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
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
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
Culture

Day 697 and Chivalry for Women

I was having a conversation with one of my girlfriends today about power. We are both exploring the new ways in which we’ve become more aware of our inherent power. Not that we were not powerful when we were younger but rather we have a new consciousness about it’s responsibilities. And it’s relationship to our gender is complicated.

One of the most dehumanizing aspects of Girlboss culture was how it forced female founders into rigid standards of acceptable behavior and emotions. We were surprisingly heavily policed even though we were allowed to use femininity to allure and entice. Girlbosses were empowered. Except occasionally we were only empowered with sex appeal.

Girlbosses looked good on magazine covers and in lifestyle content. It was honestly suffocating even as it was a massive tactical advantage. Imagine being given a cheat code or a level up. Of course you are going to play it but sometimes it takes the joy out of the game.

I am less adverse to the wiles of the feminine as I get older. Now I am able to wield the benefits of mutual viewpoints and seeking common ground. Women are trained to persuade from a young age. We are trained to be accommodating and without hostility or anger. It makes it easier for us to seek out where we might come together.

But those powers of persuasion can also feel manipulative and narcissistic. Men who have felt failed by their mothers can feel particularly hostile towards feminine power. Negative family orientations towards women from siblings to parents can sit in completely irrational and reactionary places for men. I say this because men occupy a similar place for me. Mommy and Daddy Issues can often materialize in stabilizing coping mechanisms. But ultimately it’s not a healthy exchange of power if it’s not consensual.

I dislike having power that I only wield because of my gender. I would prefer to have a less charged environment to pursue my fortunes. But I am also not adverse to playing my hand. You’ve got to play it as it lays. Different women have resolved these power discrepancies in wildly disparate ways. But we are not absolved of the ways in which we hurt men just because we have been hurt by them.

One of the great oversights of the feminist movements may be our lack of a developed gentlemanly style code for women. A theory of chivalry for not playing fair in the gender wars. We certainly expected it of men. If you wield power you must do it responsibly. Peter Parker principle applies to anyone with gifts that can be used for good or evil.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 672 and Self Confidence

My therapist yelled at me this week.

How are you so good at being objective about business but so bad at being objective about yourself?”

Dagmar

My therapist is not what you’d call the warm fuzzy type. She’s more of an old school “dig deep into your childhood trauma to overcome your self limiting beliefs” type. She’s also in her mid-eighties. They really don’t make them like they used to.

My inner child is still fighting the battles of pre-rationalism where everything is about core emotions. Do I feel love? Do I feel fear? Do I feel shame? And my adult needs to parent her with the comforting objective reality that she has nothing to fear and is deeply loved.

I did not feel loved as a child. Without getting into my parents particulars, there was a belief I absorbed that that the path to secure love was through improving myself. I wanted authority figures to see how hard I worked and how dedicated I was to fixing my flaws. It’s hard to imagine someone as brash as I am as a good girl archetype but I was a Daddy’s Girl.

Nevertheless it is true that I get caught in self improvement loops. I’ll fixate on my trackers and personal data and fuss and futz about how things could be better. And I have to consciously remind myself that outcomes are what matter not “trying really hard.” Ironically I have no problem with reaching challenging specific outcomes. I have problems rolling back my inputs to only what is necessary to achieve my outcomes.

Now my therapist is no slouch. She’s one of the smartest and best connected women I know. She is more than qualified to rate my mental acuity and processing power. And she’s now on a mission to remind me of the fact. She wants me to have self confidence in the objective reality that I can achieve my desired outcomes.

And she is correct. I am not being rational in my assessment of my own capacity and talents. I let my inner child’s fears well up and her illogical viewpoints do my adult no favor. In reality I’m competent, capable and absolutely good enough to compete in the arena.

