Tag Archives: self care

When Self Care is the Hardest is When We Need it Most

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Cultivated purslane going to seed. I saved a bag of the seed. Hopefully it’ll grow true to the plant – not sure it will – this is what often stops me from saving seeds in my small garden, worries that the seed will not grow true. I don’t often plant hybrids, I do plant all OP (except for my beloved Sungold tomatoes, those are hybrids and might not even be OP) but I have a small garden space and often grow multiple varieties of a vegetable a year. Cross pollination in a small garden is a real issue. But I’ve decided to save a few seeds anyway. Purslane, red Orache, and summer squash this year.

I have not been taking good care of myself. For ten days we didn’t drink too much. Then we went right back to drinking lots of beer. I don’t exercise because of how much it always hurts my feet or something else. It’s always something. I have been eating way too much cheese. The only thing I do right any more is to drink lots of water. I also still eat a lot of produce, but this is largely cancelled out by all the cheese. I don’t sleep well (though I never do, so is that even worth reporting?) I’m depressed and anxious all the time without any breaks in it to come up for air. I wasn’t taking my meds regularly for a little while but at least I’ve really cracked down on that and for the last couple of weeks have been very consistent with taking them every day.

So little writing for all of 2016. This is the worst thing of all. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to the desk and be disciplined about writing no matter what. That’s why I’m here this morning. Earlier in the year I was working hard on my survey and by the summer time, when I started to actually sit down to write, all the energy I had was sucked up by work, which I quit, and then sucked up by trying to re-boot my business because Philip got laid off and I couldn’t find a job. No writing. Then I tried writing but it was all about my brother and grieving. Anyway, I got on a single track before he died and couldn’t get off it. Every time I sat down to write I would end up on the same track, saying the same things every single time. No matter where I started off, I’d end up in the same place. So I just stopped writing at all.

Yesterday I woke up really late and felt like garbage  because I stayed up ridiculously late and drank an insane amount of beer while watching Leonard Cohen videos on youtube. I was angry with myself and then I had a very rich, way too rich even for me breakfast that made me feel even shittier. So I got out into the garden. For over an hour. I pulled up all my tomato plants, the dying zinnias, the summer squash plants, and the woody rosemary that never recovered its last trim. I planted a baby rosemary in its place. I picked the first few ripe radishes which my mom said were almost too hot to eat. They aren’t a hot variety so it must have been the growing conditions. I also harvested a bunch of our everlasting spinach. I planted my boxwood plant in the side yard bed finally (I will be topiarying it), got our cape gooseberry planted too. I got completely covered with soil and for the first time in a long time I felt a little better.

Why is it so hard to get myself to do things I know are important to my mental health? Once out of the habit it’s so tough getting back into it. Yet when I do – I feel so much better. It’s creating the daily habit that has to happen. Once you do, it creates a momentum.

My body is really craving greens and vegetables. More than I’ve been eating. The other night I roasted some cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots with some rosemary salt. I ate a big bowl of them with ketchup but no cheese. It was so good! Another dish I made is one I’ve been wanting to make for a while – I made pulau rice. My friend Rohini gave me some of her favorite packaged spice mix and told me two methods of making the rice and it turned out so well! I didn’t have any frozen peas which I really wished I’d had but it still turned out great with carrots, onions, and potatoes diced small. Then I made a palak paneer to go with the leftovers. I have made paneer before but didn’t feel like doing that and I don’t know where to buy paneer in my city (probably could get it at one of the Asian markets but I haven’t checked yet) so I ended up using this cubed feta I had in the fridge. I hadn’t used much of the feta before because it was really dry and kind of chewy. Good flavor, but not what I wanted for my salad or couscous. So I used it in the palak and it was so good! It was tangier than paneer, but texturally very similar. I used a garam masala blend I made from scratch last year but never used. So it was a little old but it was really tasty!

That’s the kind of cooking I’m craving. I can’t be attempting totally authentic Indian food or Greek food, necessarily, but doing my take on them is where it’s at. At least my spice blends were authentic. (The one I made was from my vegetarian Indian cookbook by Monisha Bharadwaj) I especially love spinach dishes. Palak paneer, spanikopita, and spinach quiche are a few favorites.

I can’t be on facebook as much as usual. I have way too many people I love on there to stop checking in and hanging out a little, but I’m skimming past political and ranting posts. I’m bypassing as many angry posts as possible. If I soak up any more of that I risk letting more passive suicidal thoughts to take root in my spirit and heart. I can’t afford it. If anyone thinks I’m a cop-out or don’t care about all the people hurting right now, all the scared people out there right now, all the abused and threatened people – then you don’t know me AT ALL. If there is anything in me to contribute to the world to make it a better place, to help people become safer – then I have to shut everything out for a while. Dead people can’t help make living people safer or heard or lift them up. That’s a fact.

