Although I thought it would be easier post-pandemic, I still find guilt and difficulty in resting, in taking time to do nothing, unless I literally cannot do something. I tend to push myself, ever the perfectionist. And I realize that, like OCD, although it can be difficult to get past that tendency it’s something I want to do for myself.
For the past two days I’ve been off sick. I’ve missed 12 hours of work and two music production classes that I was really looking forward to. And it’s been difficult to believe in myself that without going to class, I can still get my song done. That taking time off when I’m not feeling 100% – before I’m at 0% – isn’t going to make my world fall apart. That I have time, that everything doesn’t have to be “perfect” all the time. That I don’t have to be “perfect” all the time.
It started as un-caffeine-atable exhaustion on Monday in the mid-morning, then chills, then a decision to go home that I was able to make without feeling much guilt or worry, to two days of on-and-off guilt about binge-watching Manifest and eating everything in sight instead of working on my fanfic, calling my family, calling the insurance, working on my song, etcetera etcetera etcetera.
I’ve decided to treat my guilt similarly to my compulsions; I will do my best to not give into actions performed to silence my guilt. Of course I wanted to go to class, but I’m not going to let the guilt about the money the course cost or self-doubt that I can’t build a song on my own push me to burnout. I used missing class as an exposure and honestly it took me most of the day to half my anxiety. But I’m doing this for my health and happiness; I’ve had hormonal and physical, emotional, and binge-eating issues lately and I’ve felt like I’m in a bit of a spiral. I want to give myself the rest I need, and the honesty with myself that I need, to be happy as I deserve.
So I did the best I could to responsibly care for myself today. Made a huge pot of healthy chickpea pasta (and ate most of it), made plenty of cups of tea with local lavender honey, drank plenty of water, set up a second humidifier, sat around and watched TV, let myself feel bloated and out-of-it and enjoy a cheesy puzzle TV show for the entire day.
Sometimes, it’s just what you need. And I am working to trust myself to see what I need, and what I want.
It’s never been can or can’t with you, it’s will or won’t.
My dad’s said that to/about me since I was a little girl. I used to take it as an insult, meaning that I was too pigheaded, too stubborn, too lazy. But now I’m looking at it a new way: I set boundaries, I do the things I want to do and not the things I’m told I should do.
It has been very hard to be true to myself lately as it doesn’t feel like my career is going in any clear direction. I’m studying music production, project management, biology and ecology, paleontology, and arbortry on my own time because I enjoy these things, but of course (like my brain) the timing is haphazard and I gravitate by the moods I’m in. And I’m fine with that. It can just be difficult dealing with outside influences telling you there has to be a specific goal, the goal has to be to make money, a job is supposed to be a bad thing. I don’t blame people for having those views or wanting me to have a clear path, for my own “safety,” but I just don’t. This is where I am.
I’ve started back up with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy lately, in addition to my ERP therapy directly for OCD. And it’s made me think about where and how I spend my energy, what feels good to me, and what energizes me. Thinking about how I start my days, I’ve come up with an energy hierarchy for myself:
The idea here is that the bottom tier takes the least energy and is the basis for doing the activities at the upper tiers. So, for example, I won’t have the energy to exercise or relax into cartoon watching if I don’t get out of bed and feed the cats first. (I’d like to mention that depending on the day, coffee fits under basic survival 🤪) Then if I spend a ton of time just sitting around and not exercising, I won’t feel much like working on a painting. And if I don’t spend time doing something creative and spending quality time with myself, I won’t feel like spending time with others.
I imagine everyone’s energetic hierarchies would look different; some people are energized by socializing, for example, whereas I like to socialize but it tires me out.
I’m happy to be able to know my current self in this way. I think it’ll not only help me prioritize my time & energy, but also help me pick myself up when I’m feeling low.
