i do not think it means what you think it means

I suspect that we all have something that we grew up with and thought it was just so wonderful, so sweet, and then when we got older we realize just how fucking sick it really was. For example, the children’s game Ring Around the Rosy. Seems innocent enough until you learn that the origins were in the Dark Ages, the time of the Black Death specifically. Creepy, right?

For your consideration, I present Dead South’s rendition of the classic American song “You Are My Sunshine.” I remember my grandfather singing this to me as a little girl. I was probably in my 30s when I heard the rest of the song and figured out that the guy singing is most likely a creepy ass stalker. But the harmonies and the cinematography are just undeniably amazing.

I will say that I find music to be a huge piece of my world, and I pride myself on having pretty diverse taste. I’m not one to rule out entire genres of music but rather I can point to someone/something I like just about all the way across the board. And different music helps me in different situations.

When I need to focus on work tasks I usually turn to guitar harp artist Jamie Dupuis. When I need energy I turn on something I can sing to like Bowling for Soup. When I need to get my sassy pants on I tend towards Brothers Osborne. And when I want something relaxing but not sleepy I lean to Mumford & Sons. Between Lancelot and I we have a ridiculously large music library, and I love it.

I realized earlier today that I haven’t been finishing any of my projects lately, just adding more. In all fairness most of them aren’t that big, but then that makes me feel even more like they should be done already. For whatever reason I’m back at that place where everything is boring when it comes to my knitting. It’s frustrating.

Right now I have seven projects in the works – the Lotus Cowl, lace scarf, scarves for charity, a kitty doll, mohair shawl, shawl for a friend, and a vest I’m making for myself. I realize it’s not even the end of October but I really don’t want to take any of those into 2022 if I can help it.

it ain’t the speed that matters, it’s the forward momentum

Everyone who has a mental illness experiences it differently, even if they have the exact same Dx. And each of us responds to the medications and therapies differently, even if we take the exact same treatment. Over the course of the last 15 years I’ve taken more medications than I remember (they’re written down somewhere) and had a handful of therapists who had different ways of helping me to treat my symptoms.

But there’s no cure for this. There is a kind of remission, a place we can get to where things are “as normal as normal gets” for us, but right now there’s no magic pill that just takes it all away. I think that’s ok.

I have a need for regularity and routine to keep me going in a forward direction. Some of the choices I made in the past have resulted in long term memory issues and that makes things a bit more challenging for me sometimes, but I just don’t know how to quit. I am a born fighter and let me tell you, when the time comes I’m going to go down swinging.

In the spirit of sharing what works for me because it might just help you, here’s some random stuff that seems to make my life a little easier. This is in no way meant to be taken as gospel or medical advice or anything like that. Think of it as the random sort of stuff a friend might tell you over a cup of whatever it is you like to drink.

Thing One: SLEEP. This is huge for me because a lack of sleep will bring on hypomania and potentially full on mania and that is just no damn good for someone with bipolar disorder. I have done my best to make the bedroom a very calm and quiet place. There is no TV in there, I have a black-out shade on the window, I keep the ceiling fan running year round, comfortable sheets, I play white noise on an app on my phone, and I use the bed for only sleeping and “quality” time with Lancelot. I allow myself plenty of time in which to get 8 hours of sleep knowing full well that I likely won’t get quite that much every night.

Thing Two: TREATMENT. For me this includes a psychiatrist to prescribe medication and a therapist to help with coping skills. The practice I go to includes both of those providers and they talk to each other about what’s going on with me, because they need to. My illness requires both medication management and therapy and this is something that over the last 15 years I’ve come to realize and I rely on it. I know that there are people who can manage their illnesses without medication; each of us is different. I hope that you all know that if you need help it is 100% fine to ask for it.

