Categories
Emotional Work Politics

Day 768 and Memory

I’ve not ever read Proust in its entirety because what am I an eternal being who exists outside of linear time? But, thanks to Wikipedia and university survey courses, I am familiar with its basic themes of memory and it’s frustrating insufficiency.

Anyways, when not pondering madeleines, I am often confronted by how resilient the mind is in protecting us from the horrors of the world. Memory is a very funny thing. As good a reason as any to maintain diaries or personal hagiography is that you’d be surprised at what you forget.

A doctor asked me to get a pelvic ultrasound. I surprised myself by saying absolutely not unless it’s an emergency life or death situation I am not doing that. And she, in sincere surprise, asked me why not.

And, because I guess therapy works, I recalled a pelvic ultrasound from maybe 10-12 years ago. I’d been referred in to a specialist as there was concern about a uterine cyst. This doctor, a gentleman over 50 in the kindly white gentleman archetype, who I did not know know, proceeds to tell me this won’t hurt.

But it does hurt. I am screaming bloody murder. It hurts so much I cannot stop. He tells me he will call security unless I quiet down. I cannot and I am in tears hysterically trying to convey the pain. I pass out.

I had utterly suppressed the memory till today. It happened to coincide with my husband mentioning a think piece in New York Magazine about women who empathized with the Clare Danes character from Fleishman Is In Trouble. There is a profoundly violating scene around reproductive health and consent.

And of course, because it’s happening to a striving insecure aspirant white bitch it totally doesn’t count right? Fucking Karens. It’s super cringe to consider where the system hurts you, because you dumb bitch, you benefit more than anyone else.

So I guess I am not surprised I had banished the experience of something bad but you know not so bad you are allowed to complain about it. And that is how the patriarchy perpetuates itself.

What I’m saying is that maybe you need to remember who it is that benefits from you not remembering the pain. Who benefits from forgetting? And trust me they are very scared when you realize that you remember.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 767 and Abandonment

I called someone today with whom I have a standing appointment. They didn’t pick up at first. I called back a few minutes later when they didn’t return my call.

They picked up on the second call back. They didn’t seem entirely healthy. I found myself scared. My inner child dove immediately into a pattern of abandonment and distance as I tried to cancel and give them a way out. I blathered on about how it’s usual time and I hoped I wasn’t invading their privacy but if they were sick I could rescheduled as it was obviously no big deal.

Julie” they said to me firmly but kindly. “Stop telling me how I am.”

I sat back on my heels at that. I hate it when people make assumptions about how I feel. Rather than listen, people will simply make assumptions about how I am and what I can or cannot do. If you hate feeling pitied then this will probably seem quite familiar to you.

It’s not uncommon for people to work through their own issues on illness, pain or disability when talking to me. While I have an invisible disability from a chronic disease called ankylosing spondylitis I do make it known that I have this diagnosis. I even treat it as a part of my edge at work. But it’s just a fact that I’m in various degrees of pain because I have swelling in my spine. It’s arthritis basically just inconveniently located.

But despite it being a public part of my identity, most people have no idea. I don’t look sick and I mostly don’t act like it in public as it’s kept under control with modern medicine. But I’ll have bad days. Or I’ll have to ask for an accommodation like sitting down.

And that’s when I learn a lot about a person’s relationship to illness. I’ll get pitied. I’ll get babied. I’ll get pep talks. I’ll get praised. I’ll get ignored. I’ll get written off. It’s never about me but entirely about the other person. It’s a little bit like seeing someone’s tell in poker. Most people have got one.

In the past I’ve let myself be invaded by these feelings from others. And it made me sad. I felt abandoned by all these people around me who couldn’t see me for me but instead saw their own feelings mirrored back to them. I felt invisible. I got treated like a cipher for disability or illness.

But underneath that little drama, an the actual person names Julie would be left alone to watch them play out their emotional theater. But I am done feeling abandoned by it. I don’t have to let anyone else tell me how I am. And it’s entirely up to others to decide if they can manage around me. I don’t need to make it my problem. I’ve got no need to abandon myself for them.

