scarlettina: (Madness)
At this time of year--open enrollment--I find me reminding myself, amidst the anxiety, anger and overwork, that this is not the job I actually interviewed for when I joined this company. I interviewed for a role that I thought was going to be business-to-consumer, focusing on commercial content with an educational flavor. Within a day of starting the job, I was assigned to a different manager and put onto a different kind of content that I have no interest in. For reasons of salary and benefits, I've stayed nearly 5 years. Last night, in therapy, I realized that I've pretty much reached my limit for doing a job I didn't actually interview for. I'm tired, I'm discouraged and I'm a little fed up. I've been looking for a new job slowly, applied for a couple of things here and there; no nibbles so far. I really want out. And I'll be working harder over the next months to find something that will light me up a little more. Because right now? No so very much. :: sigh ::

Tom Petty

Wed, Oct. 4th, 2017 07:08 am
scarlettina: (Default)
I was never a particular fan of Tom Petty, an unpretty man who made good music, but his death has made an unexpected impact on me. It's been--what--two or three days since the news came of his heart attack and the slow wait for his passing, and I find myself still thinking about it. When Bowie died, I was heartbroken; I'd listened to his music obsessively at one point. I saw him in concert several times and he was brilliant. The glam era made its impact on me in a significant way. Petty's music was present, but far less important to me. Nevertheless, somehow, I'm moved by his departure. It was part of the musical landscape around me. So here are a couple of things that stick with me.

First, I remember seeing Petty's video of Don't Come Around Here No More. I remember watching it on MTV, back when it was actually a music video channel. The video was hallucinogenic, using images out of Alice in Wonderland, weird and vaguely disturbing. I've only seen that video maybe twice, but I remember it more clearly than many others I've seen over the years. It made an impression.

Second, I remember hearing "American Girl" on the radio and loving it. When it showed up as flavor text in "The Silence of the Lambs," I thought its use was both perfect and yet a little too on the nose, something that had nothing to do with Petty himself, but was still sort of a defining moment, in that use of such a recognizable song was shorthand to communicate who this girl was. She was everyone's daughter, unprepared for what was coming. Only a great musician could produce something so iconic, so economical and so effective.

"Free Fallin'" seemed to just show up for me, without any particular association. It's got one of the great hooks of rock'n'roll. I feel the same way about "Refugee," another song with a great hook. This one, though, held resonance for me. Still does.

And then there was his performance after 9/11 on "America: A Tribute to Heroes." He sang "I Won't Back Down" and I've never seen such burning rage in anyone's eyes before. At least, that's how I remember it; maybe I was seeing my own anger in him. His delivery was laconic as always, but the intensity in his expression was nearly unbearable. I've never forgotten it. And in a way, I was grateful for it. He was speaking for all of us.

So that was Petty's presence in my life. Why such an impact? I dunno. Maybe I wasn't aware of how hard I was listening at the time. But I was listening.
scarlettina: (Default)
It's like clockwork around here: Labor Day comes and Mother Nature flicks a switch. Though Seattle summers are usually mild, this year, we're going from scorching hot days to cooler temps and now the rains have come. They started yesterday and continue today; I think we've seen the last of the sun for a while.

I'm not quite ready for autumn. I haven't changed over my wardrobe; I suppose that happens this week and weekend. Last night I changed my blanket from summer- to winter-weight. I don't have quite the right shoes for this weather; the boots that I've worn for three years now have got holes in them--perhaps not the quality I thought they were when I bought them.

And Rosh Hashannah is bearing down upon us with me, once again, not having tickets for services anywhere because I don't belong to a synagogue and because it's the busiest time of year for me at work. (Most synagogues don't know what to do with me anyway; they're set up for families, not for independent Women of a Certain Age.) I failed to get tickets for services at UW's Hillel, which I've done before. I live within walking distance of the local Chabad House (the only congregation in town that doesn't require a donation for High Holiday tickets), but I wasn't brought up Orthodox. And though their outreach is friendly and welcoming, I'm a little intimidated by the prospect of what will surely be a less-than-egalitarian approach to services. I'm not the sitting-in-the-back-row type. And so I'm once again a little bereft at this time of year.

