Sporadic writing

It’s ok to pop in and out with random posts, right? I’m on nobody else’s timetable and my income doesn’t rely on these mini public monologues. Still, it would be nice to be more regular for the sake of readers; perhaps reliably regular and perhaps more reliably informative or entertaining. I’m sorry if that’s your preference, because I just can’t seem to deliver.

I had a heck of a lot to say a year or two ago, particularly about my experience of gender and whether to transition/undergo gender affirmation. I spilled my guts all over the page and in the end I had little left to offer. All the stuff I desperately wanted others to know or understand about that situation has been said. Now I’m restored to my prudent, reserved self, living my life. Nothing to see here.

How do you feel about the word, ‘triggers’? People seem to have strong feelings about that word, one way or another. Rude people are triggered to be rude, ignorant and condescending types are triggered to be more of the same, and so forth. Lately I’ve been triggered as a reader to write about my triggers. It’s been helpful. I’d thought I had nothing left to say, and now suddenly have multiple topics. Who knew?

Still, I have reservations about sharing those strong feelings in a public setting. This isn’t anonymous enough for me to let fly without some judicious editing. Editing takes time and the kind of level-headed judgement that doesn’t arrive daily with the cat’s list of demands. I guess this is me coming to terms with another aspect of life’s randomness; my own rhythms.

It’s a beautiful night. The stars are out, creatures are rustling in my garden and something is walking across the tin roof. Country music with American accents is playing on this digital radio station (to snap me out of the trance that Dr G Yunupingu’s beautiful music put me in). I have nothing to complain about, much to look forward to, and people to love. I’ll be back with some mulled triggered thoughts soon enough. 🙂

And now for something completely different…

No, the fire scenes are not triggering at all, aaaaggghhh!

PS: The header photo is courtesy of Pexels. I can’t see the photographer’s name or I’d acknowledge it here. Sorry, mate.

Shelter from the storm

CW: mental health, self-harm

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There was the time, late 1990’s, that I paused in the Student Counselling building on my way home to collect and calm my thoughts, and was later reprimanded by my therapist for doing so. My brief, silent presence had unnerved a staff member, although they’d told me it was ok for me to sit there, alone in the waiting room.

No further explanation was forthcoming. She conveyed no compassion. Asked no questions – no, “why?” or, “what were you needing?” or, “how can we better meet our respective needs in future?” Just, “don’t.” Stern, uninterested, unyielding, unhelpful. The antithesis of what I had hoped for and needed.

Did I return? NO.

How did I next try to meet my needs? Already mentally exhausted, I gave up on the mental health system, along with myself, and hurt myself.

Despite all my misgivings about being vulnerable, I had done all the right things, according to the mental health handbook – I’d reached out, disclosed, asked for help, taken meds, engaged in daily exercise and maintained social contacts. On that extra day I simply needed a safe, quiet place to collect myself before walking 4km home… and was shamed for it. The support available to me as a deeply depressed student living below the poverty line was inadequate. It let me down.

Just as well I survived.

I wrote this as a warm up exercise while reflecting on my myriad interactions with the amorphous mental health system. Happy at the moment to be taking a break from therapy. Happy to feel well enough to!

Engaging with the mental health system sometimes takes more energy than we have available. Being a Rule Keeper, I am frequently dismayed by the mixed results achieved by following the rules. Still, I am a big fan of seeking help, because I have been bereaved by others’ suicides. Now, I am more likely to call a queer crisis line than make an appointment and wait three months for my therapist to be available. I have accrued a good box of self-help tools and have multiple phone numbers and support groups to access.

I’m writing here because others’ writings helped me when I was most down. You’re not alone. ❤

Much better now

Hello spiffy humans who read my piffle. I hope your week’s been interesting. I was going to say, ‘eventful’ but uneventful is sometimes more satisfying, is it not? Mine’s been eventful and satisfying and although I’m tired and stubbornly not writing about why this is, I’m pleased with myself. Faced a number of fears in one week and did it with a new attitude. I can’t describe this new attitude except to myself, in gestures, which is of no help here. It is like a gymnast gesture that makes reference to scaffolds also not easily described in words. Let’s just say that small incremental changes are somehow working for me at the moment.

