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
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
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
Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 726 and Healing

As most of my extended network is aware, I am a big fan of therapy. We all grow up in imperfect families doing their best in a cruel world. No one is immune from emotional hurt, especially if you came by those wounds in childhood. Healing those old wounds as an adult is the kindest thing you can do for yourself and is not reflective of any weakness on your part or failure of your family.

Hurt people hurt. Every single one of us has lingering traumas from our childhood no matter how privileged our lives or lucky our circumstances. Trauma is universal. No one escapes being alive without some.

One of the most relatable types of hurt a child will experience is being made to feel less than, an outsider, unworthy or unloved. Our families might not intend for us to feel this way but it’s not uncommon to be bullied or ignored or told we are unworthy. If we do not find ways to heal from feeling like we are less than others, we will make others feel the same way. And we are obligated as responsible adults to not victimize others.

Nerds who don’t heal their trauma wound of being “unpopular” become quite dangerous when they go from underdog to ruling class

When I was young being called a nerd was an insult. But now as an adult the power dynamics have shifted significantly. The intellectuals have inherited the earth. But too many of us remember ourselves as victims of the strong. As adults we have an obligation to adjust our priors as we are no longer victims of what we experienced in childhood. In fact, we now we have the upper hand. Revenge of the nerds is due for an update.

We must remind our inner child that those days are over. We survived. It’s over. We are now strong adults with our own agency and capacity to set boundaries. Of course, it’s a hard task to reason with our inner child. The ego is very accomplished at guarding us from reality. It doesn’t want us to repeat those traumas and rightly so. It only takes being burned once to avoid the fire.

But if we don’t work to understand why we we still react as adults as if we were a hurt child the wounds of childhood trauma we will never allow us to reality.

If you want to see the truth of your circumstances consider going to therapy. If you cannot afford it, there are many recovery programs that are free to attend like Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon. Contrary to popular perception they are not just for addicts. Heal yourself. We are all rooting for you.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 724 and Christmas Therapy

Yesterday a Twitter friend asked how they could survive a challenging work situation. They have to tolerate some people that frustrate them as it’s not a good time for them to leave their job. In response, I managed to sum up five years of therapy in a single Tweet.

Go to therapy. Find out what makes you reactive (usually something to do with childhood interactions), learn not to get triggered by it and enjoy giving fewer fucks about other people’s inappropriate boundaries because now you have boundaries. Tbh AA/Al-Anon works & is free

I am posting it today on Christmas as I think it’s salient. During the holidays you are especially prone to getting triggered by other people’s reactions. It’s quite natural in family dynamics as you tend to regress around people that knew you as a child. But you are not doomed to repeat it.

You must understand know that other people’s bullshit has nothing to do with you. It’s all their childhood shit & personal reaction formations. You are equipped to choose your boundaries & not allow yourself to be dragged into codependency & reactionary cycles. Merry Christmas

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 715 and Hide Under The Covers

I don’t like having people in my house for non-social reasons. I’m easily overwhelmed by social situations when I expect to be left to my myself. I find myself getting anxious any time a service provider comes down the drive away. And yes, we have a cool home automation that sends me an alert.

I’d call it social anxiety except I’m reasonably good at social graces when it’s an obligation. I can hype myself to socialize when it’s me necessary. But sometimes, people are just in your space because it’s their job.

I can often hide away downstairs to avoid interactions. We’ve got workers coming in and out regularly for bigger outdoor projects like our solar panel installation. That’s not too bad as I can keep out of their way except for a polite hello and offers of water and snacks.

But sometimes I’ve got to bite the bullet and spend hours with people around me and there is no simple way to exchange social niceties and hide. I find this especially anxiety inducing for house cleaning. I can’t easily hide under the covers when it’s their job to change the sheets.

I am also the sort of person who cleans up for the cleaners. Not deep clean stuff but pick it up and put it away tasks. Hence my little organizing obsession with the cosmetics cabinet yesterday. Maybe that was just an early sign I self anxious about having people in my most intimate spaces.

