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On Learning To Be Serious

Sometimes, in the process of navigating your life, you look up and realize you’ve passed a bunch of waypoints without even really noticing.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: I realized that I needed to update my dance resumé, which pretty much made me laugh out loud, because I’ve come a really long way in less than one year, and I totally failed to notice.

In short: this year, my life has suddenly taken off.

Or … well. It feels sudden, but when I think about it, it really isn’t.

(moar behind the cut; it’s long)

Read the rest of this entry

Onward and Upward, By Fits, Starts, and Degrees

Sometimes, recovering from a bad episode of this depressive bipolar crap seems a bit like doing the hokey-pokey.

You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out, you put your left foot in, and then you go back to bed because frankly you’ve had enough for today and you’d really rather try again tomorrow, thank you very much.

I tend to make optimistic prognostications about my ability in moments that I’m feeling a bit more “up” than I have been (read: moments when I’ve taken my meds and downed something with a bit of caffeine in it, of late).

Later, when things shift back towards really deep end of the spectrum, I tend to sit there kicking myself about making said optimistic prognostications (which I tend to do publicly, because, in short, I never freaking learn, I guess?).

Right now, I’m somewhere between those two states: not at that point where I’m like, “I am going to do All This Stuff soon,” but not at that point where I’m like, “Yeah, I’m a waste of oxygen and I should really stop thinking I’m ever going to do anything.”

Instead, I’m in this spot where I’m able to see that the optimistic part of me that makes bold plans is okay, and the horribly depressed part of me that gets really angry when I fail to complete those plans is also okay, and that can be what they are, and it is, in its own way, okay.

Not always happy, not always fun, not always even remotely anything like pleasant: but valid, allowed. The human experience is rich with contradictions; with complications.

Today I did not even remotely attempt to get out of bed early enough to get to morning class. A part of me is really pissed about that — the same part that’s forever saying things like This is why you never amount to anything; you’re better than that; this is what makes the difference between people who succeed in ballet and people like you.

Another part of me recognizes that you have to work with what you’ve got. What I’ve got right now is hard to work with (though, on the other hand, I’m writing a fair bit, so there’s that).

I did begin my Great Office Rehab Project — or at least some of it (some of it will have to wait ’til I can buy some paint and some fabric). Denis brought in the replacement desk, so I set it up, installed the office air conditioner, and then became insanely, furiously frustrated because there are still Too Many Things In This Room.

The difficulty is that some of the things need to stay, but they need to live in or on other things that aren’t in here yet, and I don’t want to bring those other things in until the things on or in which the first set of things resides are out of the way, but I can’t get them out of the way without bringing in the things to put the things in…

Yeah.

My brain makes everything a thousand times harder than it has to be when I’m depressed (not like ADHD helps any of this, but depression makes it worse; when I’m manic, OTOH, I can organize anything to within an inch of its life, as long as something else doesn’t distr— SQUIRREL!).

So today I went to see my therapist (and rode my bike a lot, because I figured actually getting some exercise would solve one of the problems contributing to the severity of this depression — lack of exercise).

Tomorrow, maybe I’ll bring in the things into which I need to transfer the other things, so the things in which the things now reside can go wherever it is they’re going.

Maybe I won’t.

I’m not making any bold statements right now. We’ll see.

Perhaps that should be my motto for the time being: “We’ll see.”

Ultimately, it’s not like we can ever say for certainty what we’ll be doing at any given moment, anyway. Control is an illusion, and it seems especially illusory when you live with a mental illness that really rather prevents you being able to make long-term forecasts about your emotional weather.

If I have my head together well enough, my foot should hold up to at very least Essentials on Friday. I might give Intermediate class a try.

I do feel like I need to get back on top of ballet. I have missed so much. I don’t suppose I can do anything about that (water under the bridge, etc.), but I can work on putting the pieces in place to prevent it from becoming an established pattern.

Just going to class is one of those pieces — ballet is such an effective preventative and remedy; it seems to take the teeth out of my depressions when I can keep dancing.