And, as mentioned above, it's the busiest time of year at work, which means I've got tons of work to do, oftentimes overseen by a million managers, all of whom want to have check-in meetings to ensure the work is getting done. Which means talking to my actual manager about the irony of negotiating the work needing to be done versus attending meetings to report on said work. I can meet or I can execute; I can't do both effectively simultaneously. This year, it seems like it's worse than it's ever been. I keep putting off or declining meetings, and the managers who run said meetings want just five minutes, which often ends up turning into an hour anyway. And then I have to explain myself and my work to everyone. Especially irritating are the compliance managers, who insist that they don't have to be familiar with our website (on which I work) but then insist that I give them a tour to ensure I'm doing the work. It's maddening.

So, yeah. The turn of the calendar comes and the darker, cooler, wetter days, the busier days, come along with it. I miss living somewhere with a more gradual segue into autumn and winter. But every now and then we get a glimpse of the beauty that autumn can offer and I'm pleased.
scarlettina: (Default)
1. If you had a year off (with pay, to make it interesting), what would you do with it?
First thing that came to my mind was get in my car and travel the country, the most massive road trip ever. There are so many places I want to see that I never have, and I have friends all over the country so it wouldn't be a solitary trip. Of course, I'd want to travel overseas as well; I'm not nearly done with international travel. But I have neglected seeing the US and the number of places I still want to go is huge: the Grand Canyon (which I'll actually be seeing in the spring), Red Rocks, Big Sur, Devil's Tower, Mt. Rushmore, the Big 5 in Utah, Crater Lake, the Newseum in DC, Nantucket, Fenway Park, Ellis Island (yeah, typical New Yorker), Kennedy Space Center, the Everglades and on and on and on. . . .

2. What are two things you would do to improve the country if you were in complete charge?
Single payer medical insurance. Democratic president.

3. What three TV shows do you like watching?
Very different question than what are your favorite shows; interesting way to put it. I like watching Project Runway though I haven't in a while, Game of Thrones though I'm a season behind, and Downton Abbey.

4. What are your four favorite ethnic dishes?
Lasagna, chicken tikka masala, phad see eiw.

5. What are five words you love to use?
Hilarious, bananas, booby (as in blue-footed).
scarlettina: (Madness)
My dreams last night were full of writers--and the predictable messages when you're, well, me.

First I dreamed I was at Kit Kerr's place ([personal profile] aberwyn) and she was cleaning out her bookshelves, getting rid of extras and books she'd never read. While she was doing that, she was talking about her latest book, and how she was going to self-publish, and would I edit it--because I was the only one who could. There was something in there about buying a book I didn't really need. But I committed to doing the editing, knowing that it meant I wouldn't be doing my own writing if I did so.

Then I dreamed that I'd written a play for a school performance--a terrible play, just really bad, and I knew it. In the dream, five major science fiction writers were attending (I remember specifically Joe Haldeman, Greg Bear, and Bob Silverberg--the two others were vaguely familiar faces, but my dream self did not put names to them; one of them may have been Harlan). I made a point to tell them it was bad, to not have high expectations. I was a member of the cast, by the way. Right before the play began, I retreated to the restroom a) to use it and b) to refresh my memory on my lines. A couple of the writers called after me, making fun of me for writing a play. (I know all of these writers but I know Greg well enough to know that this is emphatically not something he would do. Ever.) Of all people, Haldeman followed me into the bathroom to ask me why I kept telling them the play was bad, and why I was giving myself a hard time for writing a play instead of fiction. I made him go away because I had business to do (i.e., relieve myself). When I was done, I went out to watch the warm-up number before the play began--a bunch of the boys in the cast doing a performance of "Gee Officer Krupke!" from West Side Story. Then it was curtain time. I took my place . . . and realized I didn't know my lines. I wasn't off book--and the curtain was about to go up.

