Weeknotes 8.1 (August 10, 2020)

More of a thought process than an update this time…

Eight months into the year, and nine of these updates so far (if you include this one). I’m choosing to see that as a win — after all, I haven’t given up on writing these posts, even if it’s not as often as I’d hoped — instead of failure. This is the time to go easy on ourselves, to celebrate the accomplishments instead of beating ourselves up over what isn’t done yet. Find joy in the fact that we’re still here, still striving and surviving, still holding on to hope, because so many aren’t. And so many more can’t.

Step one is always survive. Surviving is always first, and of course, there are going to some days where it’s all you can manage. That’s okay, for a while. For short periods. Everyone struggles. But eventually, you have to do more than merely keep breathing. (And if you think you can’t, for months or years, but somehow you’re paying the bills and taking time for yourself and working toward your goals, then friend you’ve selfishly confused “surviving” for “getting everything I want” and those are not the same things.)

Step two is to be kind, to yourself and everyone around you.

Step three is to dream. To want. To hope. Having goals is not the same as having dreams, because too often goals are rooted in fears. You can be afraid of not achieving, and chase that as if it’s going to solve all your problems, but it’s not letting yourself imagine a better life based on being genuine and happy. Chances are pretty good that when you’re chasing your fears instead, whatever you “achieve” feels hollow, and no matter how much you keep moving those goal posts, you never feel like it’s enough.

It’s not to late to change, though.

Step four is to plan. Make a budget, enroll in a class, practice something until it’s perfect. Whatever you need to give you the foundation to turn your “want” into a “got”. Wanting isn’t enough, but you can learn almost anything, if you put in the work.

Step five is to act on those plans to achieve your dreams. We can’t always live in that last step, because life is hardest for those of us with the least, and the universe isn’t fair. But we have to do steps one and two, always. One, because otherwise we’re not surviving, and two, because otherwise we’re not living. You can’t dream if you aren’t kind to yourself. You can’t act on those dreams if you don’t have dreams, because being motivated by your fears is a quick way to harden your heart and eat away at your soul. You get bitter, and selfish, and you accomplish very little that actually makes you happy.

What a waste of this glorious opportunity for life.

So be kind to yourself, friends, and if you can’t manage that every day, at least be kind to the other people around you. Even if you don’t feel it. Especially if you don’t feel it. Practice kindness on them, until it’s a habit, and you’ll eventually find you’ve learned how to be kind to yourself too.

Need some suggestions? Start by thinking about the people who take care of you. Who does the work that supports your day-to-day? Maybe you live with people who cook for you, clean, or do the shopping. You might have someone who bakes, who brews the coffee, who changes the light bulbs, who makes sure there’s toilet paper in the bathroom. If not, do you have kids or pets? Think about who helps you to take care of them (teachers, day care working, bus drivers, the vet). Or what about the people outside of your home who lend a hand? The neighbor who watered your lawn or shoveled the snow off your walk last winter. The barista who always remembers your favorite coffee drink. The friend who sent you a handwritten letter, just because.

Start by finding ways to help them. Put aside any thought of how to get them to do what you want, or how to get something for yourself. Real kindness isn’t selfish. You give to be kind. Small things, a few minutes of your life: take out the trash or load the dishwasher without your spouse or roommate having to ask. Send an email thanking your child’s teacher for all the work they’ll have to do to keep educating during this stressful time. Give the barista an extra large tip. Leave cookies on your neighbor’s porch (bonus: buy them from a local bakery and you can support the economy while also giving away tasty treats). Reach out to a friend, just to let them know you’re still here. Give compliments more often than you criticize.

And if you think you’re already doing all that, ask what someone needs from you, and then do it.

A few minutes a day to be thoughtful and support those around you isn’t going to take away from anything you wanted to do for yourself. Failing to be kind is going to cost you far more than you’ll ever spend on showing others you care. Really, if you’re not being kind to others, are you happy? Do you wake up feeling good in the morning, knowing you’re a part of a community or a family or a neighborhood? Probably not. But if you keep at it, I promise you, your heart gets a little softer, and your life gets a little brighter. Everything will feel a bit more real than it did before, and you just might figure out how to live.

