Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Community and self

So, I've been having several thoughts, lately. The tone of these thoughts are likely going to be better understood if other things about me are understood first. And so, with that in mind...

I used to be a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka "The Mormons" - so called because their primary source of study/gospel doctrine is found in The Book of Mormon). I still struggle with being outside of that community. It was easier living in an area full of Mormons, because it was easy to find post-Mormon communities, too. I had several friends who were kind and understanding about the kind of sadness one can feel about losing hold on beliefs.

While I enjoy the idea of living somewhere that hosts many varied beliefs, I have a difficult time finding any kind of a niche in such a place. I've always struggled socially. And I've always been a little bit sad about the fact that I struggle socially. I am not one of those charismatic humans with animal magnetism who draws others to her effortlessly (though, as luck would have it, I'm married to an extrovert who people are drawn to, so thankfully we still have friends in our lives).
But as it is... On days off, I tend to stay huddled indoors, reading or staring at my phone (sometimes for hours) flitting through social media sites and reading random articles... I don't seek out real social situations. Especially not if traffic has to be involved. Any abundance of strangers (especially angry strangers inside machinery) is anxiety-inducing to me in a way that I did not realize until living in a busy place like this.

I have said many times "I'd rather be busy than bored," usually when people asked how I was handling heavy loads of work at school, or how I was balancing full-time work with community theatre involvement. I'm not particularly good at finding ways to busy myself, so having several obligations to force me out of my shell and push me past thinking about social anxiety is my preferred lifestyle. When I am bored, I have too much time to think and sink into sadness over all the many stresses in life. Letting myself sink into that stress/sadness combo feels like the scene from The Neverending Story where Atreyu loses Artax, and I can't handle that being my mentality so often (it has been happening a lot lately).
My sanity sometimes feels like it is slipping. I had to take on less hours at a job recently, in large part because of my mental health. I think I have a lot of pent-up angst, worry, and sadness bopping around inside me like a pinball machine, and that job required a permanently cheerful face while dealing with difficult personalities on a regular basis, and I struggled as I've never struggled before in a job.
I'm actually a very good employee; I'm hard-working, I care about getting things done the way they should be done, I'm productive, I find useful and helpful things to do during downtime... But I felt like a bad employee there. I'm still subbing in for random shifts here and there, but I'm not there full-time anymore. And what feels crazy about that to me is that I was most definitely being kept busy! I was busy, and needed, but I was hating it. I couldn't handle it.

I don't know if the big problem is that I'm missing a sense of community and friendship?... I was looking back through recent years as I thought about life yesterday, and I realized how many communities I've been part of and then left in recent years. I was a regular at a certain community theatre, and I left. I was working at a pediatric dental office where I got along very well with my co-workers and boss, and I left. I was working at a playhouse two summers in a row, and I didn't go back for a third. I was attending school full-time in an immersive theatre program, and I graduated. And I grew up in a church that shaped so much of who I grew up to be, and I stopped attending. Most of those exits have occurred within the past three years, maybe four. All of it has definitely occurred within the past five years.

I've thought about going back to church at times. However, I honestly don't have aligned beliefs with all of the church's teachings anymore. There are certainly things that I miss about that church, primarily the feeling of community I had within it (without having to stretch myself too far to feel like a part of the community). But I don't think I actually belong there anymore. And I don't think I can lie to leaders about my beliefs just to feel included again. It wouldn't be right, and that wouldn't be true to myself or to the community I'd be attempting to rejoin. I think, simply, the issue is that I sincerely miss belonging somewhere.
Being someone with a somewhat-recently broken family (my parents are divorced and loathe one another), I don't even feel the sense of belonging that I used to feel amongst my own family. Everything feels messy and jumbled, now. And I know that even the school I miss so terribly will look completely different to me in two-three years' time. The students I attended with will have moved on. Some of the faculty will be moving on (some of them already have). That community is not mine anymore; but I was so incredibly fond of it. It was such a struggle getting myself into that community in the first place; I sacrificed a few other communities in order to be a part of that one (I had to drop the dental office, and I dropped the community theatre involvement because I needed to dedicate my time and artistic efforts in full to my artistic education instead).