Unless you’re religious, then I suppose you always turn to dead people to lift you up. But never the less, not even Jesus can vote or march or step in to literally give you a hand when you need one.

For mentally ill people to be of service to others, they have to take care of themselves and that often means shutting out the noise. That often means disengaging for long periods to recharge. Our batteries do not hold charges for very long.

I feel guilty so much of the time not being able to do more, needing to be in retreat mode so often. Honestly, when I’ve gotten myself to a better place, I don’t know that tackling political things is where I’m needed most anyway. I need to get back to my Suicide for Beginners book because those of us with serious depression and anxiety need intersectional support more than most people. We have a lot to offer others in empathy and action and support, but not when we don’t have enough of it ourselves. Depression and anxiety don’t give a shit about your gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, they hit people across all lines, across all borders both literal and figurative.

I have to keep acknowledging the guilt that I’m not stronger than I am and keep letting it go. I’m strong in ways that aren’t necessarily evident. But if I don’t take care of myself, that strength is inaccessible to everyone, including myself.

So, if you’re like me and struggle with serious depression and anxiety, please let me entreat you to do a little check – are you practicing good self care? Or have you been neglecting it like I have? What is the self care you need to practice? (Feel free to literally tell me in the comments) If you’re not practicing much self care at all, or worse, like I have been doing – you are being self destructive (even if mildly), how about doing one thing for yourself today that you know will help you feel better and stronger that you’ve been neglecting to do? Don’t worry about ALL THE THINGS you should be doing, how about just do ONE thing today that you haven’t been doing?

Today I got up, grabbed my cup of coffee, and headed upstairs to my computer to write a post. A post that isn’t about death, or politics, or the hatred that’s consuming the world. I wrote about the thing I did yesterday that made me feel so much better for a little while. And in doing so, I have (today) done something else that I’ve neglected for so long I don’t even recognize myself anymore – I wrote a post before doing anything else. No matter what else I do today (or don’t do), I will have done something today that I need to do every day.

About the writing – I believe that all writers (and I believe this is true of all artists) sometimes must go through fallow periods. Periods of time when they aren’t writing but are just experiencing life. You have to recharge your writing brain. It used to be that I would write at least a blog post or a journal entry every single day even if I wasn’t writing poetry, non-fiction, or fiction. It was a discipline that kept my writing muscles flexed. But regardless of whether or not you continue to write little journal entries, there are periods of time where you must let ideas germinate, or invite new ones in by going out and doing things and getting out of your head. Just as fields must lie fallow to rest in order to regenerate and be able to support more demanding plants in a later season or year.

But I have lain fallow long enough. It is now unhealthy for me to continue to eschew the writing. I have to find my way back. But I can only think about today or I’ll crumble. Today I wrote.

Church of Perpetual Volunteers

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Field Mint

If my garden and wild fields are my church, then if I were to name it I think it would be:

CHURCH OF PERPETUAL VOLUNTEERS

This is because I don’t try to control my garden that much. For many people gardening is a constant battle against encroaching weeds and disorder. They employ all kinds of tactics to prevent plants from going wild or proliferating too much. If you listen to the language of most gardeners they’re constantly cautioning other gardeners against plants that “take over” or “spread” or “can’t be controlled”. Most of the plants I love the most are notorious re-seeders such as cosmos, parsley, calendula, borage, mint, comfrey, allysum, and yarrow. Any time I tell another gardener how much I love cosmos they feel the need to say something like “Oh, but if you’re not careful that will take over your whole yard!” to which I find myself saying “What could be more wonderful than a yard completely covered in cosmos? LET IT GO MAD!”

I will admit that there are a few plants famous for going rampant that that I don’t want going rampant in my yard. Mostly it’s because I don’t like them, because they do nothing for me personally or are pure evil (such as privet and arum italicum).

My style of gardening is to put up some structured beds and then encourage everything I love to seed freely. I love volunteers. When something pops up that I don’t recognize I always let it get big enough to ID before deciding if it stays or goes. Watching something mysterious pop up in my yard is a joy. I have a volunteer purple aster that started off as a tiny 1″ seedling and is now this:

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From nothing, I got this beautiful aster that has stuck around for 3 years so far. It’s also growing in the crappiest soil that we’re working on amending. I didn’t buy this plant. Someone probably grew this years ago in this garden or a garden near-by and the seed waited until conditions were perfect and it popped up. Or a bird pooped on my yard and left this gem. If I’d been madly pulling up everything I didn’t plant myself that could potentially be a weed, I’d never have this plant in my life.

Another plant that pops up absolutely all over our garden is sweet alyssum, seen here (the little white ones) with another loved volunteer always welcome in my garden – nasturtiums.