See, these dreams? Are all about getting in my own way, feeling inadequate and unprepared. I've been giving myself a hard time about not writing fiction but working on the board game design instead--as if taking a different creative approach is a bad thing. I actually had a conversation with a friend who's a well-known name in the RPG design sphere in which I told him I felt intimidated by talking about the board game in front of him because of who he is (and talking about it in general because some of my friends are Grand Old Men (tm) in the RPG business). And tonight I have therapy but I haven't done my homework for this week.

It's a good thing I'm a cognitive dreamer with an analytical mind, otherwise I'd be kind of a mess. I mean, I am kind of a mess; I have spent my adult life surrounded by the most extraordinary creators, whether they're writers or designers and I still have self-image issues, even though I know that they wouldn't be spending time with me if I didn't myself have something to offer as a creator and generally interesting person. Some part of me always figured that at some point, one gets over this sort of thing, that as a grown-up I would conquer this sort of madness. Having not done so by this point, I'm guessing one never does after all. One just sort of learns how to deal with it. I'm learning. May I say, however, that it's a pain in the ass? It's a pain in the ass.

The hospital cards

Sat, Sep. 9th, 2017 11:08 pm
scarlettina: (Default)
I've been trying to declutter the house bit by bit over the last few weeks in preparation for some gradual redecoration. In amongst the piles, I found all the cards I received while I was in the hospital last year. Now that I'm healthy and functioning and about a year out from it all, I'm overwhelmed all over again--and in a whole different way--by the amazing amount of love and support I was blessed to receive during my illness and recovery. I had multiple cards from some people. I received cards from a few people I barely know. I had cards I don't remember receiving, probably because I was too out of it to really retain and integrate what I was seeing. Some of them included the most wonderful, the most moving notes.

I remember chunks of my stay. I remember some of the people who came to visit. Even now, people tell me they came to see me and had whole conversations with me, and I don't remember them actually being there. I remember the people who were there day in and day out. I remember being unable to sleep a couple of nights, and watching a TV channel that was nothing more than static netcams of beautiful places. I remember physical challenges that I would never have imagined having to deal with. For example, I had to learn to write all over again; I had trouble even holding a pen after a week. I had trouble managing some of the most private functions. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before, terrifying in so many ways.

I haven't taken a big trip since last summer--the trip to Ireland where, we believe, I picked up whatever it was that tried to kill me. I have been putting together my photojournal of the trip in fits and starts. It's been a very piecemeal, sort of catch-as-catch-can kind of affair, and I think it's partly because I associate it with my illness and so am having trouble casting back for trip memories to finish the project. And now, my brother has begun to plan our family trip to Arizona for next spring. Of course, I'm not concerned about the possibility of getting sick like that again, and I will not let any prospect of travel be associated with the possibility of another devastating illness. There's too much of the world left to see to be worried about that sort of thing.

I will say this, though. If I ever feel like I'm not loved or valued, I have only to look through the cards I received during and after my hospital stay, to remember the nine flower arrangements I received, to remember the friends who came and stayed, to remember that my brother flew out to tend to me. I am not alone in this world, even though sometimes I feel that way. I hate that it took such an illness to remind me of that so thoroughly. But sometimes a kick in the head (or the gut, in this case) is what's needed. And a pile of cards I can turn to again and again and again.

More on tap

Mon, Aug. 28th, 2017 07:32 am
scarlettina: (Default)
Yesterday was the last day of the current session The teacher had us doing some pretty complicated work at speed. I was having real trouble with it. I had planned to move on to level 2 at the end of this session, but this class in particular just felt like defeat to me. I couldn't get the sequence down consistently, and it seemed like every time the teacher's eyes were on me, I just failed. I cramped up, or my steps were too short, or I just got confused. It may have been exhaustion--I was tired after a very full four days--or it may have been genuine lack of developed ability, but it was clear I was missing something.

At the end of class, I went up to Josh (the teacher) and said to him, "Honest assessment: am I ready to move on to level 2?" He told me that I had some things down cold, but I had more work to do--maybe another round at level 1 wouldn't be a bad idea. So I'm staying in level one. I'll be bored for some of it, but it will give me time to hone things. And I need to practice more.

I admit frustration. At the same time, I'm pretty sure I'd be a lot more frustrated if I moved to level 2 and couldn't do any of it. I want to go on. I need to stay where I am and nail what I'm doing first.