Sometimes I wonder: what was it all for? I have a degree now. Did my college community completely override every community I'd been a part of until then? I know that the things I learned and experienced there had an influence on my opinions and emotions... Did I sacrifice more than I even realized in order to obtain that degree?
...would I do it again?

Honestly I think my answer is "yes." And that clears up a little bit of angst for me. I was preparing to be angry with myself for getting that degree I struggled so hard for.

Maybe I'm just looking for somebody/something to blame, when I'm way off the mark. Everyone struggles. Maybe it doesn't have to be someone's/something's fault. Maybe I honestly need to just struggle past my own carefully-built barriers and get myself into a better place. With or without a community to prove anything to. With or without a sense of belonging. Maybe I just need to find out how to belong to myself, and how to own my life, and live it with good intentions.

Maybe I can still be as good and kind a person as I was when I attended church. Maybe I can still be as productive a person as I was when I attended school. And maybe I can still be as vivacious a person as I was when I was good at dental assisting, and when I was involved in fun productions and projects on a regular basis. Maybe I just need to stop relying on a distracting lifestyle. I wish to be busy, but being busy might not be a real answer to my problems. Perhaps all it is is a distraction from the anxieties that I refuse to process. Perhaps I don't need a community in order to feel validated as a human being. Maybe I don't need approval in order to feel good about myself. Maybe I can just start by being a kind person who takes care of herself and her loved ones. Maybe all of the other nonsense will fall to the wayside if I let it. Maybe strangers will frighten me less if I don't prioritize the approval of others so highly in my life. Maybe I can just live my life the best way I know how and let the nonsense be nonsense. Maybe I can care more about being genuinely myself again.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"by the old gods, and the new..."

I think Game of Thrones is in my head more than I am. Problematic, perhaps.

My husband and I have been watching Game of Thrones together, lately. We started it with our roommates, and then our schedules were wonky and not aligned at all so I progressed through season 5 with one of our roommates, while another roommate lost interest, and my husband was left in the dust at episode 3 of season 2 for a WHILE.

He didn't feel much like watching it by himself, for some reason. Very odd, indeed, it is SUCH a picker-upper.....

Anywho, the roommate I kept watching with has been doing a show out of town for several weeks, and to keep my Game of Thrones fix in motion (and to catch my husband up) I started watching with him from way back where he was.

I have re-watched episodes that I struggled with tremendously (TREMENDOUSLY) the first time. I have picked up on a few extra details that I didn't catch the first time through (and have been incredibly frustrated by some of them). And I've still been so invested in the story (though now I tend to strategically look at my phone when I know something gruesome is about to happen).


I get overly invested in stories. I get overly invested in a lot of things, I think that's a large part of my current struggles; I still feel so invested in a school that I graduated from. I'm done. I did a thing, and still, it somehow doesn't feel over the way it probably should.

It's a little embarassing to admit, but this happened when I graduated high school, too. So many others were so ready to graduate and get a move on. They had goals and plans and they were straining to get to them a.s.a.p. I was very much not that way; I continued volunteering to help with backstage work (my best friend at the time was the daughter of the drama instructor, so it wasn't THAT weird... I was just helping my best friend and her family, and getting a weird fix for being back where I wanted to be at the same time....) I was like season whats-it of Glee where somehow 3/4 of the alumni managed to find their way back to the high school choir room within the year following their graduation.

I used to think it was a Peter Pan complex (and actually, maybe it is, I don't have a therapist so I have to figure out stuff on my own the long way). I think, instead of a Peter Pan complex, it's more of a Tinkerbell complex.
Why does Tink hold on so tightly to Peter? Peter is, in many ways, kind of the worst. Tink doesn't get treated all that well by Peter, but she contributes to his cause and that is satisfactory and pleasing to her. She can't let go of him. She wants to see him succeed, and she wants to help him with the talents and powers she has to offer. Maybe Disney saw that this was the case and that's why they started a whole Tinkerbell series, to redeem the character and make her strong and independent (or maybe it was a money thing. Who knows?).

