this is all about me: I have become older
today is my birthday and I am going to talk about myself
HELLO! I am uncomfortable when we are not about me, but also uncomfortable when we are about me, and this paradox at its zenith on my birthday. I love this day. I hate this day! I don’t care what I do today. I care SO MUCH about what I do today. I want to be made the center of the universe, and please do not notice me. Thank you.
since my last birthday
I have had a whole year to be forty-three, and I think it mostly went well. Forty-four is a weird number and I am looking at it with squinty suspicious eyes.
a constant experience of chronic illness
I’ve had fewer bad chronic illness flares. I didn’t go outside nearly as much as used to, partly because of the pandemic but primarily because I share custody of my thirteen-year-old differently that I did before. During this pandemic, I see her for summers, and until the daily death rate average is lower than it has been this entire time, I won’t be seeing her the rest of the year apart from some holiday time, because the quarantine time for a weekend visit would take up more time than a weekend anyway, which is unfair on all of us.
I remember when ‘chronic’ was sort of a ‘this is really cool’ word, but only in certain settings and always said with irony. No, wait, was it about drugs? I am not going to look it up.
As in all things, I have tried to understand and accept the ways my chronic illnesses — my disabilities — shape me, and how they give me clues about ways to approach daily life. I would like to think that I have come closer to acceptance this past year, and have had almost no instances of sadness-induced rage about the things I can and can’t do.
so how is that death doula thing going anyway
I have redone the business branding (as a recovering designer and online marketer, that phrase makes me feel icky) so that it looks and feels, to me, more inclusive and rainbow-y. So far my training has helped me to be with and experience the passing of two of our cats, and the experience of shutting the hell up while my teenagers tell me how absolutely heartbroken they are that a famous and beloved content creator died of cancer.
Whenever it’s Time To Get Started, I am guessing, a person outside my immediate chosen family will need and ask for my help. The best that I can do is to keep my metaphorical house in order so that I am as ready as I can be.
As an aside, death doesn’t usually happen on time and in an expected way, so it feels a little bizarre to try and predict potential scenarios. I’ve had my training, I know how to keep myself occupied in periods of quiet, I know how to reflectively listen, I know how to silently listen, I know how to find words of comfort, I know how to help someone plan for a thing — an upcoming death or really any kind of project, not that death is a project, but my point stands — and I know how to recognize my own urge to fix something so that I can keep from attempting a fix for someone without their need or consent. I’m as ready as I can be, which is to say, how can anyone be ready for death?
therapy is excruciating, thank you for asking
Some of my most effective emotional processing in the past year has been with my therapist. I have a tendency to try and talk myself out of therapy every goddamn time it’s therapy day: I don’t have anything bad happening, or I’m very upset and don’t want to talk about it, or I completely forget that when we aren’t working on what’s happening right now, we work on my complex PTSD and I know that the forgetting is, itself, a coping mechanism that is not helpful in that context.
In terrifying synchronicity, along with the reframing and gentle problem-solving and encouragement I’m receiving in therapy, I have been finding that my mind is almost constantly working out why people do or say the things they do or say, and I’m getting better at tracing the thread of that thing back into a mess of scribbly lines that represents what is likely their underlying trauma or experience. In other words, what brought you to this place? What happened to you? What coping mechanisms do you now have because of your experiences? What trauma has marked you like a tattoo, and what assumptions do you now carry invisibly with you because of that trauma?
Gaining the ability to understand people better in this kind of way is, like I said, terrifying, but also lovely. The better I understand or can surmise, the more helpful and effective my choices can be. And the older I get, the more I see how much trauma is part of everyone’s lived experience. I’ve been told that this kind of introspection and understanding means that I have actually been working on myself, so hooray for me, I guess? Eek.
so, um, politics
Imagine the phrase ‘the world is a trash fire’ sung to the opening lyric of Bullet with Butterfly Wings: ‘the world is a vampire,’ by The Smashing Pumpkins.
As a trans, non-gender-conforming, queer pagan disabled middle-aged parent, living in a queer and affirming family, almost every single news story has an impact on my lived experience. Staying at home because of a pandemic has had a nice on-effect of keeping me (and us) out of the public eye, for the most part.
I have a conceal carry permit and a very beautiful pistol (she has a name, as all important things do) and based on my firing range practice, I am a very good shot. I do not want to have to EVER use this skill in a real life scenario. Not ever.
games and music — aka, what I am doing to improve my quality of life
I went through a pretty intense period of buying every steeply-discounted game that looked and/or sounded like I would like to play it at some point. The result is a very full Steam library and a very full Switch, but what if I suddenly feel like playing Bioshock? Or one of those indie games about death? What if the experience of having a collection of games gives me the same level of seratonin as playing one?
I have to say, the experience of owning The Witcher 2 is much nicer than the experience of trying to play it.
I am currently enjoying Death Stranding so much that I spent the approximately nine dollars to upgrade it to the director’s cut, and I started a new game with a higher difficulty level and I’m still enjoying the heck out of it.
A couple of months ago, I decided to start new music playlists each month, because I was curious about how long I generally enjoy a song before my ears are done listening to it. Without looking at any data whatsoever, I estimate that I love listening to most songs for approximately two and a half months, after which I never want to hear it again unless it comes up in a shuffle rotation at some point in the future and then I can feel nostalgic about it.
There are songs that outlast that time period, songs that are favorites that stick with me, but most of what I listen to is fairly new in the playlist. I think that is very interesting and even if my attempt at drawing a conclusion that I have no written data to support is completely wrong, I do find that it has helped me not to feel weirdly guilty about being done listening to a song. Also, with a new playlist each month, I don’t have to remove songs from playlists nearly as much when I am tired of them, and this pleases the traumatized part of me that makes me feel like an awful person for removing a song from a playlist.
I’ve nearly abandoned Facebook altogether, not the least because the newer updates to the user interface finally became too cluttered for my neurodivergent ass to want to look at.
Twitter, for all its faults, has become my new doomscrolling app. I enjoy how I can retweet or say whatever batshit thing happens to my timeline or in my brain.
(no husbands were harmed by this tweet)
I do also like the immediacy of the news cycle on Twitter; I get infodumps or at least inklings about important things just by scrolling through the app every day.
I have been writing here on Substack, which I don’t want to call a newsletter because YUCK, and I am enjoying the opportunity to write in just one goddamn place for once. I’ve been paring back my internet presence(s), because it’s silly to spread myself so thin. I’m the only me there is, so expecting myself to do more than I can is absolutely ridiculous. (There, see? I wouldn’t have been able to think of it that way until recently. Therapy works!!)
some parting thoughts, if you will —
If you haven’t, or even if you have, please read the rice saga thread.
And That’s Why We Drink remains my favorite podcast, which is really saying something. I go through phases with podcasts the same as I do with most music.
I discovered that ASMR videos not only give me the electric brain tingles that are so relaxing for me, they work on the toddler too for helping him be sleepy enough to close his eyes. Here’s one of my favorites:
I used an illuminating and enjoyable writing prompt which asked the question, what did your deity feel like before they had a name? (I don’t actually think there is anything that does not have a name, because I believe that everything has a true name, but this was a gorgeous excuse for some short poetic bursts in honor of five specific deities.
I think that’s it, for now. I could go on and on but at that point, most of you will have forgot what the point of this was to begin with, and close the tab. Which is fair.
I am fond of writing for you. I hope that I get to keep doing it for more and more years.
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