Categories
Emotional Work Travel

Day 746 and Control

When I feel afraid I seek control. I have rituals and rhythms that help sooth the fears of my inner child.

This morning I was in my least favorite fear control pattern. I had to leave a temporary hotel for a new Airbnb as a mold issue destabilized my first week. Hives and prednisone and such. I hate packing and I hate the logistics of it. It reminds me of my childhood nightmares.

I set my alarm early enough to get breakfast and packing in before the slightly too early checkout. I was racked with anxiety I couldn’t repack everything as I’d acquired new items meant for an apartment stay and my suitcase overflowed.

I had vitamins and medicine to take but I couldn’t do more than choke down a croissant. I ordered fruit and cheese and than was too worked up to eat it. I hate wasting food so I wasn’t thrilled. I beat myself up for being a bad person who can’t take care of herself.

As soon as realized how had it was getting I took an Ativan. Joke all you want about benzodiazepines but occasionally they are the barrier between a traumatized woman and the history of her fears. Probably why it’s such a cliche. Just the sort of thing you learn as you are alone in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.

I felt so rushed by the need to be out at a certain time. Each knock on the door a reminder of my failures. Each internal call to calm down a criticism I recalled from my father, my coaches, my bosses and my lovers. A hysterical woman is a shameful thing.

Each “hurry up” a reminder that I am someone who is policed and polite and controlled for other people’s convenience. I am not allowed to be scared or cry or reactive. A hysterical woman woman is, again, a shameful thing.

Finally after the tension and anger and shame bubbled up, I threw the first thing I could get my hands on to release the tension. Better than hurting myself a dim quiet voice said. I cracked my watch face. And immediately felt better. And so embarrassed I’d boiled over.

I’d only needed five more minutes to get myself together. Just a moment. Give me a second. Please just let me be. And each time my preferences had to accommodate someone else I lost more of myself.

I was able to exert the seamless self control over my emotions eventually. I checked out. I tipped. I’m swanned over to my new digs. I executed exactly what I needed and got on with my workday. But the shame stung and the control soothed it like a cold aloe gel.

Categories
Travel

Day 745 and Restless Travelers Scrolling

Coming of age in the golden era of digital hospitality had an enormous effect on my expectations for flexibility on the road. I rarely book ahead, I never worry about finding a place to stay, I overpack luxuries and I am always uncomfortably on the hunt for my personal totemic signifiers of safety. You need things on the road to keep your rituals intact so you don’t drift.

I know how to search for a place to rest and I restlessly pursue it on the road. Singles browse dating apps like I browse Airbnb. I spot red flags on apartment listings like a woman who has been on one too many bad dates.

I spent much of my childhood traveling. My most potent recurring nightmare is packing for a trip that never arrives. I have lived in a perpetual state of readiness to get up and leave. I bring endless tiny compacts and one singular pair of high heeled shoes for a night out I never go on. I am ready for glamour on the road but all I find is the anxiety of instability.

It’s this perpetual readiness to flee that has made me an exceptionally good picker of hotels, rental units, vacation homes and other short term stays. I couldn’t afford a deposit for an apartment in New York for so long that I could find an under-market illegal sublet on Craigslist on a moment’s notice. It’s a handy skill set.

Naturally I’ve come to take this talent for granted as I’ve cultivated it. I’m confident that I’ll pick a decent rental because I can spot issues from miles away. I admit I’ve looked down on complaints about how bad Airbnb has become. I thought I’d avoid the quality control issues. It’s no longer a better value than hotels generally speaking but the real crime is that it’s troubles are not worth the hassle for many. It’s not seamless like a branded hotel.

I felt the hassle was worth it for the comforts of home on the road. But I think I’ve crossed my personal Rubicon on Airbnb in Prague. I won’t default to it any longer. The costs are now basically identical. You’ve got to weigh the costs of friction against having your life a bit disturbed. Hotels specialize in hospitality. It’s probably worth remembering.

