anxiety, be a better human, books, community, empathy, family, giving, kindness, social media, strangers

Break [it] down

Though it seems like in many ways, we are getting used to the ‘new normal,’ there are plenty of ways this drastic change continues to be upsetting. My friends continue to have panic attacks and breakdowns of all sizes, and my empathizer heart is hurting. On a small scale, all my basic needs are met, and yet.. Fear looms large, and it blows my mind/fuels my rage/makes me sad that our food system is so broken that more people than average (!!) are going hungry right now in this country of plenty. I’m reassured that our quality of air worldwide is improved due to fewer cars on the roads and less pollution from closed-down industry. But more on my hippie tears at a later date.

I’m going to write about what has been helping me to cope, and what is inspiring me to change. As sometimes happens, I read the perfect book at the perfect time. After all, how many of us are simply struggling with how Not to Do the Things? How to deal with the limitations/unavailability of most everything but the virtual world.

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How to Do Nothing made the hairs on my arms stand up. This woman artfully (she is an artist, after all) emphasized that our culture has largely lost our connection to place and our need for context. This is true on an ecological level; we need to get outside more–into our surroundings, to become familiar with the land that we occupy and the other creatures that also do. This grounding/contextualizing shows us that we are not the only ones here. We are part of a system and the system deserves our attention and respect. 

This need for context also appears in our social [media] interactions. Modern comforts and technology have made it so we can curate our daily lived experiences and only have to interact with people who agree with us on nearly all points. [Information silos, old news.] The media lives on sound bites that are designed to enrage and distract us, further driving us into our polarized opinion camps. I took the time to manually transcribe this part of her book because it spoke to me. She states that if we only interact with people who agree with us we:

“never run the risk of being surprised, challenged, or changed. Never seeing anything outside of ourselves. Including our own privilege. That’s not to say we have nothing to gain from those we have many things in common with, on paper. If we don’t expand our attention outside of that sliver we live in an I-it world where nothing has meaning outside of its value and relation to us. And we are less prone to the encounters with those who turn us upside down and reorganize our universe… Those who stand to change us significantly, should we allow it. Of course having encounters entails risks that not everyone is willing to take.”

Holy wow, yes. Now is the time for change. If you haven’t done Anything Different this entire quarantine, who even are you? It is a time for thought and discussion. For dismantling the egocentric views we hold. To interrupt our regularly scheduled programming and do Something different instead. Something caring, something creative. Something revolutionary. 

Because when I’m worried about the Fate of the World and all the big, Capital Letter Things, I have to focus on specific actions to take. I have to break it down into manageable, actionable pieces. What can I do? What effect does staring at my phone, scrolling through instagram or facebook really do for me? What can I do instead? Do I really need to buy more clothing/home goods/products? I understand the temptation to hunker down and feverishly, anxiously repeat the usual distraction purchasing patterns (and I am very guilty of doing this myself). But if you have the expendable income to spend right now, I hope you consider others. I hope you donate to organizations that feed and care for others. Because just as thinking too large-scale is harmful, so is thinking too small-scale. Think outside of yourself, and consider that this is a terrible time for everyone, and that your help for others will help them and you. No, I do not mean to minimize your suffering. I am just saying we are all suffering. And suggesting that you contextualize it, and allow it to serve you and others. Allow your suffering to help Something. Ask for help. Reach out. Do something different.

So I’m doing some familiar things, and some new ones. I’m talking more than usual on the phone with my family. I’m reading. I’m wildly busy at work, so I’m doing overall less mental berating of myself. I’m playing Words with Friends, going on walks, fighting with the skunk who keeeeeps spraying directly outside my window (not all nature is good, I concede), cooking, baking, or just making macaroni from a box and not judging myself about it. I’m not immune to the simple allure of tv (but try to be social and talk about it afterwards). I love exchanging letters with people, so I’m trying to do a lot of letter writing when I’m in the mood, especially because I know people like getting fun mail. Because I’m not always in the mood to be my best self. I’m trying to work out/journal/meditate one per day, but sometimes I am lazy and cranky and don’t. I have virtual therapy appointments, and I’m still moody and easily irritated and mad at myself for trying to multitask (usually looking at my phone). I too do not particularly trust the person who is living their best life at this weird, isolated time. But if that’s you, good for you!

This time is unique in that it is allowing us more than ever before to hone in on what matters, and to opt out of the parts of our society that do not serve us (or anyone). It is providing us the opportunity to help others, to reach out and strengthen personal ties, time to heal ourselves and our brains and how we think of ourselves (as helpless or capable, isolated or part of a community). There is not much else to do other than go outside and walk or run, familiarizing ourselves with the species in the area. Noticing that we are not alone. You have neighbors, and postal workers, and all sorts of animals and plant life around you (some of which might be blooming these days). It’s a time to  make the best of what’s around. It’s not easy, but there’s no getting around it. We have to go through!

anxiety, family, home, librarians, meditation, writing

Time to Re/build a Habit

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I resist writing even though it is beneficial to do. Now, though, as the world is seemingly falling apart, I might try harder. Even before I would write this blog today, I spent 30 minutes on hold for Apple Care to change my password in order to update my iOS (non-essential but on to-do list for literal years), I went to the grocery store (carefully) and I made tapioca pudding. Scraping the bottom of the to-do barrel just to put off writing. I do not understand (but greatly respect) how people do this as a career.

