Lists.

Things I need more of in my life:

1. cupcakes
2. temperatures above 60ºF
3. yogurt waffle
4. gentle physioyoga
5. monies
6. shoes I can wear socks in
7. reading
8. creative writing
9. playful kittens
10. sushi
11. self control
12. travel
13. sauna sessions

Things I need less of in my life:

1. hostile roommates
2. cupcakes
3. snow
4. shoveling
5. temperatures below 50ºF
6. boredom
7. candles that smell like nothing
8. debt
9. sadness

Looking Ahead… Right?

I found this lady, Hula Seventy, though A Beautiful Mess’ post, 28 Before 29. She makes lists. I love lists! I want to do this for my birthdays, too. I’ve been holding on to this idea for a long time, but I’ve never really done anything with it. I guess when you suffer from depression and social anxiety, lists are optional, so why make one anyway? I spend so much energy on the post-it lists that are mandatory (like paying bills or making doctor’s appointments or emailing your landlady about your leaky ceiling) that sometimes I don’t see myself getting the stuff I want to do done. Sometimes it’s hard to convince myself I even want to do it in the first place.

However… I got a job. Finally. I didn’t post about it here because… well, I’m flaky. But. It’s been great. I’m an editorial assistant for StudentAdvisor.com, I read, edit, and write for them—it’s basically my dream job (because there’s also paid vacation and sick time, benefits, and awesome bosses). I can’t say how long I’ll be promised a place there (in the first month I worked there, some “restructuring” occurred, plus I uh… sort of had to spend time away because of pneumonia) but it’s a great fit right now. One of my writing assignments so far has been a monthly blog series dedicated to my list—14 Goals for 2014. Oh look, a picture of me at my boyfriend’s family’s house in upstate New York for Christmas. Woo!

This is definitely going to be challenge for me… especially because it’s for work—I have to write monthly blog posts about my progress, a post dedicated entirely to achieving one the goals on the list. Since there are only 11 months I have to dedicate posts to, and 14 goals, I get a little leeway, but essentially, this shit’s gotta get done.

In any case, I present my goal list to you, in full. It was originally 14 before ’15 but my editor liked the ring of 14 Goals for 2014.

Enjoy!

When I moved to Massachusetts all the way from Colorado in 2011, many of my usual hobbies ended up on the back burner. Not only did I need to dedicate my time to a full-time school program, but my commute got longer (buses instead of cars) and my network of crafty friends and known supply locations all but disappeared.

Well, school is over now. With graduation behind me and the New Year in front of me, I’m greeting 2014 ready for anything. One of my biggest goals in life has finally been achieved (landing my first job!), but I don’t want to stagnate. I’ve graduated but that doesn’t mean I want to stop learning, reading, or engaging. That’s why I’ve made a list of 14 things to do in 2014.

1. Make the perfect cookie. Before I left home, I only knew how to make grilled cheese and plain, baked chicken (as long as the chicken was thawed first). For two years, it’s been a goal of mine to teach myself how to cook with the help of YouTube videos, recipe communities such as AllRecipes.com, food blogs, and good old trial and error. I’ve gotten good at making a meal, but my foray into baking has only begun. Bring it on!

2. Explore more of New England. I hadn’t even seen the eastern side of the US until I landed here in September 2011, ready to live here for at least two years. That has turned into two and a half years and counting, but I still haven’t seen much. So far, I’ve seen Portsmouth, NH and Providence, RI, and I’ve managed to explore a little bit of Boston and the surrounding areas. But that’s pretty much it. So what are the goals for my next travels? I’d like to eat lobster in Maine and drink craft brews in Vermont.

3. Make some DIY bookends. I follow a couple different blogs from time to time that feature DIY (do-it-yourself) crafts, and I’ve fallen in love with one about making your own bookends. I’m a book lover with tons of books, so this is definitely a project I can use!