Categories
Biohacking

Day 742 and Careful Balance

I don’t think I’ll be getting my best writing out today. I’m plugging through my work while balancing out my personal chemistry against my obligations.

I am a bit scared to find myself balancing a delicate body chemistry in a foreign country. I don’t care much for taking a steroid like prednisone but when it’s a choice between hives and yellow weeping eyes or a modicum of comfort, you pick comfort.

It’s of course not without its side effects. Steroids make you feel great till they make you feel a bit crazy. They are very good at tamping down every reaction your body has which can ironically give you some autonomic issues. For me it can feel like I’m in fight or flight.

I left my Airbnb as the more I tapered the steroid dose the worse my symptoms got. I’m a little concerned about fighting Airbnb for a refund but better to lose a few hundred dollars than need steroids. I did find a very nice and crucially clean hotel that will do the trick for now.

Categories
Uncategorized

Day 739 and Immigration Anxiety

My family has been working on a visa for a friend to come visit us in the United States. It’s felt like the longest 2 years of everyone’s lives. I had no idea how broken our visa and immigration system ones until we tried to invite a family friend with a bad passport on vacation to America.

Sure the pandemic distended wait times into bulging impossible monstrosities, we pushed simple state department work into an impossible task. But it’s not just the broken bureaucracy at play. It’s a system so broken by it’s own disdain and lack of resourcing, your only hope is the grace of God.

If you tried to arrange a tourist visa for someone from the global south you’d find the next available appointment for a tourist visa was three years down the road. And this was after the borders opened up after the pandemic got to be too much trouble. It only got worse from there. I quickly become shocked at how impossible it is to travel to America if you aren’t on a Schengen passport from Europe.

I’ve been working on this seemingly intractable problem for well over two years. We are on our second embassy appointment. The first visit was in Frankfurt in March where it was immediately turned down without the officer even looking at the paperwork. Thousands of dollars and endless time lost to a random bureaucrat in thirty seconds.

And you aren’t even allowed to ask them to take another look as they could ban you on the spot. I cried I was so humiliated after seeing that first refusal. How could America be so broken? We did everything right and it didn’t matter. Kafkaesque doesn’t begin to describe it.

Apparently the American state department treats a visa like a Rabbi handling a conversion. It took another 10 months to schedule a follow up appointment in Prague. Our friend’s home embassy has a three year wait so we’ve been going to European embassies to avoid needing to pay a bribe for an appointment in his home country. Legal immigration is much harder than illegal immigration.

So we planned a trip to Prague. And now the appointment is tomorrow. And I’m terrified. I’m despondent. I’ve done everything right and I have no idea if we will succeed. And it’s not even a visa for me. I can’t imagine how they feel. To be treated as if you are a criminal when all you want to do is visit friends and spend money in a other country.

I’m almost embarrassed how invested I’ve become in making this work but I will not allow myself to be beaten by this system. Guests do not deserve this humiliation and America is my house.

Mind you this is for a tourist visa not a work visa or a green card. This is just for coming to enjoy tourism and spend time with friends and family. Tourism is an important part of the American economy. Especially where I live in Montana. The whole world wants to see Yellowstone.

The entire process has been so humiliating for everyone involved. As the sponsor of the visa I filled out a form called an I-134 where I had to prove my net worth, my home ownership, my income, my job and compensation. I accepted personal financial responsibility for them.

This after being instructed that our guest must show strong ties to their home country and a minimum financial independence of their own. They had to show their home ownership, car deeds, work pay stubs & tenure at the company, not to mention guardianship and primary care responsibilities for their grandmother among many other invasive questions. The paranoia of visa overstays has made it so no one can get a tourist visa at all.

All this humiliation be granted the privilege of spending wealth in America as a tourist. It’s beyond insulting. It only gets worse for each step down the line if you want to work or live in America.