In the interest of maintaining my sanity and eating my peas, I need to actively recognize that there are some things I don’t want to do, that feel like a hassle, and I have to do them anyway. This is ridiculous, because I really LIKE writing, but sometimes it just feels tiresome to talk about myself and my life and my thoughts and maybe my handwriting isn’t great that day and blechhh. I prefer to blog and share entertaining anecdotes or stories.

I don’t have any current stories right now. This upsets me. The library has been closed for a full week, though we are answering emails/phone calls, and people are in various states of panic and sadness. My heart goes out to the college kids who can’t return to campus for the rest of the year and have to endure professors attempting online instruction. I am not jealous of people with school-age children going stir crazy with cabin fever, but I am happy to hear parents acknowledge that teaching is HARD and teachers are UNDERPAID. And, these safety precautions aren’t going anywhere in the near future. I understand that people are sad when events they looked forward to are canceled. There is a grief in not being able to throw your small child a birthday party, not being able to attend a concert three months away, or a milestone college reunion. Some people have to cancel their weddings upcoming soon, and women who give birth right now are not permitted to have their partners with them. I really wanted to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday with her family and friends, but that is not happening. These things range from heartbreaking to a shame to a small price to pay in order not to contract or spread this virus.

The anxiety also makes sense to me. Anxiety over the turbulent rule changes, the closures of restaurants and businesses, anxiety over possibly catching or spreading deadly disease. Anxiety over making rent/bill payments after losing non-salaried work. For the general anxiety, I would say follow the rules suggested by health professionals and limit the information intake (aka only look at news updates once per day at a designated time, or only read articles if tv news stresses you out too much). Essentially, control what you can control. For the money anxiety, figure that shit out! You can’t control the fact that you’re out of work, but you can sure as hell sign up for unemployment or look for other work that doesn’t compromise your health.

All that said, I’m lucky. I have a salaried job that I can do from home. My office was ramping up for at least a week ahead of time getting us set up with the technology to feel like we were in the office. I don’t have school age children, and I am mobile enough at least in theory to take walks and exercise in my home. I have a car and so don’t have to deal with public transportation being germ-ridden or closed. My biggest complaints to date are that I miss my coworkers and my fancy desk chair & I’m eating too much/moving too little.

I try to have anecdotes for the blog, which I like sharing, but even in personal writing for just myself, I drag my feet. One of my professors in college preached to us the virtues of her own daily morning ritual: to fill a page. I thought it was silly; what could possibly be so different from the day before? How is that interesting to write, much less read???

When I avoid journaling, I tell myself that what I’m thinking and going through is repetitive; I’ve been here before and flipping back a few pages reveals similar themes and patterns. Why bother writing it down? I talk to my friends and my therapist about my inner world, and I write in my journal when I have something particularly weighty on my mind. Why make it a daily habit?

And maybe this is a “duh” moment for you, but I never really put together that daily journaling is the meditation of writing. Writing every day to assess the quality of my mind seems to me like an affirmation that my thoughts/feelings have power and that I should pay more attention to them AND an outlet for them so I can clear the ones that don’t serve me. After all, just because my thoughts are boring and repetitive, they’re still swirling around in my head, and my motto is better out than in! Since I have been trying to meditate every day (to mild success) I am working journaling into my as-often-as-possible routine too.

Not coincidentally, this happened when I received a gift from my cousin. She, a practicing clinical psychologist, published her own journal to help people write, reflect and grow. So if you need to build a new routine now that everything in life is drastically different, I recommend it–I like the open-ended prompts and the focus on being present. Check it out!

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This is what it looks like!

If you are struggling this week, reach out to your loved ones. Reach out even if you aren’t! And now that we have a little more alone time, maybe look inward too. Grab a pen and paper of some kind and see what happens. Of course, you may just write me a letter bitching about this whole situation, and that would be fine. I love mail 🙂

anxiety, community, coworkers, meditation, talking

19: What I’m Hearing

At some point within the last month, I have been both on a roll and in a funk, and today marks day 19 of a 19-day streak without a day off (3×5-day workweek + 2 straight weekends = 19).  Oh, and, the world is ending.

The weird: a skunk sprayed directly outside my bedroom window. Three. Weeks. Straight. Always on Sunday! The smell was so strong that it woke me from total sleep. And it lingered. No, lingered is too gentle a word. It sat, chokingly heavy in the air in my bedroom. Stayed for almost a full week despite 24-hour air purifier and vinegar water to draw it out. I was convinced I was wearing the smell out of the house. JUST when my room stank only faintly, it would strike again. For three weeks. It was the closest thing to torture I’ve ever endured, and if it were an interrogation, I would have cracked. My favorite place (my bed) was not relaxing, and it was not safe from this nastiness.

The good: I was feeling kind of bummed out when I wasn’t hearing from a couple close friends. For some reason, it is still unfamiliar to me that even though I reach out when I have a lot going on (because I need to be out of my head and into the world) close friends  might want to retreat from the world and go into their heads. The good came from finally making contact with said close friends, understanding where they were coming from, and spending loads of quality time together. GOOD, aka the calm before the storm.

This good was influenced by reading an empowering book about diet/health: Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, the author of the book that made me go gluten-free (Grain Brain!). More fermented foods (hello, kombucha!) and more healthy fats (hello, avocados!) and I was feeling calm for the first time in forever.

