Meta-Journal :: On Journaling

[Image] A fountain pen resting on a old, written in journal

Hello everyone~

A couple of weeks ago now, I started work on the practicum that I need to do to complete my Master’s degree. For this practicum, I decided to work with University’s Special Collection and Archives. My goals here are to understand how and why people engage with the archival materials, to explore the effect this engagement has on the local community, and to figure our tactics the University can use to increase the number of people who engage with the archival materials.

When I started this project, I knew that part of my job would involve learning about the archives, the materials contained within, and the people who make it all possible. What I didn’t know when I started was that this would inspire me to archive parts of my own life.

You see, I always figured that the reason that archives existed was to hold the materials of important people. You know the people that I mean: kings and presidents, revolutionaries and visionaries, geniuses and inventors. I figured that archives existed to make sure that the documents and materials from these fascinating people didn’t simply get discarded.

Well, I was right, but I was wrong. Much like the field of History both supports and challenges the idea that History is created solely by a small number of Great Men, so too do archives. This means that the archives do have some amazing artifacts from famous, recognizable people in history, but at the same time the archive also has a lot of materials from and about just regular people doing regular things (because sometimes regular things lead to regular things that lead to HUGE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS).

So, while I was looking through these files from and about old dead people who I didn’t know and had never heard of, I came to the understanding that, just like their lives and their materials have meaning, so too might mine. And with that, I understood: I needed to make an effort to collect and document my life, the things that I do, and people that I inspire, because even if I am never the person that leads a huge social movement, maybe one of the people that I inspire will be, and that is important too.

And that is what I have decided to try to do here. I have decided that I should, once again, have a journal to document my travels and adventures. So, welcome back, and I hope that the ride is long and meaningful.

I get it, I talk alot…

[Image] A drawn character with a  speech bubble reading bla, bla, bla, bla...

Strangely, most of the images for “talk too much” seem to feature women……

Since the end of September, I have been participating in something of an activist training camp here in Flyover Country, Canada. Over this time, we have been meeting every week to talk (and learn) about activism, advocacy work, and fostering progressiveness locally and beyond. Early into this program, I was super excited about the opportunity and about being in a room with a bunch of other amazing local progressive youth. However, not more than a month in, I found this excitement cut down when the coordinator of the program phoned me to talk about the amount of space that I take up in discussions and activities; That is, she wanted to tell me that I talk too much.

Realistically, this may well have been the case. After all, I do have a habit of chattering. And in academic and learning situations, I have made it a habit to ask at least one question or make at least one comment about the material that I have just learned. However, this all gets amped up when I am feeling nervous or excited about something. In these situations, my brain starts running a million miles an hour, and I sometimes end up with three or four really important (i.e. really important to me) questions that I have to get answered RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE. even if these questions are poorly thought out, poorly worded, or overly confrontational.

At the same time, a lot of other people around me were likely also feeling nervous, excited, or somewhat scared in this room filled with a bunch of new progressive people. Some of these people may have shut down to deal with their emotions, as I know many are wont to do. In this situation, I end up talking more than I typically do and those around me may end up talking less, and suddenly something that isn’t usually a problem is, well, a problem.

So, when the coordinator phoned me up to tell me that I have been talking too much, I took it well. However, as time went on and my nervousness and excitement started to fade, I started to see this conversation with the coordinator more as an act of silencing than anything more productive. Tonight, this came to a head somewhat as discussion in the group turned to this very topic.

Separated into those who feel they talk a lot and those who feel they don’t talk a lot, I sat, as I feel I should, in the group that talks a lot. Then the coordinator sat and asked us (as a group) a bunch of questions about what talking brings to the group, what listening brings to the group, and how we can talk less. I just about lost it.

I wanted to point out how judgemental this whole conversation was. Being separated from the rest of the group and asked how we can talk less, while the other group was asked how they could talk more, sent the message that being verbose (or quiet, for that matter) is somehow problematic within this program.* And to me, this is a problem.

This is because this assumes that there is this magical, mythical, middle ground where everyone gets to talk the same amount as everyone else. And it also assumes that once we find this magical land of compromise everyone will just be comfortable or, at least, everyone will be equally uncomfortable.