This particular depression, though, has been a perfect storm of ballet-interrupting foot injury, stress, hormonal disruptions (blargh), lack of externally-imposed structure in my life, general lack of exercise, and the destabilizing effect of summer itself.

Anyway, that’s it for now.

More soon, maybe?

We’ll see.

Back … ish.

(That wasn’t actually intended to be a play on the title of the TV series Black-ish, though that seems to be a fairly thoughtful sitcom, as sitcoms go, from the tiny bits I’ve seen of it.)

So I’m back on my meds (huzzah!) as of this afternoon and, as such, improving in terms of overall function … which is good, because the drain in our kitchen sink chose tonight to explode, and I would have had a flat-out meltdown about that if it had happened yesterday. Fortunately, I married McGayver, who can fix that kind of thing.

I’m doing the job applications thing and it’s going well — had an interview this morning for a position that sounds like pretty much a lock (unless I’ve been convicted in absentia for some kind of crime I committed in my sleep?), though it turns out there are no seasonal positions open ’til September. I could have started next weekish as a permanent employee, but it wouldn’t be terribly convenient for the company, as I’d have to run off for two solid weeks for Burning Man.

Unless I find something that’s really relevant to my studies and/or sounds really compelling, I’ll probably take that job in the fall. It sounds like a good fit for what I want right now — an active, rather than a sedentary, workplace; decent pay; hours that mesh nicely with ballet. Shouldn’t hurt the fitness bit, either.

I’ll need to finally get an actual driver’s license, since the job in question may potentially involve actually driving, but that’s in the plans anyway.

I’m still working for Denis’ Burning Man project and feeling ever-more-useful in that regard. Tonight I set us up with a G+ page, even though I still feel kind of iffy about social media as a marketing platform. For this project, though, since it’s primarily a do-gooder collectivist kind of gig, I don’t really mind 🙂

On Glassdoor this morning, I spotted a listing for a web developer with some knowledge of WordPress and Drupal, as well as some command of your general web languages (HTML, PHP, CSS). I’m kind of kicking around the idea of applying for that. The upside is that the pay would very likely be pretty nice; the downside, of course, is that most development jobs are desk jobs, and I’m not really super into that whole idea. Been there, done that, decided it wasn’t for me.

Our finances are on the mend. Since it took about two solid years of complete and utter miscommunication to blow them up, it’ll probably take a few months to get them 100% back on track. Until then, we’ll be wearing our dance belts a little tighter* 😉

*Actually, mine keeps getting looser, but that’s a different kettle of worms.

My toe is healing. I’m still on the fence about Saturday class. Tomorrow’s out; it’s definitely not ready for Intermediate, and Essentials is cancelled tomorrow. I was able to ride the bike a bit today without driving the toe crazy, but I’d rather let it really heal before I try to push it.

I’ve noticed that Fusion Fitness Dance is back on the calendar, so maybe I’ll give that a whirl at some point, too. That depends on the finances, though. If we’re going to be tight enough that I can only do class two or three times per week for the next while, I don’t want to add a non-technique class.

I guess I’m also going to try not to spring back too quickly from this depression. I tend to decide that “feeling somewhat better = feeling 100% better,” then overtax myself and crash even harder. I hope maybe I’ve learned that lesson by now.

I’ve also learned that, while I now know that there is not, in fact, a famous band called Holland Oats, Harlan Oats, or Haulin’ Oats, I still don’t really know from 80s music. Did you know that “Danger Zone” was a Kenny Loggins song? I sure didn’t until just now. Thanks, Amazon Prime Music.

So that’s it for tonight.

Stay out of the Danger Zone.

You know, unless that’s where you want to be, in which case, carry on.

Life: Yet Another Momentary Lapse of Reason

As a whole, I’m doing better the past few months than I have in, like, ever.

The past four days have been an exception: I had been waking up a bit down in the dumps, but as a general rule it was wearing off once I got going; on Friday, however, the feeling kind of stuck with me.

Yesterday seems to have been the zenith — perhaps it would make more sense to say nadir — of this particular depression. I suppose the fact that I just plain wasn’t feeling well complicated things.