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Trust Ferg to recommend only the best books

During this time of joy and such, I attended meditation and the leader guiding the meditation had a cough. As I sat there, I was still peaceful despite his intermittent startling cough. I remarked to myself about the unconditional positive regard I have for this man, and how with my “good list” of people I will waive annoyance that readily pops up in response to the same behaviors by any other person. How do I get more people onto the good list? If nothing else, that would spare me more annoyance…

The bad: Just when I had gotten into a rhythm of working out at lunchtime, our employee workout classes were canceled. All fun has been canceled this week. At first, I pouted, sad that this was “taken from me.”

Not only is one of my coping mechanisms not available, but the anxiety is ramping up. Just when I had finally found places to hold end-of-year events, now we are unsure if they will take place. Almost everything I have been working on is now on hold because of drastic changes to the very core of the student experience. There are known cases of coronavirus in my community, and I work two places in the community. In short, people at work are freaking the fuck out. All week, I’ve been hearing about how there is no toilet paper at the stores, and that people are stockpiling, preparing for being on a multiple week lockdown. I generally do not fall prey to public panic, and I typically resent the behaviors and mindsets behind them. In short, people outside of work are freaking the fuck out.

And instead of resenting those people, and instead of bitching about every change in policy, and while only minimally judging (because unless you plan on eating toilet paper, there is no need for you to purchase that much of it).. I’m listening.

I’m hearing a lot of rational, caring people on conference calls trying to mitigate and support others through a messy situation. I’m hearing a lot of compassion and a lot of flexibility from my supervisors when I mess up various things because my mind is not at full strength or focus this week. I’m hearing my coworkers tell me their children are feeling a lot of fear and anxiety. And that they are too. It helps to know I’m not alone (but honestly how could I be?).

And I listened to myself today, and advocated for what I needed (aka asked not to come in to the library due to the anxiety I was feeling). And I was met with support! It was great!

Since the new year, I thought we wouldn’t have to hear about 19 ever again. It was a trying year, and it seems to be extending its disasters into 2020. This public health scare is crazy, and it requires precautions that make sense. I am not alone in my fun being taken away. Pro/college sports, theater, comedy.. it’s all put on pause. And though social distancing is extremely hard and uncomfortable and sad for me, maybe it forces me to really take care of myself. Yes, working out is now part of my mental health regime. Yes, I need it and yes, it will be unavailable to me in organized groups for the foreseeable future. Yes, I may still brave the yoga studio, and yes, I may choose to still go to the grocery store or out to eat (one or the other!).

Even though I would like to consume less, I need to be a part of a social fabric, and saw this poem today and love it so much. It reframed this whole stay-at-home crisis for me. Obviously, when people get sick, it is scary, but my anxiety lessened when I thought of the precautions in these gentle, respectful terms rather than scary, disease terms.

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anxiety, information, joy, kindness, let it go, meditation, social media, strangers

Dating Anxiety

The grammar nerd in me wants to point you towards the double entendres of the title: I am “dating” anxiety. Of course what I mean is that I have anxiety about dating, or that I am dating [with] anxiety. Since many of the other areas of my life I was unhappy with have fallen into place (my therapist would point out that I toiled and suffered and took chances and overall put a lot of effort into making these things happen) over the last year… so “the boyfriend question” is literally always on my mind. It is the next issue to tackle. The missing piece, if you will.

Maybe because my readership includes mainly my family and possibly my ex, I have only alluded to the ongoing drama of trying to find a stable, kind, human male with whom I have all of the chemistries for to settle down and make babies. And I do care what those people think. It’s hard to draw the line between anxiety and people pleasing; where one stops, the other one fills the gap. I care about making people I love/d uncomfortable or sad, so I won’t go into any gory details, though I still wouldn’t even if I didn’t care about offending anyone’s sensibilities (the internet is OPEN, y’all. Discoverable!). Nothing is secret, if a librarian (or god help me someone with more credentials or beef with me) wants to find it.

Some of my lack-of-relationship stuff is because I didn’t like my life, so I told myself I could compromise on what I want (for example: babies). Part of my lack of relationship is continuing to fall for the trap that is males who consider themselves attractive to the point that they have shirtless photos on their dating profiles. (They may say they are looking for a relationship, but are they? ARE THEY?) Those are easier to let go of. No, what they think about me is not as devastating as when I get excited about someone and think I have a chance and see them multiple times, only then to be ghosted because they were scared away by honesty (or by triple texting).

Because putting myself out there, over and over, for new dudes to fully see and judge me is exhausting. And nerve-racking. So when it seems to be going right, only to have the dreaded 24-hour-without-texting mark roll around, that stings. The rejection is very real and it hurts and however many weeks or months I looked forward to hearing from that guy now has been time wasted and time detracted from the search for MY PERSON.

And all of my non-attachment and let-it-be-ness goes straight out the window. Along with my pride. “Maybe that last text was too awkward/personal/not funny enough to get a reply; I’ll send a follow-up hedging it and trying to be more entertaining!”

Is it anxiety that I cannot let go of the idea of the object of my fixation working out?