But, this completely neglects people’s emotions on the topic. After all, not everyone actually wants to talk as much as everyone else. Some people in the group actually like remaining quiet as they sort out their thoughts and absorb what they are learning. Others, however, need to speak about the topic so that they can internalize the material or figure out a part that just isn’t making sense to them.

Both of these types of people are doing exactly what they need to do to learn, and neither should have to feel bad about doing so. However, from the conversation that took place tonight, neither should feel good about what they are doing either. In fact, the only people that should feel good at the end of this exercise seem to be those who want to change the amount they talk, likely the smallest contingent amongst the participants of the program. *sighs and silently head desks*


* Not to mention how this conversation assumes that listening and talking are somehow antithetical

[Poly Adventures] And the teacher becomes the student

I realized something today: I am afraid of my own shadow. No, not literally; figuratively. At least when it comes to relationships and interacting with people that I care a lot about, I am afraid of my own shadow.

You see, last night I was laying in bed cuddling with Kaywinnet, my girlfriend/partner of about three weeks now. We were just laying there talking about the people in our lives and their relationships and we ended up on the topic of ours. After a little discussion, she asked what would have happened if she hadn’t asked me out. Would anything have happened between the two of us? My answer was an unequivocal ‘No.’ Nothing would have happened if she hadn’t have asked me out.

Don’t get me wrong here, I had strong feelings about Kaywinnet for weeks before we started this adventure. I found her cute, funny, extremely sharp, and refreshingly authentic. I loved spending time with her, and when I would get home, I would gush to Patience about how amazing she was and all the things we did together. I had a crush. I knew it, Patience knew it, my friends knew it. But yet, I know nothing would have happened if she didn’t make the first move, and there is no way around that.

But why not? If I had such strong feelings about Kay, why would I not act on them? Why would I just accept the status quo when I wanted more?

Well, obviously, part of the answer to this question is fear. I was afraid that, by acting, I would ruin a good thing. I was enjoying the time that Kay and I were spending together, and if that just continued as friends (and survivors of graduate school), that would be great. I didn’t feel like I needed things to go any further.

But, I don’t think this simple and rational sounding solution is really the entire truth. Rather, I think my fear runs a lot deeper than that, and I think this because I worry, a lot.

I have worried that something that I would do would drive her away (as anyone worries when they are first developing feelings for another person)

. I have also worried that my confessions of romantic feelings would go unreciprocated (bad) or that it would spoil the friendship I have developed (atomic fall-out levels of bad). I have worried that my asexuality would become a burden or that my relationship with Patience would be seen unfavorably. I have worried about compatibilities and about running out of ideas, time, or money. I worried about appearances and Patience’s feelings. I worried about.. well, everything really.

Basically, I found excuses to avoid the issue, and stopped an interaction that would highlight my vulnerability; thus, keeping yet another friend I care about at arms’ length in some foolish attempt to evade the pain of getting closer only to be pulled away again. This is what I think would have happened with Kaywinnet, and for once, this concerns me.

How many other people in my life want to be closer to me (whether romantically or platonically), but haven’t said anything? How many people have given up on their feelings or penchant for closeness because I’ve kept them at arms’ length? What other adventures have I missed out on because of my intense desire to avoid vulnerability and the possibility of future pain?

The answer to these questions is that I just don’t know, and I never will. However, in this case, I am lucky enough to be able to experience just what I would be missing out on if Kay had left this first move to me. And this makes our relationship the perfect opportunity for me to learn just how messy, complicated, and potentially rewarding vulnerability can be.

This opportunity to learn is meaningful in its own right, but given the context of my romantic relationships, it seems particularly meaningful to me. You see, historically I have been something of a protector and a teacher with Patience. That is, I have focused a lot of my energy on making sure that Patience is safe and that she is constantly moving towards her goals of self-improvement. For Patience, this is extremely important because as much as I am her Dominant, I am also her caregiver (especially when her mental health issues start to flare up). It is my job to push her to improve, even when those improvements aren’t kinky in the slightest.

And after last night, I am realizing that with Kaywinnet I am clearly a student, at least in this respect, rather than being the teacher I have always been with Patience. This marks a significant role reversal for me, and one which is as frightening as it is filled with possibility.