I managed just find in this most embarrassingly privileged situation. I moved from room to room getting my work done for the day. If anything I had a very productive day as I kept running to the safety of my email inbox to create some distance. I did however take a nap once the house was empty this afternoon. Too many hours of hyper vigilance sure tired out my inner autist.

Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 711 and Excession

So Elon, this isn’t likely to actually make it to you, but this is my blog, I write every day for myself, so why not, I can give it a try and pretend. If it turns out this is any good I’ll ask a mutual friend to send it to you.

tldr: I feel a (parasocial) connection with you & I want more from you (and maybe also for you). I know it feels cool and edgy to wink at taboos but you’re getting rekt by fuck bois, sycophants and opportunists.

I know we are all Galileo in our own mind shouting “and yet it moves” to narrow minded Papists but you realize being a martyr requires your death right? I don’t want you to die.

You certainly don’t remember this, but we met a number of times in the mid-teens. Times like when a friend of mine hosted a blow out birthday party in New York. We sat next to each other in some awful club and discussed chess with a small group. The same friend had a big wedding. I remember goofy dancing. Your sons made snow angels in the confetti. It was nice.

You seemed as uncomfortable as the rest of us nerds. Your autism didn’t seem any worse than mine though. I remember finding that comforting at the time. It has curdled into alienation over time as your fame far outstripped your origins. And I’m sad to have lost the feeling of love I had for you.

Before we “met” I had slight case of hero worship. I remember thinking here is someone just like me. He likes the same science fiction. He dreams about the singularity. He’s neurodivergent. And he wants to get us off this damn rock. And he’s got more money and power than I do so maybe he is worth admiring. I was young and stupid and hadn’t yet gone to real therapy.

I would tell my friends I wanted to die outside the earth’s gravity well. I thought perhaps you might be the man that got us there. Had I not had a chance to see how much you were just like me, perhaps I’d still be a stan.

Never meet your heroes. Everyone is just people. Now I’m worried I’ll die here on Earth filled with grief like Captain Kirk. There are no dicks left to ride once you realize we are all just humans.

What I see now from you isn’t power and happiness, it’s isolation and sadness. But I want you to know it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to listen to the flattering dick riders. They want shit from you. They want their agendas and they see your money and power as a way to achieve it. I know you know this.

It makes me angry to see you coddle the parasites. I’m shocked your mother hasn’t told you to knock it off. She seems like a cold bitch who gets shit done. I’m sure she’s told you that you are better than them. The nerds and autists did not inherit this Earth just to squander it for the roar of the crowd. If it is all bread and circus, remember you are a king and not a clown.

Maybe you think their slavish slobbering attention is a fair trade for some of your magic, I used to be emotionally slutty like that too.

Being an attention whore isn’t unusual for someone with distant parents. Shitposters gotta post right? Once again, I feel a kinship to you on the compulsion to post and roast. I’m addicted to Twitter too. We are all filling up the holes leftover from our childhood. I’ve got daddy issues so I’m sure you get it.

And yes, I am projecting my own insecurities. But maybe I can tell you a story that will comfort you in the big wide universe. Maybe it will comfort someone else. Maybe it’s just to comfort myself.

I read you named your family office Excession. I’m also a fan of Ian M. Banks. Since 2008 or so, I carry around a paperback of Excession with me whenever I vacation. Which isn’t a lot. I normally use a Kindle to read but this paperback has become a kind of totem. It signals to my hindbrain that I am in a sympathetic state of rest and digest. I reread it over and over in 20-30 page chunks. It bounces me out of fight or flight now after much repetition, it’s my comfort book.

A picture from September 2014 in Miami. We seem to have come full circle on Ukraine
Here is a picture of you with the same copy in 2015 while in Sun Valley.

Your love for Ian M. Banks all felt very relatable to me as I’ve been dreaming of a post-scarcity world where my AI space ship friends shuttle me around as they pursue their inscrutable intentions. I want to sublime. Maybe not for a few thousand more years though. But I want to make it through the singularity to the other side, or at very least avoid dying in William Gibson’s jackpot. I feel like you get what apocalypses preoccupied my mind.

Most of my fantasies and fears have been touched by my love for science fiction. I saw in you someone who saw the same possibilities as me. You were very much one of us.