Big :: sigh ::

Tap dancing

Sun, Aug. 13th, 2017 09:32 pm
scarlettina: (Default)
My tap teacher was complaining about being old today. He's 35. I'm in the oldest person in the room by at least 20 years. I suspect he knows I'm older than him; I'm not sure he realizes by how much. I'll tell him at some point.

Last class, we did paddle rolls, a step I remember from childhood. I can still do them, and do them fairly quickly. I did them in front of the teacher and he asked me why I wasn't in Level 2 yet. "Next session," I told him. "I wanted to make sure I had everything down." Practice, practice, practice.

Which reminds me, when I have money again, I need to order myself a practice floor.

I came home today and massaged both my feet. I've had some pain in both my feet and my ankles. I'm going to keep dancing. I will not let this stop me. I will just have to baby my feet and ankles more. Also lose some weight.

I'm loving these classes. It gives me joy to be doing this. I feel competent and I'm having fun. And it's something only three other people in my life are doing right now, one of whom is far away. It feel like it's mine. I know that sounds strange. No one has a monopoly on their art. But I love that it's different than anything nearly anyone else I know is doing. You can see a little video of me with a small sample of what I've been learning, if you like. It all makes me wish I'd done this a lot sooner.
scarlettina: (Madness)
One morning in 1985, I had a dream.

To put this dream into context, let me remind you that in 1985 I was a freshman in college and living on Long Island, Ronald Reagan was president, and his nuclear saber-rattling toward the Soviet Union was unprecedented. We were, as Freddie Mercury put it, living in the shadow of the mushroom cloud.

So one morning, I had a dream. I was standing in my elementary school cafeteria which had a wall of tall, broad windows. I was standing, facing that wall. All the lunch tables had been pushed up against the wall of windows, and through the glass I saw an angry gray-and-red mushroom cloud rising . . . rising . . . from a flat horizon. And then I felt the rumbling.

And then I woke up. Sat up. The bed was shaking. The house was shaking.

And I thought, "Oh my G-d. It's really happening."

The rumbling stopped. My bed stopped moving. But I didn't move for another minute or two.

I got out of bed and turned on the radio. It turned out that the tristate area had had an earthquake.

But here's the thing: I genuinely thought the end had come because the president had been promising it so frequently and so adamantly. For that moment, I was terrified, horrified, and sure I was about to die in a radioactive conflagration.

This morning, in the wake of Donald Trump's promise of fire and fury yesterday, I woke to a headline in the New York Times that says, "Trump Says Military Is ‘Locked and Loaded, Should North Korea Act Unwisely'". And I'm feeling the rumbling again.

This isn't 1985; it's 2017. We have an incompetent, spoiled narcissist with no political, military or diplomatic experience in the White House, making statements sure to increase international tensions. The secretary of state tells us that Americans should sleep well at night and that he has no concerns about the president's rhetoric. I have to wonder which reality he's living in.

This is a baby playing with matches and a powder keg. This is our country. This is our lives. I never thought that I'd wake up feeling the rumbling like I did that morning in 1985. And though there was no earthquake in Seattle this morning, as soon as I read the news, I felt, for one brief moment, the earth tremble.
scarlettina: (Geek Crossing)
I have been thinking about games lately, mainly because I have an idea for a board game and I'm reading up on the design process.

Specifically, I've been thinking about why I enjoy Ticket to Ride so much. Even when I don't win, it doesn't matter; I enjoy the process of the game play itself. I find it enormously satisfying and winning the overall game doesn't really matter to me when I play. I've realized that it's because the game has win conditions within win conditions.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, the idea is that you are building railroads piece by piece across the country on specific routes determined by the cards that you draw. In order for each route to count, you have to complete it, laying down all the specified segments of the route. There are reward points for finishing each train route. There are reward points for the person who builds the longest route--which often means connecting several routes that you build over the course of the game. And then there are reward points for the segments of the routes that you build. The person with the highest point count overall wins. As I said above, win conditions within win conditions.