Let’s speak no more of, in case of jinxes, which I didn’t realise until now I believe in. Hmm.

Montaigne is playing on Apple Music, which I received a three month freebie for. So far it’s not an addictive addition to my life but has its uses, including right here, motivating me to attend to household maintenance tasks and type on this old computer with the additional help of the furry member of the household – the moulting, furry member. There’s a mental image for you!

Pleased to say that I completed reading a book this week, too. I missed books, last year. I read blogs and articles and other short stuff, but books? Nope. I bought them though, as monuments to hope. Now I get to catch up. After reading Dana Stabenow’s first nine crime novels starring Kate Shugak, I found ‘Untethered’ by Hayley Katzen in my book stack and dove in. Hayley falls in love with an older woman, a farmer, and slowly figures out where she fits in within that environment.

I’m oversimplifying things for the sake of brevity, but there was a lot of self reflection and wonderful descriptions of people and environments. It made perfect bedtime reading, even when I had anxiety nightmares about my own older (ex)partners. Kidding. Why would I have nightmares about them?

Earlier I drew a card from the Corban & Blair ‘What’s Your Story?’ set, and decided that although it was about the endlessly fascinating topic of sport (sarcasm alert), I would pass. Instead I will tell you of a skill I learned when last living in a small town – the art of talking drivel in order to scare gossips away. I was telling a friend about this, and how pleased of myself I was at the time to have figured it out. Let’s just say that me being naive and trusting hadn’t been working for me until that moment. The people who had followed me around, waiting for new items for the gossip phone tree (remember phone trees?), suddenly didn’t know what to do with all their free time. I’d started banging on at great length about how soft my pet’s fur was and what a beautiful day it was for getting washing dry. Their faces were worth photographing at that point. I was going to say, ‘worth bottling’, as though they were pickled people (remember those?) and I hope I can find a pic of pickled people at Pixels, for today’s pretty banner.

May we live in interesting times, even if we cultivate the public personas of peeps who are boring as bat guano.

(Not you, obviously.)

Bare Naked Nerves

Hello, lovely day. How are you? Good. How am I? Oh, you, know, can’t complain.

Are you kidding? Of course I can complain. Do I want to? No, it’s boring. Will I? Yes. That’s all I have on offer today. Fully aware that it’s not fun to non-consensually listen to other people complaining, so I have spared you my thoughts for weeks now (my pleasure).

CONTENT WARNING – complaining, venting, scant regard for reader’s need for info or inspo.

My head gives me a running commentary of what I could do to escape the irritants and not many solutions are worth crowing about. Some are illegal. Sleep deprivation doesn’t make me sound any more rational or intelligent. Wouldn’t it be great if that barking dog, screaming child, roaring traffic or neighbour’s renovation enhanced your intelligence and emotional equilibrium? Mmm.. let’s spend a minute or two daydreaming about that. Let’s pretend we are fans of magical thinking and pretend that our thoughts magically create our realities. There, now I have increased your wellbeing via creative visualisation. My pleasure.

It’s a public holiday and yet the nearby renovations continue. I was already awake half the night with anxiety nightmares, so the hammering is simply sour icing on a putrid cake. I breathe and focus on faking sanity. How am I doing?

Listening to a nature podcast on noise cancelling headphones, for lemonade from lemons reasons. Why don’t I go out to get away from noise, I hear you ask. Hello, have you ever met an agoraphobic person who enjoys jaunts and jollies? No, it wouldn’t be any more relaxing. I wouldn’t mind being beamed up though. Instantaneous relocation to quiet location of choice would be rad. Rad. Since when do I talk like this? Scotty, take me to the Snowy River and drop me in the water.

I’ll be back when I can talk normal.

How I paid for ‘top surgery’ while on a pension

Let me start by saying it would never have happened while on unemployment payments. About two hundred bucks was the extent of my savings in those days, and that took a LONG time to accrue.