I also see someone being used for their dreams. They are harnessing you and your power to drive the rest of us to focus on their nightmares. Don’t let them steer you.

But your posting is reaching people. It’s annoying to some, but it hits. Maybe it hits too hard. But the isolation I imagine you feel isn’t necessary. Power laws can separate just as effectively as they bring us together. You don’t have to be surrounded by reply guys. There is a path to connection even for the most singular among us.

Now of course, I want something from you too. I want you to get us off this rock before it’s too late. I know it’s a big ask.

My best is advice is to go reread Excession and get yourself out of this persistent “fight or flight” cortisol pump. Get focused back on the shit that matters. Maybe find yourself a nice autistic sociopath who will love you for you. Maybe she can protect you from some of the pain. I’m sure you will figure it out.

I want you go to therapy. Mine is pretty good if you’d like an introduction. She’s an aristocratic 80 something Swedish woman, so you might like her. She’s perfect for working through attachment issues. She’s quite good at dealing with poor little rich kids with mommy and daddy issues. Her neighbors are all billionaires so she won’t be impressed by your bullshit. She has a sub-specialty in sex so she can probably help with that dick riding problem too.

And most importantly, she’ll be the only person who doesn’t want anything from you. And you need that more than anything.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 707 and Self Discipline

In case it’s not readily apparent from the fact that I’ve written for seven hundred and seven straight days, I am very good at personal discipline. I can will myself to do almost anything. But this gift gets tangled up in negative emotions easily.

Part of this internal sense of discipline is the very clear set of norms I got as part of gendered expectations for good womanhood. You must exert ownership over yourself. Because without doing so, you will be unable to do the work that is expected of women.

You just discipline yourself to serve others. Because women must put other people’s priorities and schedules ahead of their own. Women must be accommodating. Women must be nice. It’s all a very careful training to insure you’d never consider stepping out of line. At it starts at self discipline.

Deviations like weight gain or chronic tardiness or looking unkempt in public were roundly censured in popular culture. I internalized all the ways in which I needed to be constantly improving, fixing, bettering and otherwise making sure I was showing up as others wanted me.

I am slowly unraveling the ways in which this has shown up negatively. Now as I try to unlearn my own obedience I find unproductive ways to rebel.

A small list of the ways this manifests. I hate external deadlines. If someone tells me I must deliver by a specific time I get anxious. If I have a morning appointment r my body wakes regularly through the night to check that I’ve not missed it. Calendars and schedules evoke feelings of despair that go back deep into my childhood. I’ve clearly been learning and unlearning this pattern for sometime.

I am deeply grateful for having discipline as a friend in my life. I have excellent habits in many areas because of it. But making it a true friend will take more time. It’s one of the hardest pieces of shadow work I’ve ever done.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 703 and Day of Rest

I love a good Sunday. I love a good Sabbath. I love a stolen afternoon away from the demands and observations of the wider world. Getting away from it all, even if it’s a just a few moments stolen away from the world for a private reflection, is in fact a great gift.

I’ve got a tendency to engage in unproductive self talk when it comes to relaxation in particular, but more generally with feeling like I can take time for myself. I’m sure this is a relatable trouble in the hustle bound addiction driven workaholism of startup land.

The guilt I feel about being unproductive overshadows the enjoyment of necessary restorative activities. I’ll “should” on myself. My ego protection insists on it. But I am trying to stay in the adult portion of my mind which can remind my inner child that it’s alright to have a little fun.

And I did have a little fun today. Not because I engages in any hobbies or particularly exciting fun activities. I just took care of myself. I lifted weights. It was leg day so maybe that counts as fun. I took my once a week extended shower where I scrub, exfoliate, shave and condition every applicable inch of my body. Obviously I’m not shaving my head use common sense. Then I spent 90 minutes immobilized a foot masks. No winter feet for me! I meditated. I did some heat therapy. I used the Theragun. I got a little bit high and ate lunch. I took a nap.

I am feeling rested and happy about the entire day. How nice that I was able to enjoy being in my own body. How nice I could take enjoyment from something restorative. Yes I want to justify it with promises of added productivity to come. But it’s ok to just enjoy the pleasure for the thing that it is. Enjoy your life.