When I meet any of these conditions I am satisfied. Sometimes players compete for hubs where several routes meet. Sometimes laying down my route means blocking you from completing yours. There are cut-throat players who do this deliberately. Often I don't, but sometimes? Yeah, watch out! My personal win conditions tend to be completing routes I've drawn and completing the longest route. If I happen to win the game with all of the conditions listed in the paragraph above, that's awesome, too. But no matter who wins the overall game, if I've completed my own bits, I generally have fun and enjoy myself. I've started to think of this as the "fun condition."

If the point of a game is to have fun, then Ticket to Ride meets my fun condition. I need to bear this in mind as I work my way through this game idea. And I need to think about other games I enjoy and why I enjoy them.

NOTE: To my friends who have been designing games for decades, yes, yes, I know: this is probably 101-level stuff. But as a friend said to me tonight, everyone finds their own road.

Which direction?

Mon, Jul. 17th, 2017 12:58 pm
scarlettina: (Madness)
Sometimes I don't know whether I'm coming or going. The fact that gmail occasionally seems wonky, delivering email a day late, doesn't help. I don't know what to think sometimes. On the other hand, I recently had this exchange with my therapist:

Me: I need to stop thinking and just start doing.
Therapist: You need to stop doing and just start being.

Oh, right. It's all about being. This mindfulness stuff is hard.

"Stand in the place where you live
Now face north
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before . . . "
scarlettina: (Default)
1) I had a perfectly marvelous 55th birthday, and I'm hoping that as I have begun, so shall I continue.

2) I have acquired new tap shoes that fit me better and I'm delighted with them. I took my first class in them yesterday. My feet felt better, I didn't get unreasonably tired, and I mastered the steps we were doing a little quicker, I think, for not having to compensate for shoes that were too long. I'm actually looking forward to practicing!

3) I am excited about the new Doctor. It was time for a woman and I find myself ready to reengage with the series. I liked Matt Smith well enough but found the storytelling in his seasons weirdly disjointed. I liked Peter Capaldi, but after disengaging with Matt Smith's Doctor, I found myself unable to reengage. I am curious and excited about Jodie Whittaker as 13. I'm in and look forward to her premiere. When, now, is the regeneration episode?

4) Farewell to actor Martin Landau and director/auteur George Romero. Landau looms largest in my experience as Commander Koenig of Moon Base Alpha in Space: 1999 and, of course, as Bela Lugosi in the film "Ed Wood." I know, I know, Mission: Impossible--but I was too young to be captured by it at the time. As for Romero, he changed the world with "Night of the Living Dead." He certainly changed the horror genre, giving us a new kind of monster that has survived generations and multiple iterations. Respect to both of these gentlemen.

5) I need to devote a couple of evenings to finishing laying down the ideas for the board game I've been thinking about. This idea will not let go.

And so I am 55

Tue, Jul. 11th, 2017 08:42 pm
scarlettina: (Have A Cookie)
Yesterday, I celebrated my double-nickel birthday. I made a point to make it a lovely day, having brunch with [personal profile] lagilman at Portage Bay Cafe, an afternoon on my balcony cleaning it up and gardening a bit, and dinner with J and KG at one of Seattle's finest restaurants, Canlis, where I've never been before. It was a lovely day, a satisfying, slightly self-indulgent day. I felt loved, revived, and supported.

I am not where I thought I'd be at this point in my life, but I am trying to make the most of where I am. And there is a lot of goodness. I'm financially secure with a lovely home, a loving family, and the most wonderful friends a girl could ask for. I am mostly healthy. I'm in useful, effective therapy. I am working hard to determine what I want and how to go about getting it. I am reprioritizing my creative time, energy and pursuits.

I find myself wishing that my parents were here. I would love for them to see where I am and who I have become. I would love for them to meet the man my brother has become, and my delightful sister-in-law and niece. I would love for them to meet so many of my friends, interesting, creative, remarkable people that they are. I would love to ask their advice about this thing and that. It didn't occur to me until tonight that I've been missing them both lately even though I have lived most of my life without them.

I want more travel. I want to produce more creative product, whether it's projects I write or edit, performances I give, jewelry I make or photography that I pursue. I want to continue the slow redecoration of the house, and the slow shedding of stuff. More to come, I guess, as the year unfolds.

