Direction

I am a person with the best kind of problem. The kind of problem you can’t complain about because you sound like an asshole, and which I don’t often discuss, because everyone would tell me to Fuck Off (I would respond in the same way if the tables were turned.)

I lack direction. This is perhaps unexpected because I am also a compulsive planner, laden with to do lists and productivity apps and Excel sheets which compartmentalise my time and bookmarked folders of grad schools and internships and a myriad of career prospects. I lack direction because I am good at things. I don’t say it in a narcissistic way (I hope), just in a I-have-been-successful-in-many-endeavours kind of way.

There are explanations for this. Firstly, I am blessed with a great memory for facts and concepts, which means I test well in an educational system that praises the regurgitation of information. I do well in academics, which is augmented by the fact that I like to learn, and also that I am the black and white perfectionist type that does all the readings, rather than just some of the readings. Which feeds into my second point: I have a compulsive need to be right. This is also a huge and glaring flaw of mine which annoys both me and my contemporaries. I read and research and argue and debate and read some more. Thirdly, which adds to the first two: I don’t do things at which I know I will fail. My spatial awareness is awful. I can’t tell left from right, and in all sports, the ball (or puck or whatever) is going to hit me in the face. So I have avoided team sports like the plague since PE class. I don’t get into debates about subjects about which I am not well informed, because there is little point bullshitting with people who know what they’re talking about. All this leaves me with a low failure rate, making my stats of success great. Finally, I’m not a prodigy in anything, I just range somewhere on the scale from adequate to highly competent in my common activities. Why am I extensively relaying all of this? Partly because there have been a lot of “kate stewart limerick” searches lately, so someone is clearly curious. Mostly to link back to this concept of direction.

I’m reading Sylvia Plath’s journals at the moment and she writes about a similar feeling (which is very Esther Greenwood in the opening chapters of the Bell Jar.) A feeling of deflation in spite of academic (and other) success. A niggling that none of these amount to anything when faced with the responsibility of the Real World. A pervasive sense of indecision around which avenue or interest will steer one’s career and direction and life. A disorientation around determining a new plan when the original plan becomes untenable.

It is relatively easy to write a list of things which interest me and at which I could probably be competent. Public health, community advocacy, politics, writing, theology, social justice, development, music. All things I equally love and have passion for, and (you might notice) have career paths which are not necessarily stable/profitable. But all things that, once in a while, have a positive impact on society. And therein is the issue.

I am not sure where it came from, but like Sylvia Plath, I can’t seem to shake this obsession with impact. It is repugnant to me that I could have the ability to do something in a world as unjust and horrifying as ours, and not do it. But what is my ability? What have I to contribute? There are some things, that once you see, you cannot unsee. I sometimes miss the days of blissful ignorance, but as I was once reminded, “Narrow is the gate that leads to life.” And this confusion, this uncertainty, this pulling of one’s attention in a dozen different directions, leads to a stationery stillness which is more akin to the advance of equal and opposite forces than it is to inactivity. This stillness uses up a wealth of energy, with little to show for it, and leaves me thoroughly exhausted. As fatigue goes up, motivation goes down, and the consequences of any move in any direction seems overwhelming. Anything less than 100% perfect hardly seems worth doing, so you find yourself caught in the throes of apathy lest you fail.

At this point, it’s important to count the little victories. I send emails I need to send, I keep my journal, I go to every appointment, I read my books, and I wrote two blogs in one week, which is better than I can say for all of last semester. Someone is googling me, which is always flattering (or tremendously creepy.) A definite lack of direction, but not a wholly unsuccessful day.

New Year Yoga or How I Learnt To Stop Hating Chair Pose

2014 wasn’t a big yoga year. I stopped because my twenty minute sessions were bumming me out and I was reluctant to do longer sessions because I had neither the time nor the patience for long hold poses. My all time least favourite pose is Chair Pose, or Utkatasana in the Sanskrit, which looks like this:

Image from Yoga Journal

You hold Utkatasana and you feel it in your hamstrings, your shoulders, your core, your glutes. Hold it a bit longer, you tire. You hurt. You want to drop down into the fold and relieve the tension and sensations that now flow throughout your body. You hold the pose. You make the choice to continue to hold the pose.

In Utkatasana, I am present, I am intentional, I make decisions. Some days, I do modify, and I bring my arms to centre. But this too is a conscious choice, not an avoidance. Most days, I make the choice to hold the pose.

I don’t like facing unpleasant sensations, unpleasant feelings, unpleasant situations. I like to avoid. I like to procrastinate. I like to distract myself. I don’t do emotion. I detach.

I am not dealing with things, yet. But I continue to hold the pose.

And After Denial And Anger And Depression Comes Acceptance

Yesterday’s post was written a day or two after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It was a messy few weeks, of crying and ableism and cancelling plans and haze and tough decisions and more crying. I yelled at people I loved: my mom, Tom, my sisters, God. I pretended nothing had changed with everyone else. Both took a toll.