Once I came to terms with the fact that I had a disability that was not responding to treatment and had no sign of letting me resume paid work, and I applied for the disability pension, a heap of stress fell off my shoulders. No longer did I have to account for every dollar in my weekly budget. I could afford a few small treats AND save. That was a major turning point in my life. I’d always said that the tiny unemployment payments were a poverty trap and a punishment, but having surplus funds for the first time in years underlined those statements in red ink.

Now I could think beyond daily survival and toward an actual future. What did I want? What did I want to save for?

What did I really, really want? Top surgery. I’d wanted it for decades, and had only recently learned that it was possible to access privately. When I saw the cost I knew it would take years, and it did. It took several years, a lot of patience, stubbornness, anger and hoop jumping. I managed it with the help of all the frugality and mental health management skills I’d accumulated.

Here’s another disclaimer: I’m aware that not everyone is privileged enough to have affordable housing, access to friendly social networks that allow informal trades of goods and services, or even the personal space to work through all the emotions involved. I’m not saying that my methods will be possible or even attractive to everyone, only that this was how I did it myself.

So how did I do it? First, I opened a high interest savings account, so my money could grow even as I slept. Until then I’d considered interest unethical, because I’d known the stress of paying interest on borrowed money. So there was that, and I was desperate enough to squash those qualms.

Next I reviewed my weekly budget, averaging my regular bills and deciding on an achievable dietary plan and entertainment budget. I didn’t need a clothing budget; I had plenty. My life is pretty simple by both choice and necessity. I hand-wrote a spreadsheet of sorts, making sure all weekly, monthly and annual bills and membership fees were accounted for.

I’m pretty happy to eat the same things day in and day out, with the exception of fresh fruit and vegetables, which are of course seasonal, especially if home grown or locally sourced. So that part was pretty easy to work out. Peanut butter, tinned sardines, baked beans and tomatoes featured often, as did plain crackers, soba noodles and cheaper cuts of meat. And being a home gardener with foraging tendencies, I included nutritious weeds such as dandelions and milk thistle. Free! Bonus!

My entertainment needs were also simple. My friends aren’t status-seekers who demand that I keep up with the latest blah blah blah. Nor are they, on the whole, overly outgoing themselves. So my baseline costs were for regular coffee dates. Other entertainment needs were met by my hobbies, by the local library, and by friends with gardens who wanted my help. I may not be able to hold down a job, but my IRL social networks are peppered with informal trades and gifts. In the past I’ve joined LETS (Local Exchange Trading Systems) which were wonderful too, but I couldn’t find one here.

The hardest part for me was managing my mental health throughout. Once I’d learned that surgery was actually possible, I was in a rush. Patience is something that is perhaps strengthened with practice. I don’t know, but it was anger and resentment of all the hoop jumping and delays that I most needed to manage. At times I considered giving up. Then my stubbornness would kick in and I’d take out my aggravation on plants that I knew could handle it. Every shrub was repeatedly pruned, every inedible weed removed. Lawns were mown more frequently than usual. When all else failed I hit pillows and my mattress and shifted all my furniture around to loud music. Regular gym visits helped wear me out. I had to be careful not to overdo it, as I’d injure myself or my mood would plummet further. It was a fine balance of endorphins and exhaustion.

Oxytocin from hugs became an essential mood balancing input, and one friend started to feel harassed by my increased need for those. Another friend was delighted. Luckily my cat enjoyed plenty of pats and brushing. I patted every dog that crossed my path, with their human’s permission. I hugged a lot of trees.

Any time someone gave me cash, it went into the high interest savings account. Occasionally I sold something I’d created, and those fund were added to the account. Any time I managed to trim my budget, the surplus was added to the account. A glutton for self-denial, I trimmed my electricity, gas and phone budget and added those funds. Any time I’ve played something that rewarded me for achieving a goal, it was obviously a strong incentive to continue… to improve. Bank interest gained in those days was much higher than current rates, and the buzz from each month’s interest strongly reinforced my efforts. When I wasn’t angry I enjoyed the game of it all.

Previous interactions with insurance companies had left me emotionally and financially bruised, so I omitted all contact with health insurers. This simplified things further. With a quote from the surgeon, I added a couple of thousand for contingencies, given my age. I’m pretty healthy, but without insurance it made sense to factor in some surplus for the unexpected, which turned out to be wise.