4. Do more dancing. Merce Cunningham, an American dancer and choreographer said “you have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.” In Denver, I went to concerts up to three times a week. When I moved to Boston though, my social and economic positions changed, and it was no longer feasible to go out. But you don’t need to go somewhere expensive to dance, and you don’t have to find anyone to dance with. I’m choosing to get down and boogie more: in my car, at my desk, in the shower, or by myself in my room.

5. Take more walks. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not as active as I should be. Dancing and walking more should help with that—but they’ll help my mind, too. Both activities get all your stored energy out (and that includes nervous energy!) Dancing brings me joy because I love to do it, and walking gives me peace because it gives me time to think on my own. Plus it’s a great goal to help me see more of New England (or at least the neighborhood).

6. Be a vegetarian for a week. This one is going to be hard for me. The majority of my meals feature meat, meat, and more meat. Even my salads have meat on them! But I hear so often from my vegetarian friends how much better they feel after they’ve stopped eating meat. I still love to eat meat, but one of my goals is to at least give it a try and see how I feel.

7. Take a MOOC. I was glad to graduate college, but as I said before, I definitely don’t want to stagnate. I love learning from the expertise of others. I think the best way for me to learn is from the guidance of another rather than on my own. MOOCs are a great way to do this. Now I just have to pick a topic! I’m thinking a beginner’s HTML class or maybe even a more in-depth computer science class. I love biology, though. Oh, but then I’m also interested in meditation—there’s so many options, I can tell that choosing is going to be the hardest part of this goal.

8. Start (and finish) at least ten books. Hopefully, the goal above can help me with this one. Since I left school, I’ve been really bad at doing what I’ve always loved most: reading for fun. I’ve started so many books, but I just haven’t committed like I should. So the part in the parentheses is especially important.

9. Lose ten pounds. Goals four and five should really help out with this one. I want to explain that this isn’t what it looks like, though. Body image is a hot topic these days, especially for women. I want people to know that generally, I like my body. However, this holiday season probably means that I’m not going to fit into my summer dresses, and I don’t want to have to purchase a new wardrobe once it starts getting hot.

10. Organize my recipes. The internet is a glorious thing. You can search for one specific recipe, print it out, refer to it easily, and even jot down notes as you go. But once you’ve done this over and over again without any rhyme or reason, it can really become a mess. I’ve got a file folder in my file cabinet at home that’s just stuffed full of loose pages, and every time I want to go back to an old recipe, I have no choice but to flip through the whole stack to find it. I really want to do something more creative, like a scrapbook—but for recipes! That way, I’ll finally reach my goal of having organized my recipes for easy access, and I also get the chance to do something creative.

11. Join group therapy. Something that’s really important to me is making an effort to destigmatize the world of mental health. It’s just as necessary to take care of your mind as it is to take care of your body, and sometimes people need help doing that. Psychologists are still doctors, after all. But you can also learn a lot about yourself when you involve others—if it’s a safe, guided setting, you can experiment and interact in ways you might not be able to otherwise, and you get the opportunity to take a critical look at the results of that interaction from many different viewpoints, both expert and casual. You are not, however, allowed to talk about what happens in group therapy with anyone else, as it is protected by HIPA. I can talk about my progress, though, and the things I’ve learned about myself.

12. Let something go that I have no control over. Sometimes changing a problem in your life from a big one to a small one is merely reevaluating the problem. If you have absolutely no control, you just need to let it go. One of my goals is to really look at my problems to determine whether I can do anything about them, and if not, to do my best to let it go.

13. Take a sewing class. I’ve always wanted a sewing machine but could never justify spending that much money on a machine whose mechanics were a complete mystery to me. When one of my roommates moved to San Diego, she didn’t really want to take her sewing machine with her. She couldn’t find the cord, but told me if I was willing to buy a new one, the machine was mine to keep. Seven dollars later, I was the proud owner of a new sewing machine. But the fact still remains—I don’t know the first thing about it. I hope to remedy that this year by taking a beginner’s sewing class.

