Feb. 4th, 2015 09:32 pm
kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
It started snowing at about nine o'clock on Monday evening. It started settling. I love watching snow. I like most forms of weather, really; I will peer out of the window like a dog or a small child watching whatever falls from the sky. But snow is particularly good: the way it tumbles so gracefully, and sparkles in the light from the window, and reflects the streetlights back to the sky and turns everything orange. I put my arm outside the French window to catch a flake on the sleeve of my dressing gown; it melted before I could get a proper look at it. I kept putting my head behind the curtain to see if it was still coming down.

And then I started feeling guilty about enjoying it. Because probably the snow was going to inconvenience some people. Possibly it was going to hurt some people.

And then I realised that my feelings about snow, whichever way I tried to push them, would make no difference whatsoever to the fact of the snow, and that my enjoying it doesn't hurt anybody. I can't melt it by disapproving of it. I can't make it fall thicker by watching it. I'm allowed to enjoy it. I am.
kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
Were it not for the fact that my brain is broken and I do not currently have the energy to do any of them, I would plough on with one or more of the following regardless. Not all of them. I'm playing around with these, trying them on for size. I wrote most of them down a while ago, and, typing them up now, they feel far beyond anything I could dream of doing. So many tiny steps to take before even setting out on any of them, and each tiny step seeming huge and daunting. My aspirations shrink along with my capabilities.

(Were it not for the fact that I have a job to go to, I would find the human equivalent of a cardboard box filled with straw and sleep until my brain fixed itself.)

But anyway...

Were it not for the changes that would have to be made to our rental contract, I would set up an Etsy shop right this minute.

Were it not for the fact that I'm paranoid about being sued, I would self-publish and be damned.

Were it not for the fact that I'm morbidly convinced that it would lead directly to ordination, do not pass go, do not collect £200, I would do a Theology degree.

Were it not for the fact that I have a job to go to, I would take weeks and weeks off and go Interrailing around Europe.

Were it not for the fact that Anne's not well enough (and I have a job to do), I would walk the Camino again.

These seem to sit in their own category of Big Huge Scary Things. There are other things that aren't scaring me, that feel like they are only not getting done, or not getting done as quickly as I'd like, because brain and time:

- Paris bus website

- The Slowest Elopement

- O Antiphons end-of-Advent calendar

- piano lessons

Other things I am pondering:

- why am I so resistant to the idea of working from home?

- I probably need to prod harder at my whole relationship with work, and how it intersects with my relationship with Church, and being female, and being human

- how much/how long/what would it take for me to actually get better, more than just enough to scrape through the next day, but to be thoroughly refreshed and to feel once more like I could go on for ever? Whatever that is, could I do it?

- there is no way for other people to know that I have crashed, and how hard, without my telling them. How to do this?

- given the above, if I can't treat myself like I'm ill, how I can I expect other people to do so?

- how can I trust myself to look after myself?

I only have so much to give.
kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
Today I have mostly been remembering why I didn't want to tell people about the interview. I was partly right. It is about disappointment. However, it's not about people being disappointed in me, or even really about people being disappointed for me.

As is perhaps evident, I didn't get the job. Having found out who did - someone I know and like, and, more to the point, someone who will be excellent in the post and who they'd have been bonkers to appoint me over - I'm happy both with the way things have turned out and with the way I did them. Time was when I would have thought this job not for the likes of me and not even bothered putting in an application form. As it is, I did a decent application form, got shortlisted, did a decent interview, and got feedback that I can work with. And one of my friends has got a job. Honestly, I'm not disappointed. I'm happy, tired, stressed, and suffering from the onset of seasonal depression, but I'm not disappointed.

And yet people are telling me, 'You must be disappointed!' Or, 'I know you're disappointed...' And it is setting my teeth on edge.

Which means that it isn't about disappointment at all. It's about people telling me what they think I ought to be feeling, and pushing back against that, or not. Which means that I can connect this to last year, when everyone was telling me how difficult I must be finding it not living with my husband. To six years ago, trying to plan our wedding, with the industry telling me that I wanted everything to be perfect, with my family telling me that of course I wanted one thing, with his family telling me that of course I wanted another.