That’s it!

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I’m now saving for a house, which seems as achievable as 3D printing a unicorn. A person needs a dream, right?

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Thanks to the photographer of the fab image above, obtained free from Pexels.

It’s a beautiful day

My mental health was slipping again, due to sleep deprivation from noise I couldn’t adequately block out. After seeing my doctor yesterday, I am happy to report that I now feel fresh as a box of fluffy ducklings. Amazing what one good sleep can do!

The smell of ripening peaches is drifting indoors to where I sit, eyes drawn to the tiny cheeping Silvereyes birds in the tree. It is the sweetest chirp. I saw a group in my neighbour’s tall conifer yesterday, foraging for insects and feeding youngsters. All accompanied by that beautiful sound.

Gentle, gregarious

Imagine a group of them, hopping gaily from branch to branch. Happiness right there, yes?

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Sparrows are also chasing each other around the apple and feijoa and tamarillo trees.

New Holland Honeyeaters usually swoop swiftly in and out, clattering their beaks at each other, or shrieking from higher vantage points. They’re mostly here of an evening, in high numbers, taking turns to bathe in the wee pond I have hidden beneath the native white elderberry shrubs. Or to bathe in the water held by leaves I have hosed at dusk for their benefit on hot days.

Quick thinkers

Since adding more native daisies and grasses, flowering understory plants and small bowls of fresh water to my small garden, I’ve noticed an exponential increase in visiting birds, butterflies, bees and other insects. Even massive spiders have moved in, which I only ever notice while watering. I used to be so jealous of my neighbour and her huntsman spiders. She hates them.

No snakes or lizards… yet.

Fruit bats are always welcome – after all, I keep the peach tree to attract them, and I’m grateful they appear to be ignoring my figs for the moment. While looking for a strictly informative video about Aussie fruit bats, I found this one that hit home pretty hard. Good on you, is all I can say to this person!

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Currawongs are my major fruit stealer, especially berries, but they have appeared to be more interested in raiding others’ nests lately. They’re beautiful too. I tend to talk to them, much as I chat with magpies and ravens.

Respect the beak

The currawongs swoop in at dusk to scoop up the beetles, moths and crickets that emerge when our driveway lights come on. It’s a stunning nightly ballet.

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One bird I would love to see more of is the Superb Blue Wren, which I believe travels in extended family groups. When I hear them on my river walks, I always stop and wait for them to appear, so I can admire them properly.

I wonder what I need to plant here at home, to be wren-nip?

They’re usually deep in the shrubbery

The cat wants her chair back, which means it’s time for my lunch. That’s how we tell the time in this place. Bye for now!

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Fluffy duckling photo is courtesy of a fab photographer at Pexels. Thank you!

Facets of the whole

Someone portrayed my story as the trunk of an elephant. They themselves had the view of a rear leg, catching only glimpses of the trunk. They needed me to describe the view from my position. I was glad they hadn’t said that my view was of the rump – that would have been a royal turn-off and I’d have missed their point about us each being (or seeing) a facet of the whole.

Someone else described my life as insipid. That caused me to pause. They meant my current life, and it IS insipid, from the outside at least. We had been talking about how I’d minimised the stressors in my life, prior to medical transition, to help ensure that I’d cope with those changes. There were so many unknowns. I knew my friend meant no judgement or offence; it just wasn’t the word I’d have chosen. Quiet, simplified, sheltered, perhaps. Insipid made me cock my head in curiosity. What was it about that word that I might not have previously considered?

Now I’m ready to add more to the mix, little by little. Easily overwhelmed, it’s not a great idea for me to leap blindly or make grand plans. My boots-and-all years are well behind me now. A shy adventurer, I leapt headlong into all sorts, with faith that I’d adapt and overcome. With age I became less confident, or perhaps just less reckless.

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Thanks to the photographer – pic obtained via Pexels

Good morning!

