.

And for those who may see me in church and feel conflicted about what I’ve said here… I’d like to remind you of a few things that might help you work your way around it:

The 11th Article of Faith states:  We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

(in other words – you don’t get to claim that what you believe has more legal rights than what anyone else believes – no matter how differently they believe)

The 12th Article of Faith states: We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

(Please see the First Amendment of the US Constitution contained in the Bill of Rights – the US has no official state religion – all religions are granted equal rights to practice – LDS and Pagan and Muslim and even Pastafarian!)

The 9th Article of Faith states: We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

(never make the mistake of thinking  you know absolutely everything there is to know about everything – I can promise you, if you do, you’ll be wrong)

D&C 134:9 states: We do not believe it just to  mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

(Please don’t forget in your passion to see your beliefs put into law, that in doing so you may step on the rights and beliefs of your neighbors who do not believe as you do.  Religious law and Civil laws should remain separate.)

So the next time you consider the arguments about Marriage Equality, I challenge you to view the issues with compassion.  Compassion for those who simply want to protect a love that means more to them than life itself.  Ultimately folks, it’s about love.  Not religion.  Just… LOVE.

My body is amazing.

This woman’s body isn’t the only thing that is amazing.  Her courage, her voice, her strength, her intellect…just HER.

Reblogging from Villainy Loveless…

My body is amazing..

Can You Find The Silver Lining?

I haven’t posted here in a while.  There’s been a lot going on, birthdays, graduations, travels, school concerts and soon dance recitals – mixed in with the other multitudes of minutia that make up life (VA appointments, errands, paying bills – you know what I mean).    And I do have things to share about some of those experiences – but they’re still….taking form and finding the right words to write.

So while that continues to gel, I’m going to take a risk.  I’m going to be blunt about something I almost never talk about, not unless you’re part of a very treasured handful of people.  But maybe my sharing it can help give some solid strength to my shaky legs as I travel this path of healing.  And maybe, just maybe, it can help someone else if I share it.  Even if it’s only to know they’re not the only out there – because in the depth of the dark night when you’re battling against your darkest self – you feel very much alone.  Even when you’re not.

For a longer time than I care to admit to, I’ve dealt with various forms of self-harm and self-abuse.  From purposefully starving myself and denying food until even my body gave up and no longer recognized what ‘hungry’ meant.  To actively seeking to cause myself pain.  In very specific and purposeful ways, with the sole intention being to punish myself.  I still fight with it.

Sometimes the punishment was for things I could point at and say ‘I said this’ or ‘I did that’ or ‘I thought “x.”‘  And I’d use those reasons to justify why I deserved it.  Why I deserved not just the pain I was inflicting on myself, but every bad thing that had or ever could happen to me.  I deserved every last bit of it – and none of the good.  A lot of times, I didn’t even need a reason.  My existence was reason enough that I deserved every bit of pain and punishment I could inflict.

No, I’m not a cutter.  I don’t do anything that leaves marks or scars that can be seen (not past a handful of hours).  And chances are – even if you saw me just seconds after I finished  – you still wouldn’t see anything.  I choose the most sensitive and secret parts to inflict the greatest amounts of pain and punishment on.  Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?  I’m not going to go into any details on what I do, that’s not the point here, and I don’t want to give anyone else who is struggling any ideas on things they have or haven’t tried.

Here’s the thing, if you’ve never experience the need – yes, need – to self-harm, you can’t understand the compulsion, drive, urge, very nearly obsession that takes over your brain until you follow through.  And often times, it’s an escalation thing.  One outlet might work for a while, but you get used to it, so you have to find a new way to inflict pain, or a way to intensify it, to get the same, if very temporary, relief.  And it’s an insidious thing.  It sneaks up on you, even when you think you’re strong and doing well.  It attacks when you’re alone, when you’re vulnerable, when you’re not looking.  This graphic below gives a little insight into the cyclic nature of it:

self_harm_diagram

 

I’m very lucky and very blessed.  I have a wonderful inner circle of supportive and loving people who do everything they can to support me, as I battle to end this cycle.  It’s beyond difficult for me to fathom why they do this.  Why they care so much, why they love me so much, why it matters what happens if it’s happening to me.

When I’m at my strongest and healthiest, I may not understand or think I deserve all they give me, but I accept it and am grateful for it.  When I’m at my most vulnerable and sincerely fighting the urge to inflict very real physical pain on myself almost on a heartbeat by heartbeat basis…I have trouble even accepting it.  I don’t deserve it (in my perception of reality – a flawed perception, I understand that on a strictly logical basis, but there it is – logic has no hand in this reality).  I don’t deserve the love, the concern, the support, the tremendous generosity of these so very loving people.   I want to hide from them.  I want to disappear.  I want to become the nothing that I feel like I am.

I’m trying to help you understand the very warped reality, the darkness that my mind lives in during these times, even while I realize that if you haven’t been there – you’ll never fully comprehend the starkness and desperation of it.