Today, I’m feeling a bit better on both the physical and mental fronts. Still not all there, but at least more or less functional. Apparently, the sleeping-for-fourteen-hours bit and the wheezing bit were only tangentially related: one was the result of depressolepsy; the other of my asthma deciding that it hadn’t said “hi” in a while and should probably remind me it’s around, or something like that.

A lot of this is complicated by the fact that I’m out of medication and currently unable to refill my prescription for stupid and ridiculous reasons (read: our finances remain complicated, for the moment). The medication I take doesn’t treat depression, nor is it properly a mood stabilizer (sidebar: I almost typed “mood sanitizer,” FFS, though come to think of it that might be rather apropos) but it does go a long way towards keeping my mood on a fairly even keel.

Today I am back to the strategy of basically distracting myself by doing things that I don’t find horribly onerous, like making bread and maybe washing the sheets (thanks to the cat’s decision to sleep right next to my face; apparently, he thought I needed cuddles: to be fair, he was correct, but I like cat cuddles better when the cat in question keeps his dander at waist level or below).

I am feeling depressed in part, by the way, because of our financial straits. Situational depression is definitely a thing, and it’s a thing that is very much a problem for me, since my brain likes to perseverate on emotional states. Way to go, brain.

Coming up with a plan to get out of our current straits is hampered by the fact that being depressed makes me much, much less rational, which also makes me do things like weigh myself three times in one day (and discover that my assumptions about the relationship between time of day and weight were, if not baseless, at least a bit off-base: I weighed less at 12:00 than I did at 8:45, go figure).

In other news, I am biting my lip and letting my stupid toe heal, so doing Brienne’s class tomorrow is a non-option. I dreamed about going to aerials class, but that will have to wait ’til we get ourselves unmired, financially speaking.

I missed Claire’s final class because my toe was really quite seriously painful on Saturday morning; apparently, I was still supposed to be wrapping it before walking around on it all week. Le sigh. I may be able to go back to class on Saturday; I may not. We’ll see.

So that’s that for now. Nothing philosophical or balletic to contribute to the Internets today.

Be well.

PS: Derp, half the point of posting at all right now was to link a recipe that I tried last night.

So, without further ado, here’s a link to last night’s really delightfully-easy fried rice:

http://rachelschultz.com/2012/07/14/better-than-takeout-chicken-fried-rice/

Sorry This Is a Bit Cryptic

Maybe at some point, it’s actually okay to face the world and learn to Adult (even when I was little, I never aspired to grow up; the adults in my life generally seemed to have an ocean of trouble and little time for creative stuff).  
Takes realizing, first, how much you need to learn, and then realizing that again.  And again.   Life is an iterative process; test-driven development writ large.

And then, you have to take those first tentative steps onto the high wire.

Slowly, weirdly, I’m kind of turning into someone I can respect.  

It kind of sneaks up on you, though, doesn’t it?

Bravery != Fearlessness

Not terribly infrequently, someone in my life will take note of some or another new physical adventure I’m trying and say something like, “Wow, you’re brave!”

Truth is, I’m really not particularly brave, when it comes to physical feats of derring-do. I’m just wired for adventure. Temperamentally, I’m pretty fearless (which is both good and bad, all things considered) in that particular way.

If you do things that look scary to other people because you’re not afraid to do them, that’s not the same thing as being brave. Intrepid, I’ll give you, but bravery is a different kind of thing.

Bravery is being afraid to do something and doing it anyway.

So while I may be bold about physical challenges, I’m a complete coward about emotional ones.

Well, maybe not a complete coward, but not what you’d call “brave” by any normal definition of the word.

Or, well, I haven’t been.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to try it.

It’s weird how apparently-unrelated life experiences can suddenly coalesce into the beginnings of new adventures: graduation, ballet, PlayThink, goodness only knows what else. It’s hard to identify the streams of influence that lead to now.

But, anyway, those and a lot of things have made me think that it’s really time to try being brave in a way that I haven’t before.

I want to learn how to be brave emotionally — I may never be fearless, where my heart is concerned, in the way I am where my body is concerned, but I can learn to be brave. We can all learn how to be brave.

A caveat: I write a fair bit about myself, about some struggles that a lot of people would consider deeply personal, here.

