Running on E

Between each crisis I have been able to find small moments of calm, but as the weeks have gone on winter has done nothing but wear me down. Ice storm after ice storm makes the world a little colder, and in that cold I find a little darkness.

Still, the weeks bring combinations of pleasures and pains. Friends have been getting together and we have been building positive relationships with colorful people. People so colorful that they boggle the mind, and bring me to such laughter that I often come home beyond exhausted and in desperate need of recharging, but still longing for more exhausting nights just like it.

The truth is, the past few weeks have been a struggle. A struggle in patience. A struggle in spirit. A struggle in mind.

I’m going through the painful experience of a faith crisis, one that seems to leave me with more terrible questions than answers, and makes me feel more and more abandoned by God and desperate to stay in communication, but at a loss as to how. In a way it makes me feel a little crazy because all the emotions piling up are sort of a whirlwind of anger and fear. What does one do, when they lose faith, and how does one get it back if they miss it? Are you even allowed to miss it when it is lost? Have I really lost it at all?

I’ve been getting into more metaphysical stuff lately. A scary realm for me, yet I am no less drawn to it. It feels like a complete swing of opposition, and yet, I feel like God is so much apart of the mysteries of the universe that I cannot help but feel a little of what I’ve read can be supported by a Christian faith, and yet, some of it I find completely unconvincing. I don’t know weather to seek more information on such new things, or if I should just stop altogether and protect myself?

This all comes at a bad time too. While I have not had a huge crisis in my life I have had many small ones to deal with along the way that have just been that much more difficult as I’m dealing with the faith crisis….that and my husband is not good at dealing with any crisis, big or small, and has allowed the burden to fall on me more often than not. Which is exhausting. Little things like my husbands battery not starting, severe winter weather that keeps one home from work, and scuffles with coworkers that have bad attitudes have added only more to the deep tired I feel within me.

All of this I think directly correlates with my spiritual issues. I’m spiritually exhausted. I want to crawl in a hole in the ground and be planted there to rest until I’m recharged and renewed, or just sleep for eternity. I’m not sure which yet. It’s hard to say. I’m just so deeply depleted….of what I do not know, but it is so depleted that I feel like I’m falling apart.

Advertisements

Coming Out of the Woods

I finally took the plunge and got medicated in December. I wasn’t really thrilled about the decision, but as I filled out the mental health questionnaire that most doctors offices make you fill out every yearly checkup, it became more and more clear to me that I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was.

I brought it up to my doctor again and since the last medication we had tried last year was giving me so much stomach and sleep trouble, I had weaned myself off of it shamelessly. I admitted this to her, and she prescribed me Prozac.

Isn’t that for the people who are really bad? I thought to myself trying to push away the guilt and shame I felt for needing help. I had to give something a chance to at least discover if it works. I was desperate, though I hadn’t known it before. I was desperate to not feel so anxious and depressed that thoughts of suicide were frequent. I was desperate to find out if this was really myself or if there was something working against who I really was.

I realize medication doesn’t work for everyone. I had low expectations of this experience, because I had been so failed for so long before. I know pills are not cures, but treatments. I know that some people are very discouraged and emotionally effected by their depression to the point that they often give up on meds before they even have a chance to start working, or they stay on meds that are hurting them because they desperately want it to work and hope if they just wait longer it will. Medications are never cures. They are helpers as well as hurters in some cases, and by no means was I willing to give up on myself now. But, I struggled with this decision for the first week. Because nothing seemed to change, and I wanted a quick fix like so many others.

Still, I had to try.

The third week into my medication my manager came into the office and addressed me.

“You’ve been quiet today. You okay?”

“Me? Yeah, I’m just really plugging away at these package designs today.”

“I see that, you’re usually not this quiet though.”

“Oh…well nothings wrong just really focused I guess.”

Wait…what? I’m focused? 

I have never been an organized or focused person. Most days at work I’m a busy anxious  bee buzzing around the office unable to focus on anything…and I’m super chatty. I started realizing after that encounter I was able to sit still. I was able to work through the whole day without having to get up and pace. I wasn’t anxious, I just was working. That was the first time in a long time.

In the lunch room a few days later a few snacks were laying out for the employees. Cookies and doughnuts as usual. I was refilling my water bottle when my coworker came in and made a comment about the snacks.

“Hey Em, are these good?” he said pointing to the cookies.

“I don’t know I haven’t had one.”

“What? You never pass up snacks.”

“Just had lunch dude, I’m not hungry.”

When I sat at my desk and began working again I thought about the scenario. I wasn’t hungry. I had never once in my life had a moment where I couldn’t eat. I never really felt full, and even if I was full, I never didn’t at least nibble on something little by little. I could usually eat anything at any time. In fact I’d say I was a constant over eater. How was I not hungry ?

