Sundays Are for Self-Care

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but I’m going to write about it again because I’ve been doing really well at it and I feel the urge to be all “Go Team Me!”

I am one of those people who are mundanely self-destructive. I destroy myself in little ways, usually through neglect of some kind. This usually presents as depriving myself of sleep, eating mindlessly or not eating at all, and overworking myself. The latter I am particularly bad about. I will schedule myself to the point of stress and then berate myself for not being able to handle the schedule/stress because other people can do it/I used to be able to do it.

A few years ago, I made the purposeful decision to give myself Sundays off. Unless absolutely necessary, I don’t do chores, I don’t run errands, I don’t leave the house, I don’t work on any writing or podcasting projects, I don’t exercise, nada. All I have to do is my Duolingo lessons (because I have like a four year streak going and my ego is way too big to lose it), a beauty routine, and exist. That’s it. Anything else is a choice. There are no have-to’s unless absolutely unavoidable (think NaNo when I write every day).

I give myself this day to be a potato. To place no expectations of any sort of productivity on myself. To be a human being, not a human doing.

This is a mindful choice that I have to make every Sunday. Some Sundays I feel like a lazy piece of shit and I think I should be doing something and it takes effort for me not to give in to that thinking. Because that’s definitely a sign that I need to take care of myself and rest. Other Sundays I actually feel really good and I choose to do a little bit of yoga or a little bit of writing or a small To Do List project. And I let myself do those things because in that case it’s a want-to, not a have-to.

So, yes, there are some Sundays when all I do is eat and binge-watch shows or movies and play online games and be a complete potato. Reading is too mentally taxing on those days. And there are some Sundays when I still lounge, but I read and journal and do little crafty things. And there are some Sundays when I switch out my closet and purge my clothes and reorganize my shit and make new To Do Lists. But everything I do on a Sunday is a want-to, not a have-to.

I have enough have-to’s the other six days.

Sundays are for self-care and self-care is a must for me.

“What’s Your Dream Job?”

Can you still have a dream job when you’re over 40? I don’t know. But I’m going to play at answering this question anyway.

In my younger days I had that all too common dream of becoming an actor or singer, but as it turns out, that requires talent and looks, of which I have neither.

When I was in junior high I had two dream jobs. I either wanted to be a meteorologist studying tornadoes or a shark biologist. What can I say? I prefer my science when it wants to kill me. Should be obvious that neither of those plans worked out, though I’m still fascinated by both fields.

By high school, I’d changed my mind yet again. I knew for sure that I wanted to be a writer. And in the three attempts at community college, I changed my mind the same number of times. Just another manifestation of my commitment issues.

I suppose you could say that my dream job is elusive. Or at least achieving it is.

Now that I’m middle-aged, I kinda haven’t given up on that whole dream job thing. I still want to find something that thrills me and I get paid well to do it. But instead of knowing what exactly that job is, I know more about what I don’t want it to be like.

It’s not customer service. Definitely not. It’s not working with coworkers that drain me, that are unreliable, that have agendas. Ideally, it’s something that limits my time in a bra and/or real pants. I mean, it is a dream job. I should ask for what a really want.

I want my dream job to be writing. I’ve dedicated years to it without much success, but it’s still very much my heart’s desire in many ways. But the difficulty I’ve had doing it in the last few years has led me to doubt it as my life’s calling. And that’s led me to an existential crisis of sorts because if it’s not my dream job, then what is? I know I’m still a writer, even if it’s not working out the way I planned and things are hard right now. Writing is a part of me whether it’s writing fiction like I want to do or blogging or even journaling. But if it’s not my dream job like I’ve wanted it to be, then what is?

Lately, I’ve really found some joy in podcasting. And not just Book’ em, Danno, either. I really enjoy doing episodes of the library podcast, particularly the history episodes. I like doing the research and writing the script along with the recording and editing. There is a lot of writing involved, even if it’s not my true love of fiction writing.

All of this thinking has led me to one solid conclusion about my dream job. I might not know what it is for sure, but I know what it feels like.

It feels like that sweet spot I hit when I get lost in what I’m writing, when I’m so in the groove that I lose myself in the words. It feels like that rush when the rabbit hole I head down during my research leads me to something new and brings that podcast script together perfectly. It feels like that buzz I get when I’m recording and the observations and jokes are flowing naturally. That’s what it feels like. It feels like I’m surfacing after being underwater for a while, coming out of a dream state and back into reality when I’m done.