Weeknotes 3.3 (March 25, 2020)

Various hands, March 2020

Still drawing when I can, which is more than nothing, but not nearly as much as I want. Making progress, though.

Having everyone here, staying at home, staying in place, isn’t much different from my life before, except there’s no opting out. My son’s not going to school. My partner isn’t leaving for work or going out to do his own thing. I don’t have the uninterrupted hours I had before to do my own work. I can’t even run errands to get out of the apartment by myself.

But I like these people, my cats, my little home. We already split our time together on the weekends between actually being together and doing our own activities by ourselves in separate corners of the apartment. We’re still doing that, but for more days at a time. I cook more, because three people x three meals a day, and clean more, and I’m keeping my son on a loose schedule that has us doing art and schoolwork all throughout the day, but in between, we have chunks of time for ourselves. My son plays games or watches videos, and I spend a little time on my computer, or – whenever possible – draw. An hour later we’re doing the next activity together.

Continue reading “Weeknotes 3.3 (March 25, 2020)”

Clean Slate

Anything can spark a change. A birthday, a new year, a milestone, a good book. A change can be a soft moment in a sea of sharp angles and loud voices. It can be a step forward into something new. It can be the manifestation of hope.

Change is a risk, isn’t it? You never know what’s going to happen when you step outside of the familiar discomfort. Even if what you have is bad, when that’s what you’re used to, it can be scary to try something new. Or, change can feel like the freedom to rediscover yourself, if what you put aside while you dealt with other things was the soft, special parts of yourself.

Sometimes, change means turning what you have into whatever it wasn’t, before. And other times, change means wiping the slate clean, starting over, and pouring the past through a sieve to sort out the best parts, the bits you want to keep. The right pieces to assemble the best version of you.

The last several years I’ve been dealing with a lot. Not all of it was mine. Some of it came from being impossibly poor in a small town with no family nearby and limited options for childcare – especially when your child has a severe speech disorder and ADHD – which made working a regular job just as impossible, at least for more than a few months. Some of it was my health: thyroid cancer, losing my hearing, and then last February, I broke my knee. Some of it came from being the support system for someone… suffering, mostly from things that aren’t their fault, and they shouldn’t have to bear.

I don’t talk about how hard it can be to raise my son, for the same reason I don’t talk about the issues my partner is dealing with (and by extension, I have to deal with): those stories aren’t mine. And they’re not fair, either. The truth is, for every story I share about hardship, about exhaustion and fear and disappointment, people forget a good story. If I say my son was a lot to deal with today, which, some days, is true, how many people will forget the days he’s brilliant and loving and funny?

I have never figured out how to talk about my struggles because what’s beautiful about the people in my life might be lost to public perception then, and it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

But last year, life started to settle down. After 7 years of dating – slowly, at arm’s length, then closer and closer, as we worked out all the burdens left on us by past relationships – my partner and I moved in together. Paying 1/2 of the bills (because that’s what you do when you live with someone, you both contribute equally)? That I could afford, after years of not quite being able to cover all those things on my own. I started pulling back on my freelance work and side hustles and the constant grind of having to take everything that came my way, even when I didn’t have the time and energy to do it properly. I slept through the night for the first time in years.

Over the second half of 2018, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish, and who I could be, if I had the time. I outlined a novel, and then actually wrote on it. I went to WFC Baltimore. I did PT and figured out how to walk again. I started learning ASL. I stopped taking on more than I could handle and most importantly, when I didn’t think I had no choice but to overextend myself constantly, I stopped letting other people down.

So now it’s 2019. A new year. My son is in high school, and doing well. My partner is taking steps to help himself through the worst parts of himself – and I am deeply proud. My finances are slowly getting back on track (I think I’ll have my credit cards paid off this spring, and aside from student loans, that’s all the debt I have). I have stories in my head and finally, the brainspace to write them. Doesn’t that seem like the right time for a fresh start?

Part of that is redoing my website. I’ve turned all of my posts into drafts; they’re still here, just invisible. I’m going through them all. Anything worth saving, I’ll update if necessary, and put back up. A lot of it is, I think. You can’t build a future without building on the past. But you can decide which parts of the past make up the person you want to be, and you can step into the future with only what you really need.