Happy birthday to me.

Dancing

Sun, Jun. 25th, 2017 11:23 am
scarlettina: (Default)
When I was a kid, raised on movie musicals, I wanted to take tap dancing lessons. I saw Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, and I wanted to dance. My mother insisted that all dance grows out of ballet and I had to study ballet first. So for a couple of years I studied ballet. Finally, I got to study tap and I adored it. Of course, by then, some of my passion had waned, mostly because I had to do what my mom wanted me to do first; it was harder for me to want to practice, and my mom badgered me about it. (It was thus with music as well. I wanted to study violin. She didn't want to "have to listen to that scratching all the time" so I played flute instead, and wasn't as passionate about it.) Eventually lessons stopped because there was no money for them, and that was that.

In my thirties, I tried going back to ballet and I enjoyed it. Problem by then, of course, was that my body hadn't grown into ballet form, and so by the fifth or sixth lesson, I was having pain in my legs that meant I was actually damaging my hips. I went to the doctor about it, and was told that I had to stop or I'd do permanent damage. When I quit the class, the teacher was disappointed. She said, "But you're good. You're the only person in the class that actually knows what she's doing." C'est la vie.

Earlier this spring, I started taking tap lessons. I love it. I'm good and I know it. My teacher says so. I'm practicing (perhaps not as much as I should be, but I am). The things I learned as a kid are coming back almost instinctively. I went yesterday afternoon to try to find better fitting shoes than the ones that I have (mine are too long and the ball of my foot isn't hitting the toe tap the way it should). It felt good to go looking for tools for my art that were actually appropriate. Thank goodness that beginner tap shoes aren't as expensive as street shoes! Anyway, because my feet are short and wide, the shop is putting in a special order to try to get some pairs that are suited to my strange-for-dancers feet.

I have a tiny little dream. My tiny little dream is to get good enough to perform locally. I don't know if that will ever be possible, but I want to try. I love being in front of an audience. I know I have presence. I love the bling and shine of being on stage. And I think I can entertain; I've done it before. And so we go.
scarlettina: (Default)
Who here should I be reading? Who should I be getting to know?
scarlettina: (Everything Easier)
As a result of her surgery, Sophie has a large shaved spot on her side, in the midst of which is her giant incision, stitched up and looking like something Frankenstein might have done. The temptation to touch the shaved area is just too strong to resist, because it's the closest I get to actually touching her rather than her fur. Don't get me wrong: her fur is thick and wooly and soft and luxurious and I love to pet her. But it's not touching her. I am very careful not to touch her incision, but I can't help touching the very warm (101.5 degrees Fahrenheit is the normal temp for a cat), velvety area around it. Her skin is that mottled, motley pattern shown in her fur; she's a true tortie calico, right down to her dermis. And right now she has vanishingly short, velvety stubble, lovely to touch.

She's being very assertive about spending time with me, which delights me, because she's so often cowed by Zeke, who can be very jealous. But Zeke is staying out of her way, which also pleases me. She's not being harassed during her recuperation.

She is my little sweetheart and I think she's feeling better than she's felt in quite some time. She seems to be recovering well. This is a goodness.

--------

And now for something completely different. As [personal profile] ironymaiden would say, here's a shiny object I found on the internet.
scarlettina: (Reality Check)
A couple of remarks on Facebook this morning got me thinking about contrasts and distinctions.

1) An acquaintance of mine posted a single phrase: I need a girlfriend. The conversation that ensued was . . . enlightening. A couple of his female friends advised that he work on himself and that love would come. (This has been my occasional thought about this acquaintance, as it has often been about myself.) Some of his friends asked him what he could possibly need a woman for; girlfriends, they said, were all whiny, needy and expensive. And this acquaintance of mine said, "You mean it doesn't get better? At least the last one had the body of a goddess." At which point, I thought, "Ah, you're not looking for a girlfriend; you're looking to get laid." There's a difference. It also made me remember one of the many reasons I've never dated this acquaintance of mine. He reveals himself too often to be exactly the kind of man who doesn't see women as real people. We are useful for particular things, but mostly we're adjuncts to men, from his perspective.