That’s what my dream job is.

Also it pays super well.

Nesting in a Happy Place

I am one of those people that will comfort watch things. You know what I mean. You’re feeling a little down or blue or stressed or whatever, so you throw on your favorite TV show or movie. Something to soothe you and boost your mood.

My go-to’s are flicks like Halloween or The Fog or Delicatessen or House on Haunted Hill. You know. Real cheery stuff. Or I’ll binge-watch cartoons like The Real Ghostbusters or Danger Mouse or He-Man. Because my inner child has a tendency to be more of an outer child.

However, there are times when I need more than just a little mood booster. There are times when my sole source of serotonin comes from repetitive viewings of whatever my brain has decided to fixate on because it brought me an incredible amount of joy in a specific moment.

For example, the world is currently shit due to the fact that if you leave humans to do the right thing, they will absolutely not do that, thank you, anything but that. How have I been dealing with this fuckery for the past couple of weeks? By watching episodes of Ghosts (the US version). For 20-ish minutes, I get to tune everything else out and giggle and awww at the inhabitants of Woodstone Manor. Does it fix things? No. Does it take pressure off of my brain? Yeah, for a bit. And it gives me something to look forward to.

Several years ago I watched Ghostbusters: Answer the Call every day for six weeks. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes twice a day. It became a necessary part of my routine to help ease the brain decay I was experiencing at the time.

I mentioned Delicatessen as one of my go-to’s, right? Well, there was one point in time when I watched it daily for weeks. Drove my roommate nuts. She’s not a fan of French black comedies featuring post-apocalypse cannibalism, I guess.

I’ve done the same thing with The Fog, the Anatoly episodes of Arrow; Zelenka episodes of Stargate: Atlantis (yes, I’m fond of David Nykl, but he’s not the only actor I’ve done this with); episodes of both the 1980 and 2018 Magnum PI; and My Dinner with Andre.

I’ve been known to do the same thing with songs and albums and musicians. I create my happy place and then I move in. I stay there as long as I need to and then I move out again. Sometimes it’s a few days; sometimes it’s months. Depends on why I’m in the nest I’ve made.

And then one day I’m done. Just like that. No tapering off, no thought. One day, I just leave that nest and I’m done with that happy place. It might be a long time before I revisit the shows or movies or music of that particular experience, or I might go back to watching them or listening to them like I did before I needed them to survive.

It’s probably not the best of coping mechanisms, but I cannot deny that the serotonin boost manages to keep me sane when I need it most. A life raft in stormy seas until I get to the next piece of solid ground.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to return to my happy place.

Let’s Talk About Stress, Baby

In my little world, I categorize my stress into two categories: To Do List Stress and Life Stress. Sometimes they overlap, but they tend to affect me differently.

I prefer no stress, but if I had to pick one of these, I’ll pick the To Do List Stress.

To Do List Stress is the consequence of me overestimating my ability to be productive and scheduling myself to do a whole lot of things in a certain period of time. To Do List Stress is most prevalent in December, but I can honestly do this to myself at any time. I tend to cope with this stress better. Not because I can choose to reschedule the things on my To Do List to be more accommodating (because even if I say I’m going to do that, I never do), but for whatever reason, it’s just something I can handle. Maybe it’s because I’m a Capricorn. Who knows.

One contributing factor to my ability to deal with To Do List Stress is that it triggers my “DO IT ALL NOW” anxiety and out of all of my anxiety manifestations, I can actually deal with that one pretty easily. It mostly involves me reminding myself that I don’t have to do it all now and I have it all scheduled out. Do I have to remind myself of this multiple times a day, if not an hour, and does it sometimes disrupt my sleep? Yes. But it’s mild compared to what Life Stress does to me.

Life Stress is everything else in my world.

It’s working short-handed most days of the week. It’s working a customer service job during a pandemic. It’s the constant barrage of bad news. It’s going grocery shopping at any point in time. It’s the ever present strain that never seems to abate.

