The first & cruelest month

I think I’ve accepted my annoying habit of allocating feelings into blocks of time occasionally pays off, and I am very much looking forward to it being February, as January mostly has sucked and been hugely challenging in many ways. I know I’ve referenced this before, but I always think of T.S. Eliot’s line in The Waste Land, “April is the cruelest month,” and, no, probably not. Not this year, not last year.PXL_20220131_020531460.NIGHT

For starters, the rest of my belongings weren’t delivered until January 18, which left me with a grand total of 29 days living in this house with barely anything in it. I had a full blown crying meltdown upon hearing that my crates were sitting in Denver the week prior, but could not be transferred to the moving company. Many bottles of wine got me through that weekend. I then had to deal with checking off the inventory list during a work day when I was covering for someone else all week on top of my own responsibilities, so I piecemealed my unpacking into evenings. It was an exhausting week on many levels. I felt then and I’ve felt often before and after that I simply let everyone down. And like a total fucking loser in general.

I honestly have not felt so powerless in my entire life as I have during this move. 2022-01-30_18-09-25Every day is another tidal wave of pressure, anxiety and uncertainty, some of it created by me, and I constantly feel like I am not meeting my own expectations and not upskilling fast enough for this job, in addition to the rest of my life only just recently coming back into focus. I think a colleague articulated this better than I could have, as despite being very intuitive, I sometimes have a poor grasp of my own feelings: he explained that the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs have not been met since I began moving — that there has been zero sense of safety — and I think he nailed it.

Reflecting on this over the past week, it explains why someone who typically wakes up early ready to seize the day (me) wakes up these days with a feeling of impending doom and an overwhelming desire to crawl into a hole and never come out. Alas, it will get better: I’ve told myself through all of the hardest parts of my life that life is generally filled with pain and all kinds of people are suffering all the time from similar or worse afflictions (this has helped me particularly through breakups, where I reassure myself by remembering that the second guessing is just a side effect of change). It’s been hard to get myself into the state of mind where I can generate anything of value when there is such unbelievable disorder and uncertainty; I am a very organized person who is very in control of everything at all times and I have not felt like I have any real grasp on my life until about the last 3 days.

I think where I struggled in 2021 mostly with profound loneliness, in recent weeks I’m awash in self-doubt, which is also typical of a challenge of this magnitude (I have always had horrible impostor syndrome; I never dreamed as a kid I would get this far in my life, and I admit sometimes I wonder if I deserve any of it). It’s taken me a long time to gather enough context and observations in my new job to put the pieces together and understand how to show up for my peer group; initially I felt I had nothing to offer. I’ve learned (or, maybe, re-learned) it takes me a long time to articulate certain ideas, particularly how to assist in teaching a group of 40+ people things I do naturally, and breaking those things down into digestible, applicable bits of information that hold interest and inspire lightbulb moments. I have very often had to push back and ask people to slow down and explain, which I hate, and makes me feel like I am learning-disabled. I am an assertive person, but doubting your own ability to succeed makes it very difficult to insert yourself, raise your hand, to share your ideas.

Further, after being alone so consistently, it’s been a challenge to open up to people and to forge strong professional relationships on my level and above, especially in tandem with wondering so often if I can even do this. I have a horrible, hateful inner critic that is constantly shouting at me in my head to just give the fuck up. For this reason, I’ve spent a limited amount of time with anyone, or talking to anyone, or socializing outside of work. I have a pretty cool network of people who are patiently waiting for me to show up… I am almost there. I did go into the office this past week, a work dinner and a concert, so I’m getting there. Considering that when I left for my trip to Chicago in November I wasn’t even sure I still had the social aptitude to interact with other people in the flesh, I’d say I’m moving in the right direction.

I bailed out of work early on Friday to head to Colorado Springs with friends for Tool, tooland having a few hours to really enjoy myself and socialize and see a band that has eluded me my entire adult life allowed me to catch a glimpse of my old self. Earlier last week I had managed to isolate actual, tangible obstacles at work, some which will be resolved as of this week via adjustments to my work calendar. I continued to try to break down my anxiety into individual issues that I can tackle (some are already in resolution as a result) and my brain seems to be waking up to what I need to do in this role — I built quite a few training modules today and I guess I feel ready to start another week.