14. Get my work published. Creative writing was part of my chosen degree during college, and it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed immensely. But like reading, I’ve done a lot less of it since graduating college, and I’ve let most of my work that’s been considerably revised fall by the wayside. I’d really like to make a goal of revisiting some of my better work, and now that some time has passed, give it a critical look once more and then actually submit it for publication. Cross your fingers for me!

Even when you find a particular stage of your life ending, it’s always an opportunity for a new stage to begin. I know which things in life really matter to me, and I wanted my goal list for the coming year to reflect those things. Learning and growing as a person will always be of great importance to me, but I know it doesn’t always come easy. I plan to print a copy of this list to keep with me, in easy sight. That way, I won’t lose track of what I want to do in the coming new year and my goals will always be within reach.

Is anyone else doing anything like this?

Revelations

The last two weeks, I’ve gone from the flu to pneumonia. I’m on day twelve of being more or less bedridden. I can’t begin to express how awful I feel. But looming even worse over my physical condition is the realization that I’ve had to do this all alone. I’ve spent a fair amount of time fighting with myself, trying not to cry pitifully because it really, truly, makes me feel worse in unimaginable ways, but I can’t help it. Spending all my time lying in bed by myself makes me think pretty long and hard about a lot of things. I’ve thought a lot about the statistics that show when people don’t have loved ones to support them through major physical illnesses, they tend to just die. I’ve thought a lot about how if I were 62 instead of 26 this would have killed me. I’ve thought a lot about how truly lovely it would have been to have someone else help me with groceries when I finally ran out of food rather than having to ask total strangers to help me put food on the belt, to get my cart to the car, and then to collapse into my driver’s seat after a  two-hour-long trip yielding four whole bags of groceries, crying, shaking, and coughing my lungs out just to wonder how the hell I was going to get things into my house once I got home.

There’s nothing that really quite hits the point home that you’ve got a staggeringly limited amount of people who care for your wellbeing than spending two weeks by yourself with a terrible illness. I’ve gotten calls from both parents, which has been nice. They both live on the opposite side of the country, unfortunately, but I can say someone does care if I live or die, at least. I’ve got three roommates, but not one of them has approached me in any way offering help, condolences, or even conversation, and I don’t know how to ask people for help when they never offer it. I certainly don’t have any friends checking in on me, or anyone I feel comfortable asking for help from (see: not knowing how to ask people for help who never offer it). I don’t even know why I’m putting anything here, which is a subject I’ve written about before, because if I know anything about human interaction, it’s that sharing your woes about how people don’t care for you only alienates you from them even more (though let’s be honest, no one I know personally actually reads this), but as I lie in bed, I cycle through these thoughts over and over again. I’m a writer, so I torture myself with repetitions of these thoughts until they would sound good in written form, and finally, I had to get up and write them. I figured this was the safest place. Lord knows I planned some really scathing Facebook statuses, but… well, I can be honest enough with myself to know that even if I am airing my feelings, I will -never- get the desired effect from that platform.

It’s made me so sad, though, this whole process. I don’t have anyone to ask for water; if my cup is empty I have to grit my teeth and drag myself through the exhaustion and the wracking, coughing fits that come from the mere effort of going up and down stairs, or weigh just how dehydrated I’m allowed to let myself get. If I’m hungry (which fortunately, hasn’t been often) I have to cook. I can’t even stand long enough to take a shower without getting dizzy. If I do manage to bring food up, the dishes will only get to the dishwasher if I take them there. I am immensely depressed. I just wish I could connect with people somehow… I feel like my emotional survival depends on it, but I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t keep a friend to save my life, literally. Even the one I managed to make here doesn’t speak to me anymore, and she cites “being overwhelmed” as why I never hear from her. I know what that means, overwhelmed by me, my sadness, my negativity, my own image problems.  I thought I’d found a kindred spirit with a similar view on life, someone who understood where I was coming from, but all I did was compound her problems with my own and get cut off. So much for that.