I’m not great at dealing with that kind of stress, at least not anymore. I think I was better at dealing with it when I was younger and more resilient. Or I was too dumb to stop and realize what I was dealing with. Whatever the reason, after the Massively Stressful Summer of ’18, my ability to cope with Life Stress is basically non-existent. It totally drains me.

Which is not good.

It’s not ideal to go through life feeling like you’re unable to catch your breath.

I think -and this is just speculation- that I might be able to cope with Life Stress better if it didn’t absolutely wreck me anxiety-wise. While To Do List Stress triggers one particular anxiety manifestation, Life Stress triggers several and they’re all the worst.

The general dread that comes with social situations, like going to work for example, goes from barely registering/normal to now dialed up to 11 because every shift guarantees an unpleasant interaction with someone.

And every unpleasant interaction leads to rumination that I can’t stop, whether I acknowledge it or not. Because most days, I just chalk it up to the normal of now and don’t consciously think about it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not pinballing through my brain, off in the background, coming to the fore when I finally sleep and the guard goes down.

Stress dreams are not fun. And I’m having them a lot more often than I ever did.

This sort of thing has made my baseline anxiety worse. I question every single human interaction I have outside of the people in my house, and still question those interactions on occasion. I cannot wish someone happy birthday without questioning my word choice. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. I can have a chat with someone I’ve known most of my life, who knows me and my quirks and my dumbassery, and still walk away from that conversation ruminating over every single thing I said and did during that interaction.

This is the toll that Life Stress takes on me. Is taking on me. Because in addition to just sucking in general, it’s also feeding a beast I’m quickly losing control of.

Now I know that I’m not unique in this. A lot of people have Life Stress issues along with mental illness. Some might argue that I’m lucky because I don’t have the added stresses of a spouse and kids and a real job. But think about it. If I can’t handle what I’ve already got, it’s probably for the best that I’m not dealing with more. I’m hardly coping (not really) as it is.

Do I feel like a complete failure and a total baby? Absolutely.

Will I find a way to cope and/or live with it?

I hope so.

The Dating Game: How Do I Play Again?

I’ve been single for quite a long time now and even though it does have its advantages, I’m kind of getting bored with it. I’ve actually been thinking for awhile that maybe I should try dating again. What with all of the dating apps, it seems like there might be more opportunities to meet someone.

There’s just one thing.

How the hell do I do this dating thing again? ‘Cause I don’t think I ever knew.

I’ll be honest. My dating life wasn’t exactly active as an awkward, introverted, mentally ill woman back in the long, long ago of my twenties when I was younger, thinner, and had my whole life ahead of me. Now that I’m twenty years older, fatter, with even less life ahead of me, but still awkward, introverted, and mentally ill (though the mental illness is better understood and controlled), I’m sure my odds of having any success are about the same as me winning the Powerball, and I don’t play.

But what the hell? It’s not like I have anything better to do. And yes, trying to do this during a never-ending pandemic might not be the wisest move, but I’ve never really been known for my stellar decision making skills.

I’ve been researching dating apps. I did online dating back in my twenties when the internet and I were young. It was…an experience. I didn’t actually go out with anyone I met on those old dating sites, though I did interact with several men who would have been happier on Tinder and/or Pornhub and at least one with a very specific fetish. Having heard stories from other women’s experiences with dating apps, things haven’t changed that much. I’m at least hopeful that I’ll get some interesting creepers and new fetishes.

I’m also thinking that dating apps might be the best way for me to meet women. I am, after all, bisexual and there’s no reason I should only be horrified by the behavior of cis men. And I’ve had even less experience dating women than I have dating men. I am attracted to women. I should really explore that aspect of my sexuality more, and I’d really like to. And it’ll give me a better shot at meeting someone. God knows I need all the help I can get.

Because I’m not exactly a catch.

I’m a failed adult. I have done nothing with my life and I can’t say that I’ll ever be anything close to functioning like a real grown-up.

But I’ll pay my own way. I’ll show up. I’ll be supportive and caring (in my own broken way). I’m can be fun and funny and sometimes I give good advice. Just don’t expect me to make anything of myself. I’m someone that I think the right person could have a decent, solid, enjoyable relationship with, but you probably don’t want me to co-sign a mortgage.