If you’ve ever wondered why we don’t have more legal immigrants this is why. Insofar as I can tell there are two ways to get to America. Illegal crossing and you pray. Or tens of thousands of dollars and years of waiting and you pray. Oh and you probably only get to come if you do it illegally. It is a crisis in every sense of the word.

We’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars, weeks of time on the ground in foreign countries and it has gotten us no where.

We’ve also called in everyone type of favor and access we could find. A privilege most lack. Our constituent services office at our Congressional office has been amazing. They submitted a letter asking for a fair review.

If the hundreds of pages of professionally prepared paperwork, the millions of dollars of financial assets and a congressional letter of fair treatment simply aren’t enough, I wouldn’t be too proud to go crying hat in hand to the ambassador to please consider our case. All we want to do is have a family friend granted the freedom to travel. I’ve got no idea where to turn if it isn’t granted.

I’m so anxious and depressed now that the culmination of so many years of work is coming down to one short interview tomorrow, over which we had no control. I’m mess. I’ve let it get to me.

I cannot fathom what else we could do. If millions of dollars of assets, a by the book legal case, multiple political appointees vouching for us and a good faith effort to show our personal responsibility aren’t enough, than what is enough for America?

My fear is nothing will be good enough and I will be despondent in tears tomorrow by 11am. And I pray I have the strength to fight on if it happens. Because I believe in America and I will go to the mat to bring more people to see it’s splendor. Empire’s end won’t happen on my watch without a fight.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 738 and Little Things

I’ve come to appreciate the little luxuries in life in the aftermath of the pandemic. The Great Weirdening was in full bloom just as the world shut down into a global viral pandemic. The things I took for granted from 2015 are now treasured joys to be relished privately and also on social media. Dooming for the clout.

We are all performing elaborate acts about how we are flourishing, but in reality we’ve all had a number of rebirths and realizations. A lot of people suddenly stopped giving as many fucks and the downstream effects have been a calamity.

Everyone knows this has happened but pet theories as to why and it’s implications are rampant. We’ve fractured into conspiracies depending on what media ecosystem we spend the most time in. I know a lot of extremely online shit because I spend time on Twitter. We all have different scapegoats.

This is also all colliding with the great Jankening. All those people giving fewer fucks. Well, it shows up in what we make. And a lot of products and services got worse. Sometimes subtly. It tugs at your mind that so many little things don’t work like they used to work.

I am happy to fight for what’s mine. But I am fighting harder to get the experience I want. So I notice it when something goes right. When a meal is a bit better than you expected. And quality of service was better than it has a right to be. When maybe something is a throwback to a simpler time. When shit worked. I cherish the things that are genuinely good. I don’t want to lose them.

Categories
Travel

Day 735 and Detail Oriented

Packing is one of my most consistent niche subtopics on this experimental “write every single day” habit. I’m fact, I’ve written 23 times about packing over the last seven hundred and some days. It would have been more but the pandemic kept me at home more which also eroded my packing skills.

I’ve written about my recurring packing nightmare in which the anxiety my inner child feels about travel & packing in my childhood looms large. I’ll be trying to locate a key item as a countdown clock ticks down. I never find the item & I miss the trip.

We moved every two years from house to house. We also traveled constantly for my father’s work. The dream so clearly represents abandonment it’s barely worth invoking psychology.

Now as an an adult I loathe packing. It brings back all my childhood memories of never feeling stable. Boxes and suitcases take me back.

Day 222 and Recurring Nightmares

To overcome this lingering childhood fear, I am a very detail oriented packed. I’ve got lists. I’ve got a whole triage program to be sure I have all of my medicine and vitamins in their original prescription bottles so the security folks don’t fuck me. I do doubles so if I get separated from a bag I can manage 24-48 hours without it. And I never let my core prescriptions leave my backpack which never leaves my sight line.