That might look brave, too, but it isn’t, because it isn’t hard for me.

The truth is that here, in the blogosphere, in my very own blog, I hold the reins. I’ve got my finger on the button. I can shut the whole freaking thing down if things get hairy.

There are other bloggers to whom I feel a kind of tentative connection (in a “Wow, I really admire your blog/your comments/your thoughts, and you seem like a thoughtful person who actually cares about stuff” kind of way) — but I can always suck all my tentacles back into my shell and jet off into the abyss* if I feel threatened.

*I’m sure there’s some deep, abiding significance to the fact that I always use ocean-dwelling invertebrates in these analogies.

In short, I’m completely in control of what I share here, of how much other people sort of bleed over into my being.

Out there, in the big scary world of actually making connections and building friendships, things are completely different.

I don’t trust people — and while it’s true that my wariness about my fellow humans evolved for some very real reasons, it’s a tool which has, in its current form, outlived its usefulness.

I don’t make new friends in part because, for me, friendship is a deep connection, and the process of making that connection involves leaving doors open that, frankly, it scares the crap out of me to leave open. It means leaving my heart out there on the counter where anyone can just pick it up and stick it in the Vitamix**.

**I don’t actually own a Vitamix.

It means coping with the fact that maybe sometimes I will think someone is really interesting and hope they will be my friend, and they won’t.

It will mean that some of those interesting people will want to be my friends, but will also turn out to be human beings with complicated, messy lives (because we pretty much all have complicated, messy lives), and that I will love them anyway, and hurt when they hurt, and struggle when they struggle, and maybe I will sometimes even be overwhelmed by their struggles, just like they, G-d forbid, might sometimes be overwhelmed by mine.

It means negotiating all of the glorious, abstract mess that is the human heart.

The same goes for just being with people in the moment. I keep thinking back to some of the moments at PlayThink this year, those moments that overpowered my preconceptions about interacting with strangers and became, in and of themselves, transformative. In the past, I haven’t been very open to those moments. I want to change that.

I know that being open to those moments in a more conscious way involves risk. That’s fine (or, at least, I’m trying to convince myself that it is: work with me, here).

Living involves risk.

By way of a favorite analogy: every time you get get out of bed, you’re taking a risk. You could trip over your duvet and break your neck. However, if you just stay in bed, you’ll almost certainly die much sooner than you otherwise would — the medical complications of just lying in bed will kill you. Worse, you’ll miss so much of the amazing spectacle of life while you’re ensconced in your bed, staring at the same four walls.

Also, eventually, you’ll have to pee.

So it’s worth getting out of bed, even though you could trip over your duvet and die.

The weird part is that you have to have a reason to want to get out of bed. Telling yourself you should get out of bed to avoid the risk of dying from inactivity doesn’t really work. You have to want to experience the amazing spectacle of life (or at least, you have to not want to pee in your bed).

Until very recently, I have bemoaned the minuscule scale of my social circle, but apparently that alone hasn’t been enough to overcome inertia.

What has overcome that inertia, instead, is experience: the experience of being unexpectedly swept out of my frame and discovering that, hey, this connecting-with-people thing is pretty great, actually!

So I’m going to try to do more of it. I’m going to try to do less of the thing where I decide that interacting with a group of strangers sounds, frankly, terrifying (an emotion that my brain recasts as “stupid,” it sounds stupid, this activity is ridiculous, etc.).

I am going to get out there and try new things, emotionally speaking.

Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. Who knows?

Regardless, I think I’ll be better off for having tried.

And maybe I’ll finally be able to say, “Yeah, you know what? Actually, I am pretty brave.”

On Reading The Comments*

*Except on WordPress. WordPress rolls by its own rules: the ‘Pressers I follow seem to be good at attracting sane, intelligent discussions in their comment sections, and at moderating appropriately, and at knowing when to put up the “Comments Closed” sign.)

Once upon a time, back in the day, etc., I was an avid reader of and participant in The Comments. I’m not sure whether I was braver, dumber, or just a lot more bored (probably some of each?), but I sort of had this notion that Someone Has To Speak Reasonably (yeah, yeah, typical Angry Young Man stuff).