Categories
Emotional Work Finance

Day 683 and Goverance

I’m not a big fan of early stage venture investors meddling too much in the day to day of their portfolio companies. Asking for too much reporting and too frequent board meetings can be a huge source of momentum friction.

But I am a big fan of corporate governance. Even right from the very start. You should have agreed upon avenues for settling issues and disputes from the moment you have assets bigger than an Ikea couch let alone a 32 billion dollar valuation company. A lack of governance structures can lead to deeply destructive behavior even if you aren’t a sociopathic rich kid bent on committing fraud.

As much as it may seem irritating to set up formalities like a full board and agreed upon voting rights structures, you will regret not having it if something goes wrong. And something will go wrong. I’d go so far as to say Murphy’s law is an immutable law of the universe. What can go wrong will go wrong.

The intense pressure of a startup is what turns the lump of coal that is your vision into the diamond that will be worth something in the open market. And pressure is often destructive. People who otherwise respect and trust each other can slowly find themselves deeply at odds.

Just think of your worst breakup and imagine that intensity playing out in ways that impact everything you’ve worked to build. If you’ve ever gone through a divorce I’m sure you understand. Let me tell you a little story about one of my breakups to illustrate why you should set up governance right form the start.

My easiest personal breakup was also one of my worst. We’d moved in together and devised an elaborate set of budgets and savings protocols. We’d combined belongings. We even set up a shared bank account. He was a corporate governance lawyer at a very aggressive firm. I was working a lucrative corporate job but preparing to go back to startups.

While he wasn’t a contract lawyer, he did have enough common sense to suggest we write up a relationship contract complete with dissolution protocols. I thought this was absolutely brilliant which I’m sure tells you a lot about how I operate. Absolutely all of our friends thought we were nuts. Including a colleague and friend who would go on to be one of my board members down the road.

I was in Colorado for my mother’s wedding. I’d expected my boyfriend to join me. But we’d been discovering that all our good faith attempts to arrange the perfect relationship structure was nothing in the face of widely disparate personalities and risk tolerance. No amount of mitigating structure could overcome those differences.

When I came home he’d triggered our breakup clauses and moved out. Everything was done by the governance protocols we’d set out. If I’m absolutely honest I was relieved. My biggest annoyance was losing the Vitamix blender that was his property. As furious and heartbroken as I was at the time, I didn’t have any avenue to engage in my worst most defensive reactionary emotions. Neither did he. Which was extremely valuable as I hadn’t at age 26 gone through the therapy that helps me productively channel negative emotions now.

My ex-boyfriend and I are still friends to this day. Sure it took a few years for us to come around but we’d avoided a scorched earth situation despite the significant risks we’d engaged in by moving in and combining our lives and fortunes after a relatively a brief period. The damage was mitigated by a shared understanding of how we’d manage downside protection and whose rules we’d consider binding.

While I’m sure this sounds a bit weird, I do think it’s a helpful illustration of why even the most optimistic scenarios benefit from guardrails and mutually agreed upon avenues for pursuing a dissolution or change in status.

No matter how calm and rational you think you are, there will be scenarios that trigger deep emotional patterns. If you vomit up those childhood coping mechanism emotions, you need to clean it up even if it feels shameful and embarrassing.

I’d also say it probably tells you a lot that I’m telling you a deeply personal story about a breakup in a personal relationship and not my actual board experiences. There are some secrets you take to the grave and how you failed your business partners tends to be one of them. How they failed you is another. I’ve had reason to be grateful for corporate governance guardrails at all of my companies. Because that is human nature.

So no matter how early it is in your startup journey you should be considering how you’d handle tough times. Set up a board to help you work through and arbitrate disputes. I know you cannot imagine it now but you won’t regret it.

No one is ever fully immune from disagreement (or even disaster) and you owe it to yourself and your partners to set up fair resolution issues from the start. Plus if you happen to have partnered with a sociopath you will appreciate the modicum of protection offered by binding contract law or consensus mechanism contract execution. And if you really want a Vitamix make sure you put that in the contract.