…Considering that going through my head is an all-caps disaster script along the lines of: NO NO NO WE LIKE THIS ONE DONT LET HIM GET AWAY THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER MAN AS GOOD AS HIM… Yes. It’s fucking anxiety. Because, at least statistically, there will be another one as intriguing and promising. And eventually maybe even one who won’t be scared off by my anxious behaviors (or I can learn to manage my sky-high expectations and also to not text too much/get my hopes up too soon).

[Side note: the texting. FUCK TEXTING. People who have been monogamous for at least the past 10 years do not know the blessing of not being on dating apps and living through the hellish texting culture therein.]

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This is now my standard practice. Delete the evidence that I gave a shit.

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Sorry I’m too lazy to crop these photos!

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Running through my mind at any sustained period of silence

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Me when my hopes are all the way up only for someone to change his mind

I do not write this because I resent everyone in a happy relationship. Nay. (Nor do I write this to hear that I am loved; please let us avoid these awkward lines of dialogue.) Though I may not have opened social media this past weekend and so therefore did not ‘like’ your lovey-dovey posts, I still think it’s great that you found your person. I hope that you get to be your truest, weirdest self with them. If you do, you give me hope.

That’s the dream.

Perhaps the biggest source of the anxiety is indeed the fact that I want that dream so bad. I go into everything thinking this could be IT! He could be HIM! and that is an unhealthy amount of pressure to put on A) him B) me C) the whole situation. The only way to find my person is to wait. That’s all. I have to wait, and take it day by day (NOT minute by minute staring at my phone), and take the time to think about who I’m curious about. Who I want to get to know better. Who makes me feel like my best self and simultaneously like I can improve my best self. To watch and see who proves himself over time. Only when those things come together in one person should I get all aflutter.

So for now, I’ll go back to swiping, and trying to trust that what’s meant for me will not pass me by. If he passed me by, it is because someone better is on his way.

And, request to relatives: please wait for me to volunteer information rather than asking for date updates. Please!

anxiety, be a better human, books, career, community, depression, joy, let it go, reading, writing

How Time Works

As the clock struck midnight on January 1st, I sat, like many others, watching the ball drop. As the cameras panned the crowd at Times Square, an announcer held a microphone in front of a group of young women who exclaimed it was “SO CRAZY!” how it was a new decade. I laughed with someone I don’t know well but respect, as he said “it’s not crazy! It’s how time works!” My thoughts exactly. Literal! Practical!

Though it’s easy to critique merrymakers in varying states of intoxication, and though in general I am an advocate of remarking on wonder whenever it strikes, time really does work minute by minute and hour by hour.

Anxiety would have me fast forward through future days/hours/minutes until I know all the answers and the ways everything plays out. Depression and obsessive thinking would trap me in the past days/hours/minutes and replaying all of the cringeworthy mistakes and missteps I made, all the people who I lost. And it’s easy to look at a month, a year, a decade, in those terms.

Ten years ago, I was reeling from the most traumatic and destructive event of my life. I was paralyzed by fear, doubt, isolation and loss. I could not let go of the plan I had made and outwardly insisted I was fine, marching forward into the worst year of my life up to that point.

It is my hope that over the last ten years (especially the past one), I have learned to let go of the controlled plan and to deal with reality before I move forward. To stop forcing it. It is my goal to take each day as it comes and do my best with it, which is to say mindfully advance through, while prioritizing my needs as well as the people I care about. It is also my hope that when (not if!) I fail to do that, as I feel about this holiday season, I won’t punish myself with a constant stream of internal criticism but instead show some compassion.

And some of the minutes/days, compassion is out of my reach. I get trapped in my habits. And those are the days when I need to surround myself with the amazing humans in my orbit. New Year’s Eve was one of those days: I needed a shock out of my head. And I got it, in the form of social connection and warmth. (Note: NYE was not exclusive in this–I needed and got social connection and warmth over the holidays as well, from my amazing long-distance friends too.)

A lovely co-guest at my amazing friends’ dinner party brought a jar of questions for us all to answer, ranging from light and conversational to reflective and emotional. We were talking about the tribulations and triumphs of the year, the people we are grateful for and the lessons we’ve learned. And, like any good event, we quoted Titanic (to making it count!) It was a great end to the year, and it did feel crazy that I was into this sentimental, sort of mushy activity. It felt crazy and wondrous what a difference this decade has made.

And speaking of counting, 2019 was the first year of the decade that I didn’t meet or exceed my reading goal. I couldn’t be prouder of this shortcoming, because it means I was doing other things! Some fruitless, some counterproductive, but overall I was trying to take in a variety of media, and to output/create to counterbalance what I took in. There are many ways I can do more, or better, or more compassionately, but at the close of one HARD year and the start of another, I am okay with how I’ve done. A far cry from being in love with my life and free from fear or regret, but at least on that side of center.

Last week at the library, an older gentleman approached me and asked if we had a certain title. I helped him, and he challenged me to guess how old he was. He was excited and proud to show me his drivers license, stating his birth year of 1926, making him 93 years old (2 years older than my grandpa would be if he were alive). I was shocked, considering how mobile and lucid he was, and he wanted to share his ‘secret:’ he swims and rows 3 times per week, and has for years. That, and he dyes his hair 🙂 He seemed, overall, to be in love with his life.

This year, I’m going to take a page from him. I’m going to capitalize on any youth or strength I feel and celebrate the (sometimes painfully few) ways my body serves me. I’m going to be open and friendly with people I know and people I don’t (within boundaries). I plan to take pages from my friends and family, by creating (artfully or not) and putting people and pets first; from my colleagues by thinking before speaking and taking pride in my work.