I’m in a transitional phase; a season of pruning. I find myself craving severing poor ties; not craving forced conncetion over joyful solitude any longer. I still want to share of myself with others but I feel much more discerning about whom and how much, in a way I sometimes worry may come off as cruel when my only real goal is to protect my energy.
I was raised a people-pleaser. I grew up doubting my decisions; I was raised taking the “higher road” of self-sacrifice for others, to baby others because I was “smarter,” “more mature,” etcetera. I was raised to bite my tongue when angry and dissect every interaction, every thought before it became spoken word. I was a priveleged kid, I have privelege now, my family is good and kind – but I would not say I’ve ever been fostered for who I am. Supported to a point, but it’s that classic Catholic-school conundrum – if you went to Catholic school most of your life, you probably understand what I’m getting at.
I got in trouble for humming in school. Even though I was the top student, never got in trouble, and that meant I was supposed to get to play Mary in the school pageant in 8th grade, the part was given to one of the worst-behaved students to “help her out” – because her mom yelled the loudest. I wasn’t allowed to play a Who in our Christmas pageant because I wasn’t “small and cute and Who-looking enough.” (This is all just elementary school, mind you.) I was told I couldn’t be an actress because “I’d never look like them.” If I’m being honest – and it’s hard for me to be, because I feel that someone-else-has-it-worse sense of guilt every time – I was bullied quite a few times. And I wasn’t really listened to, either. I feel like I’ve always been fighting something and I didn’t know what; now I’m realizing maybe I’ve been fighting myself I grew up feeling bad about myself.
But enough complaining – that’s not what this post is about. I’m working on transitioning out of that old me, starting a new timeline of wild self-love and enjoyability. I’m “re-parenting” myself. The Artist’s Way taught me to treat my inner child, to love and support it now because now I’m both that inner child and the adult who can give that inner child support!
So I’m doing the things I love to do, even if they seem scary or pointless. For the joy of the day, the moment. This ties into “opposite action,” to be discussed if you read on. I’m
🌿Making art and music
🌿Hanging out with my cats
🌿Spending time outside
🌿Spending time with a few close friends
🌿Cooking tasty, healthy meals
🌿Eating farmer’s market cherry pies
🌿Singing along with Spotify
🌿Hitting the bars
🌿Going thrifting for new clothes
and more. Because these are things I enjoy, and when greater Society feels pointless, these things are there for me.
Like I said, [capitalist] Society feels pointless. A friend once told me he was happier when he was homeless, and I don’t doubt it. I can imagine a feeling of surviving for yourself and for your circle; every complaint now, when I’m above survival threshhold, feels measly. And of course that’s because survival now looks different than it does to my monkey brain. Survival may be different now but we have too much – or at least too much of the wrong things. That’s why landfills are overflowing and I had to drop $15 for the only recycled toilet paper option. That’s near an hur’s pay literally down the toilet.
I’m certainly not advocating that anyone should go without home or comfort, I just hope we as a Society change our values and actions a bit. I’m tired of hearing “sustainability journey” and the other green-team buzzwords. This isn’t a holiday. This isn’t just for fun. This isn’t a round-the-world fun cruise “journey.” We’re literally trying to change the way we function so that we and our children and our children’s children will be able to have home and comfort.
Sometimes, between OCD and depressive symptoms, I struggle with momentum. There are many things I want to do but I sometimes feel like a lead sinker in the middle of the ocean; stuck and heavy.
I recently learned about opposite action and as I understand it, it’s basically pushing through mucky feelings and doing the opposite of what your anxiety/depression is telling you will feel the best. For example:
🧠I’m feeling down on a Sunday afternoon and I want to just sit in front of the TV and binge Supernatural. Instead, with opposite action in mind, I put on something light and happy (like Bob’s Burgers), stand up, and stretch out while I watch.
🧠I don’t feel like going outside. I just want to sit around the apartment. So thinking opposite action, I throw on some headphones and go for a walk around the block.
🧠I don’t want to take a break from staring at my computer screen doing work. So – because opposite action – I get up and wander around for a few minutes just to shift my mindset.