Still, it is particularly connected to things that I have failed at. And, revisiting it today, I find that it is compounded by having to tell people, and telling several people in quick succession. I hate being the bearer of bad news, even when it's my bad news that I don't really feel bad about. The whole thing is still reminding me of when I couldn't trust my parents to speak to each other civilly, and failing two driving tests and not getting three jobs I really wanted in the space of a year, so having to deliver five sets of bad news twice over. Having to do that ten or twenty times in the space of a day - no, I still hate it. I need an improved strategy.
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The Thing I was talking about in the last post was a job interview (as I am sure nobody will be surprised to hear), and it has thrown up so much stuff that I don't even know where to start. And this before I have any idea as to whether I've got the damn thing.

Not telling anybody. Not telling anybody turned out to be an absolutely terrible idea. What it meant was that nobody knew, and therefore nobody knew that I needed space to prepare. Thursday was absolutely awful: one damn thing after another, task piling on top of task, and the moment I'd unsnarled one urgent tangle, another one popped up. Eventually I burst into tears and was sent home. This, of course, blew my cover, and I think the entire organisation probably knows by now that I had an interview. I do think, though, that not telling certain people is a good plan. I just need to make sure that I do tell the people who have the power to make my life, unwittingly, more difficult than it needs to be.

Then, of course, having too much work and not being able to pass it on, or back. From here, I see that I could have said, 'actually, I have too much to do at the moment - can I ask you to take care of this?' But I am very reluctant to pass a task that I have claimed on to someone else. When I am that wound up, it seems to me that it would be as much work to explain to someone what needs to be done as to do it myself. Not true, of course. I listed the four things that absolutely had to be done that afternoon; it took about five minutes to delegate them. Then, on the way home, I had to stop at the shop. Because it was my night to cook. Even though Tony would willingly have done it for me, if I'd asked. I still have quite a lot of learning to do around this one.

There is a recurring pattern: an extreme case of 'better the devil you know'. I get to the point where I'm balanced precariously on top of the fence and suddenly decide that, actually, the grass is much greener on the side I've just gone through all that trouble to get out of. The people I work with at the moment are lovely; the work is just getting interesting again; why do I want to leave this? I have been lucky this time, I tell myself: how can I be that lucky again?

I can see exactly where it's come from: it's an attempt to prepare myself for bad news. I write myself a Plan B, and put so much thought into it that it becomes so much more convincing than the glittering, nebulous, Plan A. And there's a bit left over from the last time this happened, when I really was leaving everything I knew and setting out on a new adventure. If I were to get this job, it would only move me across the office. Then fear of change, fear of responsibility. Lots of other things, probably. I know it's a pattern now, though; I know to expect it and I know it's not real.

As I say, this happens pretty much every time I change job. My previous manager got quite accustomed to talking me down when I got into this sort of mood. I'm having to do it myself this time. I'm getting better at it. I'm learning to look for what's real in this reaction, and what isn't.

And, perhaps most worryingly, there's a whole sequence of signals passed at danger. I would have said that I was fine all the way up to Thursday afternoon, but that wouldn't have been true. I was conscious all the while that I was scheduling too many things into Thursday afternoon. I knew that staying up late on Wednesday night was a bad idea (and by 'late' I mean 10.45pm; this is the price of commuting). I seem to lack the imagination to understand at any level deeper than the intellectual why something is a bad idea and to refrain from doing it.
kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
... and by 'working on', I mean, 'have acknowledged and am now putting consciously to the back of my mind to work on themselves while I have a bath and an early night':

I have a Thing coming up. A good Thing, an exciting Thing, a scary Thing. A Thing I have been keeping very secret.

This bothers me a little bit because I have been trying to do without secrets. I can live with this particular secret because it’s time-limited. The timer will run out, the Thing will go boom and then either there’ll be news or there won’t.

(That said, I almost always do tell people. This is the first time I’ve managed to keep the specifics of a thing to as few as two others. I’m trying to think of it as an experiment; as Things go, this one is relatively low-stakes. I will lose nothing if I don’t succeed, and will gain a lot if I do.)