But now I’m almost a month in. And things are looking up. My worries and fears from July have come to their foregone conclusions for the most part and I am looking for the upside in them all. And life is looking a little like this:

  • Downside: I decided not to go EUDC in Croatia. Upside: My space went to Andrew, who deserves it and will do it justice.
  • Downside: I have been transferred out of Nursing and will not be graduating in 2015. Upside: The college are making what is essentially a new course for me (BSc Health Studies) and I will graduate in 2016. The next year will also be part time, which will allow me to adjust to professional life at my own pace.
  • Downside: Running is a no-no. Upside: Swimming and yoga are still yes-yes.

It helps that two of my dearest people have disabilities, and are up for a venting session when it is needed. It helps that I bought a shower chair so that I can wash myself in peace. It helps that I am getting into a low-sugar, low-caffeine, bed at 10pm routine. It helps that I am taking more me time. It helps to multitask less. It helps that I am taking a break from worship team, and approaching God in a slightly different manner. It helps that the American explains relevant theology (and makes silly faces) when I am upset. It helps to have a mother who does lots of research about fibro and test runs facials on me.

You get to a point where you start being okay with being a spoonie, a fibromite, a pillow fighter, and whatever other cute names online support groups have for their members. You start being okay with walking less and sitting more, less nights out and more sleeps in, less fancy coffee and two more paracetemol.

But it’s good. This is good.

 

Avoiding Crash and Burn

Written the the first week of my diagnosis. TW: internalised ableism

The title suggests that I speak with knowledge and authority about how to avoid crashing and burning. Let me assure you that this is not the case.

Yesterday, I did 10 minutes of the workout app that my sisters use to keep fit, and that was cool. I did a whole ton of writing and work. I went for a thirty minute walk. I went for a short trip to the doctor. I was pretty okay at the end of the day. I fell asleep around one, which was a little late, but overall, no big deal.

Yeah, I thought. A new treatment for a new diagnosis, a new lease of life. Back to normal (or what passes for normal.) I went to sleep, happy in the knowledge that I could have a semblance of a productive day.

I woke this morning in such tremendous pain that I wondered had I forgotten my Lyrica (I hadn’t). I was overwhelmed with fibro fog (which feels not unlike a bad hangover when you get it first thing in the morning) and nausea. I turned on my computer, but the words wouldn’t come. I turned on Netflix, but had to continuously pause it so I could run to the bathroom to get sick. I lay on top of my bed for a while until the feeling like I wanted to die passed.

It did pass about an hour ago, and I played a little guitar, and briefly Skyped the American, before having enough control over my thoughts to ramble on my own blog (but not to complete writing that I am paid to do.)

Fibromyalgia, it appears, is a lesson. Balance, everyone says. It’s all about finding the balance. But how do you find the balance when your choices are total exhaustion or total lack of productivity? I am afraid to do anything that might steal what little energy I have, but if I don’t push I will never adjust. If I have to stay in the house all the time to avoid constantly feeling like I’m going to vomit, how am I supposed to do anything in life?

Spoon Theory would suggest that I need to become more aware of how I am using my energy, and making the hard choices of what activities are most important. This is a good principle. It is just very disheartening when you remember that standing up for a whole shower took at least two spoons that you could have used on preparing for the giant big-deal debating competition that’s coming up in two weeks.

The unpredictability is terrifying. The need to cancel plans mere hours before they happen is terrifying. The thought of being out of the country for ten days without family members or spoon-savvy friends is terrifying. And I don’t want to live my life in fear, but I also don’t want to spend in bed suffering from the aftermath of my antics.

I feel bad for not being able to do things. I feel guilty for not having the energy to get a part time job and help pay my way. I hate that I am complaining when it could be so much worse. I hate that I want to cry a lot, but instead of crying my brain decides it is more productive to call me fat and check the calories of what I am eating.

But I also hate that I am rife with this internalised ableism. I hate that people seem to consider fibro an inconvenience that plagues multitudes, in the manner of IBS. I hate that everyone is telling me that diet and exercise is the answer. I hate that I want to rebuff everyone’s reassurances that it will be fine.

Because it might not. In all likelihood, I might not be able to become the person I want to be. And I will do something else, and that will be okay, and it will work itself out one way or another. But I need to space to grieve that girl. That girl who was going to change the world, taking names, and never shutting up about human rights. Whether she ever could have become anything is beside the point.

Things are different now and I feel like I cannot process and be upset and deal with the fact that I have a chronic illness, because everyone is trying to reassure me and tell me it’s not so bad. But it is so bad. Right now, it is. Right now it feels like the world is ending. I know it’s an overreaction but I feel like crap. And soon, I won’t. It won’t be so bad, and it might even be good again. But my blog is the one place where there is precious little need to put on the calm, professional, emotionless face that I use to deal with the world.