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What I love about volunteers is how I can let them pop up where they will and then pull the ones that popped up where I don’t want them. My garden is never barren because of these. Should I be laid up for a long time, unable to do anything with my plants, I’ll still have calendula, valerian, alyssum, asters, and California poppies gathering colorful light right outside my house.

I don’t want or need hygienic order in my life. I mean, I could use more cleaning and order inside my house, because I still suck at laundry. I would still rather write than mop my floors. I’d rather watch Miss Marple and daydream than dust the woodwork.

I just realized that my garden is the only place I like to be surprised. Haha!

I’ve planted a cultivated variety of purslane and it’s very happy in the bed we put it in. I just harvest a huge bowl of it. Most of it is trying to flower right now. I cut most of the flowers off yesterday because I didn’t want it to stop producing leaves, but I’m going to let it flower eventually and see if we get a ton of volunteers of it. It’s a pretty rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrto3 <—- that’s what Jasper the ex-feral kitten has to say about purslane.

I’m turning to my garden a lot more lately and thinking about it (and now talking about it) because it’s helping me combat this horrible dark global malaise of human invention. It’s helping my mind focus on good things and hope rather than the dark pit it so often and so easily gets mired in. I’m so tired of everything I write about being from the pit. I’m going to have to focus on the dark enough as it is to write Suicide for Beginners. Rampant purslane and calendula is definitely the antidote.

I know I hit a low point recently when I made a pun and wasn’t even sure it counted as a pun. My only anti-pun ally (and future award winning illustrator/science fiction author) Sonya Craig had to yell at me to shake me free of the encroaching darkness.

Off to a Good Start

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Wild flower seeding.

4 days into January. How have I been caring for myself so far?

Haven’t had any alcohol. Zzzzzz. I wish those “z”s indicated sleepiness rather than beverage boredom.

I made 2 new trial batches of lotion in my quest to make a lotion I actually like that doesn’t have creepy shit in it. This is self care because I love making potions, the potions are to take care of my skin, and because it stopped me from sinking further into my Sunday funk.

I read for a couple of hours yesterday which was awesome. I’m re-reading all my favorite books to remind me what kind of books I want to be writing.

Worked on the plot of my current WIP – turning it back into a book I want to be writing and not one that feels like a personal quagmire. I’m getting excited about writing again. (fingers crossed that keeps up)

I drank lots of water.

I took my medication yesterday. But I still need to do better. I can’t be missing any days or it undermines their efficacy.

I go back to work today. I’d like to think it’s going to be a smooth transition, that customers will not have placed thirty thousand orders over the holiday. I suspect this wishful thinking is going to turn out not to be true.

Behold the Tiny Mushroom, My Mascot of 2016!

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Behold! My Mascot for 2016 Shall be This Tiny Half-Eaten (Probably Poisonous) Mushroom!

Tiny mushrooms fill me with delight.  I fold myself up as small as I can to get inside their world and on their level while my insides expand with curiosity, questions, and my head fills with images of teeny tiny (probably poisonous) sauteed mushrooms on Barbie-sized toasts. That’s how I hope 2016 will be for everyone: a whole lot of marvelous tiny mushrooms popping up begging to be explored filling us all with ideas and questions, and providing us with everyday magic and miniature adventures.

This tiny (probably poisonous) mushroom popped up next to my big aloe plant outside my back door. Right there, for me to enjoy for the few days it will survive. Soon it will be black slime. But don’t worry, it’s good for the soil and soil grows us all, so it’s gross but really important slime.

I don’t have deep thoughts today. In a few days I go back to work and I have needed some mega down-time. So yesterday I spent all day reading a favorite book (A Relative Stranger by Anne Stevenson) and today I have done nothing but watch clips of Ellen Degeneres interviews on TV with some John Oliver bits thrown in.

As a side note –  I just happened upon a Kirkus review of A Relative Stranger that starts off “A Relative Stranger is kin to all those superior suspense stories (say Dorothy Eden’s) written for the inferior sex…” and all I can say is that review had better actually have been written in 1970 because anyone still using that expression today should not be allowed to print shit in official publications. I’m pretty steaming mad over this chauvinistic piece of bullshit. Superior suspense stories written for the inferior sex. Fucking hell.

That kind of harshed my imaginary tiny mushroom buzz.

(Shake it off, Angelina, shake it off!)

Since the main thing I want for myself this year is the hardest thing in the world and there’s a whole lot of chance I won’t be strong enough to accomplish it yet, I want to focus on the little things (hence my 2016 mascot). I started this focus a few months ago when I was overwhelmed by all the broken things around me and couldn’t seem to get anything done. I want to continue that. Do small things and eventually they build up to bigger things. As all people of wit and experience know, small things can pack a big-ass punch. Ask any human who’s spent time with an angry or excited toddler.