I have an uncanny sixth sense for future market moves and social trends, a numerate mind with a literate education, and all of the skills necessary to source and invest in early stage startups thanks to years in the trenches as an operator and angel investor. If you’d like to invest with me I am objectively very good.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 670 and Vinegar

One of the nastiest tricks we play on women is teaching them to be nice. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar turns out to not even be true literally let alone as a metaphor. That explains why my fruit fly traps all contain apple cider vinegar. Attracting others is just as much about being firm, and even unkind, as it is about nice.

I got the “nice” beaten into me in the workforce in my twenties. I got lots of advice about being more nurturing. I was told you will only succeed if you are well liked. And I tried adapting myself to be more accommodating. I suppressed a lot of my natural personality, and not terribly well, in an attempt to conform to the strictures of being perceived as nice. Nobody bought it and it made me miserable.

I’ve spent the back half of my thirties learning to get it back. As it turns out being nice is mostly in the eye of the beholder and has little to do with if you are actually an asshole. I learned slowly that having firm boundaries is important in both life and business and if someone reads that as you being mean or unkind well that says more about them than you.

I’m doing more to take care of myself so that I can approach every situations with as much empathy as possible. That way if I have to tell a hard truth and be “mean” at least I can do it with as much emotional presence as possible. I don’t have to be liked or even cater to someone’s emotions. That was always a lie. Being too nice might just end up babying someone.

Now I take care of myself so that others can take care of themselves. There is no attracting with honey or vinegar. There is just taking care to be truthful about who you are and what you offer.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 648 and Open

I share a lot of myself online. For an introvert with more than a hint of Autism you’d think I’d find it mortifying to be as open as I am online. My therapist would probably say it’s because I like the distance provided by sharing online and it’s hard to disagree. But I like being open to the world. I want to be a little beacon in the storm so that you might find me if you are looking.

But while I am so open to the public online, I am protective of my personal space for a number of reasons. I guard my health and my body as I manage a chronic disease. I prefer to operate from a place of non-reactivity as I like my central nervous system to maintain eustress. And I am not generally energized by spending time with others. I am energized by alone time.

But like any other human I do want to be seen. And I want others to feel like I am seeing them. I prize empathy and openness. Showing my vulnerability and weaknesses with the world is part of how I try to be seen and also let others know I see them.

My efforts to be healthy and my struggles with pain and fat are human problems. Maybe other aspects of my life are less relatable, but being worried about my weight and struggling with physical discomfort is the stuff of being an average woman.

I am perhaps overly sensitive to what I perceive as failures and short comings. I project confidence but it isn’t always natural. But I also recognize that, even if flaws terrify the part of me that is still emotionally a child, these supposed failings are the human condition. Everyone has elements of their bodies, their emotions and their intellect that they occasionally feel shame about. We are all working to let go of that shame.

I want the people I work with, especially the founders who are pouring their lives into their companies, to know that they are psychologically safe with me. Doing new things is hard. Creation is hard. Building is hard. Startups are hard. Shouldn’t your investors and advisors be a safe harbor to share those challenges with?

If you are feeling scared or ashamed or angry about yourself, I want you to know you are not alone. It’s ok to be open about your power and your accomplishments and your unique genius. And it’s also ok to be open about all the things you struggle with as well. You contain multitudes.

So if you see me putting out huge asks online or sharing incredibly embarrassing details, I want you to know it is because I see you and I trust you to see me too.

And if we are meant to be in each others lives then it will because we are capable of seeing the multitudes in each other. And if that is not for you that’s ok too. We all deserve to be loved as we are. I trust you. And I hope you might trust me too.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 635 and Wide Horizons

I am absolutely wiped at the moment as I rode a wave of enthusiasm all day. I felt focused, energetic and free of self doubt. I felt like my life was open to possibility.

Perhaps it’s the regular reminders of personal responsibility I get in therapy. Perhaps it’s it’s the sense of accomplishment I got from completing my wilderness medical incident certification last week. The case of the Yips that I felt a few days ago is swiftly resolving.

