Life

Oh, hi.

All weekend I've been thinking about this, and I think I've figured something out: I've been in hiding. 

For so many reasons, all self-protection. Fear of being judged and misunderstood, that when people see the real me, they won't like what they see. Especially when I talk openly about being sick. Fear of feeling overwhelmed by inane comments - well meaning but frustrating misunderstandings, judgement, "advice" about my health. Not being willing or able to respond to all of those without it degrading my own wellbeing and yet feeling obligated. Fear of further complicating difficult family issues

This weekend, I saw this video on Facebook, poking some fun at how uneducated many Canadians are on basics of politics and the upcoming election on October 19th. Pretty funny - that is, if you do know about these topics. Haha, ignorance! Or is it...? Friends, mocking doesn't actually solve the problem of lack of understanding of the political system - because it's not really that funny when you think about it. Someone who doesn't know the basics about the parties and what they stand for may either A) vote for a party without understanding what they stand for, or B) not vote. Making fun of people who aren't into politics sure isn't going to help the situation, what might is if those of us who are can take a little time to try and help shed some light on the topic!

I've been following politics for most of my life, and took one politics class in university. There are way more knowledgeable people out there than me, but I feel lucky that I have a relatively good grasp on what's going on. And I actually enjoy learning about it! But I can only imagine that if I had ignored politics all this time, it would be horribly overwhelming to suddenly try to make sense of it all, and make an important decision - who to vote for! We have some terrible voting rates in this country, so what better way to encourage voting than trying to help those who are curious get a quick idea of what's going on? (Hint: it's not making fun of them.)

This guy...

IMG_8621

Ah, late November. The first thing that comes to many peoples' minds is this: Christmas shopping. Over the years, I've become extremely disillusioned with consumerism, materialism, capitalism, and the economy. And some of you might remember my old blog, SpendLocally.ca that was borne of my love of supporting local small businesses. It's hard not to become disillusioned with this side of the holiday season if you care about the environment, manufacturing ethics, your community, and let's not forget your own financial stability. But there are ways to make positive choices and impacts, even at this most consumerist time of the year!

LED christmas lights

Down with "stuff"

My approach to gift-giving has very much aligned with my approach to shopping in general. It comes down to some basic tenets:

This post is Part 1 in a 3-part series on my quest for a calmer mind. Part 2 on healing and boundaries is here, and part 3 on meditation and mindfulness is here.

I've lived with anxiety problems since I was a teenager. It took me years to figure out that's what was going on finally seek help for it, and even longer to fully understand why it was happening. It's only in the last two years, particularly the past year, that I've finally gotten a real handle on it and learned what it feels like not to be spinning around inside my head at a dizzying speed, day in and day out. This means approximately half of my life was spent in a haze of uncontrollable thoughts and anxiety. In my quest for a calmer mind, I've discovered several changes that have helped, and one of them is modifying how I use social media.

Train ride from Vancouver to Seattle

This spring, I took a month off from Facebook. Now for those who might not know, I use Facebook a LOT. I've got family and friends I want to keep in touch with spread around the world, and because of my health problems I rarely even see local friends in person. I'm a recluse, and these days Facebook is my main connection to the world. I also use a multitude of other social media, read blogs and news online, write online, etc. but Facebook is the BIG one. I can spend a lot of time on there, and it's not all well-used time. Much of it is what a friend of mine recently termed "scrolly-scroll", ie. where you find yourself zoned out and endlessly scrolling down the page.

In the spring, I did a Facebook fast. But as much as my Twitter usage has declined since back when I was working in tech, it easily substitutes my usual scrolly-scroll of choice. Nothing else sucks me in like those two platforms. YES, they are an effective way to connect and engage. YES, they are a convenient way to keep up to date on things. There are tons of positive things about them! But they change the way we live our lives, and not always in a good way. I know they change me. And over the last year or so, I've developed the distinct sense that they change how my brain functions when I use them too much.

This morning I read this article on xoJane about apologizing. The part that stuck out at me wasn't the main point of it, though:

Our reluctance to say sorry when we’ve been wrong often causes more harm than our original offense. We argue, we gaslight. We force the person we’ve harmed to justify, over and over again, their right to feel hurt by our actions, and then we still deny them that. We make them the enemy, we become the injured party. We demand apologies for having to think of ourselves as less than good people. And we don’t learn. - Ijeoma Oluo 

I only learned the term gaslighting more recently, but the phenomenon is familiar. It's something I've lived through over and over. From when I was somewhere around five years old, my feelings were not only invalidated, but I was made to feel like I was crazy, overreacting, too sensitive, too emotional... When I got picked on, harassed, and bullied, I'd get upset - I'd try and stand up for myself, but beneath the surface I was internalizing all of it. Eventually I would crumple emotionally, and run away to cry my face off.

I've been pondering recently...

Social media makes life - even personal life - oddly impersonal. We click "like" and feel like we've REALLY supported someone (emotionally, or in their work), instead of actually giving real tangible support. For example, someone is fundraising for a project or a charity, or showing their artwork, and we click "like" and feel like we did something good to support them, when really we did nothing. We no longer feel any obligation to actually put our energy or money where our mouth (or mouse?) is. We don't really show up for people.
We post our thoughts and feel like we're actually talking to people, but when we read people's posts, we feel like they weren't really trying to communicate with us. So few people will actually respond to a meaningful or heartfelt post in any earnest or genuine way. We'd rather assume it wasn't for us, or maybe we feel uncomfortable, and we decide it's best to do nothing.

Last week, I wrote this long blathery post about navigating friendship with chronic illness. Then I sat on it for several days. I'm still sitting on it. Something about it didn't quite feel right...

Friendships, or really any relationships, and how they last or don't doesn't actually have much to do with whether you're chronically ill or not. Chronic illness is just one among the many things that can make or break any close relationships - things like going through a breakup, a divorce, a death in the family, a major career change, financial woes, the birth of a child... Anything that shakes you out of your routine and your comfort zone, and pushes you into the unknown, into grief and loss, or the new and unfamiliar. Anything that makes your life afterwards somewhat (or very) unrecognizable.

I've lost a LOT of friends over the past five years. If I started listing them all, I might have a full on self-hate and shame meltdown. ("It must be me!!!!" "What will people think????") It'd be like having a scarlet letter on my sweater - except F for Failed Friend.

The thing is - it is me, not them. Yes, me. My unwillingness to be taken advantage of. My unwillingness for a relationship to be completely on another person's terms. My failing tolerance of my kindness being taken for granted. My finally standing up for myself, and learning that I am worthy enough not to go chasing and pandering after people who don't really care about me the way I deserve.

Limits. We don't like them. We don't want to be told by anyone - not even ourselves - what we can or can't do. That each of us will eventually hit a wall at some point.

While working on my previous post on illness and beauty/body image, I had several conversations with different friends, and one of the topics that people kept really honing in on was denial. An email exchange with a friend turned into a long rant on my part, and I thought it was worth sharing, so I've fleshed it out into this post - I feel like it's a very important awareness to develop.

loss-final
~ Let your loss set you free Heartgirl by Ariane K ~

There are at least a couple people in my life who've recently brought up the topic of nostalgia. It's not just thinking about or idealizing the past though, it's this recognition that there is something they're longing for that isn't present in their lives anymore. 

I feel it too. Sometimes I don't realize it until something twigs this burried memory of a feeling I can rarely tap into anymore.

Pride Parade

Sometimes you feel it in crowds, at a festival or a concert. Sometimes you feel it out in nature with people who are special to you. Or on a road trip driving late into the evening with the music blasting. Or your first time in a new city at sunset... 

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