Hello, it’s been so long since I posted. I woke full of things to tell you and wanted to use a device with an Actual Keyboard (TM), so I needed to clear the decks first. Then the cat stole my chair, so I needed another one. The human pinballs staying next door (we share a wall) began running up and down the hall on their cloven hooves, so I grabbed my noise cancelling headphones and lined up an Off Track podcast of nature noises (running water and frog calls). The computer wasn’t turning on and I worked out why, which was followed by a software update because it’s been so long since I used the ruddy thing that it had Things To Do in preparation for mine. My glasses were dusty, so I took the opportunity to clean them, then realised they were not my Computer Glasses, so I swapped them, and cleaned those as well while waiting.

The cat pawed my leg, wanting whatever she always wants whenever I sit at this computer, which is still a mystery. I patted her, keeping an eye on the line of Thinking Process displayed on the screen. She wandered off to eat then return to bed.

I became distracted by an open window on the screen – a list of books by Anna Livia, an author I was besotted with in the early 1990s. Pronoun Envy! I’ve not read that one! The window promptly shut as a Restart procedure began. Ok then… I watched the line that indicates deep computer thought and motion…. only one minute to go…

Started writing this, as the ‘one minute’ took a surprisingly long time. I need to search for the email I received from the VPN company recommended by the virus protection company, to continue our conversation about why their software appears to be incompatible with my computer’s operating system and what they might want to do about that. I distract myself from watching the Thinking Line by tidying up some of the clutter I generated overnight.

And here we are. It’s now afternoon and I have forgotten what I originally intended to write about. I hope you’re well.

Trying something different

Today I’m using a set of cards from a box published by Corban & Blair, Australia, called “What’s Your Story?” I found it years ago at an op shop and at the time I thought it could help me get to know a new person in my life. Each card offers one line of text and an image as conversational prompts. The introduction card states that the set is designed to be interactive.

The card I chose has the prompt, “Why is the past important?” and a black and white photo of three generations of white male humans in formal dress.

I have some immediate thoughts that may yet fly away like moths on a windy night. My first response is that as a youngster searching for a way through grief, I was repeatedly told to live in the moment. Live for today. Live as though you have no future, and stop dwelling on the past. So I tried that for a while. As I travelled and soaked up others’ histories, others’ stories and family sagas, I resisted talking about my own. And ended up feeling like a wayward helium balloon.

I don’t think I really understood the deeper meanings behind living in the moment, but I do think there’s a time and a place for it. There’s no way through grief except to grieve, for instance, and when faced with beauty I’d rather admire it than compile a shopping list.

My next thought is that I enjoyed being part of group conversations, with cards similar to these, while staying in intentional communities. When it came my turn to participate, I would ‘pass’, which was both acceptable and frustrating for others. But being in the room with adults who were sharing deeper thoughts and feelings, including those arising from past events, was a wondrous thing to me. It was what I most deeply wanted and was afraid of. I loved that people who lived in such communities would be open to new ways of relating. I’d already witnessed new ways of group decision making and conflict resolution. This was even more personal and precious to me.

And the final thought, which has miraculously stuck in my noggin, is that I have often dug into my past when redesigning my future. For instance, when I stopped travelling and tried to settle down in suburbia with my first love, and struggled, I made a mind map of everything in my past that had contributed to happiness, and brainstormed ways of incorporating it into my new life. Hobbies, neighbourly relationships, special interests, outdoor activities, daily habits, they were all applicable. If I’d still been trying to live as an untethered balloon, it would have taken me longer to figure out how to stay in one place. I needed to dig into my past and identify my values in order to be true to them. I guess I’m saying it’s a way of connecting to myself, because who am I if not the sum total of my past thoughts, feelings, activities, values and decisions?

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As always, thanks to the photographer responsible for the image I chose at Pexels.

…and as an aside, untethered balloons tend to land (eventually) and be eaten by wildlife who are consequently damaged by this experience. Just saying.

NaNo 2020 ends today

The month contained too many things, like firecrackers lit all at once, and I am a poor multitasker. Of all the things, it was the lessening of C19 restrictions that f*cked me up. Now I’m ready for a Bex and a good lie down.

It’s no big deal. Tomorrow is another glorious day.

  • Thanks to the photographer of this image obtained free via Pexels
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