So here. Emotions. frshukfdshiosd;uiofrsdhikjfsdxkljhdfikjdhsxcuoi;weumzrg€frj.gvdegopg:JOv\zdfd\shl frdknvflfsouuio.

 

/Rant

Living in a “Post-Racist” Society

My heart breaks for the people of Ferguson. From the murder of Michael Brown (by the police) to the creation of what is essentially an illegal police state to the lack of response by elected officials to the ban on media coverage, this entire situation is rife with anti-Blackness and racism. To everyone who believes that racism died with Martin Luther King, or that America became post-racist after the election of Barack Obama, just look. Look at the #Ferguson tag on Twitter. Look at the fantastic explanations and analyses of the situation written by Black people on Tumblr (you can start on my page if you’re lost, and follow the tags from there.)

Don’t shy away from this. Don’t hide. Don’t think that because you are Irish or White that you do not need to pay attention. Racism and discrimination are not made up on Tumblr. Racialised violence is horribly real. When this story proceeds to also break your heart, remember that racism (just like all those other isms) occurs on a spectrum. A lack of membership to the KKK does not absolve you of indifference, microaggressions, cultural appropriation, or perpetuation of stereotypes. Ignorance is no longer an excuse, particularly in the face of so brutal and obvious a situation as is in Ferguson.

What can I do as a White girl? Support. Listen. Pray for the people. Spread the word. Actively fight against a system that benefits me at the expense of others. This is not a time for me to analyse or wax lyrical on a situation of which I have no lived experience.

I beg you to do the same.

 

Sites and Masterposts on Racism in General

 

Waiting, Surviving, and More Than Surviving

It’s been a few weeks, sporadic blog readers. One of those months, you know? Where things are going from bad to worse, and a cycle begins reminding you of all the other bad things that have already happened in your life thus far. The cycle then goes on to speculate on all the terrible things that are inevitably going to happen as your life progresses and you get caught in this storm of desperation and disinterest in anything else in the world.

The latest in is that I have an undiagnosed something. Readers and real life friends alike are fully aware that I give out about my hip pain a lot, and as time has gone on, it has become more of an issue. Now I’m waiting on a rheumatology consult, need to take day time naps to deal with the fatigue, and am relating far too well to The Spoon Theory. It’s frustrating and exhausting and it takes a whole ton of effort to do not very much.

The build up has started: I am tired and in pain, so I can’t get a job, so I have no money. I am tired and in pain, so I can’t work as a nurse so I have to consider transferring into something else, which isn’t dropping out, but feels remarkably similar. I am tired and in pain so I can’t sleep at night and am exhausted during the way which makes it harder to socialise, serve, and survive.

All this happens and it would be so easy to give up. I could just take to my bed and watch Netflix and drink tea and never stir. Which I do some days, and it is absolutely necessary. But not every day. And I have to remind myself, as we all do sometimes, that I have survived the terrible things before. I survived bulimia, and dropping out of med school, and coming out as queer, and being raped, and having PTSD, GAD, and panic attacks, and having IBS (I am alphabet soup apparently), and a whole host of other things that felt like the end of the world (like being broke and relationships ending and growing apart from friends.) I am still here after all of that and so I must keep going. Or all that effort will have been a waste.

I can survive, and more than survive. I can adjust. I have a computer. I write (and get paid now. That’s cool). I have Skype. I have a rent free room to live in and meals made for me, courtesy of my beautiful father and mother. I have best friends who are not in the least bit frightened of all my baggage, and often come to the rescue. I have Jesus, and God’s infinite love. I have hope.

And that’s good enough for now.

Living Authentically or Living in Sin

Sometimes, out of nowhere, I get a smack in the face of internalised Bible-bashin’ queerphobia. And I can’t breathe and I feel nauseous and I can’t shed the feeling of existential doom. 

There are multiple reasons why this should not happen, including, but not limited to:

1. Having struggled through the clobber passages and gender essentialism of the conservative interpretation of the Bible, I don’t find it holds water (a discussion for a different day)

2. I have been aware of my queerness for over 15 years, and coming out 3 years ago was one of the most liberating things I ever did

3. Personal experience (and science) have shown that it’s near impossible to pray away the gay

And yet, every once in a while, for no discernible reason, I get the Fear. And no matter how logical I try and be about it, in those moments, I can’t shake the feeling that all my Greek word studies and Biblical history and prayer are just a way of “rationalising” my sin, and that lifelong celibacy is the cross to bear on the road to relationship with God. On the flip side, why am I questioning what I know and have read and have trusted to God based on what evangelical culture has relentlessly espoused (in spite of it being an indisputably grey area Biblically?)

I am often challenged by two questions I can derive from Scripture, which I suspect I will be asking until I come face to face with the man Himself:

1. What is the balance between truth (the Law) and grace (Love)?

2. Who are the wolves?