[Journal] Working through self-destructive perfectionism

[Image] A coffee stain on a white peice of paper with the word Perfectionist typed across it

Image by LordEfan

Here is something that you should know about me: I’m a perfectionist.

I mean, like, really, really a perfectionist. I am not one of those

Interviewer: “What is your biggest weakness?”

Interviewee: “I’m a perfectionist”

people. I am one of those perfectionists that their perfectionism actually cripples their productivity. I have gotten to the point where I can’t start on projects (including projects I am super passionate about) until I think about everything that can go wrong (or right) in the process of doing them. I attempt to write, or produce, something of substance only to stop a few words in worried about what my word choice could mean to the reader or if that word is secretly offensive. I waste hours researching things that are only tangentially involved in projects, just so that I better know how people will respond and react to my work. Then, I get tired (or stressed) and I can’t avoid taking a break. I distract, lose my train of thought, and start back at square one again, worrying my way back into a circle.

Of course, this method of dealing with projects is not something that I have developed overnight, so why am I bringing it up now?

Well, it is mostly because of my thesis. As you may or may not know, I am currently working my way through a graduate school program. I am about a year away from having a Master’s Degree, and so far it has been one of the worst experiences of my life (that is a story for another time). As part of my program, I must complete a Master’s thesis on a program of unique research. Because of my academic masochism, with one year left, I have only my thesis remaining. My coursework is finished and behind me, all I need to do is write, analyze, and write more.

This has been the case throughout the summer. This summer, I had no other academic task to perform, I just needed to write. Want to take a guess on what I didn’t do this summer? Yep, I didn’t write. Or, in my mind, I couldn’t write.

I kept trying to, but I kept coming up short. When I did get words onto the page, I would stop almost instantly worrying about what my supervisor would think of my writing or if my word choice was unintentionally offensive. I would have battles with myself over how strong my wording was or my use of cliched forms of writing. Then the really bad thoughts would come. I would tell myself that I should just be writing, I shouldn’t worry about anything like that yet. I should just being producing something!

Rather than taking this as the kick in the pants that I required to get out of this funk, it would just dig me deeper. I would yell at myself for not getting things done, and stress myself out to the point that I couldn’t avoid taking a break. During the break, the thoughts would continue though. I would think:

You’re playing a game!? Really!? You could be writing! WRRIITTINGG!!

or:

You just wasted two hours. You know how much you could have written in two hours? Like 1000-2000 words. That’s 4-8 pages! That’s 1/4 of your introduction!

And, of course, because I was distracting myself from the task at hand, when I would eventually come back to it. (The scribbles and the blank pages) I would feel as though I was just starting again, from nothing. Lately this has been getting so bad that I have been avoiding other tasks solely because I know that I would yell at myself for not using the time more wisely. Worse still, these tasks aren’t even the going to the bar with friends tasks. No. The tasks that I have been avoiding have been the self-care tasks such as showering, taking out the garbage, or doing my dishes.

That’s right, I was basically sabotaging my own physical and emotional health because I felt that I could better use that time. Then, when I didn’t use that time for “better” things, I yelled at myself till I was depressed and unwilling to do self-care (or anything else, really). ( >_< ) It became a cycle.

To be clear, I am not just coming to the recognition that this was a cycle. I knew that I was in a cycle and that the cycle was definitely a bad cycle to be in. I was just somewhat unaware as to how far into the cycle I was. That didn’t hit me until I went out for dinner with a friend. I was treating her to sushi because she had recently left a truly toxic job (I knew, because I worked there too. Again, a story for another time), and during our dinner, I told my friend:

“I am to the point that even sitting down thinking about my thesis makes me feel like I should be doing better, I should be actually writing it.”

It was that moment that I realized how deep I was. This was no longer a small problem, it was a serious, serious issue. My standard course-corrections weren’t working; In fact, they were part of the chorus of thoughts continuing the cycle. Something needed to change.

So today I tasked myself with catching up on the chores that I have been neglecting: showering, sorting out the recycling, doing the laundry. I focused on the tasks in front of me and invasive thoughts about how I could be doing more or doing better were allowed in, but ignored. As I finished task after task, I started to feel better (after all, my environment and hygiene were getting better), and I started to feel more like writing. However, instead of forcing myself to sit down and write the perfect words of my thesis, I figured that I should write here first. Here words matter less. They aren’t a treatise of my education, research, or developed skills; they are my thoughts, my feelings, my experiences.