2) I saw a production of "Cabaret" last night, and remarked upon the fact that a couple of people laughed at the end of the song "If You Could See Her," with its horrifying, deliberately anti-Semitic punchline. I said that I wasn't sure whether or not they laughed because they were shocked or because they actually thought it was funny, that in the current political climate it's hard to tell. A friend responded that it's an old show, and that when he saw it in the 1980s, people laughed then, too. I responded, "I don't think the age of the show has anything to do with it. It's a shocking moment, signaling a major cultural shift in the play." He said, "The age of the show was in reference to your thought on current politics." But the more I think about this exchange, the more I think he really didn't get my point. Did he think I thought the show is contemporary? Is he not aware of my more than passing interest in theater and awareness of at least some of its history? Possible, certainly, but I'd be surprised if that were the case, given how long we've known each other. Art--good art--remains relevant despite the passage of time. It will provoke different conversations in every era. Either he missed my point, or he really thought I had no idea what I was talking about. The longer I know this man, the more we butt heads about particular issues, the more I think he hasn't been paying attention, which is . . . disappointing. Or maybe it's just that we've lived such completely different lives that we don't know how to communicate with each other--a thought that has never occurred to me until just now.

Sophie

Thu, Jun. 22nd, 2017 07:46 am
scarlettina: (Everything Easier)
In last night's post, I mentioned that Sophie had an abscess. I won't get into giant detail, but the TL;DR version is that apparently she and Zeke had a tussle at some point. He bit her and the wound healed, but she developed an abscess in the fat layer under her skin. It had to come out. I took her to the vet, she stayed overnight and she's home now with a giant scar on one side and an Elizabethan collar to keep her from picking at it.

(I tried to post a picture of her here, but DW has an unfamiliar picture-posting system, and I can't seem to get it to work. I'll figure it out eventually.)

She's doing just fine. She's eating, pooping, and getting used to life with an E collar. Last night, I closed her in the upstairs room, collar on, with food and a litter box. This morning, as if to show me who's boss, I woke to find the collar laying in the doorway to my bedroom and Sophie nowhere to be found. The door to the upstairs room was still closed. The only way she could have gotten out was to climb up and over the loft edge, and then jump down onto the easy chair on the main floor. No, there's nothing wrong with this girl. She's going to be fine. But this all means that I'm going to have to keep a careful eye on her. If she can remove her collar and drop it in my doorway to spite me, then it's going to be a tricky two weeks until she can stop wearing it.

:: sigh :: Cats.
scarlettina: (Default)
So one of the concepts we deal with in DBT is "willfulness." It's the idea that you are not participating effectively in the world as it is, or that you're not doing something you know needs to be done to move toward a goal. When we say "in the world as it is," we're talking about radically accepting reality: if it's raining, then it's raining and there's nothing you can do about that if you don't like it. (That's the mildest of examples. A more realistic one might be if someone is terminally ill, there's nothing you can do about the illness; you have to accept it. Denial is willfulness.) You have to accept it--not deny it or argue about it. Only then can you move into "willingness," which allows you to find your way to making a commitment, first to accepting that which feels unacceptable and then making a choice to do what needs to be done and doing it.

The last few days have been challenging. I started a meditation practice. I started an inner child visualization practice. I continued to journal in my DBT journal, which I won't be sharing here. I did these things along with my DBT homework and mindfulness practices. I was taking my medications regularly. Somewhere over the weekend, something in me got willful and I stopped pretty much everything. I tried to meditate; I had no focus. The inner child visualization just stopped. I stopped keeping the daily mindfulness journal that's part of DBT. I stopped taking my medications. At the same time, I discovered that my cat Sophie had a giant abscess that would have to be removed; she went off to the vet yesterday for surgery.

This morning, I had a therapy appointment and everything sort of crashed.

