It is more or less 50 days until the end of 2016. And while I will not write about the anxiety I feel at the uncertainties of a Trump America, I will say that the emotional response is surprisingly inspiring. No matter your political affiliation, we all feel invested in and committed to our communities. A close friend of mine has always said her guiding post is simply to say, “I want to live by my values.” So we start with what we love, what we believe in, what we hope for. That is where we begin and that is where our community is built. Start with what you love…
Also, it reminded me that I have a say in how my community is formed. That I have a voice and there is an urgency to use it. That I have to rely on myself, finding strength and happiness within my own measure of life. And despite a rough past week of migraines and overeating and general dislike of myself and utter despair at America…I am doing pretty well. So thanks President Trump for contributing to my improving mental health, in a way.
I had written myself an earlier 50-day letter at the start of August, which is typically my LEAST productive and MOST self-loathing season. My biggest obstacle was, and still is, just stopping that inner voice of criticism, the one that whispers false narratives about who I am and what I am capable of and what I’m deserving of. Another big challenge was understanding how to cope with “bad feelings” – a timely lesson in this political climate. Armed with new self-knowledge, I set some minor goals, wrote a letter, shoved it into my bullet journal, and plodded on those last 50 days of summer until the glory days of autumn and pumpkin spice lattes could placate me.
I forgot all about that letter until it literally fell into my lap. And in review…I did pretty well! I need to write it down and publish it on this blog because it feels then like published, factual testimony about my not being a fuck up after all. Because:
- I read my new phenomenology book after all. I got panic attacks haha. I would open the book and read the first paragraph six times over the course of a week and then I’d freak out that I was “progressing so slowly” and “so behind.” But I didn’t die and each day I made great “progress” on getting over the fear-hump. And now, I finished it. Now I need to read Judith Butler again and starting the whole new freak out but it is cool. I can do it. Reading that book is meaningful and enjoyable to me and that is what really matters.
- I realized that certain foods trigger migraines and that my body freaks out with excess oil and meat. I also lost a bunch of weight. Mindfulness to destructive inner voices seems to be really helpful for both mental and physical health. I am, again, not obsessing about perfection and numbers. It just feels nice to take care of myself.
- I started Nanowrimo for fun. I am not obsessing over word counts. I am not deciding if something is going to be a success or failure. I am not paralyzed with the question of if it is good enough or if I am good enough. It is just fun. Again, it is a meaningful and enjoyable experience for me.
It is now another 50 day block of time until the end of 2016. I always set myself up for these mini-panick-self-loathing-sessions when approaching major milestones. Birthdays tend to be the worst but New Years is also pretty tough. I am going to try my therapist’s suggested approach to working on myself instead as we close out 2016, the WORST YEAR EVER.
Dr. P has reminded me, multiple times, that I am not the mean little voice in my head. That is a ghost voice, haunting and terrifying but ultimately unreal, temporary, and truly powerless. This is real: me, my life, my values, my family, my passions, my dreams, my worth, my voice. And I know these things without doubt. Every instance of anger, sadness, frustration communicates to me that I know exactly what I value and what I want. I am legitimate.
In the next 50 days I want to continue to work on myself and remind myself of this truth. I know I am capable but I tend to self-sabotage all efforts by letting my own fear and discomfort re-narrate who I am. So instead of holding onto impossible, external, arbitrary measures of the good life, I will simply start where I am. I will engage in projects that are meaningful to me and reflective of my values. I will build relationships with people who are safe and supportive.
If I feel afraid, I can remind myself that I’m not “failing” or “giving up” or “weak” or “uncommitted” or “confused” or any of the millions of trigger words that have been pounded into my psyche. When I feel afraid, I can pause to process the emotions and let them run their course. Emotions are just emotions. In most cases, I will recognize something more banal: mild annoyance, tiredness, and general things that do not become a self-sabotaging meta-narrative on my capabilities as a person.(It sounds ridiculous to type out but, that is usually how it played out.) Again, my goals here are about dismantling self-sabotaging habits, finding security in the legitimacy of ME, and living a meaningful life.
Here are 3 meaningful projects to close out 2016.
- I want to work on my dissertation. It is still important to me. I want to write a passage about Judith Butler and Sara Ahmed because create the most significant philosophical lineage regarding the sensate body, race, and subjectivity.
- I want to keep working on my novel which is basically a celebration of all of the fun things I blog about, mish-mashed into one story. I have always been embarrassed about my interests. I don’t just mean, like, cutesy anime and fantasy stories written for 14 year olds but ALL of my interests in art, literature, race, etc. My therapist thinks this was implanted in my head by my parents – frivolous hobbies are shameful – but it is also socially dictated. Even in my literature PhD program, people ranked each other’s research topics with scorn. Currently I am an adult in a world of white collar STEM-type professionals who emphasize making money, living in the right suburbs, being productive, and having “respectable” hobbies. I’m tired of that. I just want to write fun stories. It doesn’t really matter right now if they count as “good” or “serious” “literature” – I just want to write something.
- Self-care. I need to start sleeping earlier, like for real. I signed up for a 5k and want to start doing yoga 1-2x a week at the library. We’ll see.
When we learned about my son’s autism, I realized that I had to change the way I thought about…everything. I never liked to admit it to myself but since about 2012, I’ve been trying really REALLY hard to fit in with this suburban cookie cutter keep up with Joneses competitive professional class — the kind of world I HATED my whole life and actively rejected right up until I got pregnant. We have found a little apartment in this upper middle class neighborhood with the “right” school and the “right people” because I have always measured my self worth based on these ridiculous ideas of genteel middle class life. I think I did it in some distorted sense for my son – that I had a kid so now it was time to be soccer mom (BUT NOT A REGULAR MOM, A COOL MOM).
But…my son will probably not fit in, socially. He will probably struggle with institutional norms. He will be mocked for having intense, narrow interests. He will be hurt and yet need to work harder than others to process those emotions. But he is and will always be a wonderful individual, worthy of love and respect. He will learn to find strength and security in the love of his family. He will learn to be proud of himself, no matter how cruel the world is. And he will celebrate how hard he works. And ever since that realization, I’ve been working on my own problems with self-acceptance. How can I teach my son to be proud of himself and stand up for himself unless I model it too? The election has taught me that we live in a society where our vulnerabilities as minorities are seen as unimportant to half of the voting population. We need to be strong and teach him to be true to himself.
Oh this post was pretty rambly. Alas, I am out of practice of blogging!