Thing Three: GET TO KNOW YOURSELF. Self-awareness is really just huge as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been working on this for awhile now and it’s sometimes really hard. But I know when I start craving certain things or avoiding certain things that it’s a sign from my brain that either something is really wrong, or I need to change up a routine. For example, sometimes all it takes to reboot my mood is to move things around in my office. We affectionately refer to this as “shit shifting” and it is by far my favorite way to redecorate. I also know that when my body tells me I’m too tired, I really am too tired and I need to slow down. This whole glorification of being busy and exhausted and everyone having a “side hustle” is just awful and it needs to stop. Slow down already, relaxing is not only good it’s important.

Thing Four: DO STUFF THAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD. I need to make sure we all understand what this means, because it does not mean getting drunk or chemically altered or anything that is destructive, unless you’re thinking about destroying the dust bunnies under the bed or something like that. What I mean is that it’s important to have something you like you do that you feel good doing. For some people this is baking, for others it’s wood working, hell it could even be playing video games. For me it’s usually knitting. There’s value, lots of value, in taking time every day to do things that make you feel good about your skills and yourself.

Thing Five: PICK YOUR BATTLES. Not every hill is worth dying on, and sometimes it is entirely essential to surrender so that you can rest and rally the troops (that would be you) so that you’ll be ready to fight again tomorrow. There is no shame at all in calling for a time out if you need one. Take a day off work, ask your partner/spouse/friend to do a chore for you if you can’t, order delivery food, just be gentle with yourself so that tomorrow you can go back to being the amazing badass that you are.

Finally, know that even though we don’t all experience these illnesses and challenges the same way, we’ve all kind of been “there” and I for one am always happy to lend an ear to listen and a shoulder for crying on. Please don’t ever be ashamed about the fight you’re fighting.

And just so I don’t end this on a giant ol’ bummer, here is a very cute critter picture.

I am accustomed to being used as cat furniture

working out of a backpack:  adventures of an IT worker in a pandemic

When the shit hit the fan last March I found myself working at home, pretty much overnight. Our campus was notified that Spring Break was going to be extended to two weeks instead of the traditional one, and the faculty were told to get their classes ready to be delivered remotely. On Friday, the day before my birthday, I packed up all the pieces and parts of my office I thought I would need and that was that. I went from driving to campus and working in my own dedicated office five days a week to working in my pjs with the cats “helping.” I was also in the midst of a triangular move involving Mom and Lancelot, but that’s a whole other story that I’ve told before. Anyway, I started working full time from home and found that when I was able to setup my very own dedicated office at home I really rather enjoyed it.

There’s a ton of flexibility to be had when you only have to really be “dressed” from the waist up, like you can put in a load of laundry when you take a break to stretch, and you can start cooking dinner whenever you need to. Access to the fridge, freezer, and pantry was also pretty damn nice. Shoes? Who needs shoes! It’s rather heavenly. Plus, no commute other than to pick up Lancelot from his job in the morning and for me there was almost no temptation to go out to get food. Living in various states of lockdown and being afraid of catching the plague absolutely sucked, but work wasn’t the same source of stress that it had been.

One of the other added bonuses for me is that I was able to see Lancelot more than I ever had. I still had to keep my working hours during the standard day time, but having him just in another part of the house meant that I could grab a quick hug if I needed it. That emotional support was amazing.

The team I work with proved, well beyond any shadow of doubt, that we could not only perform our necessary functions working remotely but we could offer an even higher level of service than we did before. Working from home helped us to hone some of our skills and forced us to find ways to do more and do it better. And because demand for our services grew exponentially the team expanded in a big way.

So much so that there’s no longer enough physical space for all of us in our designated office suite, even if we weren’t needing to continue observing social distancing guidelines (which we are). We now rotate who is there which days so that we can each have a space for that day where we don’t have to wear a mask the whole time. It’s not awful, but it sure is strange.

I’ve worked here for 20 years. I’ve had 9 different work areas. I’ve never had to share my work area like this. I’m not kidding you when I say I work out of my backpack. I had to figure out what all I need to carry with me every time I go in, including my personal office supplies. I do have a shelf in a closet where I keep a few “kitchen” type supplies for myself but that’s it. Everything else I carry with me on my back, every single time.

It’s not awful but it’s also not great. I always used to joke that my office was my home away from home, and it looked like it.