This decade, I’m reclaiming my time. I’m getting my shit together, and keeping it that way. I’m falling in love, with my life if not more. And as long as I can, I’ll be working on being mindful and making this happen every minute and every day, because that’s how time works.

anxiety, home, stuff

Never Moving Again

Due to a confluence of factors, I haven’t written in forever. First and foremost of the obstacles is twofold; I moved, and I currently have not purchased an internet service as a social experiment. The moving itself was excruciatingly drawn out, lapsed two weekends where I was committed to other things with no time to physically relocate items, and coincided with some heavy relational stuff (annoying, pesky emotions, ugh). My cat children were FREAKED out and though it took them at least a week to get used to the new place and stop being so on edge, it took me even longer.

As for the internet, I know you’re judging and saying to yourself that this is a thing I need in my home. Admittedly, it is inconvenient not to be able to watch Netflix in my home. However, I am looking at a computer screen all day, so I’m making do with my data plan for what I need to accomplish online and my actual hobbies (writing letters, reading/audiobooks, and – new one! – essential oils). It is completely okay. At least, for now, when it is still passably warm to sit outside on campus on my lunch break and watch The Good Place. It is inevitable (especially since I am never moving again) that I’ll get it installed, but it’s an experiment in the meantime.

And yeah, now that I have been in there a month and a half and everything has its place and I’m used to the light in the mornings and the weird sounds the doors make, my place is perfect. Of course there are minor improvements I want to make, but this apartment is MINE and only mine, for the first time ever. That is crazy! This time last year, I could only have dreamed this, and I am grateful and excited that it is real and here. Stability, here I come! Independence! Other positive nouns!

This dwelling is lovely and perfect, and because it is great and the move was torturous, I never want to move again.

Ever.

Moving is the worst! Touching EVERYTHING I own, which is not a ton because I am only one person, but yet still somehow neverending, the packing, the unpacking, the lifting of all the heavy items, the inevitable shoddy packing that leads to something unessential breaking…. That was all too much already, but I also had no furniture, so whenever I found one item I wanted, I needed to acquire a vehicle and a human to help me obtain that one item. Rinse and repeat, for every single piece of furniture I needed. I am blessed to have amazing friends, two of whom live a neighborly distance away, and they were fantastic. I still felt guilty asking them to take their time to help me, and I felt sad that there is no reliable, caring human man around to help me with what I need. Acquiring what I needed sparked HIGH anxiety and an EXTREME sense of aloneness. Every single time.

Ok, so clearly NEVER is an exaggeration. But it was all so heavy! And I didn’t help myself out with the timing. The first weekend after I got the keys, I worked all weekend, at our yearly event that is one of my favorite days of the whole year (yay!). After that shift (TMI alert) I went to Urgent Care for a UTI (OUCH). The next weekend, my best friend visited for a musical festival we bought tickets to in the first quarter of the year and were hugely looking forward to (yay!). That weekend, since it was on the beach, I wore flip flops, and ended up getting plantar fascitis (OUCH OUCH OUCH).

The two mental health days I took during this time were true to their names. I was going to lose my mind, and my body was protesting how hard it was working. My feet literally gave up and just told me to lay low for a while. Driving to purchase a couch and loveseat on what would come to be the day I learned to measure the doorway for any potential furniture acquisitions, with aching feet and a desire to have somewhere for me, my cats and our guests to sit, the song “One Foot” by Walk the Moon played on the radio. Kismet!

I only had one working foot at the time! But all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other. It was a good reminder. I got through the day due to A+ friendos who helped me lift the love seat and didn’t (verbally or in my presence, though I wouldn’t blame them 🙂 judge me or criticize when the couch would not fit through the doorway.

Long story short, I love my friends and my loveseat, and someone from Freecycle got a free, gently used couch.

Moving is hard, and the metaphors are too easy. Confronting/facing every item in my possession and figuring out if it is serving me/if it can stay. Taking inventory and doing the heavy lifting, at least until I am a devoted minimalist and don’t have any possessions (unlikely based on so many facts).

“Never moving again” does sound lazy, though. And I will, I know, because not moving for too long means not growing/changing/advancing. For now, I appreciate the ability to sit tight, think/reflect/find a partner (and I promise, write more) about the big stuff, and nurture my tiny roots in this place. I’ll get to the movement, right after I put my feet up.

anxiety, career, community, coworkers, information, joy, reading, strangers

Balance.. and working

Not surprisingly, this is not the first time I’m writing about balance. People with anxiety know that balance is essential to avoid spinning out into spirals. I knew August would be tough, work-wise, because I accepted a lot of extra night/weekend shifts at the library. I just counted, and I worked 39 shifts over the course of the month (aka going from full-time job to part-time job multiple times, plus the beloved weekend shifts). Sometimes when I’m in self-pitying moods, I think I work a second job because I like to whine and tell everyone how hard I work. I have to remind myself that in reality, I love both my jobs, and up until recently I haven’t really had that much other stuff going on that I would rather be doing.

I know I did it to myself. I overcommitted, thinking it would balance itself out with the fact that I didn’t really work at the library in June. And now that August is over, maybe balance is achieved! The extra income is nice, and for every customer who makes my skin crawl, there is an equal if not greater than pleasant customer who knows my name or otherwise warms my heart.