Let’s not even get started about the privileged assumptions behind that kind of thing — I know, I know. Not that I ever really strolled around the internet swinging my electronic gold watch chain and telling people that they were half-witted imbeciles, old boy, and that their backgrounds deprived them of the ability to respond rationally, but part of me almost certainly kind of felt like that on some level.

I tried to write rationally and logically and politely and sanely, but I also believed that a lot of people were Wrong On The Internet and that I should Lead By Example (how embarrassing).

I think some benighted part of me seriously (but unconsciously, or at any rate no more than hemi-semi-demi-consciously) believed that if I just kept calm and demonstrated what civil discourse “should” look like, I could somehow save either the internet or civilization or something.

Barf.

Anyway.

At some point, I realized that A) I was actually, in my own way, kind of being an ass (to whit: a lot of the people who say stupid crap in the comments are just having bad days; the ones that are actually jerks, meanwhile, are just going to go on being jerks, no matter what) and B) you can’t take the wind from the maelstrom, or whatever. Comments gonna … um … com?

I figured out that even to read the comments was basically a form of swimming upstream, that you can’t reason with irrational people or even with rational people who are having irrational moments (who, of course, are the ones who I was, for a long time, most likely to attempt to engage with my reason and coolness and politesse, &c.).

In short, The Comments became a giant energy sink, and I said to myself, “Wait, I don’t even have to read these! I can just pretend they’re not there! And if I really, really feel the need to comment on a particular newsworthy item, that’s part of why I have a blog.

Since then, I’m happy to report, I’ve been largely unflustered by The Comments (and the world has not, as far as I know, ended — except perhaps in an Alternate Timeline). The Comments and I now have a great relationship: I leave them alone, and they leave me alone.

Every now and then, though, I venture back into the fray (though, outside of WordPress, I pretty much never say anything).

Sometimes it happens on purpose — I guess when I’m really, really bored and all the dishes are clean and I have done the day’s thousand tendus or what have you and I’m also feeling a bit masochistic.

Usually, though, it happens by accident: I’m idly scrolling through the aggregations of links related to the article I’ve just finished, looking for another way to avoid doing work and occupy myself, and then suddenly, Boom! I’m in The Comments, and I don’t even realize it ’til it’s too late.

The problem is that I’m an auto-reader: put text in front of my face, and I will read it (or, if it’s in a language and/or alphabet and/or syllabary and/or pictographic system I don’t know, I’ll attempt to read it). I suppose we all have our weaknesses.

So by the time that I really grasp the fact that I’m in The Comments!!!!111oneone, it’s too late, because I’m already reading them.

Usually, I pull myself out before any damage occurs.

Once in a while, I start reading, am filled with horror, revulsion, and/or frustration, and yet I find myself fascinated, and must apply all of my fearsome might to tear myself away before I become lost.

Once in a great while, something different happens: I read the comments, get sucked in, and swiftly receive a reminder that the human race is, in fact, actually kind of doing all right — that there are good people, that we can be reasonable, and that the world probably isn’t going to end today.

Probably.

It’s weird how bracing that feels: to see two people disagree, and to expect Fighting On Teh Intarwebz, only to be startled by a breakout of humane, civil discourse that leads not to an escalating firestorm of trollery, but to a really admirable agreement to disagree or — better still — the serendipitous discovery of unexpected common ground.

Once in a great while, I’ll even discover that someone out there disagrees with my own cherished beliefs in a way that makes me realize that they’re just that — beliefs — and that they’re full of holes and flaws like everybody else’s.

So, anyway. That happened today: I was reading The Comments on, of all things, an article on Queerty, and a little conversation happened between two people who disagreed, and then talked about it like civilized beings, and I was impressed and led to think, “Hmm. Have I really been looking at this situation as objectively as I can?**”

**Knowing full well, of course, that human beings are actual total crap at being objective, myself included.

So, there we have it. Out of the depths, a moment of light and clarity. A happy surprise from the universe, found in an unlikely place.