🧠I’m anxious about getting together with anyone, but I also know that sitting alone in my apartment for days won’t feel good – even though it seems easier. So – thinking opposite action – I set up a time to see a close friend for an hour or so.
🧠I worry that my bass-playing won’t be good enough and I’ll get grumpy, which makes me not want to pick up the instrument and play at all. But opposite action: I pick it up and play anyway.
What’s important here, I believe, is to notice the layers of want. Take that last example for instance. I both want to play the bass and want to not be grumpy/feel bad about my bass playing. And this is where my values-driven opposite action comes in. I value creativity, I value the enjoyment of playing music. So I push through the anxiety – I’m nervous that I’m going to feel bad if I don’t play well – and I play anyway.
In fact, a values-driven opposite action practice is going to inform the rest of this post – 🧠I really do not feel like taking care of my plants today because I’m nervous about getting dirt all over the floor or realizing that a plant is dead. But the health of my houseplants matters to me, so I’m going to do it anyway.
Cactus & Succulent Care
It’s the summer now, and warming temperatures mean an updated watering schedule for my cacti and succulents. Of course they still don’t get watered very often; I’m a proponent of rare and heavy watering for these types of plants.
Increased temperature and more intense sunny days also means I can remove my grow light setup for my adult desert plants.
As you can see in the image above at right, the vacuum will need to be broken out after all this.
My echeveria got a coffee treatment today to lower the soil pH. Luckily, I had some leftover bean juice I couldn’t finish and that just got funneled right into the soil. Plus I pruned away the dried-out flower stalks just so my cat wouldn’t chew on them and inadvertantly make a mess.
I’ve also still got my little infant jade plant going. I suspect she may need a larger home to grow into soon, but for now she got some very-diluted fertilizer and water.
Care for all the other plants
First things first, my own care. I stopped to eat a chamomile flower – I love the grassy-yet-sweet taste of these little darlings.
We start with the easy things to do. My kitchen window basils get misted, my recently-pruned celery gets checked on, and my epiphytes go in for their bath. My crispy wave fern goes in for its shower.
While the gorgini sit in their 20-minute warm water bath, I get to the rest of the plant care. The parlor palms also get checked on, and they seem plenty watered and happy. Next the ponytail palm gets checked on – same situation there. Take a look at the closed terrarium – all good, seeing some growth there. White willow sapling gets a good drenching from the watering can. All spider plants get a watering. Peperomia gets a look-see and since the soil’s dry down two inches, a good watering is had.
Gorgons come out of the bath, and look – these two are hugging are they dry!
Next comes two bigger undertakings: (1) Pruning and cleanup, and (2) Re-seeding. These primarily take place for my bedroom and bathroom plants.
Check out the before-and-after of cleanup in my bedroom window:
You might notice that a wheatgrass is missing in both photos. All of my wheatgrasses needed replanted. With grasses, regular pruning/cutting can help keep them healthy and green, but I fell off with my pruning because wheatgrass just grows so fast! So I saved what I could and re-seeded.
Now, one of my bathroom plants died and so I had to prune the rotted-out remnants away. Someday, in my dreams, I’ll have somewhere to compost this type of thing. But otherwise I make sure all the bathroom plants are dust-free, doing well, and watered.
I suppose life is always up in the air; my life feels particularly up in the air right now. That’s not really a complaint, as years of therapy for OCD in particular have taught me to live with the maybe’s. It’s really just an observation, something I’m sitting with. What other choice is there? I find a lot of beauty in uncertainty, as much as it does cause me stress at times – depends on what I’m uncertain of.
There are so many creative endeavors I want to pursue. My wonderful houseplants are, I suppose, an endearing creative outlet for me; I get to care for lovely living things while arranging them to beautify my home, and it brings me much joy and acts as a bolster to my mental health. I gave my plants their first actual shower the other day (yes I literally put them in the tub and turned on the shower) and I like to play music for them and sing to them sometimes. There’s evidence that stuff really helps them. I also saw recently someone dances around the house with their plants to mimic wind, and I’ve started doing that a bit. I love to dance.