Here there are poorly phrased sentences and poorly worded paragraphs, but the words (and the meaning behind them can’t be invalidated). And while writing these words, I have been reminding myself what it is like to write, why I enjoy it so, and what can happen if I just let myself go. Maybe my thesis isn’t going to be this perfect piece of academic literature, but why should I care? I am not wanting to be an academic anyway.

So, maybe with these thoughts in mind, I can just sit down and let myself write. Allow my thoughts, experiences, and knowledge flow onto the page.

Or not, that’s okay too.

Apology

Dear sweetie,

I want to apologize for everything that happened today. While everything seemed to make sense (for the most part) while it was going on, looking back, I am realizing that I was quite bitch. I want to apologize for that, but I would like to also talk briefly about just where my feelings are coming from and how I am addressing it so that we don’t have many more shitty days like this.

Hunting

  • I really should have known that talking about hunting would upset you. I understand that hunting is completely against your moral principles. I would never want you to change that just for the sake of dealing with me.

  • I wasn’t aware, however, that your aversion to hunting included animals which could be damage to our crops, our livestock, or our property. I really, honestly thought that this would be an understandable exception without your moral framework.

  • So, when I found myself stumbling in the minefield that is this topic, I decided to put my head down and make a run for it. That was stupid of me, and I apologize.

  • I shouldn’t have implied that our plans would have to change because of this discussion, and I shouldn’t have just bulled through your objections like I did. What I should have done, and what I will try to do in future, is stop and slowly have a deep conversation with you about all of this.

    Thesis

  • For the last little while, I have been realizing that the main thing holding me in Saskatoon (and in Canada more generally) is the degree that I am working on at the moment. There is some serious stress there (thinking about Todd, and writing, and classes, and internships and things), but the biggest amongst them at the moment is my thesis.

  • I have been trying really hard to work on my thesis that it can slowly move towards being completed. However (and as I have said in the past) there isn’t really any short term goals that I can associate with this. To be metaphorical about it, it is like standing at the end of the Canadian shield and looking West across the Prairies. I know that I have to get to the Mountains, but without any landmarks to show that I am heading the right direction, I am terrified to even move.

  • That fear, whether I like it or not, takes a lot of time and energy to deal with. To strains my emotions and leaves me feeling depressed and inadequate.

  • Of course, my feelings of inadequacy shouldn’t be of your concern, but it is hard not to act out after my willpower has been stripped by this.

  • So, I don’t think there is a way for me to avoid the negative emotions tied to this point. However, there are things that I can do to move these negative emotions away from you. For example, I am going to try having my focused thesis time after you go to bed. Since I am a night owl anyway, this might offer me the motivation that I need to get things underway. Also, it might mean that a frustrating night of working on the thesis results in a little emotional fall-out by the time I get up in the morning.

  • I can’t make any promises with this, but I will do my best to limit your exposure.

    Submission

  • While I think that I have been largely honest with you about my feelings around submission, I do feel like I owe you an apology for my confusion over the matter. I have been giving mixed signals and I can understand why you would be confused about what is happening with that.

  • In all honestly, I am fighting an internal war over whether I would like to be submissive or dominant. Since the fantasy, I have been craving (as I mentioned) some really intense submission. I have been feeling as though it would be nice to approach that fantasy (even if realizing it would utterly stupid).

  • But at the same time, I feel as though you wouldn’t be capable of giving me that. So, there is a feeling of loss there, as though I can’t get one of my needs met by you. That hurts.

  • Then again, I have a part of me that wants to use that energy in a dominant way with you. This part of me wants to be merciless with you, pushing you to do better than you think you can and being completely uncompromising when it comes to my goals for you.

  • But… I am not sure that you are able to do that either. So, I feel as though I am stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one. I feel that no matter which side I choose to go with, I will be risking breaking you or causing more stress for you. So, I end up just flip-flopping with no end in sight.

  • I can’t say that I have an easy solution for this one, unfortunately. While I would like to be able to turn one, or both, of these emotions off, we both know that isn’t likely to happen. Instead, I think that I may have to just tough this one out until the intensity of my feelings dissipates or some miracle happens. :(

    Fantasy

  • While on the topic of the fantasy… I think that some of my emotions are coming from my inability to discuss the fantasy with anyone. While I would love to talk to you about it, I feel that it is completely unsafe to.