Bleh. I might as well end this sob story now. I just needed to … put words out there, I guess, because I need help, somehow. I see a future that’s pretty dim, I see myself eventually dying because I have no support to speak of, I see myself being that statistic, and I see myself wondering why I have to slog through all this at all. I guess my writing is some little cry for help, and it’s melodramatic, probably, but I don’t know how to human (verb) properly enough to get real help from anyone, and I only ever isolate myself further by crying out—oh, the melodrama, oh, the bitterness, she’s so disillusioned and pathetic and negative. I’m great with acquaintances, but the real relationships with support will forever be lacking in my life. I’ve got 26 years experience to know that I don’t know how to achieve those. I don’t suspect much will change in the next 40. My therapist is great, but she can’t change the world around me, so I don’t know how I’m ever going to be well. I don’t fit in, I’m not welcome, I don’t like it here, I don’t like life. I don’t know if a sense of belonging and wellbeing can ever be something I have.

Facebook, torturous mistress of despair

I can’t fathom why I put what’s about to follow on the internet, for any random stranger to read. I guess I’m like the sad and desperate customers I get at my jobs who latch on to any conversation with me they can have because the clerk at the liquor store is literally the only person they’ve had conversation with in months. Ready to spill because I simply have to tell someone.  Because it’s my human nature to need to relate. But what… about this is safe? Spilling your inner emotions to the empty data void? Putting personal details out there? Engaging in several paragraphs of straight up, confused WHINING? Why would anyone even want to read this? Shouldn’t I know better? If I have no one real to talk to, then why on earth would I think a stranger would want this? … I guess what I’m trying to say is that writing this makes me feel better, because I’m getting a chance to relate to something… to say how I feel, to get it all out, to be cathartic or whatever, but damn if this isn’t likely a bunch of whining to any outside perception. So you don’t really have to read it. I mean, I guess… … I don’t know what I’m trying to say anymore, so I’ll just get into it, already.

I recently left Facebook. I didn’t delete my profile or anything (Whoa, whoa now, let’s not be rash!) and it did make me feel better. I want to analyze the reasons it made me feel better, here.

As a depressive recluse with social anxiety, I don’t get out much. As a regular person with feelings and aspirations, this makes me more depressive. Gone are the days I would spend with my friends, heading over to XXXX’s house when I got out of work, hanging out with XXXX and XXXX when they got off of work, drinking on weekdays, cooking weird food. So, in theory, Facebook is “social media”. It’s arguably a way to stay in touch with those people when you can’t always be with those people. But from my perspective, I’m always never with those people. And Facebook, with its invasive lens into your private life that everyone willingly chooses to bare it all for, well, it parades all that time those people aren’t with right in front of you, while you’re alone. Facebook is a startling and constant reminder of all the things that everyone does without ever thinking of you. All those people who are available for chat, and all the time that passes when you don’t see any little window jump up and stall your computer’s processor for a couple seconds.

I left Facebook because it hurts me. In all the ways everyone has forgotten about me, I have to leave Facebook to forget about them, too. Christ, how melodramatic. But it’s true, I guess. 

But I’m a chump. In the last couple days, I’ve been popping back on. Not posting anything, no, because I’m at least positive I’m done with that, but I’ve been reading things again. I keep promising myself I’ll only scroll down for a couple minutes, and then close it; none of this “staring at my newsfeed for whole days, waiting for some new status to post from somebody, anybody” business. And I’ve done well with that, I’ve been in control of that. But it only takes a couple seconds of watching people care about each other in useless, superficial ways, and reading about all the things people are doing that I’m not (because I’m in my room all by myself, you see, so even “Colorado’s First snow!! I’m going to bake cookies!” reminds me of all the cookies I’m not baking, even if I wanted cookies because I can’t bring myself to buy ingredients and just do the bloody thing) takes mere seconds to make me feel all sorts of nasty on the inside. Hurt, forgotten, guilty, lost, alone. I’ve got a friend from high school who once told me, despite the fact that his current girlfriend was my best friend (we were a group, you see, us three against the world, it seemed) that he was falling in love with me. If I go to his profile now, I can see his lovely new wife and their lovely new baby, and I haven’t gotten a phone call from him in three years. We even had a nasty fight (through Facebook messages, of course) about how I never hear from him.