I suppose there’s this bit of my creative side that wants to make in order to be known. I want to show myself, be vulnerable; at the same time I have no desire to be vulnerable. I feel like I have a history of being too generous with others and not generous enough with myself. I’ve been the one to do a lot of emotional work.
I’m thinking of myself like a little fruit fly. If I zig-zag to land on every surface, sure I could hit a sweet flower – but I could also hit a sticky trap. I’m trying to not force a landing on “what I should do next” but rather just be okay with the uncertainty.
I’ve been doing the so-called “little things.” Making myself nice dinners; going to the farmers’ market; making art; daydreaming.
It has taken all of my self-control not to buy a 42nd houseplant! I just can’t handle learning the care of a brand new plant baby right now. Especially when I have some work to do:
I need to give my crispy wave fern diluted fertilizer. It’s becoming pale because there’s not enough nutrients in its home.
I’d like to figure out what’s going on with my peacock plant. It’s suddenly gotten really droopy, and it has been watered and the humidifier’s running. It also got coffee yesterday.
I’ll re-seed the wheatgrass and clean up some dead plants/do some pruning.
It looks like my spider plant needs a good watering.
The three air plants need a full soak watering. They got misted a few times over the week since my apartment’s air is dry.
The celery appears to need some sort of treatment, possibly neem oil. Suddenly the leaves don’t look right – little white dots and they’re off color. I’m guessing spider mites but I can’t understand yet how that could’ve happened.
I’d like to consider moving the little baby jade propagate. Now that it’s warm I’ll bet it wants to grow. I have to read up on what it might need at this little baby stage.
I have so many creative ideas bouncing around in my head; I swear, plant care and having plants around helps my brain work.
🌹 I could make lo-fi music. I even have some song titles in my head, and I know how to record and stuff. I could learn to mix; I have the time!
🌹I could sell plant propagates in cute thrifted containers. I saw someone doing this at a craft market recently and I thought it was a lovely idea. They were selling all succulents. I’d probably focus on all varieties of pet-safe plants.
🌹I could somehow share the art I’ve been making.
🌹I could continue work on the children’s book I’m writing with my dad. If only I could convince him to do the illustration…
🌹I could learn how to screen print. I’m pretty sure there are local classes.
🌹I could write a play. I’m not really a big theater fan and yet I always loved Shakespeare. And there are a few choice plays that I adore.
🌹I could do some gardening out on my building’s shared lawn. I wouldn’t plant anything edible because I’m not the one in charge of lawn care and I don’t know what chemicals are used, but some native flowers would be nice. I did seed-bomb it earlier in the spring.
I wonder if part of the loveliness of caring for plants is how easy it is to feel happy for them. It can be hard to be proud of other humans who are thriving, especially when you’re just surviving – it takes practice. But it’s easy, at least for me, to be happy when my celery grows a new shoot, or my parlor palm grows taller, or new spiderettes appear off my spider plant. It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, those things make me happy and proud. I suppose that’s why plant care is such a labor of love; we can give them so much, and although they do it quietly they give us so much in return. They give us fresh air, calming colors, beauty and life all their own. Unlike with people, I don’t feel like my plants take from me. Of course, they literally do – they take my water, the food I give to them, carbon dioxide that I breathe out. But this is symbiosis. I’ve been hard-pressed to find that with people, although I do have it with a select few folks. And so for now I live happily among the houseplants.
You’ll read here: 🌱 Gettin’ thrifty when you’re out of money and have plants that need planting/container planting on a space & money budget 🌱 Chamomile, tulsi, basil, sage 🌱 Slug buddies 🌱 Container planting tips from a friend
Container Planting on a Spacial & Monetary Budget
Well – I helped out with a super fun planting event earlier this week and got to take home a couple of the extra plants that there wasn’t enough space for! I feel very lucky – but I’m out of money, soil, and planters at my place. So I had to get thrifty with rehoming some chamomile, some sage, some holy basil, and some un-holy basil (ha ha).