  • For one thing, I know that you the extremity of my fantasies would put you off or scare you. I know that other fantasies have done in the past, and I can’t see how this one would be any different.

  • For a second thing, though, I also feel as though you would judge me for the extremity of the fantasies. Which may or may not actually be the case.

  • Moving forward, I will attempt to let go of this fantasy in favour of a more reasonable one (i.e. socially acceptable one), and I will try not to hold your fear of my dark side against you. I know that your fear comes out of a place of concern for my well-being.

    Solitude

  • And that brings me to another issue that I have been having: solitude. Since leaving my job, I feel as though the only person I have to turn to is you. But, I know that you aren’t always in the emotional place to deal with my whining. So, instead of talking about any of the issues that I have been having (including the ones listed here), I simply shut down… which then heightens my sense of being completely alone.

  • I realize that shutting down and assuming that you aren’t able to handle things isn’t fair to either of us. Moving forward, I will try to talk to you about what is going on with me and trust that, if it starts to overwhelm with you, you will talk me to stop.

    Work

  • Lately, this one has been grating on my nerves… a lot. Ever since you decided that you wouldn’t be coming over here for the summer, I have been feeling as though I am doing the very majority of the work in our relationship.

  • This isn’t a new feeling of mine. Rather, this is something that I have been thinking about for years. It is has just flared up again recently as a result of our long time apart.

  • First, I know that you are trying. I know that you aren’t lazy. Neither of those are what I am saying here.

  • What I am saying is that I am working really, really hard to give us what we want to get out of our life, but lately I haven’t been seeing the results. Everything has seemed to get farther away rather than closer. I see myself breaking down from the stress that I am subjecting myself to, and I don’t have anything to show for it. Meanwhile, you seem to be standing still, on as shaky ground as ever.

  • I honestly don’t know how to address this one. I can never feel or understand what if feels like for you to do what you are doing. I can never understand how hard or easy things are for you. Without that information, I feel as though I am destined to feel like I do at the moment about this point, as though I am doing tons of work and getting nowhere, as you cheer from the sidelines.

    Envy

  • Lastly, and similar to the solitude and work points, I am feeling a bit envious of your position at the moment. Specifically, the fact that you have Andra and myself (as well as family and others around you).

  • I want to be clear, this isn’t a feeling of jealousy. I am not feeling bad about you being with Andra or you spending time with Andra or anything like that. I am happy and glad that you have Andra to turn to. It is nice to see you have someone to spend some time with when you aren’t dealing with for previous 6 points of my bullshit.

  • That said, I do wish that I had someone else to turn to as well. I wish that I could have someone near enough to snuggle them on occasion or spend time with them doing things that we enjoy. That shouldn’t (and doesn’t) distract from the happiness I feel for you as you obtain some of those things, but it also makes me feel sad that I can’t.

  • To address this, I really think that we should talk about some of the things that I feel like I am missing out on and how I can manage to make some (if not all) of them happen without causing undue stress on our relationships. This conversation should probably include how I feel bounded by point 6 and point 2.

In sum, there is a lot on my plate at the moment. Perhaps there are things that you can do to help me while I deal with everything (and more) that I have listed above, but perhaps there isn’t. Either way, I will try not to let this explode on us again, and I am sorry that it did in the first place.

I hope you forgive me,

Leaps of Faith

[Image] A scared turtle, shaking in their shell.So, um.. Hello there.

Did I forget about you? Not really. There has been this recognition in the back of my mind for a long time now that I haven’t been writing as much as I would like to. So.. I decided to try again.

Feel free to count down the days till I disappear again, if you wish.

[Gif] Countdown timer, 4 ... 3 ... timer dies.

About this time last year, I went out and got myself a job. At the time, I was proud of myself, and happy that I even managed. At the time, I hadn’t had an actual job yet. Rather, I was getting by financially through a combination of student loans, scholarships, and being a mooch on my parents.

A year on, everything has changed. You see, I am growing to hate my job. There isn’t a day of work that passes that doesn’t fill me with dread, anxiety, and depression. The store in which I work is starting to collapse around me. The emptiness of the shelves is apparent to all who have been through more than once over the years. My boss fails to respect the hard work of her employees and takes their skills completely for granted.