A grey Muji overhead suitcase and an Aer backpack

I’m a very light packer when it comes to clothing. I’m a two shirts, two pants, one dress and six undergarments type for a two week trip. With some winter sweaters taking too much space. I do them in cubes that zip down for less space and then I label them.

Packing cubes with labels

I try to label everything in my packing cubes and match them back against my master Notion document for packing necessities. I think do another hand written list in my notebook as well.

I have to take a number of medicines and vitamins with me to manage my ankylosis which takes up a third of my suitcase. I could be a much lighter packer if the TSA and other security institutions didn’t insist on me carrying drugs in their original prescription bottle and a file with my prescriptions printed out. I’m not a detail oriented person without focus but nothing forced focused quite like the prospect of falling ill overseas.

Categories
Biohacking Emotional Work

Day 732 and Be Kind To Yourself

Are you tempted to exert willpower and discipline over yourself today? Have you made up your mind to change this year? Are you going to push yourself to be a better person? Have you resolved to fix your body, your diet, your sleep, your habits, your work, your relationship or your family?

I’d like to gently encourage you to reconsider. Maybe don’t force yourself to do anything. Perhaps you can find new habits and routines that come from a place of love and abundance instead of lack.

Every January, millions adopt a harsh deprivation-restriction mindset and begin punishing themselves, physically and mentally. Yes, harsh tactics can work for a few weeks. But the reason they don’t tend to last is because they come from a place of lack, not from a place of love.

Dr Rangan Chatterjee

I’m a firm believer in good habits. What we do every day is what makes us who we are. But we cannot sustain misery. And why would we? The self should not be an attack surface. Any changes you seek must come from a place of love.

I’m not suggesting you don’t explore the ways in which you want to change. But if you go into January with restrictions and self hatred well girl eating disorder season can be a misery.

Remember you do not deserve any suffering inflicted by yourself. I know you want to push back against that thought but ask yourself why? Why should you be a victim to yourself? Resolve the guilt and integrate the shadows into your life instead.

I’m not suggesting there is no place for new habits or changes. But please consider looking over my piece on biohacking first. Small changes and manageable pacing are a must. Compounding small successes will add up over time.

Don’t believe me? This is my third year of writing every single day. And it was built one step at a time. Let 2023 be a year for kindness and self love. Great things are built on that foundation.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 722 and Extreme

When Stephen Colbert was still the titular character on his Comedy Central Show he had the perfect delivery for the word extreme. Imagine a wholesome Mountain Dew meets X Games meets Gen X meets Vin Diesel’s Triple X meme and you’ve got the basic delivery. Extreme!

White conservative beltway dudes pretending to like extreme sports is, of course, a joke from a simpler time. These days extreme sports are now just regular Olympic sports and Tony Hawk is old dude on Twitter. Gen X is turning 50 and the New York Times styles section has a feature on the gold rush for menopause.

Colbert’s kindly delivery of extreme being something fun, sugary and maybe a bit sporty, has given way to actual extremes. Tucker Carlson doesn’t pretend to be a cool for clout. Now we just go straight for extremist politics. All those years Colbert spent imitating Fox News anchors normalized their schtick to such an extent that Bill O’Reilly couldn’t keep up. Now I gather the Colbert spends his time atoning for this normalization by cracking bad Trump jokes. Or so I hear. I’ve not ever watched his new sincere late night show.

The other extreme we’ve got is weather. Which is what I’d actually intended to write about, before I spent multiple paragraphs explaining a joke. You see, America is in the middle of some very extreme weather. And every time I’ve checked the temperature in the last 48 hours I’ve recited Colbert’s extreme delivery in my head. It was terrifyingly cold in Montana yesterday. Bozeman got down to -45 Fahrenheit.

Extreme doesn’t seem like a fun word anymore. I’ve stopped associating it with snowboarding and yellow caffeinated drinks. Extreme is groypers meeting former Presidents and climate change upsetting the jet stream. We’ve collapsed arctic air into the lower forty right just as we’ve collapsed distinctions between parody and reality.