I told the rest of the Denver leadership group at dinner last week that I’ve accepted that things will be uncomfortable for me for the foreseeable future. Things will be hard. I will embrace the suck. I think it would be difficult to ever be able to explain how crushing these last few months have been. I want to say I am finally on an upswing, but we’ll see.

Running concurrent to my work issues, my sister has been struggling with many realizations regarding how we grew up and extent to which we were all abused as kids. She is very angry and confused, and I hurt for her, as I was aware of this all these years while everyone else lived in denial and pretended it was normal. In wanting to show up for her, I came clean and admitted to her that while I have mostly had my professional and social life in order, I have failed in ways she has succeeded: she married someone who loves her and believes in her. I have too often in my life been drawn to men who could not have cared less about me, who will never make me a priority in their lives, who are allergic to commitment, who are cruel, hateful, contemptuous, insecure, bitter, angry, selfish, immature.

I was aware of this years ago, the unconscious desire to mirror the criticism, contempt and dismissal of my feelings in my childhood in adult intimate relationships, but I think it still managed to creep up on me until I cared so much about my future that I figured I’d block any and all bad juju from Denver and sever all ties with anyone who I knew didn’t truly want the best for me so I could just flail miserably on my own, and/or occasionally around people who I felt earnest care, love and kindness from. When I first learned about how this works — that people are always trying to unconsciously resolve issues from their past by hopping on the same gerbil wheel over and over and hoping if they can fix it, it’ll negate the hurt in their past — it really, deeply depressed me and was indisputably true. I also thought that being aware of it would absolve me of any future errors, but that has not been the case. JP’s third rule is “Make friends with people who want the best for you”… make sure your romantic partners want that, too. And when you’re in a relationship with someone who consistently resents you and you feel lonelier with that person than you would without him or her, when you know for a fact you would never, ever call that person if you needed someone because their interactions with you have robbed you of every shred of your humanity and made you feel like a non-existent zero, it’s definitely time to bounce. My departure was a slow glide into the end, the truth emerging over the previous year while I felt myself unplug more and more emotionally, my trust dissolving, the realization emerging that there was nothing where I thought there was something. What has honestly surprised me about myself over the years is that I probably should’ve lost all faith in other people a long time ago: and yet, I find that in hindsight I am too slow to lose hope. Live and learn.

In happier news, Fuji is enjoying her sunny new life here, PXL_20220131_020559246.NIGHTI have friends and family visiting in March and April, I’ve booked PTO to check out some hot springs, head to Myrtle Beach and then return to Alaska; I am hoping 2022 will also finally include a return to Georgia (and Romania, and Czech Republic). I am happy my sister is coming to visit, and I’ve persuaded her to learn how to cook for her husband (she hates cooking, cleaning, and anything between those two things), so we made enchiladas together on video chat tonight. It was pretty cute.

My house is adorable and I finally am beginning to feel settled. I noticed last week that the venue down the street from my house has many metal shows coming up, including Dark Tranquillity, Omnium Gatherum, Amorphis and Pain of Salvation. Despite the suffering, it’s occasionally difficult to comprehend that I have access to pieces of my old life I’ve missed so much. On the way back from my friend’s house on Saturday, I stopped at the most awesome Asian market I’ve been to in a long time. I spent forever in there, and bought (among other things) kumquats, which I never saw in AK. The work-related anxiety has not depleted my sense of joy and gratitude for these small triumphs.

I have not read much this past month, but I will start back up in February. I end up in bed listening to podcasts and The Gulag Archipelago, but I have a big pile of books to get through. Reading has been another victim of the disorder of my life; I’ve spent a lot of time I would ordinarily be reading just thinking through how to resolve my anxiety. On the plus side, I am sleeping really well, which is surprising for me.

That’s all for now. Onward and upward.

Post-script: I share a lot in this blog, and while a lot of strangers read it, very few of my close friends do. Radical vulnerability has worked well for me these past few years, in my professional and personal life. Owning my feelings and being honest helps me cut through the bullshit with other people (and internally). These posts are maybe emotional TMI, but it’s important to be accountable to myself and somehow writing this and putting the truth out into the universe helps me sleep at night. There’s a lot I struggle with, but I do my best to take responsibility for it and be genuine, especially considering how many times in my life I’ve been told I make things look easy. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

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