I didn't have my diary card with me. Then I had to admit that I stopped all of these things: meds, meditation, mindfulness and so on. And then we got digging into why. The answer was simple and devastatingly difficult all at once. I was taking care of myself, and I suddenly got skeptical about the idea that I was worthy of that kind of self-care. I'd even started thinking about going back to Weight Watchers. So what did I do? I made myself sick eating badly yesterday. Literally sick. I got three hours of sleep last night because I felt so physically awful and I was so worried about Sophie.

That not taking care of myself, that skepticism about me being worthy of self care, was willfulness. I was not participating effectively in the world as it is, a world in which I am worthy of that kind of self care, a world in which it's important for me to be healthy so I can function properly and can move forward willingly. We talked about where these ideas were first fostered inside me, we talked about how much care taking of others I've done over the last few years, we talked about how all that care taking made it easy for me to put aside my self care, allowed me not to examine my attitude about self care and my worthiness of self care and the love needed to maintain it.

I called in to work sick today because I felt so awful and was so tired. I knew I'd be having to care for Sophie, a kind of care taking I was totally willing to do, that I accepted needed doing and that I was responsible for. But I also had to take care of me, which meant accepting that I am worthy of care, then doing what's needed: taking my medications, journaling, being gentle with myself about starting over again.

Practice makes progress, as a WW leader said to me years ago. Progress. That's all I can ask for.
scarlettina: (Reality Check)
Some of you may know that I've been doing a rather intensive therapy called dialectical behavior therapy (known as DBT). If one can be said to "come out" as depressed or suicidal, then I guess I qualify for "coming out." I've never attempted suicide, but for 8-9 months last year into this year, it was a primary thought pattern for me. The darkness got pretty bad; it was a daily phenomenon. I didn't think that my presence on Earth mattered, that it would be easier for everyone if I disappeared. I didn't think I was worthy of love. And, surrounded as I was by friends and relatives so many of whom were suffering with cancer (very specifically, six people--friends and family--were all dealing with it at the same time, all different flavors: brain, prostate, pancreatic, breast; it was awful), I couldn't bear the thought that life was nothing but sickness and devastation and loss. Cancer was the primary trauma of my teen years; to have it come roaring into my environment so aggressively all at once was horrifying, especially with the prelude of Jay Lake's journey. I thought about what I'd do to myself, how I'd do it. Three things kept me from taking final steps: the thought that I didn't want to put my brother into the position of explaining to my niece what I'd done or why I'd done it, the fact that there's still too much of the world left to see and too many people to love, and the anti-depressants I've been taking. It still peeks through occasionally, but I have the tools now to deal with it.

DBT has helped pretty significantly. It's a combination of cognitive and behavioral methods that address thought and behavior patterns in a very systematic way. It actually requires the use of a workbook! But what the workbook does is concretize the internal work that one does as part of the therapy. It draws on evidence-based therapies and a little bit of Buddhist philosophy to foster specific coping skills:

Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment
Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it
Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others
Emotion Regulation: how to change emotions that you want to change

Mindfulness is a separate skill that is emphasized and practiced hand in hand with each of the other three skills. I've completed two of these modules so far, and they have definitely been helpful. Two friends, independent of each other, have observed that these days I seem more centered and grounded. That's what I've been working toward. I have one more module to go. I need to decide, after that, if I'm going to do the course again. It is expensive and it is a lot of work, but it's clear that the work has made a difference.

I've also started to do heartbeat meditation for 20 minutes every morning. This is a relatively recent practice, and I have a lot of work to do. But what I've found is that it helps me start my day in a more balanced, mindful way. I'm not as angry as I've been (and I've been very angry for the last two years), and I'm finding that it's helping me in other ways--but I'm not prepared to talk about them yet because I need more evidence before I'm sure that what I'm experiencing is substantial and consistent.

I've been wanting to write about these things for a while. I have refrained from doing so because I was concerned about "how it would look" or "what people would think." This morning, I've decided I just kinda don't care. These are issues that I have been dealing with and the things that are helping me cope. I wanted to be honest about what I'm feeling, thinking, and doing. It's been a big part of how I've been spending my time this year, and not writing about it seemed like corking up something very important. If there's anything here that can help other people, then I'm glad for that.

I also wanted to say, mainly, that I'm glad I'm still here. I'm looking forward to what I hope will be a good summer.

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