Self care is what I want to focus on most this year. I want to add a lot more small acts of self care to every day. Little things that help me stay calmer and more focused. Things that help me enjoy my life more. Things that make my body feel good. Things that feed my spirit. They can be tiny seeds of care like reading for 15 minutes in the morning, or lying down with my headphones on to listen to some calming music, or stretching my calves for 6o seconds.  I already do some good self care things but I need to do more and smaller things so that throughout my day I remember that to be IN my body and want to stay in it I need to make it a more comfortable place to BE. I feel good when I moisturize my skin. I feel good when I eat a really great salad and don’t use a pound of cheese on it. I feel great when I drink lots of water. It’s important that I do MORE of the things that make my spirit forget it’s housed in a crumbling pit of fleshy doom.

I mean, that’s what bodies really ARE, but I need to forget about that more often and do the things that help me forget the doom part and that actually help me forget I have a body at all. The better my body feels, the less aware I am on being housed in one and being uncomfortable in the world which just makes my brain itch and my spirit yell out obscenities because being human is really hard.

It’s like when you’re in the right outfit – you know you’re dressed your best when you forget you have clothes on at all. If you’re wearing things that don’t fit right or make you self conscious, you’ll feel those clothes on your body like they’re made of lead woven with horsehair.

Begin the mad reign of tiny exquisite moments and achievements! Enjoy the perfectly toasted piece of sourdough because a perfectly toasted piece of sourdough is a beautiful way to start the day. Celebrate that invoice you typed up super fast without any mistakes on it because that is a professional feat you can get paid for! Laugh at the stupid jokes you find funny and don’t worry about the people who don’t share your enjoyment of it!

Even if you are laughing at puns, which I think are the WORST, go ahead and don’t worry about me squirming with angry discomfort.*

I’m going to go watch Criminal Minds and drink beer now because that’s something I love doing. Tomorrow I will make some potions a friend ordered and I might go on a walk and get some writing in too. But right now, it’s time to be mellow while watching bloody nasty crimes being committed and solved on TV by really pretty people and imagine how good life would be if we all had our own personal Garcia to look up everything we ever wanted to know in two seconds flat.

As to 2015, I have no regrets.

See you on the other side, bitches!

*I say this under duress. I really want to blow up all puns with dynamite but I feel I have to invite you to enjoy them even though I hate them or else I’m going against my own philosophy and if I go against myself then WHAT MEANING DOES ANYTHING HAVE?! Haha. Just kidding. I really hate puns and think this is the year all you punsters should ditch the punning. For real.

 

Self Care Means Going Small

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As you all know by now, my great non-drinking plan was interrupted by stresses I wasn’t strong enough to handle sober yet. But we’re back to no drinking and me working on self care in all the ways one can care for one’s self. The big theme I’ve been working on mentally is doing small things. Or, doing things in a smaller way. I tend to go all out or not at all. This isn’t so great when my energy is low and my body is hurting.

For example; I have many big garden projects that I need to tackle, but I have low funds and my back has been very weak this summer. In addition to that I’ve had so many other responsibilities and projects that have sucked up all my energy. It’s frustrating as hell. My garden is suffering in this heat and needs a ton of compost added and then a thick layer of mulch. I can’t do it right now. So how to make progress under those conditions?

Go smaller. I might not be able to do a lot but I realized that I can take very small parts of my garden and improve them. The first one I tackled was the barrel just outside our back door. The soil level dropped to the half way mark and everything in it was overgrown and struggling. So I pruned back what needed pruning, dug all the plants out, filled the barrel with fresh soil (I had a bag already) and replanted the giant aloe as the centerpiece and the million bells to drape over the side as it had been before. Though it might actually die. We’ll see. I repotted my rue and am going to repot the lemon verbena if it doesn’t die before I get to it.

That’s a tiny piece of my garden in need of attention that I was able to give attention to. One small focal point that is more pleasurable to look at and makes me happy. When I can afford a few plants I will add a couple of small succulents to grow at the base of the giant aloe.

Next up I need to care for our potted fig. I have many of these little areas that need help. Go small.

The same applies to housework and homesteading projects. I’m pretty stressed out at the thought of not being able to can any tomatoes this year. I got to Imwalle Gardens and their tomatoes are finally truly IN and ripe and beautiful and I want to CAN THEM ALL. But my back pain is a real obstacle. So is time. I need to spend more time on my website and business and writing. Plus I’m still looking after my mom (and her dog) and so there just isn’t time to do it.

I will be pickling jalapenos though. That’s a quick and easy canning project.

But here’s what I realized: I love canning so much and spend a lot of my summer preserving summer food for later that I often don’t spend time making special dishes using them fresh. Part of it is that preserving projects tend to take up my whole kitchen for days at a time. Then I’m too tired to explore cooking new dishes. Or my kitchen is just a disaster. So instead of canning tomatoes this year I’m going to concentrate more on cooking with the remaining summer vegetables this harvest season.