All the same, I would like to be able to share the news that I already have, the news of the Thing existing in the first place, because I’m really quite pleased with it. I am reluctant to do this, however, because I do not want people to get invested in my being successful in the Thing. Say I tell twenty people. That’s twenty sets of good wishes to buoy me up as I go into the Thing.

And it’s twenty people who are disappointed – whom I’ve disappointed – if I’m not successful. Twenty sets of disappointment to drag me down again. That’s why I don’t want to tell people.
Every time – job interviews, driving tests, whatever – I’m disappointed on my own account, and then I have to tell people. I’m not surprised, now, that I bottled the vocations discernment process long before I got within sniffing distance of a Bishops’ Advisory Panel.

There are some things I know. The people that love me want the best for me. They want me to succeed in the Thing. I want that too. But I know that it might not happen.

What if there was a way for me to accept the good wishes while leaving aside the expectations and the disappointment?

What if I could distinguish between people being disappointed for me and disappointed in me?

What if I could give people gentle, subtle guidance about the sort of good wishes that are easy for me to receive and the sort that stress me out? What if I knew what those were in the first place?

I will find out.

As for the Thing itself, I am going to trust that, whatever happens, it will turn out to be what should have happened.

(No advice, please! And I think not even good wishes beyond the very generalised - I am going to have difficulty distinguishing them from expectations that I will do well, and will end up worrying about disappointing you! Thank you.)
kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
I nearly didn’t post the last post. About three quarters of the way through writing it, I suddenly thought, ‘No one’s going to be interested in this,’ and almost closed the document without saving. But I was also reading this post at the time, and so I didn’t. Trusting it’s going to be useful to somebody, some day.

I think the time has come to tell a story.

I date my becoming a sane(ish) and secure person from one particular night about a year ago. There’s more to it than that. There always is. A lot of groundwork. Several years of introspection and getting to know myself, reading and writing and thinking.

It begins with three women in a hotel room. Me and two friends. We were going to a party. I’d had a long day, an exhausting day. A fun day, a day doing something I enjoyed and believed in, but a day that had taken a lot out of me. I’d had to talk, and talk a lot. I was looking forward to the party, and also dreading it, because I knew I would have to talk more.
We arrived. We checked in, we got dressed, and we went downstairs to the party.

I managed about an hour. An hour of small talk, chit-chat, how-nice-to-see-you how-are-you. And then I ran out of things to say. I couldn’t talk myself, and when people didn’t talk to me I started thinking that they hated me. I couldn’t fulfil my side of the social bargain: why should anyone put themselves out for me? I escaped outside for fresh air, but that didn’t really work: the smokers found me, and smokers are, as a rule, pretty sociable. I couldn’t talk, so I just cried.

I went back in. No better. Eventually I gave up, and went back to the room. I told myself I was just going to fix my make-up and go back down again. That didn’t work. I looked at my own face in the mirror and didn’t recognise myself. Not because I didn’t look like myself, but because my face didn’t seem to be belong to me. At that point I gave up and went to bed.

I lay there for perhaps fifteen minutes, crying, face-down on the sofa bed. I suppose I would have gone to sleep, and maybe woken up in the morning feeling better. I’ll never know, because something happened.

brief swearing; ableist language used by myself of myself and another )

Here’s another story. My friend Karen has a baby. She also has a toddler, who was once a baby. The one I am talking about is the current baby, her second - which is rather my point. Had he come first then she wouldn’t have known, she says, that a baby that simply won’t stop screaming a) is normal; and b) isn’t her fault. Some babies are just like that. Because nobody ever mentions this. Because everybody always pretends that everything is all right.

Karen is brave and honest and tells people how awful it is. She does not want anybody thinking that they are the only one.

I don’t want anyone thinking they are the only one. That is the reason I post this, and yet – And yet I know that nothing that anybody could have written could have got into my consciousness the way that strange evening coincidence did, having the evidence right in front of my eyes.

I wish I knew a better way to show you. But I don’t, and so I suppose I will keep sharing it here.
kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
I came out the other day. Again.

I have come out to a number of different people in a number of different ways. These days, after several years of angst and trial and error, I pretend that everybody knows already, that I don’t need to tell them. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. If someone already knows I’m bisexual, then I don’t need to worry about what they’ll think when they find out. If I’m not worrying about what they’re thinking, I’m free to say what I actually wanted to say.