And so without further ado, picture the following scenarios (presented in a glorified list). One bad for one good.. or maybe the scales tip slightly toward the pleasant.

Bad: when on the third day of working 5-9 after working 8:30-4:30, a guy who feels he is your friend (he is not) lets his young child continue on his way out (to dick around and be generally unsupervised) in order to tell you a longwinded tale of who from church asked him to look up the lyrics and sheet music (you don’t care), after you have already spent at least 15 minutes of your life helping him find this sheet music and him asking if he can just take a photo of it and print it and you say no, that is a copyright violation so he needs to buy it and he asks you to buy it and he can pay you and you say no while silently begging him to walk away and instead, like you hoped he wouldn’t but knew he would, he tells you what religion he is and asks you about yours. You wonder why people still think this is appropriate to ask someone who is on the clock at their job. Thankfully, he only guesses, and does not do so correctly, and then he leaves.

Good: when a high schooler who you knew as an awkward seventh grader walks towards you at the desk and greets you by name even though you haven’t worked at his school for two years, and generally teens don’t A) remember you or B) approach you even if they do. You talk to him about his favorite teachers from the last year and you think about the difference between a seventh grader and a tenth grader and how crazy that that difference happens in just over two years.

Bad: when people uncomfortable with technology call in to ask how to use the technology, and get confused and angry at you when you tell them the proper buttons to press, and they have to hang up to perform the action because they are trying to do it on their phone. You wonder why these people don’t come into the library to ask when you know they are otherwise capable of leaving their homes.

Good: when you help the upbeat youngish dad who works at the wine store use Adobe Acrobat (the fancy kind) to edit his visa application to visit China, and he is so effusively appreciative the day of, plus when you are working next, he returns and tells you he had his in-person interview at the consulate and everything is IN and approved and thanks you again, and smiles even bigger whenever he sees you in the wine store or he is in the library, like you are acquaintance-friends (you are!).

Bad: when customers overhear, misunderstand, and jump into your conversations with other customers, resulting in lengthy, factually inaccurate conversations you attempt to thwart but continue nevertheless about parking validation, or how to download ebooks, or any number of topics that you know you and your colleagues will have to set right, one person at a time.

Good: speaking of setting things right, you get the opportunity to give that woman the correct information about smartphone-less Uber, despite your still wondering why she thinks it will be different than a traditional taxi service, but you also give her some resources for concierge services that may help her get errands done.

Good: when an email in the general staff account is from an airline representative who found a library book in the customer lounge and they want to know how to get in touch with the customer to mail it back (bless their heart). Then, a week later, your boss emails you that there is a piece of mail for you and you are baffled until you go in and open it and see that the airline representative has mailed the book to you, and then you go show everyone working the book and use it as evidence that not all people suck and your coworkers view it the same way.

Bad: the sad feeling you get when you are near the smelly people or the people whose brains limit what they can do in the world, people who you help apply for a job on Indeed.com and you have to direct them exactly where to click, and then again to instruct them to click.

Mediocre: you walk back to the desk after walking around at close to find a note that reads “You’re Doing Great!” and you, knowing how few people are in the building at that time of Friday night, wonder whether a coworker or the teen boy you startled by opening the bathroom door just as he was exiting to announce that the library is closing or the guy you just helped with uploading his resume into Indeed left it. You identify that several of these options are more harmless than others. But like, you bring it home because it kind of makes you feel nice, when you think about how this person could have said this to your face but instead chose to write it on a slip of paper.

Great: when a woman comes in and asks you to find a “camp” she and her sister attended in the 1950s when she was 5 and her sister was 8 and after speaking with her a little while, you learn that this took place when their mother had TB, and while she recovered, her young children listened to stories and ran around and made fond memories of their time at camp, and then you find a New York Times article from 1955 (because bless the NYT and their archives) that identifies exactly what this place from 60 years ago that this woman never asked her mother about as an adult and now doesn’t have the option. You discuss that neither of you would ever have known that such a place was called a “preventorium” and you marvel about language and how even medical, scientific vocabularies change so much, much less how these topics are handled and treated. And you print out the article for her, because this is just really fucking cool, and she is from out of town so you never see her again but she asks your name, introduces herself, and tells you she really appreciates it.

So, yes, morale can be low at times, but you decide that there is a kind of expertise in shaking off the weird interactions and starting over with the next person. And there is a special kind of bond when someone really needs something and you’re the one to provide it. And at the very least, there is something extremely human in how people navigate the weird space that is a library, which is to say: community.

anxiety, community, family, joy, let it go, strangers

The Love of the Game

This past Saturday, I attended a beautiful, fun wedding. I saw, danced/caught up with people I love, got dressed up, met new folks. I deeply enjoy weddings. Celebrating, love, socializing, nice food and beverages… what’s not to like?

Attending weddings as a person with anxiety, though, is a new experience. Surprisingly, not a great one. The day after, in addition to being fully drained from all the expended energy/alcohol/soreness of the feets, now I get the joy of playing and replaying “how I did” in my mind. What did people think? Did I talk too much? Was I annoying? Did I spend enough time with the people I know instead of roaming around making new friends like a drunk (social) butterfly? Why the fuck can I never manage to get it together to take a photo with the bride and groom??* Why didn’t I take any photos at all to post my belated congrats on social media?