Tomato dishes I want to make: Tomato tart with a basil crust (old favorite), then a vegan version of this same dish using cashew cream instead of cheese, herb and breadcrumb stuffed tomatoes, eggplant and tomato sandwiches with pesto (another old favorite), and Mexican style rice.

I want to go through my cookbooks and find some new things to try. There’s still some corn available and summer squash. Not for much longer though.

So that’s what I’m working on. Going small.

Chick had her surgery and it seems to have gone well. We won’t know for sure until her sutures come out and we see if her ear pocket actually successfully closes. It looks pretty good right now. No infection so far. But this surgery isn’t always successful. I hope it is for us because how we’ll be able to afford continuing care or other surgery I don’t know. I also don’t know if amputation is the next thing when the surgery fails, I’m afraid to ask. I love her beautiful floppy velvety ears.

I got some Sugar & Pith orders so I’m excited to make more sachet blends today and ship some good stuff out to friends! I just have to clean up my new apothecary space (away from the kitten nursery since that space can’t be kept sterile now). As soon as I’m done with this post I’ll clean up in here, get dressed, and work on my orders.

If you didn’t see my Chick post or GoFundMe campaign to cover the cost of her surgery and you’re interested in donating – here’s the link again:

Chick’s Surgery Fund

Thanks so much everyone for your support and generosity!

I think now is the time to get productive.

11 Days Down Isn’t Much

flammable gas

It’s only been 11 days since I stopped drinking alcohol. If I’m being honest (and why not?) it feels good to not drink but it irritates the fucking bejeezus out of me when people encourage me or tell me how healthy it is.* I definitely don’t want anyone agreeing that it feels good not drinking alcohol. It bothers me that I don’t have any evening treats to look forward to.** I’ve been drinking tonic water with lime. It’s good. It’s okay. It DOES-ish.  I’m not sleeping better than usual, but I’m not sleeping worse than the poor sleep I usually get. I’m certainly still more irritable than normal, but I suspect that won’t go away. It’s the real-real me. I like myself better when I have beer to look forward to, it keeps me mellower all day long knowing I have that pillowy mellowing drink(S) to look forward to and I like that less edgy sharp me.

Other people do too even if they aren’t willing to admit it to my face or out loud.

What makes me itchy is realizing how it’s only been 11 days and I have nearly a full year of this left to go. The fact that it makes me itchy is the reason I’m doing it in the first place. My mom is going into surgery tomorrow for a hip replacement. This is routine and I should be able to get through it just fine without any alcohol and that’s what I’ll do.

Unless something goes terribly wrong, which it most likely won’t since it’s a very common low risk surgery. I’m just saying that if something goes wrong with her surgery I will probably end up drinking beer and will have to start the clock over. But today I’m preparing myself to fly through this experience alcohol free because I’d really rather not have to start over. That I have to do this there is no question. Life is full of trauma and bad days and rough seasons and it’s okay to swig some liquid courage through all of that if you’re not guzzling liquid courage every single day just to deal with other humans. Being able to get through a bad day without booze is important. It’s an important thing to know you can do and to often DO. It’s a life skill I let erode away.

Not only is tomorrow my mom’s surgery, but it’s also registration time for Max. He’s going to be a sophomore in high school in just a week.

Working on turning my dining room into my apothecary has been fantastic. It’s strained my back but it’s worth it.  Getting my cabinets organized means it’s easier to find what I need to make things. It’s easier to see what I’m low on and what I have way too much of. I’m excited to have that room looking good and being functional.

The kittens are all sleeping off their post-breakfast exhaustion. Right before they ate they were playing on every surface of my office, paying special attention to my laptop keyboard. Here’s a piece of unsolicited advice: NEVER DISTURB SLEEPING KITTENS. It’s the same rule with human babies.

That’s the kind of rule one lives to break and regret.

My dog’s seratoma thingy is filling up again. I’m trying really hard not to think about the vet saying surgery is the only option. What if we can’t afford the only option? What then? I can’t bear the thought of Chick being in discomfort but what if I can’t do anything about it? I’m going to tuck that thought up into a neglected corner of my brain for now because I have too much to do in the next couple of days. I’ll call the vet on Thursday and discuss reality.

I’m on my last cup of coffee right now. This means it’s almost time to shower and go run those pesky errands. I’ll feel better once I’ve done them. Then I’ll have to work on freezing all the soup I made and pick my mom’s dog up from the groomer and then make Max food and then take the kittens in…

One foot in front of the other.

I just paused for a second to admire my tiny oak leaf that I keep on my desk. It’s smaller than the pad of my pinky finger. And it’s absolutely perfect.

 

 

 

*Remember that I’m a deeply conflicted person pretty much at all times.