That was how it used to look. Very personalized, very me.

What’s actually hardest for me is the going back and forth. I work on campus two days a week, Thursday and Friday, and going between home and campus is rough. I can’t keep to the same routines every day, I don’t have my same supports in place, and there are no orange kitties on campus to walk on the keyboard. The funny thing is that I wouldn’t mind going back to working on campus full time, because that would be consistent. It’s the inconsistencies of this that throw my bipolar off kilter.

Even after all this time, 15 years now, it never ceases to amaze me how much of a creature of habit I have to be in order to maintain my sanity.

just do the damn thing

I’d like to tell you where I heard that, which one of my friends dropped that nugget of truth on me, but I can’t. But think about the profundity of it – it’s beyond the trite Nike slogan “just do it.” This allows for not wanting to do the thing, the DAMN thing, but getting on and doing it anyway.

It’s a really fucking adult thing to say and think. And so today I will endeavor to Just Do The Damn Thing.

I’ve made the bed, washed some dishes, took a shower and got dressed, made myself a healthy breakfast, and (most importantly) I got out my sun lamp and set it up on my desk. If I do nothing else today I will still consider this a win because I didn’t want to do any of those damn things, yet I did.

I’m not actually quite as grumpy as I appear in this picture. I actually took it because I’m wearing the very first sweater I ever knit, which was an accomplishment.

If I were to leave you with any advice right now it would be to set yourself up to just do the damn thing, even if it’s something small or something that feels silly. Doing that one damn thing might lead you to feel like doing another damn thing, maybe. And that’s probably a particularly good thing.

one foot in front of the other

I’ve been in a weird kind of “mood that isn’t a mood and is maybe lasting too long but then again so is the anxiety that’s ever present everywhere these days” kind of place and I have to say, it sucks.

I love the change of the seasons in an intellectual and visual sort of way. The change in the temperatures, the extra rain right now, the changing leaves are all really pretty and a very pleasant departure from what summer is around here. But if I’m going to have any mental issues they tend to happen during the changing of the light – sunlight that is. Too little in the autumn and winter cause one set of issues and the switch back to lots of it in the spring and summer causes a different set of issues.

Being mental is just such a fucking treat.

Once a month I haul Lancelot in for a haircut and beard trim and I usually get my mop of hair dealt with. This time I decided that enough was enough. I’ve been trying to grow it out but it was looking very much like how my grandmother wears her hair and I was not loving that. Changing my hair is actually a pretty standard thing with me. When I feel like it’s time to shake my snowglobe I will typically either go for a drastically different cut or, back in the day, a radically different color.

I’ve actually had my hair like this before, and it was most certainly a different color. I like the asymmetrical thing, especially since my hair’s natural curl makes this a ridiculously easy style for me in terms of what it takes to fix it. Approximately 3 minutes and a small dab of hair goo, that’s what.

I’ve been trying to spend some time getting back to meal planning and all of the other things that kind of feel like “life hacks” for me, because in all honesty, right now I need that shit more than ever. Apparently it’s working, at least at the surface level. One of the people that works in our office suite made the comment that I have my life together, which she totally meant as a compliment, but all I could think was, “little sister, if you only knew.”

All of the hacks and the prep stuff is really because I have a terrible, ugly secret…

I am hella lazy.

insert catchy title here

I keep thinking I should sit down and write and then life happens, so I don’t. The good thing is that I’ve been spending much more time doing creative stuff and a lot less time glued to a screen. I seriously think that’s a win. For example, consider the following exhibits:

I made a headband and channeled my inner Keith Richards
I constructed a Bird of Paradise LEGO kit
And I’ve spent some serious time on the Plant Place in our sunroom. It now includes not only a variety of leafy things but also a dendrobium orchid and three different carnivorous plants.

I’ve also still been knitting other stuff, besides headbands (though I am on #2 of those because they use just a wee bit of yarn and work up pretty quick) I’m working on a lace scarf for myself, the damn beaded lace cowl for me, a holiday goody for a dear friend, a birthday goody for another dear friend, a kitty amigurumi for my soon to arrive niece, and the scarves I’m making for charity.