This time, for example, there was a vacancy in my trade union constituency for an LGBT workplace contact. There were a few other vacancies, too. The chair of the meeting asked me if I wanted to stand for any of them. ‘OK,’ I said, ‘I’ll do LGBT.’

What the ‘pretend everyone knows already’ doesn’t help with is the physical reaction. No matter how accepting, how supportive everybody is, no matter how calm and matter-of-fact I appear on the outside, the moment I’ve said it I am shivering and feeling sick.

Cut for biphobia and talking to myself )
kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
... or round my neck. Same difference.

Over the past year I have become a fan, to the tune of a necklace and four pairs of earrings, of [ profile] elisem's jewellery. It's absolutely beautiful, but I half-think the best part of it is the names. When I wear Miss Prometheus Jones, I presume, for example, there is the thrill of OMG I am wearing a shooting star, but there is also the resonance of the myth, the glamour of the have you met Miss Jones echo, and so on, and putting them on reminds me of all that and makes the day better before it's even started. I bought myself Lipstick Mermaids as a reward for finishing a particularly tricky phase of the mermaid project, and have been wearing it more or less constantly (probably at least twice a week) ever since.

It hadn't really occurred to me before I came across EliseM that one could name jewellery. I used to do quite a lot of beading, but I'd never named anything. The first piece I did name was Snow in April - my first adventure with crimps, and I was quite pleased with the floaty effect, but it didn't turn out quite how I'd meant it.

I got my bead box out the other day. I'd been invited to a hen night and all the guests were asked to dress in blue. I had a blue necklace, but no earrings that would go with it. Earrings are, thank goodness, pretty quick to make. Because of the evening's blue theme and its location in Southampton, these became Amphitrite's Night on the Tiles.

Amphitrite's Night on the Tiles

My next piece was a present that I've completely failed to post as yet, so I won't talk about it. It has a name, though.

Now we get to the interesting part. The other site that has been particularly useful to me recently is Havi Brooks' The Fluent Self, which is full to bursting with helpful concepts and beautiful ideas. These include, every Friday, a salve. A couple of weeks ago, the salve was this:

Here is a Reusable Hug Box.

It is a tiny box with a heart on it and inside is a beautiful piece of paper that says HUG.

It is a message wrapped like a gift. It is a moment of remembering that you are loved, still loved, more loved, as if all the love from all the different sources, no matter how forgotten, can suddenly land. In pure form, without expectations, rules or desires, just love.

And this, combined with the wonderful store of Future Hugs and the new idea of wearing the jewellery with the qualities in it, became The Box of Future Hugs:
The Box of Future Hugs

Many of the beads have hidden meanings. All the love, from all the different sources, indeed. The smiley faces, for example, are for my little brother, and also for how I am smilier than I think I am, and the people who told me so. The medal of the BVM was given to me by a French pilgrim in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, very near the beginning of my pilgrimage to Santiago. There's one with a marking that looks a bit like a pineapple, to remind me of Mike. There are little seed beads there left over from making my wedding dress. The box really does say HUG in it, though you can't really see it:

The Box of Future Hugs (detail)

The other thing that is really incredibly significant to me is Havi's wish for I See the Secret Holiness of Everything. That, and this, is what this necklace is about:

The Secret Holiness of Everything

It's very hard to wrap a heart. I feel as if that ought to mean something.

I notice, too, how very satisfying it was to make these, and how it didn't seem to matter that my mind is playing up and I'm not feeling very loved or remotely mystical. Working with physical objects, getting away from words for the moment, was very helpful. No matter that my brain is telling me that everybody hates me (or, when I pointed to evidence that actually they didn't, 'well, they might not now, but they will do when you unleash a plague of rabid mermaids on the world'), deep down inside I know that I am loved, and in the choosing and twisting and snipping I sneak past the voices that tell me I'm not. And reality doesn't cease to be holy just because I can't see that at the moment. Wrapping a fragment of broken red plastic in gold wire reminds me of that. The day will come when I just have to stop and look at it, because it will be so wonderful.