**Don’t make any suggestions at this time, please. I will bite you.

Favorite Things: Italian Deco China Cabinet

fake fruit and veg

Some people like to say that things can’t bring us joy, that having things can’t make us happy, that possessions have no spiritual value. I disagree. I think when acquiring objects is more important to a person than spiritual solvency, that’s a problem. When the pursuit for possessions is insatiable, it’s not a need for beautiful or useful things driving a person but a pit of need that can’t actually be met by buying or owning more objects. I rarely desire objects any more. There came a point in my life where I had plenty of things, where I loved most of the things I owned and didn’t need more.

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After our house fire in 2003 we had to replace most of our furniture and we had a generous amount of insurance money to do it with. We chose not to replace quite a few things in favor of using the money to buy fewer better things. This Italian Art Deco china cabinet is one of the pieces we bought. It was expensive to us but we couldn’t have bought a brand new quality* china hutch for less and most of them were more.

Aside from my rare book collection, (not all pretty vintage copies, just hard to find Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, and a few other vintage favorites), this is my most prized possession. Every single day I walk past it and it makes me happy. We use it every day. We keep all our most used dishes, both humble and fancy, in this cabinet. As of last night we now keep ALL of our dishes in it. (I cleaned out another cabinet, culled out some things, and rearranged all the dishes)

Italian Deco

I couldn’t remotely afford something like this now. Perhaps that makes it extra wonderful that I had a short period in my life where I could buy something in my favorite period for furniture. We have an eclectic style of decorating but if I had an endless flow of money I would probably end up with a much more Art Deco-centric theme in my house as we did when we lived in my favorite house of all time (the Beaver Street house). Over the last 9 years we have had to shed a lot of my deco furniture (our wonderful bedroom set literally wouldn’t fit in our first Oregon house – couldn’t get it through the hallway – stupid ranch style house).

I was so tired yesterday. I thought I would take a “mental health day” and do nothing. But I ended up dusting and rearranging and pulling things off my living room surfaces and shelves. It felt so good that I decided to act on an idea I had the other day but was too tired to tackle: cleaning and rearranging the deco stag china cabinet. I even took out the glass doors and the glass shelf and cleaned them. It felt so good to do it. Once I got going I was able to scrape the energy to keep working because it felt so good to take care of my most treasured possession. That’s self care, my friends.

 

As a total side note completely unrelated to this post: I now know for certain that I much prefer Canon cameras above all. My Panasonic camera has a Leica lens and everything but it simply isn’t as good. My next camera will be a Canon.**

*Still total crap compared to antique pieces.

**I only use good quality point and shoots. I have a DSLR Canon but I dislike having to change lenses and I dislike the size. I will probably go for a Canon G-series.

362 to Go, If I Was Counting

LOVE

I have just 362 more days of not drinking alcohol and I feel fine.

TOTALLY FINE, FUCKERS.

I’ve been burying myself in food prep and preserving. No exciting beverages to drink is a thorn in my side and please don’t tell me how good kombucha is because I’m telling you that NO BEVERAGE IS AS GOOD AS BEER.

If you’re going on this ride with me then you have to let me be all up in my feelings. That’s part of what this whole year of not drinking is about, because one of the marvelous things about alcohol is that is has a great capacity to take the edges off of one’s feelings. But if you’re like me and you have ALL THE FEELINGS IN THE WORLD AT ONCE INSIDE YOU PRETTY MUCH ALL THE TIME – you come to look on alcohol as a cloaking device. It’s blissful. No tea or juice or fungal beverage is going to compare to that. Believe me, I’ve tried them all.

It’s no big mystery why people like me seek out substances that can quiet down the noise in our heads and hearts. In my opinion we shouldn’t have to live life in such torturous conditions. There are those who suggest embracing all the noise as a beautiful part of life. I think people who say that don’t actually know what the fuck they’re talking about. I suspect they don’t know the level of noise I live with every day. If drinking tons of beer every day weren’t one of the main things keeping me fat and my pocketbook empty (and let’s face it, if people weren’t so fucking judgmental about it) I wouldn’t bother quitting drinking alcohol ever.

Don’t think I don’t know what I’m doing either. I’m 45 stinking fat years old and I was born an old person who grew up super fucking fast. I’m no novice in dealing with life’s gnarlier side. I’m not new at this struggle with my mental illness. I’m not a 20 year old just realizing for the first time that maybe I’m different and maybe JUST MAYBE I might be mentally ill and in need of self care and medical care. I knew I needed help by the time I was 13 years old. I just want to make that clear. When I open up about this kind of stuff there are always people who (in a genuine – I like to believe – wish to be supportive) make suggestions as though they imagine I’m completely un-selfaware and totally new to the problems I’m facing and also weirdly incapable of doing my own research.