I concede that’s not what a lot of people -women, men, non-binary- are looking for because they’re already grown. They have kids and careers and things. Throw in that I’m fat and over 40 and you might suggest that I just resign myself to being a cat lady. Well, the joke’s on you because we have five cats in the house and none of them like me. So I might as well give dating another shot.

I realize that it’s late in my life (probably too late) to be doing this and honestly, I’m not expecting much. After all I can’t expect to win a game when I barely know the rules.

But on the other hand, I can’t get better at the game if I don’t play. And even if I don’t win, I might have some fun.

Now to just put all of that into a dating profile and make it sound like something worth swiping right on.

The Anxiety Podcast

I like podcasting. I’ve been doing it for a few years now and I’ve decided that it’s something I really like to do. I like guesting on other people’s podcasts and I like running my own. I like the excuse of talking about things I like and the excuse of talking with my friends about stuff we all like. It just happens to be recorded, edited, and put out there for other people to listen to.

Knowing that other people listen is cool and all, but I don’t obsess over my numbers. I don’t concern myself with growing my audience or anything like that. I do a little promoting for Book ’em, Danno and appreciate whatever listens I get. For all I know, those numbers aren’t even people. They’re bots. I hope they enjoy my ramblings. Beep boop.

So, even though I enjoy podcasting and do it primarily for myself, there is one drawback to it, and no, it’s not editing (though I would love it if I could be less persnickety in my editing).

It’s the anxiety fallout after I’ve recorded.

I don’t have much anxiety when recording my own podcast, but I admit that it amps up when I’m guesting on someone else’s podcast. Sometimes the anxiety is bad, but for the most part, it’s not. And the more appearances I make on someone’s podcast (for example Eventually Supertrain), the better the anxiety is because I know what to expect.

However, be it my podcast or someone else’s, as soon as we’re done recording, my anxiety goes through the roof. I second guess everything I said. I ruminate over things I said and things I didn’t say. I think about what a fool I made of myself no matter what I said. And the thing is that I know whatever I said, it was fine. But my brain, at least for several hours afterward, disagrees with that.

When it comes to Book ’em, Danno, I have to wait to edit the episode. I can’t listen to it for at least a week. I’ve got to let that anxiety die down before I can manage it.

When it comes to other people’s podcasts, well, that’s a little trickier. Sometimes I have no problem listening to them when they come out. More than enough time has passed for my anxiety to calm down and usually, I can’t even remember what I said. It’s a delightful surprise when I listen. However, there are some episodes I can’t bear to listen to (and don’t) because I know that my anxiety was up during the recording and knowing that is enough to make my anxiety spike again. I just can’t do it.

Is this all irrational? Of course. That’s how anxiety works. If it were at all rational, then this wouldn’t happen anymore with Book ’em, Danno, and probably wouldn’t happen with Eventually Supertrain.

But it does.

Every. Single. Time.

It’s annoying. And it does contribute to me sometimes procrastinating my own recording schedule because I don’t want to have to deal with myself in the aftermath.

But thankfully, I love podcasting just enough that it makes it all worth it.

At least for me.

The listeners’ mileage may vary.

“How Are You So Confident?”

A variation of this is “I wish I had your confidence!” And I’m going to talk about both of these, but first I’m going to answer the title question.

How am I so confident?

I have a tendency to walk through life with the attitude of “The Universe has questionably allowed me to exist another day and I’m going to make it everyone else’s problem.” My confidence comes from a place of pure spite. My continued existence comes from the same source. Spite gets things done.

Do I always feel confident? No. I have un-confident days brought on by hormones or mental illness or just the poison of a hateful society seeping under my thick skin. Am I confident about everything I do? Absolutely the fuck not. I am a self-doubter through and through. I manage to get by with a generous helping of ego and a little bit of faking it. And spite. So much spite.

The interesting thing about the question “How are you so confident?” or the statement, “I wish I had your confidence,” is how often they’re directed at people like me. And by that I mean fat women.

The style I rock at work tends to include patterned pants. Tropical flowers, jungle animals, black and white window pane, shiny blue mermaid scales, black and white gingham, pink cheetah print, teal plaid, black and white ditzy print. I once had a patron tell me “I wish I had your confidence” so she could wear pants like that, but she was too fat to do it. She said this, with a straight face, to my 255 pound ass. I probably would have popped off if she’d be a thin woman saying this to me, but she was definitely plus size, so instead I was just disappointed. Because the default of society is that fat women are not supposed to be confident at all. We are supposed to fade into the background until we correct ourselves enough so we are worthy of public gaze.