At the moment, I hate it there. … … … But, I am also completely terrified to leave.

You see, not only has this retail job been the first one that I have ever had, but it also happens to be a job in a field that I love. I work in a sex shop and, as my blogs should tell you, sexuality is kinda my thing. In this job, I have gotten the chance to run anal sex workshops with more than 100 people in attendance, I got paid (at times) to read sexual health information that I would do for fun, and I have gotten paid to learn new bondage ties and use them on complete strangers.

Those aspects of the job are super fun, exciting, and make me want to take on more. But, the time in between just drags on forever. Between these euphoric highs that I experience teaching and learning about sexuality, there is the doldrum of real life. There is stocking shelves, selling products, and dealing with the work environment. And, to be perfectly honest, the first two of those don’t bother me at all. It is the dealing with the work environment that really gets to me.

It has become a daily occurrence lately that my boss would make a completely unreasonable request of her staff. Whether it is doing drywall complete with sanding and painting, or intense computer configuration and IT, she so expects that her employees will bend over backwards for her that she doesn’t even say thank you when the task is completed.

And for all of this (plus some personality quirks that I just can’t stand), my colleagues and I make a poverty wage. Even if I worked full-time for every week of the year, I would not make it above the poverty without the help of a second job. That isn’t right. That isn’t fair to myself or my coworkers.

I just can’t stand it anymore. … … … But my fear paralyzes me.

What if I can’t find something in this field again? Worse, what if I can’t get a job that pays any better or if I can’t get a job that I can actually feel good doing?

And then I swing back to “Oh, maybe it isn’t so bad after all.” But, really, I know that it is. I know that I am more emotional, more depressed, more anxious than I have ever been. And, I know that the job is the reason why … …  but yet, that leap is so terrifying.

This fear makes me hate myself.

*sighs* So, that’s where I am. I am at the edge of a precipice, looking at the leap that I know I need to take. I am looking at how far there is to fall and visualizing the terrible result of doing just that. If only I hadn’t looked down. If only…

Update: Triggers and Aftermath.

Since my last post over on my more academic/serious type blog. I have been through a lot.

The first thing that really happened was that my paper (the one on The Killing of Sister George) did not go over well. I was told that I wasn’t give good mark on the paper because I didn’t examine Alice as anything more than a victim. The prof (my supervisor) then went on to say that there are some out there that would contend that Alice wasn’t a victim at all, but rather the true villain of the film.

At that point, something just exploded in my head. The movie was triggering enough to me (as a survivor of abuse that closely mirrored that Alice was subjected to), but for my supervisor to argue that she wasn’t a survivor at all. I just couldn’t take it. It felt like he was telling me that I wasn’t a survivor, or that what had happened to me had all been my fault. Considering that this is the same bullshit that everyone around me was trying to pull for years (“You should know better than to make him angry”), I just broke. I ran out of the classroom, across campus, collapsed in some high grass and cried. Sobbed uncontrollably. 

If you know me at all, you will know that this isn’t something that I do normally. In fact, I am pretty sure that I have mentioned it on this blog at least once that I don’t cry, even in situations that make most cry. So, you can tell that this really affected me.

After a few more rounds of crying, a long distance phone call to my partner in the UK, and some help from the Women’s Centre on campus, I managed to pick myself up again… or so I thought. However, the severity to which I was triggered through me into the deep-end of the depression pool. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t convince myself to do my teeth or comb my hair, I couldn’t get any work done… Everything just felt completely pointless.

As time went on though, I slowly recovered. It took my almost two weeks to make it back up to doing my entire routine or caring about school at all. Now, I seem to be mostly recovered from that; However, I have noticed that there is a lingering doubt about my writing (both in general and for this specific class).

I mean, I know that I am a decent writer. I know that I have thoughts and words that are worthy of being placed on paper, but, no matter what I do, I can’t seem to shake this feeling that they aren’t good enough or that they aren’t right enough. I just feel as though I want to not write, like ever. I know that isn’t realistic. I know that it isn’t even the truth. (I have liked writing in the past, and I am sure that I will again.) But, right now, it just feels like a chore.