This lights a flame to my already hugely flammable irritation. One of the main things I experience when I’m fully up in my super raw feelings is irritation that is easily fanned into rage. I usually turn this onto myself when it reaches the rage stage because I feel guilty for being so irritated and it’s no one’s fault I’m such a mess anyway BUT SERIOUSLY, CAN YOU ALL STOP BREATHING FOR A WHILE SO THE NOISE OF IT ISN’T IN MY HEAD ALL DAY LONG?!

Luckily for me (and everyone around me) I AM actually medicated with psyche meds. They really do help. A lot. Like, a lotlotlot. If I stay off of alcohol for long enough they very likely may work better than they do when I’m drinking alcohol. The fact that I’m on two psyche meds at significant (if not large) doses and still feel the level of irritation and noise I do should give you an idea of how bad it is when I’m on zero medication.

I’m especially suspicious of anyone handing out ideas that sound cultish and/or anti-medication. Nope. I grew up around a lot of cultish people and it gave me a strong allergy to them. One might even say that the commune I was in the first few years of my life was basically a cult. I can sense out a cultish vibe even when the person emitting it isn’t aware they’re doing it.

So here I am. Only 3 days in. What will I do today to take care of myself? I think I’m going to do a little cleaning. Cleaning is hard to start but it’s the same as writing – it clears out noise. In this case it’s physical noise. The dirt on my floor. The grime in my sink. All noise I can scrub away. It comes back practically immediately, of course. But the act of doing it is an act of self care because it’s giving yourself a cleaner space in which to exist which gives you more space to fling out the unwanted mental crap. It reduces the distraction of noticing all day long how long it’s been since the last time you cleaned and consequently reduces opportunities for self flagellation which can be a dangerous to people like me. We’re masters at finding reasons to punish ourselves.

I might not do a lot of cleaning but I know I have to do some laundry and I know I have to clean the kitten’s area in my office with an actual mop. I’ll start with that. Because I also have to clean the litter box and will need to use the tub for that, I’ll probably end up cleaning the tub because otherwise I’ll think about how gross the tub is after using it to clean the litter box. We’ll see what all gets done. I will NOT allow myself to kick myself for anything I don’t get done. Them’s the rules today.

This constitutes writing for the day. Though I’m thinking about fiction projects and my desire to sit down to some good fiction writing since I haven’t in ages and ages – I must ease into new routines slowly. So first is the daily writing to self (either here or in my private journal).

What are you doing to take care of yourself today?

365 Days Alcohol-Free Started 2 Days Ago

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Today is the last day I will be drinking alcohol for a year. Unless I fail miserably at my self-imposed challenge. I haven’t been that loud about this. I don’t need too many people doubting me or suddenly confessing that they think I should have done this a long time ago.

I declare the next 12 months a year of healing.

A year of mental health care. A year to cleanse my body and get healthier. Things I will NOT being doing:

Dieting * Yoga * Meditation * Nature Communions Hippie Style * Saying “fudge” instead of “fuck” * Finding Jesus * Getting Fitted for a Trump-style Toupee * Going Paleo * Taking up Macrame * Wait, maybe I want to take up macrame, I take that back!

Things I most certainly WILL be doing:

Becoming the Mocktail Queen * Learning to Make New Food Dishes * Journaling * Writing * Swearing * Screaming * Watching Tons of Comfort TV * Continuing to Work on Becoming Miss Marple * Wearing Make-Up Again * Selling Herbal Remedies * Re-Discovering the Art of Self Care

***

Whoops. I meant to finish this as my last day of drinking post but my last day of drinking slipped by quietly and now I have 365 days to get through without booze. I think I must take it easy today. Super easy.

***

Oh for crying out loud! Another day and this same post languishes. Tuppence the fluffy tiny foster kitten has required much energy from me as she has a terrible case of the runs and requires several cleanings a day. Also – FOOD PRESERVING IN FULL SWING! In a few minutes I will be going with Philip to forage for elderberries and later I might have a bunch of pickling cucumbers to pickle. Day one of my year of not drinking has already slinked by. If I’m being honest (and why wouldn’t I be?), the first day wasn’t hard. It was just a mild irritant in my head knowing that normally I’d be drinking and drinking is my routine and I don’t like my routines being upended. Other than that, I think my body was really happy to not have beer. It will probably be like this most days with the irritation ranging in sharpness from mild to angry-red on Fridays. Maybe. Or maybe not.

All the other times I didn’t drink there wasn’t really a physical craving component, just a little outrage that I was denying myself one of my favorite things. If any of you have a hard time relating to not drinking alcohol when it’s one of your favorite things in the world, put in your mind’s eye your very favorite comestible. Right now. Is it there? Pizza? Cheese? Bread? Pasta? Chocolate? Cake? Now imagine that a doctor told you it was very bad for you and you need to not eat it again for at least a year. Take yourself to that place where you can’t have it for a really long time, maybe forever.