To top it off, this wedding was at home. I made the choice to spend a few social hours, but mainly kept it to family, and it was great to not have to stress about getting places, but it made my heart hurt that I don’t see anyone enough. People I saw, people I didn’t see.. It made me sad and regretful that I don’t live near them. I want to be home and near them, and I want my new job. I want both.

So yesterday after the plane landed back in the garden state (at 7:30AM, in time for me to go directly to work), I was full of anxiety about whether I should have seen more friends and family/stayed longer/whether to play in the softball game last night.

Technically, I was awake, so I could! It’s the playoffs, and I was working during the last few games. There are only a maximum of 3 left, so the should I stick to the plan and play or should I listen to my body and take it easy struggle was strong in my head. I tortured myself even further when I told someone in the office I wasn’t going because reasons and he told me all the ways it was shitty bailing at the last minute. Cool! I know!

Because it’s the playoffs, there was another game today. They lost yesterday (added guilt for not going), so we had to win to stay in the running.

And it was great. Deffffinitely not perfect, but I knew essentially no one and managed not to embarrass myself athletically nor socially. I didn’t torture myself, even when I messed up, nor did I feel myself getting overly competitive. I turned into a different version of myself: a more-myself version. Fewer, if any, voices in my head telling me mean things. Maybe overly vocal with cheers though–aka maybe don’t cheer for people when I’m not 100% sure I have the right name. But I’m actually somewhat decent at second base, which is a pleasant surprise, and we managed to rally and win!

The feeling of a collective, positive group experience, whether with friends and family or with random people, is my jam. I left the field today hating myself a little less–full of endorphins, almost immediately full of ibuprofen, and missing the anxieties of the past two days.

I felt (and feel) so grateful. Grateful to have been able to be a (VERY) warm body on the field today, grateful that I work where I do, grateful to have such awesome friends and family who let me drive their cars or wear their shoes this weekend, grateful to find out on the drive home that one of my dear friends got good news, grateful that for now, my people are mostly healthy and mostly happy, and that I can sometimes stop beating myself up and just be in the moment.

When I stopped playing softball, it wasn’t by choice. There was a lot of shame, a lot of severed friendships, and I never found a group that I fell into as easily again (not that I tried more than once). I love the softball buddies who are still in my life, and no one could or will ever come close to those high school and college years of bonding, laughs, bruises, wins and losses. But, it is just so good to go back to something and feel like no time has passed (at least until the lower back pain set in). To feel like I never should have stopped.

Today I was where I needed to be; tomorrow I have plans that I made a month in advance and will have to miss the game. Again, I want both.

My lower back will be okay with not being there tomorrow. I’ll pray for rain all day to feel less guilty for hanging out with yet more people I’m lucky to be around. I’ll practice being okay with not being able to do everything, being protective of my time and mindful of my body’s limits, being okay with missing out. And I’ll know for next year not to plan anything during playoffs week.

I do love the game. I also love my friends, and book club, and air conditioning. I love instances where I can make a concrete decision and stand by it. I love my family and need to plan a trip with them. I also love sleep, and so will wrap up this little love letter.**

 

*Seriously, it’s a pattern, and a problem. If you (or someone we know) get(s) married and I am there, please help.

**I also love letters.

anxiety, be a better human, books, community, coworkers, depression, empathy, librarians, strangers

Taking books out

Did you know that during summer, people like to read books? Vacations and breaks from school make summertime an especially high-checkout, high-return time, and many titles are in high demand. Since our library doesn’t share with any other library and don’t have a bajillion copies of everything, this tends to mean wait lists: placing holds, and waiting your turn in line.

Waiting is an art, and not all of us are artists.

Last week, all in one day, I encountered three women who did not want to wait. One reason annoyed me. One reason made me laugh. One reason made me sad.

For morale, let’s start with the situation that annoyed me, move to sad and close with happy. One of our adult summer reading categories is graphic novels, since they are a burgeoning genre and an accessible/inventive mixture of art and literature. I got very excited when a gentleman came in Friday evening asking for a graphic novel, and I recommended my favorite one to him (Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch). He was not overeager to read any graphic novel, so I hoped this one would at least make him smile, as it did for me–even though it is about the author’s struggles with anxiety, depression, and adulting. *

The following day, the woman in question approached me looking for a graphic novel recommendation, and I explained that some of my favorites were already checked out, but she should definitely consider putting them on hold. She flatly refused. Her tone told me she wanted to be able to take this book out TODAY. NOW.

Though I understand how exciting it is to hear about and have a title in hand, then take it home immediately and get started, when people straight out refuse to place holds, I get miffed. Unless you are leaving for vacation tomorrow, why can’t you wait? Logistically, with some titles (looking at you, Becoming by Michelle Obama), if you don’t place a hold and instead wait to serendipitously find it on the shelf one day, you will NEVER GET THE BOOK. EVERYONE ELSE IS BEING SMART AND PLACING HOLDS AND THE HOLDS CONTINUE ON AND ON INTO PERPETUITY.

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I digress. To summarize: she left empty-handed with several titles (including Sarah’s Scribblesalso checked out), and I sent my recurring plea back out into the universe that people will understand that libraries are a place for sharing.