My friend taught me a useful way of container planting:
DRAINAGE. Make sure your container has drainage holes and space for the water to seep out.
BOTTOM LAYER. At the event we used peat as the bottom layer because it drains easily. At home, because I don’t have the space or money for a big bag of peat, I use rocks. When I’m out of rocks, I get thrifty with what I do have – more on that below.
UPPER LAYER(S). Good quality organic soil. I use potting soil from my favorite local nursery and spice it up with some organic powdered fertilizer. I also have added some perlite to it.
Now, as mentioned, I was out of money, out of new soil, and out of planters with proper drainage. So I opened up my hall closet and took stock of what I had available: and I found a forgotton stack of mini seedling ‘greenhouses’ that I was able to repurpose into a mini window garden container with drainage!
I took what would be the bottom of the seedling ‘greenhouse’ and filled it with perlite. This was to mimic where I would use rocks if I had any left or space between the bottom of a pot and the ground if outside, for drainage.
I inverted what would have been the top of the ‘greenhouse,’ the part that has holes for humidity control. This was to become the pot itself, where the soil and plants go.
Luckily the plants I have are pretty small, so I didn’t need a super deep container for them to live in.
Soil time. I had some old soil stuck in a jar, which I fished out, loosened, and gave a little buck-up with my organic pet-safe fertilizer.
When that wasn’t enough soil, I went and used some of those packed-peat pellets you get with cute mini grow kits, like these Save the Bees kits I have yet to plant.
Planting time! In this container went the sage and the two types of basil; the chamomile had already been planted separately.
While planting the regular basil, I found a little friendly slug! Their little antennae just get me every time. It wasn’t easy to photograph, though, as it was on the move.
But you can just see it on the very-root-bound roots of the newly freed basil plant there.
Now – we shall see if this DIY planter situation works, if these plants need more light, different soil, or whatnot. I’m historically not great with herbs, but I’m excited to try this out. Especially with the loneliness I’m feeling in my life currently – friends who I love are moving, getting married, making changes, and I’m changing too – a new challenge is a blessing.
I hope any challenges in your lives, readers, are blessings to you.
Two things I struggle with: 1. Fearing – and thus feeling – my emotions 2. Assigning an absurd amount of meaning to my emotions.
Fearing my emotions: in some ways, I’ve felt this was justified. I was an angry kid and sometimes I acted out because of overwhelming anger. But what I realize now that I’m older is that it wasn’t my anger itself that made me act out – it was that I didn’t know any healthy ways to address my anger. And, though many of my reasons to be mad were justified, adults in my life would try to explain away my anger. Trying to explain away an emotion does nothing but make it come back stronger an hour later. Because I didn’t let myself feel or felt guilty about the feelings, I started throwing things instead of throwing tantrums.
In a society that tells you “You’ll know when he’s the one,” how can we not over-assign meaning to what we feel? I never understood that assertion because time and time again I’ve “known” things that turned out not to be the case – thanks, OCD brain. Also, divorce rates are high, so that’s bullshit. There are all sorts of reasons why that’s bullshit; don’t get me started.
But anyway, how do I deal now? I share this because a few folks I was talking with earlier found this coping mechanism I use really helpful. When an emotion comes up – be it anger, sadness, joy, loneliness, whatever – I don’t sit there trying to figure out why I feel the way I do or what it could mean. I just feel the feeling.
What’s that look like?
I want to address, of course – this doesn’t apply if someone’s approaching you on a dark street corner and you feel afraid! But in a way I guess it does – you don’t need to rationalize that fear, right?
I do not always need to rationalize my feelings. I can feel them and if there’s a non-urgent, compassionate (and self-compassionate), useful way and reason to address them outside of myself, I can do that too.