If you don’t feel some kind of irritation or full blown panic, I don’t think you’ve imagined going without your favorite thing. So for those of you who don’t care that much about food, usually it means that sex is your favorite thing and you crave the feeling it gives you. Am I right? Go there. Doc says “Hey, you have a really unhealthy relationship with sex. For most people it’s a healthy part of life but NOT FOR YOU. You need to give up sex for at least a year, maybe forever.”

ARE YOU WITH ME NOW?

I thought so. Now you can feel my pain.

***

Are you kidding me, me?! Three days and you still haven’t posted this? Ridiculous. I’m posting it right now, as is.

Self Care: Part 2

Tiger versus Art

*Continuted from Self Care: Part 1*

One thing standing in my way is alcohol. Going sober last year for 3 months and earlier this year for 5 weeks has shown me that I’m fine when I don’t drink but that when I allow myself to drink I feel that the only way I can feel calm and mellow is when I drink many drinks. I revert so fast to many drinks because it’s so damn effective at soothing my frayed nerves and convincing me that everything will be fine. What I’ve lost is the ability to drink one or two drinks and then move on to something else like tea. I used to be able to do that. But it’s become all or nothing. It’s a favorite mode of being for me, the all-or-nothing way of life. It’s dangerous and unhealthy.

If it’s going to be all or nothing with alcohol then I’ve come to the point where it needs to be nothing for a long enough period of time that I can re-establish my dependence on other ways of self-soothing. It’s not working for me the way it used to. I now have a lot of anxiety about the fact that the only way I seem to be able to soothe my anxiety is to drink a lot of alcohol every day. I also have a lot of anxiety and self loathing about being so weak and also that this mode of self soothing is keeping my body so fat. The fat weighs on my joints which means I can’t exercise without being in pain or injuring myself. This is a vicious cycle. Exercise is another way to work out some anxiety but it has become a source of pain and anxiety in itself.

I’ve talked so much over the years on this blog that all of this feels like old news.

The real news is that I’m going to stop drinking for a year. From August 1st 2015 to July 31st 2016. It feels impossible but it also feels necessary. I don’t actually know how to socialize with people without alcohol in the evening at gatherings where merriness and fun is meant to be had. The thought of trying to do this while others drink and I don’t makes my brain flicker into an abysmal darkness. So I may have to simply not gather with other humans outside of my family and my home in the whole time.

Though that would be a disservice to my mission which is: to learn to live life without alcohol as the prophylactic between me and other humans and me and my anxiety. What I intend to do is retrain myself. To hitch myself to the earlier me, the one who knew how to socialize and BE without alcohol. The one who drank a lot of coffee and tea. So perhaps I won’t socialize much for the first few months. But at some point I have to be able to navigate my whole life without alcohol being a factor. I have to rebuild my whole life foundation so that alcohol gets put back in its place as something that is meant to be enjoyed and not used as a floating island of comfort.

Who knows what will happen after that. I think I’m going to need to get some fresh therapy which means having to audition a new psychiatrist through Kaiser because the last time I tried to tackle this my psychiatrist seriously let me the fuck down. Then I went to a substance use counselor and SHE pissed me the fuck off with her inability to actually LISTEN to me, her assumption that she could know me better than I know myself after knowing me for less than 15 minutes. So navigating healthcare to find a good support stresses me out but I think it’s important.

I may check out going to group meetings but only if I can find one that is completely non-religious or spiritual based. Not sure that exists. No steps either because I still don’t believe the appropriate word for my problem is straight-up alcoholism. There are different schools of thought on this these days and I hold out to explore what my own deal is. Is it repairable? Can I put it in its place?

One thing I DO know is that I can live without it. The problem is that I never want to.

So here I am. Again. With the beer thing. With the self care thing. With all the THINGS.

Growing up I drank a lot of herbal tea. And then a lot of herbal and black tea as a teen. I want to find my way back to that as a comfort. Iced for when it’s hot and hot for when it’s cold. I think I’ll develop my own chai. And I plan to experiment a lot for possible good blends to include in my Sugar & Pith product line.

I also plan to write about self care as content for my business website because that’s what’s at the root of an natural remedies and teas and herbs – self care. But I’ll keep the more raw content for Better Than Bullets. You know, all the swearing and really creepy inside-head stuff I let out sometimes.

I have to work hard at my daily and weekly routines. Finding what works best to keep my interests balanced. Most of my interests ARE self care. But the most important of them all is writing. I can’t let that slide.  Not the brain purges (here) and not the fiction writing. I need them. They keep brain clutter and chaos from derailing me completely. It’s my internal housecleaning.

A year of purposeful healing and self care. I can do this.