Confidence is generally not something granted to women anyway, but when it is, it tends to be reserved for the women who fit the narrow beauty standards of a thin-obsessed, youth-obsessed society. If any woman outside of those constraints dares to be confident then it’s considered either a miracle or an affront. In fact, “I wish I had your confidence!” has a back-handed feel when it comes out of certain mouths.

Because as I said, confidence is thought to be granted from an outside source. Of course we all know that confidence comes from within and being comfortable in your skin, whatever skin that is (best be your own, though; let’s not Buffalo Bill this), but we also all know that society has the final say of whether or not you’re allowed to be confident. That unmerciful bastard is unrelenting. The constant messages of perceived inadequacies designed to sell you the solutions to flaws that change based on what’s trendy today leaves no one untouched.

Confidence, particularly the confidence of a fat woman, is an act of rebellion.

To be confident in a body deemed undesirable is a slap in the face to a society pushing that ideal and a thumb in the eye to the industries trying to capitalize on that. That kind of defiance stings. And that confidence often gets branded in other less flattering ways. Lazy. Attention-whore. Giving up. Aggressive. Letting yourself go. Pushy. Should you be wearing that?

Don’t be like her. She’s a bad example.

Or worse. That confidence she has is unattainable. It’s a rare thing. Only a very limited number of fat women are allowed to have this confidence and they’re usually plus sized models, or women who’ve aged out and have no fucks left to give. This confidence is not for everyone. It’s not for you.

But it is.

Anyone can be confident. Anyone.

Do it out of spite.

Displaying Why I Shouldn’t Be in Charge of Displays

Back in the long long ago of my mid-twenties, back when I worked the jewelry counter of the local Wal-Mart, one of my responsibilities was the gift wall. We’d get shipments of stuff for Mother’s Day and Christmas that I’d have to set the wall with that would almost never sell and then I’d be stuck with it until the end of time because we had no storage space over there. Anyway. We’d get smaller amounts of merchandise for Father’s Day. It was my responsibility to fill out that merchandise for a four foot section of Father’s Day stuff. Which meant that I’d go around the store and get stuff from other departments.

One year, for shits and giggles, I put condoms on the gift wall for Father’s Day.

Not one member of management said a word. I don’t think they even noticed.

My coworkers loved it, though.

And so established my reputation as someone who should not be allowed to create displays without a strict mod to go by.

Had this reputation preceded me to the library, perhaps I wouldn’t have been put in charge of the main floor and periodicals displays when two of my coworkers left.

In a nutshell, my job is to create one big display, one medium display, two small displays, one front display, and three DVD/Blu-Ray displays. I make the selections, create the signage, all that fun stuff. They get changed out at least once a month, so I have to come up with themes/subjects. Sometimes the themes are easy to come by: Women’s History Month, Black History Month, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Sometimes I have to get more creative: National Nothing Day, Christmas Creeps, Pumpkin Patch (all of the covers were orange), National Hobby Month, Count von Count’s birthday, stuff like that.

And sometimes I get really clever.

For example, one February I did a love/hate flip side display with romances on one side and romantic murder mysteries on the other. I also put out a display of true crime books, just for good measure. Feel the love.

Speaking of true crime, both my Mother’s Day and Father’s Day displays included true crime books. My supervisor gave me shit for it, but they were the first ones off the display both times. I know my audience.

Which is why I push limits with some things. I live in a red county. How long before the locals complain about my Pride Month displays? Or complain about how it’s not fair that I’m doing big displays on Black History, Women’s History, Native American Heritage, and Asian Pacific Heritage, but not on White History or White Heritage.

(We did have someone complain about “Black History” books on display after February once. It was literally a new book on the new book shelf. Turns out that books by and about Black people don’t come out in just February. Who knew? Not this jackass.)

Some of my displays do better than others and sometimes I’m surprised by how well some displays do. For example, I was surprised my Christmas Creeps (Christmas horror) display didn’t do that well, but the Winter Solstice display did much better than I thought. I try to take note of that to see what people are looking for.