I have fought with most, if not all, of my friends in my life because I never hear from them. Big fights. Nasty fights. Ending friendships for a year kind of fights. Because I am so despicably tired of the sensation that if I don’t reach out, I’ll never hear from anyone ever again. But a few years ago, I learned that the fights were making things worse. So I would just let things be, let them happen as they would. Not fight it, not beg people to remember me, not guilt trip anyone for anything. I chose to control my behavior and just let it all go. Well, surprise. I stopped reaching out, and I never heard from anyone, ever again.

I’ve watched most, if not all, of my friends, completely evaporate from my life. So Facebook also makes me irrationally jealous. I have a complex about myself, about why I’m so much less important to people than everyone else. What’s so much better about all these people that they DO interact with? I wonder constantly what it is about me, my personality, my appearance, who I am, what it could possibly be that makes people want nothing to do with me. I can’t really come up with a good reason. I’m sociable (even if I am dying inside about having to talk to people), I’m friendly, I’m easy going, I do very well in superficial social situations. But I walk away from all of them without any friends, without anyone to talk to, without anyone who would look me up again. So whatever it is that’s super wrong with me has to be something I only show to people I know well. But what? What could that be???

My therapist wants me to go into group therapy. She says I’ll find answers to these questions. That I’ll well and truly learn what it is about me that’s acceptable, and what is perhaps, not to other people. That I’ll learn invaluable things about my interaction with others, that I’ll gain insight into how my interactions work and what they might look like from the outside. 

So I guess I’ve got more work to do. But what really prompted all of this is… I miss my friends. I miss them so much. Fuck you Facebook. 

Language Lies

The great thing… about the MBTA (and trust me, this list is limited)… is that you can walk out your door on a Sunday afternoon, drunk out of your mind, and still go places.

Here’s a poem I wrote on a blank shred of paper near my bed after my brain tried to convince my body I should wake up at a normal hour, and then my brain decided “fuck that” and fell asleep for another three hours. Enjoy. I know I did.

Untitled.

Confusing bug concerto for power line crescendo
an electric song strung through the sky
One thing haunting
arranged among a crater of pillows and blankets
a soft squish of zebra stripes
I write a lot of poetry from bed
and people moan, “I don’t understand”
“this makes no sense”

But, I like the way the language lies.

On A Lighter Note…

Fortunately, I’ve managed to come up with a couple activities for myself. To engage, or whatever. I’m at a point where I’m starting to care about very little, getting sort of numb about most things, realizing everything disappoints me so why try… It’s a bad place to be, but it also sort of… hurts less.

Anyway, here’s this list of things I want to do, and what I need to do to get it done. Thinking positive, right? Plus, creating things DOES make me happy, even if I’ve reached a point where not much else does. Organizing and to-do lists also tend to make me pretty happy.

I want to make a terrarium. I’ve got an old, burned out lightbulb and an empty pickle jar. I’ve also got potting soil. (Inspiration from Julie, a la Tiny Terra and DIY Terrariums from The Pleated Poppy)
– Remove pickle stench and labels.
– Get things…
– aquarium Charcoal
– gravel/rocks/sea glass/stones/sand (trip to the beach? yes!)
– needlenose pliers
– tiny succulents
– preserved moss, sheet moss, reindeer moss
– Tillandsia (air plants!)
Make terrariums!

File Cabinet Restyle, a la A Beautiful Mess
– pick color
– buy acrylic paint in that color, plus one more color to paint pretty label words on the front
– find paintbrushes
Restyle filing cabinet!

Sewing
– buy sewing machine from roommate
– find sewing classes
Learn how to sew!

Knit this Hooded Scarf Pattern (I’ve already got the pattern!)
– get practice yarn
– go to Gather Here for help (I don’t understand the pattern)
Knit it!