This doesn’t, of course, mean that I intend to start regularly reading The Comments. Oh, helllllll, no.

I may be inspired, I may even be a little bit crazy — but I’m not an idiot.

…But maybe just a peek, now and then.

A Few Things I Try Not To Say To My Friend Who Has Cancer

There are a lot of things that people say all the time to people who are fighting life-threatening illnesses.

They’re how we express our empathy as fellow humans; how we try to express our solidarity, our support, our “being-there-for-you-ness.”

Most of them are great — but some of them, when I really think about it, seem a little problematic.

Not that I’m judging you if you use them: frankly, in the heat of the moment, we tend to say whatever we can, and it’s really hard to come up with something to say that’s supportive. Worse, a lot of the phrases in question are basically the major elements in our cultural tool-kit of go-to things to say to people when they’re struggling.

Still, I think it might be useful if I write about what I try not to say and why. Of course, feel free to disagree with me (or agree with me, that’s cool, too!) in the comments.

Here we go:

What I Try Not To Say:
I know you’re going to beat this!

Why I Try Not To Say It:
In short, I don’t know that.

A couple years back, a long-time friend of Denis’ was diagnosed with what looked, at first, like a pretty uncomplicated lung cancer. His prognosis was very good. After the usual course of radiation and chemo, he went in for surgery to remove the tumors … and that’s where everything fell apart.

It turned out that his body was riddled with cancerous tumors; tumors that hadn’t shown up on the various imaging studies that had been done up to that point. The tumors in question happened to be of the same density as the organs they had invaded. They were stealth tumors.

Those stealth tumors killed Denis’ friend.

With cancer, as with so many things, nothing is certain — and if I tell someone I know they’re going to beat it, and they discover that, actually, they aren’t, it can leave them feeling like they’re letting me down. They don’t need that.

I never want my friend who has cancer to feel like he’s letting me down. He’s not. He didn’t ask for cancer, and even if he had some kind of habit (like smoking) that amounts to asking for it … well, people do stupid things all the time. That doesn’t mean they deserve cancer. Cancer sucks.

What I Try Not To Say:
Stay strong!

Why I Try Not To Say It:
It’s okay to be weak. Sometimes, it’s even necessary.

I’ve noticed that the hardest thing for people who are seriously ill to do is to just put everything down for a little while and take a breather.

People who are seriously ill often feel like they owe it to everyone around them to hold it together.

I’m not advocating turning into a navel-gazing blubfest — though I’d actually say that it’s fine and healthy to do that at times! — but when you’re battling cancer, or heart disease, or severe major depression, or whatever, you’ve already got a lot on your plate.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is the sort of thing we perceive as weak.

Sometimes, you need to stop being responsible for a while and literally lie down in bed so your body and/or your mind can do their thing and try to heal as best they can.

Sometimes, it’s even good for the people around you to step up and take over some of the stuff you would normally do. It lets them feel like they’re doing something to help, even though they can’t wave their magic wands and make your cancer go away.

We live in a culture that devalues weakness. What we don’t always realize that it’s when others are weak that we have an opportunity to lift them up — and any good personal trainer can tell you that lifting makes you stronger.

So by lifting others in their times of weakness, we strengthen ourselves: so we should try to be less afraid of others’ weakness … and less afraid of our own. When we let someone lift us up, we’re doing them a favor, too.

What I Try Not To Say:
Everything’s going to be okay!

Why I Try Not To Say It:
Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

It could be that everything will turn out fine, and that the experience of living with and/or through cancer becomes a kind of emotional touchstone.

It could be that everything won’t turn out fine. A struggle with cancer, even when cancer loses, can leave scars and tear families apart. A struggle with cancer that ends in death is hard for everyone who loves the person who dies, and while some of those people will come out just fine, others might not. We don’t really understand a lot about the underpinnings of human resilience, yet.

So maybe everything will be okay, and maybe it won’t — and, either way, I want my friend who has cancer to know that I’m going to be there. That I’m not going to judge him or anyone else if everything doesn’t turn out just fine. That I’m going to love him either way as a brother-of-the-road, a fellow fitness fanatic, another human being, and a general all-around funny and awesome guy who was dealt a crappy hand.