Despite all of this, those special few have never abandoned me to my inner demons.  Despite not always understanding.  Despite the heartache that I know I have caused them at the thought of some of what I’ve done.  They have stood by me, and forgiven me time and again – even when I couldn’t forgive myself.  Even as I’ve stumbled and tripped along my way to fixing what is broken within me, to finding a healthy me under it all.   And because of this, I’ve come lightyears from where I once was.

I stumbled again last night.  I was cruel to myself, and I caused myself physical pain.  Not nearly as cruel, not nearly as much pain as I’ve been known to do at my worst.  After  fighting and fighting I gave in, because I was exhausted.  I was tired, and tired of the fight and wanted so badly for the quiet and the relief that usually comes from surrendering.  And after it was all over I was in tears, because that relief never came.  I’d lost that battle.  And for nothing.

But today, with a clearer head, something occurred to me that I need to try to remember more often than I do.  Often times we’re told ‘don’t look back, you’re not going that way’.  And for a good deal of situations, that’s true.  BUT…but…sometimes we do need to look back.  Not to wallow in our past, but to remind ourself just how far we’ve come already – when it feels like we still have so very far to go and don’t have the strength to keep going.  There was a time that I inflicted pain on myself on a daily basis – sometimes multiple times a day or for entire days without rest.

Even counting last night’s stumble, in the past year I’ve only given in maybe a handful of times – in an entire year!  Put into that kind of perspective – I’ve come so very far!!  I may not be where I want to be yet.  But it truly makes me take another look at how far is left to the goal of health, versus how far I’ve already come just to get where I am now.

Now, I know what a healthy mindset is, and can maintain one for long periods of time.  I know the mindset I want to have, who I want to be and am working to become.  And I realized something else.  In not gaining the relief, even temporary as it would have been, the cycle is breaking down.  I may have given in, but it doesn’t mean I’ve failed.  Rather it showed me how far I’ve come, and that my work to fix myself is not for nothing.  I may not be fixed – yet – but the changes are taking effect.  Some of it is beginning to sink in – if slowly and only subconsciously – that maybe I do have a small bit of value.  It has to be, or the relief would have come.

I have no trouble seeing the body as sacred and to be honored and treated gently – for others.  The idea of anyone I love and care about harming themselves as I have done, is horrifying to me.  And yet…that horror is not there when I look at myself.  Someday, I hope it will be.  I’m working to try and see and honor the sacred within myself.  To see my existence as something to be celebrated, not punished.  To see value and worth in myself.  And when I can’t, I try to remember what those I love and trust have said that they see in me.  I rely on their faith and belief in me, when my own faith and belief in myself falters.

It’s been said that you can’t ‘live on borrowed light.’  And you can’t.  But sometimes you need someone else to light your candle when you can’t find that first spark yourself.  Sometimes you need someone else to believe in you and see value and worth in you, before you can see it in yourself.  Sometimes, before you can love yourself, you need someone else to love you even in your broken and flawed self, to know that even you deserve love.  I’ve been so very lucky to have not just one, but a handful of dear people, that have been willing to do just that for me.  Even when I stumble and fall, they still love me, they still support me, and they remind me that it’s not the end of the world.

Losing one battle, does not lose the war, as long as you regroup and fight again.  So, a reminder to myself, and a reminder to anyone else out there fighting their own battles, don’t give up.  Rest, if you need to.  Heal, if you need to.  And then pick up your sword and fight again.  Remind yourself how far you’ve already come, to give you the strength to keep going.

MB-MA123_LRG

And in my copious spare time I….wait what?!

So, a short while back, a good friend challenged many of us to blog about what we do in our “spare” time, with a link back to her blog:

http://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/05/01/in-my-copious-spare-time/

Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers to “What do you do?”

Some answers include:

  1. Keep Micki alive
  2. Writer
  3. Slush Editor
  4. Beta Reader
  5. Jill of all trades
  6. Household CEO/CFO

The other fun hiccup to all of this, is that I am both a daysleeper (which means I don’t keep anything close to resembling normal hours) and that between Rheumatoid Arthritis and some other health quirks – I have some limitations that most people don’t have, and that even I don’t like to admit to.

Some of you might have heard of  “Spoon Theory”.  In a nutshell, it’s that:  everyday, each of us is given a set number of spoons to complete all of our tasks for the day.  A typical healthy person has a lot of spoons, and can accomplish a lot of things per spoon.  A not so healthy person like me, has not only fewer spoons, but it costs more spoons to do even the simple tasks.  There are some days – getting out of bed and interacting with people – maxes me out.  There are some days just getting out of bed maxes me out.  And on better days, I get more done.  (Don’t we all?!).

In any typical day for me, I get up in the mid-late afternoon/early evening, depending on how late in the morning I finally crawled into my bed, and start with three daily journals.  Two are of some affirmations I’m working on.  I’m not the kind of person that can look themselves in a mirror and repeat a chant 20-25 times in a day without feeling like an utter idiot.  I admire the people who can, but it’s not me.  So instead, I write them out – once a day, every day – to try to begin my day on a positive note.  I also write “daily pages” longhand, stream of consciousness.  I used to write hard and fast 3 pages.  Day in, day out.  Lately, I’ve been allowing myself to be a bit more lax on that after managing to maintain the habit for a bit over a year – so on busy days, if it’s half a page or a page, that’s ok…another day might be four pages or even seven…and that’s ok too.  From there it’s processing my way through the blogs I keep up with, emails waiting on answers, social media, taking care of any items Micki needs handled, processing the mail and bills and budget – all that kind of fun stuff.  I try to blog once a week (yes, I’ve been remiss recently, I’m trying to fix that). Thanks to 24 hr markets – I usually do my shopping at about 3am or so.  It’s lovely and quiet and no people to annoy you – bliss!