As It Stands…

My birthday is in a week. I’ll be 26. I’ve got nothing to look forward to, though. The only thing I could possibly want anyone to give me is money to help me pay off my student loans and/or my credit card debt. I’ll be forcefully removed from my mother’s insurance benefits and left shivering in the cold, begging for whatever Mass Health I can hope to get.

But there’s something new I caught myself doing. I’ve had disappointing birthdays pretty much every year I can remember. People forget, blow off the plans I make, can’t come, don’t say anything to me about it. The other day I was among my Dungeons and Dragons group, and it occurred to me that my birthday was coming up really soon. I thought to mention it, but I stopped myself. I said nothing. Later, I came to the realization that I’d subconsciously protected myself from having people not care again. See, if I tell people and they blow it off, then that’s a meanness they’ve done to me. If no one knows and they blow it off, well, no one can be blamed. I’m giving people the opportunity to fail with a better excuse this time.

While that logic may be sound (I won’t be distressed when people fail to notice something I’ve tried to draw their attention to) it does distress me that this is how I have to protect myself. I used to wonder when I was a kid and I’d hear adults tell of not caring for their birthdays, or not doing anything for them. This boggled my mind. Birthdays were the best. It was a day to celebrate YOU. But then I grew up and I realized nobody actually -wants- to celebrate YOU, because people are people. I get it now.

And I guess that’s okay.

I’ve also noticed something more about myself recently. I’m avoiding people like the plague. Where I used to yearn so badly for a group to hang out with, for people to be with, people to share my stories, thoughts, and feelings with, companions for my soul, I don’t even care anymore. The truth is, though, that it’s because I’m not finding people to be a group to hang out with, to be with, to share anything with. Social interaction isn’t doing anything for me anymore. I feel disconnected, I feel alienated, I feel absurdly different from everyone I interact with, and it’s become so exhausting trying to figure out why, trying to convince myself to feel differently, to relax, to let it all happen. As well, I used to need to turn to someone when I was emotionally distressed (you may not know this, but emotionally distressed tends to be my default feeling). If I could talk about it with someone who cared about me, I could feel better – or I could gain a semblance of better for a temporary time. Hey, you get what you can. But I don’t feel a semblance of better for any time anymore. I just feel frustrated. I don’t seem to connect with anyone I try to release with. I hear a lot of things to the tune of “keep your head up”; “think positive”; “be patient”; “look on the bright side”; “it could be worse”. For someone struggling with severe depression, these words of advice make me feel worse. I can’t keep my head up, I can’t  think positive, I need things to be better now, there is no bright side, and yeah, things could be worse, but they’re already bad anyway.

On the other hand, I also see sympathy, but I know it can’t extend beyond their person. Nothing in my situation changes even a little bit when someone else is sympathetic about it. In fact, I only feel more anxious, because now someone is hearing me whine. I’ve been desperate for a long time to try not to let anyone see me “expressing negativity” because I don’t want people to dislike me.

I don’t know what it means for me to no longer turn to others. I don’t know what it means for me to keep everything inside. I don’t even know if I should be worried. I do know that, anymore, I really want to spend all my time alone. Not because I don’t enjoy the company of others, but because the company of others isn’t doing anything for me anymore, and I’m being constantly let down, without the knowledge of why, or how to share that. I just know that it is.

Anyway, that’s an update on me. Overshare, probably. Things I’m definitely not comfortable letting people know about me anymore lest I be judged, but it’s stranger-land out there in the depths of the internet, so maybe it’s okay. I can’t honestly say I feel better or worse. Maybe worse, because I’m admitting these things I feel I should be scared to admit. Even if it is only to strangers, and that there is a symbol of how I’m changing.

Jesus. Just hit update already.

Oh.

“I’m weary to escape into that glorious world, and to be always there: not seeing it dimly through tears, and yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart: but with it, and really in it.” – Emily Bronte

Sorry, faithful followers. I’ll come back some day. I’m just really struggling right now with joblessness after college, unwanted separation from my love, and the familiar, constant anxiety and depression about everything in my life ever. But while living, there will always come writing. I’m harvesting good material, is all.

Catch you on the flip side.