I’m sure there are other problematic phrases out there in our cultural lexicon. I can’t seem to think of them right now.

Sometimes, though, when I need to find something to say to someone who’s hurting, I find one of these phrases slipping from my tongue (or my fingertips).

In the end, that’s okay, too: once again, as humans, we make mistakes and we do stupid things.

So, yeah. If you’re that guy from time to time who says stuff like this, don’t be too hard on yourself.

And if you’re that guy who has cancer, don’t be too hard on yourself.

At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.

And that, in fact, might be something worth saying to your friend who has cancer.

“We’re here. We’re in this with you. Together.”

Quickie: Spring Break II, Treading Water But Feeling OkayD

It’s Spring Break week for Ballet this week, so I have no class (I’m trying to avoid the obvious jokes here, since I’m sure I’ve used them all before). This is handy, because I’m in the middle of writing my final paper for my Buddhism class, preparing for the final exam in my Entomology class, and finishing the PorchLight Express website.

Yesterday, I met with my boss for my performance review, and it was great. That was a huge relief, as it’s actually kind of hard to figure out how well you’re doing your job when you’re in your first term as an SI leader. At one point, Ryan said, “When are you graduating, in May? That’s too bad. I mean — not for you! But it would’ve been nice to have you around longer.”

That felt really good!

I feel like I’m learning and growing a lot this semester — not just as a student, but as a person. The whole past year has been an exercise in figuring out who I am and where I fit and where I want to go … and also in learning how to be happy even though I’m not there yet.

By analogy, I came to a realization not long ago that has been bizarrely helpful (though, to be fair, if you’d told me the same thing maybe a year ago, I would’ve said you were full of crap). I was reflecting on why I liked making bread, but didn’t like putting the dishes away. Both are basically repetitive activities that you do in one place, and yet I find one of them enjoyable (even when it makes my wrists hurt) and the other tedious.

I came to the conclusion that there was, in fact, no good reason that I didn’t like putting dishes away. It was a mental thing. If I could like making bread, I could like putting the clean dishes back in the cupboards. The main difference is that putting clean dishes away involves working with a lot of small elements, much like de-cluttering does (this explains why I enjoy housework but hate de-cluttering; it took me the longest time to figure out that that was my biggest problem as a homemaker).

The working-with-lots-of-small elements part is difficult for me as someone with my particular flavor of ADHD. I think this is also why I enjoy bike maintenance, but not so much repairs — maintenance mostly involves fiddling with a whole bike; repairs often involve lots of fiddly parts that can escape and roll away and basically stress me out until they’re back on the bike.

That doesn’t mean I can’t come up with ways to find either process enjoyable, though — so I’m working in learning to like putting the dishes away, or at least not hate it. As for bike repairs — meh. Some of them I’ll definitely do (changing tires and sometimes repairing tires; fixing broken chains; stuff like that), but some I don’t mind paying someone else to do. Besides, that helps good bike wrenches stay in business, which I really appreciate when something major that I don’t know how to fix happens to one of my bikes.

On the “learning to like putting away dishes” front, I’m not going to say I’m entirely there yet. Nor am I going to say that this is something everyone can or should do — there’s lots of things that lots of people would say I “should” be able to learn to do or to like, but I either can’t or won’t, and I think that’s basically okay. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.

I feel like other people deserve the same consideration. People live in different ways and prioritize different things, and it’s totally okay to feel like putting dishes away is anathema to your soul. It’s okay to pay someone else do it, or bribe your spouse to do it, or just plain not do it. I personally know a couple people who have dishwashers solely so they don’t have to put the dishes away — they just put the dishes in, wash them, and then that’s where the dishes live until they’re all used, and then the cycle begins again. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

So that’s a thing I think I’ll probably write about some more at some point.

In other news, I finally took the last dose of my tendon-exploding antibiotic this morning, so I rather expect to stop feeling exhausted and bedraggled in the next few days. I was so tired last night that I conked out before Denis got home from his night out with Kelly, and I didn’t even wake up when he got home and came to bed.