The strength in my marriage with Alex has always been our commitment to working through our emotional journeys together. He was able to be reassuring my through slow climb back from the depths of my health challenges. He helped me turn it into a source of strength. Next year will be ten years together and Alex really got the “in sickness” portion of the vows a little earlier than anticipated.

This is the first time in both of our lives we’ve ever truly been stable. And that’s a strange thought. That our lives have been so chaotic for so long. We finally have money and a home we own and good health and it’s all at the same time. All of the instability of startups and limited resources and bad health are over. And only really in the last six or seven weeks has that been true. As we just finally bought our first home. We moved to Montana in August.

We climbed through the aftermath of the Great Recession together, made our first angel investments together, raised venture capital together, and now finally thanks to the pandemic we’ve been able to secure a place to live and a wide horizon to plan how to use our resources and time. I am responsible for talking this blessing and letting it provide the foundation for our long term goals. Millennials might just accelerate in middle age just yet! I know it feels like I am.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 614 and Cuckservative

At the risk of scandalizing any of my relatives, I learned about a sexual kink today called cuckholding. I was not, sadly, enjoying kink SubReddits. I learned about this term from a bunch of Trump acolytes. Apparently cuckholding means watching another man have sex with your partner (usually wife). So now you know.

For those that are not terminally online, the context is that in a lot of right coded spaces terms like cucking, beta cucking, and cuckservative get used to describe humiliation but also insufficient purity to the cause. The cause usually being some Platonic ideal of conservatism right up until it becomes indistinguishable from authoritarianism.

Now I’d not given a lot of thought to the term and it’s apparent intense fascination to conservatism men. But it keeps showing up in even ancillary spaces like gun culture and even Wall Street Bets. Every humiliation is cucking. Every instance of not holding perfectly pure in-group signifiers and adherence is cucking. The beta cuck is in a an internal battle with the alpha Chad. And frankly it got so prevalent I finally had a “lady doth protest too much” moment and asked wtf is the obsession with cucking.

Can anyone explain to me why the right is so obsessed with cucking?

I honestly didn’t expect to learn as much as I did about the anxieties of our age, the particular traumas of living with ego preservation needs from our childhood, and the sheer raging reaction formation that is American masculinity. Honestly I’m starting to spend a little more time there than feel safe.

I quite feel don’t feel up for analyzing the whole mess of reactions but it largely seems to boil down to a Slate or Salon article said this was the hot liberal fetish. This got percolated through forums culture and whipped into a frenzy by Trump meme magic. But because the internet gives you brain worms this turned into an actual thing people got sexually turned onto and now it’s maybe impossible to untangle what is fetish and what is meme. But there is definitely some wild sexual politics around power and property in America and who counts as a full person with agency. I’m including some screen shots for posterity as it might be helpful for later research as I fear this will end up being useful as some internet ethnography.

Categories
Startups

Day 484 and Steadfast

Someone who I have come to rely on had a set back this week that briefly threw me for a loop. I initially felt a bit upset, selfishly I felt angry about what the setback might mean for me. That feeling passed quickly. I wanted to jump in and help them overcome the issue. I felt an upwelling of loyalty and emotional empathy that I hadn’t completely anticipated.

In truth, I was honored they shared where they were at with me. Their transparency meant a lot to me. If anything it cemented my feelings for how much I wanted to continue working with them.

Loyalty and steadfastness are qualities that are crucial in startups. Feeling like you are safe enough to bring both the good and the bad to your team makes all of the difference. If you do not trust that your people will remain loyal to you even in times of turmoil you don’t have a team. It’s fine to hire mercenaries at established companies. But when something is new and nascent you are better served being surrounded by those that believe in you.

I emphasize psychological safety in my writing and on chaotic.capital’s website because I think it matters more than almost anything else. All things being equal, psychological safety is the differentiator in who survives in a startup. Having the confidence you can share your creative process matters a lot.