I don't understand why I latch on so tightly to things. Even when I don't like a job, I'm sad to leave it. Even when I'm considering leaving a place behind because it doesn't seem to be good for me, I feel sad about leaving it. Because what about all the opportunities? Surely I didn't do enough to make this place/this job/this whatever what it should have been. It's my fault... Right?

Seven hells, it's so gross. Would Arya Stark latch on to her situations like this? No, she wouldn't. Sure she's a little bit of a sociopath, but SHE WOULDN'T SELF-PITY LIKE THIS. I don't plan to Arya Stark my way through life, that would be crazy, but she's admirable because she keeps kicking against the constraints that others try to put on her.


I may need to watch less Game of Thrones. But we're halfway through season 4 already! I'm catching up to where I was before! I'm stubborn, and can't let go!....

I read somewhere recently that INFJ personalities (ayyyyy, that's me) envelop themselves in imagination/other worlds because they struggle with accepting the real world around them.


I swear, by the old gods and the new, I'm really good at staying invested stricly in the real world... (Good thing it's a fictional world, or that might have been a sacreligious thing to say).

Monday, December 11, 2017

generous, nurturing, hopeless

So, the other day I came across a little "test" of sorts via the Facebook. A friend had posted a test/game where three different crossword puzzles appeared in sequence. What one is meant to do is latch on and remember the first word they see as each of the three crossword puzzles appear. My three words, in sequence, were:


Once I had completed this test/game, the video explained to me that each word means something to the participant.

Word number one is how you see yourself.
Word number two is how you think others see you.
Word number three is how you view your future.

Boom. Ouch. True. It's so silly but it's truuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue. Especially today. The lost feeling I mentioned back in June is absolutely still a thing. I'm a smidge better at handling it (most of the time) now, but it remains. Money is difficult in a new and expensive place, directly after being a full-time student. Especially being married to a person who ALSO was so recently a full-time student. When one hears about being poor, one thinks "what a bummer." When one experiences being poor, one feels incredibly stuck. And we're quite priviledged, as being poor goes. Complaining about our woes feels almost ridiculous. So, we're just a little stuck. And lost. And hoping we get ourselves into a better situation soon. But hope sometimes feels silly, too. And hopes get dashed too easily when one already feels vulnerable. *Sigh*

Hopeless is a stupid word.

Monday, June 26, 2017

what I meant to say was..

So, honestly, I know how unlikely it is that someone wants to find a random blog with someone's life complaints spewed all over it. But I think this blog is kind of good for me, in that it isn't for you. It is for me.
As a matter of fact, if you know me personally, it might be best for me if you did not tell me you stumbled upon my blog. I'm realizing that this has become my new "scream into a pillow" therapy.

I used to keep a journal (which might be a smarter option, but then I felt weird throwing those away. I still have them, but I don't know what their fate will be). Journal-writing was my outlet for all of the things I wanted to say, but didn't/couldn't at the time. Everything that I wanted to rant about, obsess unnecessarily about, fawn over, and say for the mere satisfaction of saying it, was put into those journals.
Now, with this blog, I feel as though I'm putting my thoughts out in the universe (perhaps there's someone out there who would be mildly entertained by the quirky cynicism and overly-emotional blah blah blah that has been my persona here). Maybe they'll (my thoughts) reach someone, maybe they won't. And that feels mildly adventurous, the not knowing. The assumption I'm laboring under is that no one I know reads this, which is incredibly freeing, since I tend to be too careful around pretty much everyone I know.
This lets me feel like I have a voice in the world, particularly during times when I feel like my real voice is too weak to be heard. So, if you know me, by all means read it, but please do so with a grain of salt, knowing that I tend to write while emotions and confusion are high. And I'd really rather not know if anyone I know reads this. Unless there's something remarkably troubling about it and you feel that something between us needs to be resolved in some other way (other than me ranting about my emotions until they're out of my system and I can truly look at them objectively, albeit possibly embarrassed). That was a lot of words. But they need to go somewhere, and here they will be.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

whirlwind spat me out

Almost a year later, and now I'm not sure what the journey is going to be.