I’m looking forward to having my usual energy level back, but also glad that the break in ballet classes allows me to get more done while I’m still feeling the fatigue. The main part of my PLX job is just about done, too, so when ballet class resumes next week, I should be able to enjoy it without having to dash around quite so frenetically.

Frenetic dashing just isn’t really my style.

Doing Scary Things

I am, in some matters — mostly the ones that involve heights, speed, agility, risk of falling, large animals, stuff like that; physical dangers — a fearless idiot.

In other matters, however — basically, in matter that involve interacting with humans in new ways — I am a giant chicken.

That’s actually kind of insulting to chickens, which can be pretty brave when they need to.

About a week ago, I approached some friends of mine who are members of an online bike-geek community that now spans the globe and asked if they wanted to get involved in a fund-raising thing I was thinking about doing for another friend of ours.

That was surprisingly scary. I thought everyone would say, “What? That’s a terrible idea! Why don’t we just do something through one of the existing fundraising organizations out there?”

Instead, my ideas were met with enthusiasm, and then with more ideas, and from the resulting seven-way brainstorm, Cabal Aid was born.

That was scary, too: taking this idea, and building something around it, and then setting the thing that we’d made together loose in the world in hopes that people would receive it in the spirit of good-hearted meddling that we intented. Heck, just showing the rest of the team my contribution — the WP-based website and Google forms I’d cobbled together in a rather unprecedented storm of productivity — was pretty scary.

We just went live a little while ago, so it’s still scary. I’m afraid nobody else will join our roster of riders; afraid that if people do, they’ll have trouble finding sponsors; afraid that some Great Authority in the Sky is going to come down and tell us to cease and desist.

For what it’s worth, I was even kind of afraid to talk specifically about that project, here. It was one thing to mention it in passing as a theoretical thing; another thing entirely to put up a link that people can visit and, like, judge and stuff (BTW, the purpose of the link isn’t to try to drum up still more support, though if you want to take part, that’s cool, too).

It’s scary and challenging to take a piece of your heart and put it out there for the world to see.

Oddly enough, though, that’s what we all do just about every day in our blogs here.

In a sense, that’s what every adult amateur ballet student does every time he or she sets foot in the studio; what every hopeful grad student does when she or he applies to a much-desired program. The world is full of scary opportunities; perilous places where we pin our hearts to our sleeves and take gigantic leaps of faith.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to observe that bravery isn’t fearlessness — it’s being afraid and doing stuff anyway. Sometimes it starts with having faith that you actually have wings; sometimes it starts with being fed up and feeling like you have to do something, even if it turns out to be wrong.

In the end, we overcome fear by doing scary things.

We start with Small Scary Things, and we work our way up to Bigger Scary Things, and then one day we do something that would once have seemed like a Huge Scary Thing, only it turns out that we’ve grown stronger by doing all those Small Scary Things and Bigger Scary Things and living through them.

The hardest part, it turns out, is finding the first Small Scary Thing that you can do.

For me, the Huge Scary Thing here was actually approaching Scott, who’s going to be the recipient of this month’s fundraising efforts. I really kind of thought he might be offended or something (you never know!). Fortunately, he was cool with our meddling. Because that was a Huge Scary Thing, and because we had a contingency plan in case Scott said no, I left that for last. Well, that and announcing the creation of our new do-gooding wing to the broader membership of the Bike Commuter Cabal.

The Small Scary Things?

I’m not even sure what they were. I can tell you that there were a lot of them, because I had to practice a lot before I was ready to start doing Big Scary Things.

There are more Huge Scary Things on my horizon. Figuring out how to use the next year and a half in a way that creates growth — Huge Scary Thing. Applying to grad school — another Huge Scary Thing. Starting to forge my path forward, now that I kind of want to know where I want to go. Huge. Scary.

I guess as long as we live, we’re going to face Huge Scary Things. Sometimes it will take us a while to be ready to meet them, and that’s okay. Sometimes, we’ll have to practice on a lot of Small Scary Things and Big Scary Things first.

Over time, Scary Things that were once Huge diminish into the distance. By the ends of our lives, if we work hard, we’ll have grown enough to step over mountains.

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