The Secret Holiness of Everything (detail)
kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
Ways in which May 2014 is similar to January 2008

- I have just moved house to be nearer my partner

- I have just been socked in the gut by a new bout of depression

Ways in which May 2014 is different from January 2008

- I am actually living with my partner

- I am not living in a crumbling, leaky bedsit with mice behind the sink

- I have a job

- I have a sense of direction, career-wise

- I have friends who live close by, and plans to meet up with them

- I recognise it as depression, as a thing that is in me but not of me

- I have hope that it will go away again

2008 was an awful year. About the only two good things that happened were getting engaged and joining the choir at Holy Trinity.

2014 is pretty good. See above.

And I have far better tools to deal with it this time. Actually knowing that it’s there, and what it is, is a huge advantage. Work is useful, and always has been; having people around who trust in my competence makes a good prop when I don’t. Indeed, a lot of it is about competence, and the reason it has hit me now is probably because I have gone from coping magnificently on my own to now there are two of us I can relax. My brain is trying to fall back into the pattern where I wibbled and Tony cleared up after me.

Identifying the pattern is in itself a step forward. I have the courage to look at the thing now, and to prod at it to see what it’s doing and why. Admitting its existence to other people, though it’s screaming at me not to (because everybody will think I’m pathetic and useless) is one of the best things I can do. Asking for help is easier now. So is working out what help it is that I need. I can do this, but I need you to do that. And, conversely, the gumption to stop well-meaning people trying to do everything for me, pushing my self-esteem still further down.

It is still horrible. It feels like a swirling black hole somewhere behind my sternum that sucks all the joy and beauty out of my experience, a nothingness so intense that it warps everything that comes near it. (And of course, like a black hole, it isn't nothingness really; there is stuff there that I know about but can't look at.) My concentration is shot to pieces. Depression affects my short-term memory and turns off all my autopilots – there have been moments over the last few days where it has required serious thought simply to put one foot in front of another. I’m used to seeing everything all at once, for solutions to make themselves obvious to me in a flash. At the moment I’m having to disentangle laborious toils, to plot out every tiny task step by step, and am getting very frustrated with myself.

If I am unsociable, if I am silent, if I am slow or useless, or think myself so, if I am overly apologetic, if I fail to find anything interesting, or worth looking at, or worth doing anything about, over the next few weeks, this is why. I am working on it, but it is difficult; admitting how difficult is part of working on it.
kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
On Wednesday night I was tired. I had stayed up too late too many nights. I had conducted difficult conversations with too many people, and had to enforce boundaries with more force than I am used to. I had called on almost every support network I possess, in one way or another, for one purpose or another. A long-running worry was on the verge of resolving itself. I had been with people all evening, and then I was alone.

The particular mindworm that tells me that it doesn't matter how brilliant I am, nobody will actually ever like me, with which I have had trouble in the past, but which had been quiet since November, took the opportunity to invade.

I was frightened. I was disappointed. I had hoped that it was gone for good.

It wasn't, but it is off again for the moment now. This is exciting.

What worked?

Noticing it. Recognising it.

Knowing (head-knowing, admittedly, but a start) that it was not true last time, and it was not true now. This was already an improvement, because back in November I believed it.

Asking for help. I texted Tony as soon as I recognised what was happening; he phoned me straight back. I talked to him all the way home - I think it was me doing most of the talking, and most of what I was talking about was strategies, working out things I could do the moment I got home, that would make things better, and the more I talked the more I thought of, and the more hopeful I felt that I could get to a point where the mindworm would not be bothering me.

Activating previous offers of help. My wonderful friend Nicky had tweeted me on Tuesday, when I'd expressed gratitude for the hugs I'd received that day, with *sends you more hugs* I feel you can never have too many, keep these ones for later if you need to! :) - which was perfect. I did that without knowing it. Knowing that I had that general support saved up waiting for me allowed me to remember other expressions of support that I hadn't needed at the time - mostly from various of my Guildford ex-colleagues, telling me that I am missed - and use them against the message the mindworm was telling me.

Saying what I needed.

Being gentle with myself.

Future hugs for everyone who needs them. Present hugs, too.


kafj: headshot of KAFJ looking over right shoulder (Default)
Kathleen Jowitt

April 2015

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