The library goal of my displays is to put books and DVDs/Blu-Rays in front of people that they might not otherwise look for on their own. Get patrons to expand their horizons.

My personal goal with the displays is to find opportunities to be as aggravating as possible, even if it’s just to needle my coworkers. Or to see what I can get away with. Like the time that I kept Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly out on display three months in a row, just to see if I could.

I could.

I don’t think anybody noticed. Which is very encouraging for me when I think about the things I could do.

There is a pun display in my future. Oh yeah. I can feel it.

I should never have been put in charge of displays.

The Thing About Getting Older–Birthday Edition

The past two years I’ve taken the week of my birthday off. The whole week, plus Martin Luther King Jr Day. Comes to nine days off in the name of my birthday.

Some people may call this excessive. There are many loud folks who criticize people for celebrating their birthday week or birth month. And to them I bid a respectable fuck you. I spent too many years not celebrating my birthday, and not because I dreaded getting older like so many women.

Part of my not celebrating comes from having a birthday close enough to the holidays that people are fatigued of celebrations by the time they get to the anniversary of my birth. They are partied out. And I can relate. I’m usually at the end of my of my holiday rope by then, too. But still. It’s my birthday.

Another part comes from the fact that several of my “big” birthdays -sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one- were rendered insignificant for one reason or another. There were a couple of times that my birthday was used as an excuse to get together only to have that gathering have nothing to do with me. Clearly just an excuse…or worse, an after thought. This string of disappointments hurt. I’m not going to lie. To prevent myself from experiencing that disappointment again, I became one of those people who didn’t like my birthday.

My birthday? Pfft. No big deal. It’s nothing. Just another day. I didn’t do anything for my birthday outside of any sort of family celebration that might be happening. I rarely made plans. It got to a point where I didn’t expect anything, not even from myself.

However, I was not meant to be a person who hated their birthday. I have far too much ego for that. And over the years my intent to not celebrate became me celebrating for myself. It was my special day, even if it was a secret. Even if I was the only one who did any celebrating.

Sometimes I’d do things with my friends, but many times I was alone. Hell, for my 40th I ended up going by myself to see Knives Out. Coincidentally, that was the last time I went to a movie theater.

My 40th landed on a Sunday and I had planned to take the weekend off for it, but wasn’t able to.

I fixed that for 41. I took the whole week off and was gifted with the King holiday as a bonus. One of my coworkers asked me what I was doing for my birthday, thinking I was taking a trip. In the middle of a pandemic, not so much. So, I told her I was doing whatever I wanted. And I could tell that she thought a week off for my birthday was a bit much. Particularly for a lowly part-timer. Tough shit.

This year I had planned to take a trip for the week of 42, but it didn’t work out because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.

But it was still my birthday.

So, last week, I was off work and I did whatever I wanted.

And I’ll do the same thing next year, too.

Turning 42

I’m kinda looking forward to being 42. First of all, I do not fear aging. It’s a privilege denied many and I’ve earned every year. Second of all, 42 is the meaning of life, the Universe, and everything, so it’s bound to be something of a magical age, right?

Okay, I kind of admit from this vantage point it’s sort of hard to see that potential.

41 was a bit of a bust.

I was hoping to do more and most of the time I barely had the energy to do the bare minimum. Like, I’ve been stuck in some ruts before, but this time I was too tired to care I was even in a rut. It’s hard to pull yourself out when you’d rather take a nap.

And while I did spent 41 giving fewer fucks, I didn’t really accomplish much else. At least I spent most of the time with either pink or blue-black hair. 41 was a bit of a drag, but I showed up.

As I said, I think 42 has the potential to be magical. What kind of magic? I don’t know. Maybe black magic. Perhaps some dark arts will be necessary to make something out of this year. I’m starting off on a sour note by not being able to take my birthday trip, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be taken eventually. Maybe all of the magic will come from finding a way to salvage things in the middle of trying circumstances once again. But the point is I should probably haul my ass out of the rut to give that magic a shot. Who knows? I might be surprised.

I mean, it’s doubtful. I’m a Capricorn, so my realism will ultimately win out. But that doesn’t mean I can’t find a way to have a good time. Even if it’s just a new hair color.

Here’s to 42.