It was almost comforting, that year of separation from my husband and busting my ass in school, because I knew what it was I had gotten myself into. As difficult and crazy as it was, we always knew what our biggest problems were, and could deal with them because we were aware of them before they happened (that also happens to be the reason I haven't posted since February, things just got way too busy). Now that that's over, I have no idea what my next steps need to be. I feel like I just tumbled out of a whirlwind and I'm trying to steady myself, I just have no idea which direction to face once I can stand steady.

And maybe that whirlwind was inside of another whirlwind, which was inside of another whirlwind. For instance, this is the first summer I haven't been in or working on a show since 2005 (that's a lot of shows, and a lot of time spent not centering myself when I could have been). I also just finished a year of school where I took 19 credits during Fall Semester and 22 credits during Spring Semester (and humble brag, I almost graduated Magna Cum Laude... the 22 credits took their toll and it wound up being Cum Laude, but I was still proud of that). My husband and I have spent less than one year of the past 2.5 years living together with just the two of us. It's a lot to process mentally, and emotionally.

Having grown up as a member of the LDS church (which I no longer attend, though I have not removed my records), my life as I currently live it looks wrong. The very strict, very simple lifestyle of the LDS church is something that sometimes I weirdly mourn. I never quite fit in there; I felt like I never learned how to pray correctly, or I simply didn't understand how to feel a prayer's answer. If/when I relied on the spirit to guide me, I inevitably felt lost and stuck at a crossroads (much like I feel now, I guess). But I knew where I was. I knew what to expect. And I grew up being taught that that lifestyle is how it "should be." My philosophy wound up being that whatever path I picked, I'd just find the silver lining in whatever situation became mine. My eldest sister once told me "If you look for the bad or for the good, either way you'll find what you're looking for. You might as well look for the good you can find." That's been the aim, and that's been the survival tactic through whatever sort of trouble I've found in life (in or outside of church).

I feel lost rather often, though, and finding the beauty in that can sometimes feel tiresome. I've been quite literally lost (physically) a few times lately, now that I've finally moved. I'm in a new place, and outside of the Mo-Mo bubble I often struggled with, but there are always new struggles that crop up. Like getting at least a little lost every time I leave our apartment (usually not by choice, but by accident because the freeways here are quite different from what I'm used to). The "what in the world are you even doing with your life?" struggle is very real these days, too. I don't, as a matter of fact, have a significant reason to live where I live now. My husband did, but his goals are in a transitional state these days; our reason for initially heading this way is gone, and the general state of things is currently a huge, overwhelming "now what?"

Neither of us knows what our life is now. Everytime a friend or relative asks what we're up to I feel immediately defensive (I have always, [and unfortunately probably will always] cared far too much about the opinions of others). We're kind artists, he and I, which means we will not be cut-throat about achieving things, we won't purposefully mistreat others for our own personal gain, and in this scary world that seems to mean that we are dooming ourselves to "failure." I suppose "failure" is in the eye of the beholder, though. I don't really want to know the kind of people who would think of us as failures for being "the nice guys." But honestly, how do we succeed as "nice guys?" Or can we? Will we be in student loan debt forever and always (because again, this world...) and will we ever be living in a place where we both feel centered, happy, and purposeful?

Gosh I hope so.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The quiet ones

The quiet ones are told to speak up all their lives.

"What did you say?"

"I think what {quiet one} is trying to say is..."

"It's the quiet ones you've got to watch out for."

"HEY, {quiet one}, you're talking too much, shut up!" (Sometimes this is funny. Often it's not delivered brilliantly enough to be funny).

We observe. We listen. We tend to understand.