And a partridge in a pear tree!

In the “not creative stuff” category I’m also trying to be more mindful about unwinding at night by coming up to my office and reading for about an hour before going to bed. It sounds so simple but it really does seem to make a big difference for me. I’m also try to remember how big of a role food and proper nutrition play in the way I feel. I’m not losing weight anymore, but I’m also not gaining, and that in and of itself feels pretty good. I was able to go clothes shopping with my friend K last week and being able to purchase “normal” size clothes in “normal” shops was just downright lovely.

My goal is to get back to eating / drinking in ways that are healthier and to get back to including much more activity and exercise into my routine. Right now it just feels like every time I try to establish some routines I find myself confronted with some minor catastrophe and someone shouts out “PLOT TWIST!” It’s interesting and yet simultaneously exhausting.

PS – the clear shelves hooked to the windows in that picture of the plants are from Amazon and they are so totally freaking worth it, especially if you have small children or animals. I have them in those windows and upstairs in my office and the guest room. You can’t put anything extremely heavy on them but they are amazingly pretty with small things, especially colored glass containers.

making the most of a monday

“Make it stop, please Mama?”

We woke up at 3:50am this morning because it sounded like the world was finally ending. Turns out it was just your typical Midwestern thunderstorm, but once you’ve been rudely awakened like that the only thing for it is to have a pee and make something warm to drink. Dog Blossom didn’t used to be all that phased by storms, but after the big bullshit we had earlier this summer she’s not at all fond. That picture was her this morning, camped out in my lap. She stayed like that for almost an hour.

I’ve been realizing lately that my routines are still majorly screwed up and it’s causing me to feel more than slightly off kilter. I’m trying to figure out how to unscrew them and get things a little more organized. I have no delusions that I will ever have my ducks in a row. The best I can, and will, ever hope for is that my army of squirrels all end up attending the same rave on the same day. It’s good to have dreams.

Lego!

This is the Lego Bonsai kit I had picked up when we went to Minneapolis earlier this summer. I had forgotten how much I enjoy doing these. I believe Lancelot is going to be getting me a few more of the botanical type things. I also spent some time making three pair of earrings and finally getting my creative spot in the sunroom setup the rest of the way.

I have been realizing that taking time to do these kinds of projects is super vital for me. L and I took a 3-day weekend together and were able to do a little shopping, watch goofy TV, and just hang out together. It was amazingly restful. I think it’s far too easy to forget how much we need to take that time for ourselves until we do take some and then remember how good it is.

enjoying it while i can

So stinkin’ cute

We had our “village” over for dinner Saturday night. These people are the friends we can call on at any time, for anything. And they can do the same with us. We all have our struggles and our emotional baggage from the past and we don’t hold that against each other. There’s a whole lot of unconditional acceptance and love in our village.

Lancelot’s birthday is later this week and I wanted to do something for him, but he’s not super excited about celebrating it or making a fuss about it. So I invited our friends over for dinner and didn’t say anything to any of them about it, or to him, until K noticed on the menu board in the kitchen that next Saturday we’re going out for L’s birthday with my folks. I wanted to keep things very low-key so that everyone was comfortable. It was amazing.

And the scarf has finally told me that it wants to be K’s. I had made them a beanie / fingerless mitt set and the colors coordinate nicely. At any rate, the scarf will have a good home with a great friend.

I try to stay optimistic about damn near everything, but I also try to be realistic. I watch the news at least once a day and I’ve been paying attention to what’s happening with the COVID-19 Delta variant. I know that even though we’ve been vaccinated we could still carry it and spread it. And I know that the governor in our state is a complete jackass when it comes to certain things, issues of public safety and health being what come to mind right now.

So we’ll be back to wearing masks in public, minimizing our exposure to and from other people. And for me this means I’ll be wearing a mask when I’m working on campus. Better safe than dead.

Next week is our vacation and our anniversary. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since we got married. It’s been one hell of a ride, especially considering that we’ve been living in a pandemic for the duration of our wedded life thus far. But I honestly can’t imagine going through this with anyone else by my side.