I’m realizing that I am, and usually have, refused to take anything but the best for myself in my life. And that’s beautiful. And I hope I can expand that mindset while holding on to my compassion and gratitude.
I went on yet another woodland excursion the other day, and what a time I had. I’ve not once regretted heading out to the woods. Or to the ocean. Or playing music. Or singing along. Even when I’ve thought I didn’t have the energy. I hope for you, reader, that you have or find something in your life that brings you that kind of joy.
So while out in the woods, I followed a small relatively quiet trail farther than I’ve ever taken it. I got to revel in the gurgling sounds of a little creek with little waterfalls, and I saw a rogue windchime out there! Normally I’m not into adding unneeded extravagance to natural landscapes, but something about this windchime, out there on a quiet still day, painstakingly hung there and hurting no one, was… beautiful.
The whole scene was the stuff of my dreams, down to the old cobblestone bridge and the clay cliffs. In fact I’m working on painting it.
On my return from a sunny afternoon in the woods I drank the stinging nettle tea I’d started steeping that morning, and look at this mountain-dew-esque color! Exquisite (although Mountain Dew is not exquisite).
My woodland walks are my wonderful time for myself. I’ve noticed that I’m much grumpier when other do their own thing when I haven’t given myself space to do my own thing. And I’ve also noticed that when I am taking time and energy for my own creative and comforting efforts, I get very annoyed when people take out their own lack-of-making-time-for-themselves on me! It’s all about taking & making space for yourself.
For me tonight, that looks like [quietly] blasting Lady Gaga and Flock of Seagulls and prancing around with my bass guitar, playing it badly and singing. And writing this post. May you have as blessed an evening.
This is a brain dump inspired by the fact that I got to fingerpaint a few days ago.
Here’s the first thing I fingerpainted!
I don’t know why logically but that first image, where there’s still a big white unpainted splotch, just catches my eye every time. And after this I went down to the art store and bought 4 more canvases to finger paint because gosh is it relaxing on my OCD. It’s like a salve on sore skin.
I also painted eggs with my family for Easter, and that was another super-relaxing very-fun time. I made the tie dye ones and a hot pink splotched one and one with a really ugly pickle on it.
Getting purposefully messy has been a real antidote to my OCD lately, which is crazy because there have been so many times over the past year that I’ve avoided situations where I’d get dirty or messy (like painting) for fear of getting poisoned or poisoning someone else.
TW: self-harm & OCD
I’ve also been getting better at forgiving myself/not engaging with self-hatred. I am unfortunately once again less than a month free of self-harm but the urges are more physical and emotional now than they have been prior, when my thoughts twisted and turned in on themselves until I hated who I was thanks to my own mind. Now I just feel physical discomfort.
But back to “getting better at forgiving myself/not engaging with self-hatred.” I got annoyed by some friends recently and complained to another friend about it. And then when I saw the aforementioned friends I was annoyed at I did feel a little bad about complaining about them. But I didn’t let OCD take it and run with it the way it sometimes does – when OCD tells me I’m a bad friend and an uncaring person for complaining, I’ll now sarcastically say to myself – “Ah yes, that’s me. A terrible, hateful, uncaring person because I get annoyed at other people sometimes. Makes sense.”
And I’ve also gotten back to being able to do things in social contexts on my own. Like, sit at a restaurant and eat alone. Or (safely) drink a beer at a bar alone. Or go to an event alone. Or sit at a coffee shop alone. Sometimes this stuff has been hard for me to do because I’m sitting there thinking about how I look to other people. Honestly, now, I mostly don’t care. What right do other people have to judge me? Me sipping a beer or planting a plant or chugging a latte isn’t hurting anyone!
I don’t like to be advice-y. I think there’s more than all of our fair share of that on social media. So let me leave off with a wish that you have a great week, living it your own way & bringing joy and peace to your little world.