But when the quiet ones do speak up, it makes people uncomfortable.

How dare the quiet ones be vibrant? How dare the quiet ones laugh loudly? How dare the quiet ones enjoy? How dare the quiet ones speak up? It isn't comfortable, it isn't normal....

And so we hush. We observe more. We listen more. We understand more. But what do we see? What do we hear? What do we know?

I guess the {noisy ones} will never know.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Your youest you

Today's me has thought many things: how do I be my muchiest self? How can I be true to myself? How do I live purposefully? What shall I do with my untaken time today?

Maybe I shall take it.

I could have one of my least favorite kinds of days (I've been thinking of them as "purgatory days" lately)... A day where I actually have hours to myself and I think "the possibilities are endless!!" and I spend it watching things I've already watched, eating things I've eaten before, thinking "I'll get around to it" when it comes to laundry and homework and dishes and letting them haunt me throughout the day. I end those days most of the time hearing Scarlett O'Hara's voice say "tomorrow is another day," but I ain't Scarlett. Nope nope nope. I am not living her life. 

Am I living mine?


As I forced myself to do motivated things, gathered my hair into a messy ponytail, and began throwing laundry into the washing machine, I thought "were I writing myself as a character aboard a sinking ship, what would I write? Would I write a person who found a corner and waited in misery for the end? Or would I write someone who made herself as useful as she could, helping others, and fighting for survival? I know I would idealize myself and write the latter. Absolutely, I would.

So why not write myself that way every day? Why not do things? My happiest times have been my most motivated times (even as a kid, when what I was motivated to do was go outside and climb an enormous tree in my family's backyard and look around at all I could see and wonder about what life is). When I do something because I want to, when I get the things done that I know I need to, when I do these things in a manner that allows me to take care of myself at the end of the day, I am my happiest self.

I had the unique opportunity to portray myself recently, in a play. I don't mean that I played a character similar to me. I mean, I played myself. My name was used, clothing similar to my own was worn, a hairstyle the designer saw me wear in class one day became my designated hairstyle. Of course, this "self" I played was not my truest self, but that in and of itself gave me so much to ponder. Would any portrayal of myself be completely true? I'm playing "myself" all the time, and even I think I'm doing it wrong sometimes.
Why did I need to gather my hair into a ponytail in order to start doing chores today? No real good reason. I've seen people do it, and I wanted to be such a people. No one was watching, but it was a performance, in a way. I was performing myself for myself. My favorite idea of myself in that moment, anyway.

Years ago, a sister of mine read "Tuesdays With Morrie," and in my opinion, misinterpreted its meaning terribly. My interpretation of her interpretation was that one should do whatever they feel, whenever they feel it, and the chips will fall where they may, but one must be selfish in order to be true.
I read the book and did not glean such a message from it, but her interpretation (or my interpretation of her interpretation) shook me. I did not like it.
The reason I bring this up is that I do believe we should practice self-care. But I also firmly believe that we should all take care of one another, also. BUT we can't truly take care of others if we are not capable of doing so because we aren't taking good enough care of ourselves first.
About a month ago, a beloved professor of mine called me out on my tendency to go against the metaphorical flight attendant instructions of placing the gas mask over my own face before helping my neighbor with theirs. This professor was one of the writers of this other version of "myself" that I played a few months ago, and while calling me out on my disobedience to metaphorical flight attendants, also said "you always say that you were playing this wussy version of yourself, but I never hear you step up and take leadership."
Certainly not my most favorite pill to swallow, but she is correct.
That version of myself is/was an idea. Every day the way that I portray myself is perhaps another (maybe similar, maybe not) idea. It is super rare that I perform "myself" with a real purpose, though. And whyever not? 
Does it make me completely false if I determine at a day's beginning who I'll be that day?
Are my choices true if their motivators are pre-conceived?
But where I'm the one who would be choosing the motivators/goals/purposes for the day, does that refute the previous questions?
How do you be your youest self?
Who am I living for?
Why do I choose what I choose?


Oh, the ponders.