Yup, so stinkin’ cute

i finished reading a book and other things that really aren’t exciting to anyone but me

Before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder back in 2006 I was a voracious reader. I’ve always loved books and a good story is actually one of my preferred drugs. Back then I was only sleeping a few hours a night because I was almost always hypomanic so I would read a full length novel every few days. There was a book case in my living room that was easily eight feet tall and four feet wide. My husband made extra shelves for it and pretty much all of them were stacked double deep. I had read 99% of those books.

The medication to control the symptoms of Bipolar made it so that reading wasn’t enjoyable, it felt more like a chore. Books no longer held my attention. In the time since 2008, when the second husband and I divorced, and quite recently, my book collection had dwindled to few enough that they all fit on a single shelf.

Now you kind of see why actually finishing books is a big deal in my world.

If I’m counting correctly, the book I just finished is the fourth book I’ve read this year. (don’t trust my math, I never do) I can concentrate again and I find myself getting very into the stories, which is amazing. I’ve found a few authors that I hadn’t heard of before and I’m totally loving this. Yay me.

Still life with scarf and dog

I am still knitting, mostly on this scarf, though the dog makes it hard some times. She thinks I should sit on the couch at night so that she can rest her head on me. There are several things about this that make knitting difficult. First, I end up all contorted with the arm of the couch on my left and her very solid self on my right, making it hard to get the wings to work. Second, she puts off body heat that is roughly equivalent to the temperature of the surface of the sun. And finally, she expects me to pet her. Constantly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her, she’s a good pup. But I have realized that for any knitting progress to be made I have to sit in my chair. I am starting to wonder if this scarf is going to be mine or be gifted to someone. I’m waiting for it to tell me.

yardsticks

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll have no doubt noticed that I have a theory about damn near everything. I don’t know if it’s just a character quirk or a coping mechanism or yet another way for me to annoy the world, but it is what it is. So here we go, time for another of my theories.

I believe that each of us has a different method by which we measure success and/or happiness. Some people use dollar signs or other material goods. Some people use the amount of education they have. Some people use some combination of things. It seems that it’s sort of rare for someone to only use the Almighty Dollar, there are some out there. Unfortunately I seem to know way too many of those these days…

I digress. (as usual)

This popped up on Facebook and is why I’m standing on the Soapbox du Jour. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that some people are fortunate enough to make more than what they need to comfortably exist and can own more toys than they can play with at one time or can hire help to take care of basic tasks that most of us still struggle to accomplish. And it’s not like I would ever wish people like that would find themselves infested with crotch critters while both arms were broken and unable to be bent, and that all of that would be happening while on some exotic vacation in a remote part of the world that unfortunately still has less than amazing health care because the Big Pharma jerks and the other bastard billionaires on the planet are more interested in profits than people.

Wait, I went off track there…

I actually kind of enjoy not “having it all.” I’m more creative with my wardrobe because I try not to buy new clothes until I’m out of pieces that fit. I will happily make jewelry for myself, and I’m actually getting to the point of eliminating all of my costume jewelry because I just don’t enjoy it. I have *never* purchased a brand new car because it just seems a little dumb to me. (plus I couldn’t have qualified for a loan on something brand new until recently) And while I certainly wouldn’t call our house “simple” it also isn’t brand new or a McMansion – neither of which I would want anyway. One of my friends made a comment recently about how our place feels like home and that almost made me cry.

So…

I consider myself super fucking lucky that Lancelot and I have this beautiful home to live in, we have a car that is in good shape (and almost paid off!), that we have access to good medical care (and are both in damn good health). We have enough extra income that we can help out when a friend, or even a cause we feel strongly about, needs a little boost.

Mostly though I count our wealth in terms of intangibles.

We have each other. We have my folks and Lancelot’s family. We have a really tight knit village of friends who are BatShit Crazy and loyal as fuck. And we have the furkids.

According to the yardstick I use for such things, we are the most successful and wealthy people ever.