The incident that made me sad was that a feeble elderly woman asked me to recommend several books for her. We exhausted the large print selection, and she had a lot of trouble hearing in addition to her sight. She had taken a bus to get to us (when I know of at least 10 libraries closer to her) and I still don’t understand why. Because, when I told her that we could place holds for titles currently checked out, she told me she didn’t have a library card. I told her multiple times that she is still welcome to use the books in the library, but that she couldn’t take them home. Because of her hearing, and because of her apparent mental state, I feared what would result, and lo and behold my fears were accurate. She filled a canvas tote with about a dozen books, and proceeded to walk out of the gates, setting off the security noise.

She moved slowly, but my colleague caught up to her and had to have the far-too-long, repetitive, awkward conversation reminding/informing her that she could not simply take the books. He patiently told her all about her local library, and copied the spines of the books she had picked out so she had the titles. He stood with her and responded overall in a warm and thoughtful way. Again, I don’t know why she had it in her head that any library, much less one a 30 minute bus ride from her home, would let her have a bunch of books. She had forgotten what a library is and does, and her deteriorated mental state made me sad, and at the same time made me hope I never forget what a library is for.

The last woman is our local celebrity. At 95 years old, she uses a walker but uses it often. She is easily spotted all around town because of her colorful hair and wardrobe. She currently has it dyed an emerald green with one chunk of magenta, and was rocking a lemon colored shirt. I handed her the book she had asked me to find and immediately went to help someone else. The man I was helping turned to me when we heard the security noise and said “she didn’t check that out!” as we watched her continue through the gates and out the door. I started to go after her, calling her name, but she didn’t hear me (or the security noise) and I decided to let her keep cruising on with her day. I realized I knew exactly what book she had, and her full name…all the info I needed to check the book out to her. I told the man who saw “it’s ok, I know her.”

That made me happy. I love knowing people, and I love even more the idea that if people know you, you can make mistakes and they’ll have your back. Above all, I love this library and community (the good eggs outweigh the jerks)!

*The cover image of this post is from this book, and looking through photos make me seriously doubt that the guy I recommended this to will like it AT ALL. lolol but who knows.

anxiety, career, let it go, librarians, meditation, writing

Time Off

It would seem I took an entire season off from writing… It wasn’t an accident, but procrastination took over any time I told myself to blog. Interestingly enough, at least over the past month, this lapse in writing has overlapped (overlapsed?) with a lot of time off from the library. But holy cow, has there been a lot going on. Time off from the library doesn’t mean time off from general life!

In June, I worked two four-hour shifts at the public library. Reader, I had Friday nights to myself! Those Fridays were great, and I spent them with dear friends.

However, with full appreciation of not having to punch the clock, let me say: I think working at the library is part of my self-care.

Over the past couple months, the seven-month period of temping has come to a victorious end. I am gainfully full-time employed, officially, permanently, in a department surrounded by awesome people who love coming to work every day. My 9-5 is everything I have waited for, and I feel so so so fortunate.

I would love to say that I was confident in my abilities and my chances at this job since the department knew me and invited me back (despite myself 🙂 to fill the position while the search went on. I would love to say that I did not stress myself out even though the job was probably mine from day one. I would love to say that even though the work is an exact match to my professional skills and demeanor, I was not chock full of terror that I would be rejected again and set adrift to continue temping elsewhere. For the several weeks in between when I applied and when I interviewed, any mention my colleagues made to “you’ll see in the fall” or “when we all do X/Y/Z in August..” I inserted “if I’m still here!” in order not to jinx it.

Because there is no time off from my brain. To me, the only thing worse than not getting this dream job would be to have expressed my sense of belonging out loud, on the record, and THEN not get to stay. I pulled apart any and every interaction with my supervisors to decipher whether they were implying that I would be sticking around. As professionals, they couldn’t just come right out and say “you are our first choice for this job,” but I’ve apparently become so uncomfortable with uncertainty that I needed someone to say that to ease my strife. On the occasions one of them did say something encouraging, I tried to hold it and internalize their praise for as long as I could.

Now, I have the security of a real job, and the comfort and immense joy that is belonging with these people.

So on the one hand, big things have changed on my time off. On the other, I still have the crazy monkey mind running around behind the scenes, not knowing what to do with herself when she does not have a task at hand. This week for the holiday, a full day off, I made zero plans and essentially online shopped all day. (Don’t yell at me, Mom! I yell at myself enough!) I haven’t been meditating enough, nor going to yoga enough, nor celebrating my accomplishments, nor going outdoors, enough, and I wanted to just zone out and hoard pretty things.

And this is why I will still work part-time at the library! Not only because I need funding to offset my love of and proclivity towards buying clothes, but also because I need to get out of myself and work in the service of others (which I do during my day job, but evidently I can’t get enough). I am not delusional to think I am saving lives as I sit behind a computer at a desk in an air conditioned building, but when I am there, surrounded by friends and community members, it feels like where I am supposed to be.

During my interview day, I met with a gentleman colleague, and he asked me one direct question about the position, but since he has already worked with me for a couple months and has seen what I’m about, the rest of the time, we spent talking about the library. He told me he was curious about where I ran off to on Fridays, and he complimented my hustle.

Maybe I shouldn’t need to hustle. Maybe I should take it easy, and take more time off. But at this point, I don’t really know what to do with more time off, and my work is more than a paycheck. All I know is I’m looking forward to the new normal, stabilizing and seeing what happens.

Stay tuned! Back to work.