On VA days – I have to be up during the daytime…and sometimes have my entire day spent at the VA Hospital.  If you’ve ever been to the VA Hospital in Detroit – you understand why.  VA days, Sundays, and any other day where there’s an appointment that requires me to be up and active during “normal business hours”…are days I know in advance I’m going to be looking at 36-48 hours awake, as a given.  They’re long days.  And I usually crash when I’m finally able to crawl into my bed after that.

Some days and weeks are full of this kind of activity and eventually it all catches up with me and I get….cranky.  Which is when all the cats hide, the dogs sleep and Micki if she must talk to me usually prefaces it with an offer of either a slurpee or chocolate.  And asking if I’ve had any aleve that day, or do I need to go back to sleep?

One exception to all this, is traveling.  When I go on a trip I know I need to alter my daysleeper ways, and I plan appropriately to shift my sleep schedule as best I can.  If I’m lucky, time zones conspire in my favor so that I don’t have to shift my schedule very much at all.

This month, I have a lot going on.  In this past week, I’ve had birthday, two school concerts, VA appts, my own dental appointment, and various errands that required me up and about while the evil daystar was high in the sky.  Next week is a brief lull in the storm – but deceiving – VA appts begin again on Thursday, Plotmongers on Saturday, Mother’s Day, the VA again on Monday, and then I leave for California a week from Thursday – to watch my cousin graduate from college!  (The best excuse yet, for shifting around my schedule!).  Once I return, there’s more birthdays, more VA appts, Memorial Day and a Dance Concert – all before June 1st!

Add to those highlights the usual – keeping up the house, taking care of the furkids (2 dogs, 3 cats, and the “not-our-cats” who come by for a meal), making sure Micki took her meds, remembered her appointments, and any other “as needed”, catching up with family, friends and co-workers (other writers – who else would keep us sane?!?).  Oh…and yes…reading the slush, reading the beta pieces (which I still owe some folks), working on one or both of two novels in progress and a third piece that hasn’t decided how long it wants to be yet.  Doing crits for Plotmongers.  And the general detritus of life.

Because all the many hats I wear are rather “invisible” jobs – it’s easy for people to think I’m not busy and ask for a favor or two.  After all, I’m…”only a homemaker/housewife”…to some.  And a writer – who “always has nothing but time – after all how hard is it to write”.  And I try to accommodate people where I can.  But sometimes, I have to say “no, sorry.  can’t help you.”  You’d be amazed how many people get upset at that.  “But you do nothing all day!”  No, I do nothing you SEE.  You don’t live with me and you don’t talk to me on even a close to daily basis – so you have nothing to judge what I do and don’t do all day by!  Even a list like this blog – there’s stuff I’m going to leave out, because it’s personal.

On top of this, is the stuff I want to do..you know…in my spare time:

  •  The ever growing to-read pile of books – from books on philosophy to novels
  • the window I’m supposed to etch and turn into a mirror
  • the various honey-do tasks like sorting and boxing the library, Micki’s media room, and the kitchen (just for a start).
  • Begin to teach myself violin.
  • Eventually get the piano keyboard replaced and the piano tuned so that I actually play more often.
  •  Catch up on the shows I want to see and have recorded, but missed because the TV hasn’t been physically turned on in weeks – TV what’s that?

Oh yeah…can’t forget:

  • the learning how to format ebooks in different styles that I HAVE to do – even if I want to strangle the author of a certain style guide that shall remain nameless.
  • Working on making some more pieces of jewelry.
  • Penning down any number of other story/novel/book ideas that fly into and out of my head.
  • Finish the “Letters” book – no, I didn’t forget – I’m just behind as usual (you know who you are).

And then there’s….:

  • Learn all the formats for ebooks.
  • Put out the roughly half a dozen completed shorts before the year is over
  • And if I’m feeling really ambitious – maybe even put them into a kind of omnibus type of thing, so that people can buy all of them in one – rather than individually

It doesn’t sound like much, I know.  It doesn’t even sound like much to me.  But the spoons, they just haven’t been there.  There’s been too much heartache and grief for those I care about, where offering them comfort was more important than whatever to-do item fell on my desk that day.  And there’s been my own heart sludge that gummed up the works as well (emotional here, not physical).  And emotions, stuff of the heart – it eats spoons like nothing else ever does.  I can’t be the only one to have discovered that.

But, that’s life, it’s up and downs and spoon feasts and famines.  And one day I’ll be entirely caught up…or not.  And one of these years I’ll get everything on my wish list done…or not.  And all of that’s just fine!

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