What really sealed the deal for me was last week when we had a terribly icy rainy snow mixture. Since my car accident last May, I’ve struggled with weather, and as I pulled into a parking space at work I realized that there hadn’t been a moment of panic while I was driving in this weather. I wasn’t afraid of the weather. I didn’t even think of it until I was at my destination.

I was feeling normal.

It was still hard to adjust to the medication, not because I was experiencing symptoms, but because I began identifying what was a personality trait, and what was a symptom of my depression. That was hard to swallow for a little while, but the more I began to identify the changes I saw in myself, the more I realized how dysfunctional I really had been. I hadn’t had a stress cry in several weeks. I hadn’t had a suicidal thought in as long. I hadn’t had a panic attack or moment of feeling panicky either. My brain could actually reach a state of quiet…something I never thought I’d be able to do. I could read better. My memory was improving. My blood sugars were lower because I was no longer as anxious as I used to be and I wasn’t over eating. I was remembering to shower more frequently. I was able to get up in the mornings and not feel like I was hit by a truck. Social interactions didn’t feel so jarring or depleting, though they still were tiresome and I still felt like a nap would be very nice.

I was realizing I was becoming myself.

As of right now, I feel really encouraged. I’m starting to value myself more, and I’m better at setting boundaries. Self care is improving and my health is taking a turn for the better. I’m really encouraged by all of these things, but for the most part, I’m just so excited. I didn’t realize how crazy I had felt until I had it all calm to quiet and got rid of all the terrible anxiety that paired with my depression so violently.

As I said before, I understand not everyone has this kind of experience, and for those of you who were like me, I realize lots of people will be discouraged themselves over reading a success story. I had a lot of inner conflict about writing this post, mostly because I used to be really discouraged by people who were successful. Now that I feel like I’m getting better, I have so much empathy for those who are struggling and ready to give up.

Don’t give up, but please also don’t expect it to be immediate either. All you can do is be honest with your doctors and therapists as well as yourself and take life 5 min at a time if you have to. Celebrate small successes like actually eating breakfast or taking a shower and try hard not to be discouraged by all the things that feel like failures. If meds aren’t working, don’t settle for feeling like crap because you want it to work. If you can’t afford mediations, talk to your doctor about assistance programs. Do what you can and exhaust your options. It will suck. It will drain you. It will be a roller coaster. But there is a possibility of getting better, and it is worth trying for.

I know, it’s easy now that I feel like I’m getting to the other side of these problems to say things like that. I know that will make people who were like me before angry, and you know what? You’re so allowed to be angry. What is happening to you is not fair. Depression is mean. It’s violent. It’s so painful. It can turn on you in a moment. Even as I speak I know my body chemistry can change and suddenly these meds might not work. I could be back at square one. I just want to let people know that there is hope, and it’s allowed to be conflicting and complicated and make you upset because things feel so hopeless. Give yourself grace. Do what you can to keep trying.

 

 

It Ended with Silence

The funny thing is, nothing about me has changed since the day I cut him out of my life. I am no less the self I was then, only now I have a little more experience under my belt, and hopefully I’m a little wiser. I hold no animosity, though I have plenty of reason to in our case.

Still he tries to have the last word. It’s been nearly two years, and he’s still trying.

Today he tried to contact me on Instagram, under a new account with a new alias. Nothing threatening, just the usual petty remarks about how I look or what a bitch he thinks I am. I deleted the nasty comment after taking a screen shot and saving it to a folder of potential harassment case material. I blocked him. Again. Probably the 3rd time now.

But today was different…

Today I wasn’t thrown into chaos by fear. Today I wasn’t worried about running into him in the street. Today I wasn’t afraid of seeing him. Today I wasn’t afraid of the next attempt to harass me. Today I recognized what all of this was…a show. A show he’s putting on for himself in hopes others will watch and be amazed, only to be disappointed when I refuse to retaliate. Because without my response, he isn’t a show at all. He’s just a man child crying out for attention and making a spectacle of himself. Or worse. He’s nothing if no one notices.

Retaliation means something to play at. Silence means there is nothing but the sounds of angry wails on deaf ears.

Some would say ending my friendship with him with silence was cruel. In his case, it was the only way. You cannot win with Narcissists. They will find ways of blaming you in their own mind and twisting it so they truly believe they are never to blame. So to be silent is the only way to keep him from having reason to retaliate, so if he does harass me, it is entirely of his own choosing.

I keep choosing silence every time he tries to contact me, because with silence I have chosen absolute rejection. When I choose not to retaliate, I ultimately reject his thoughts, his negativity, his bad energy, and his feelings…none of which I am obligated to take responsibility for since ending the friendship. I refuse to acknowledge them. I refuse to be a victim to them.

Still, I wish he would just move on. The only “crime” I committed was out growing him. That’s not a crime at all. As long as this continues I intend to retaliate with silence.

I am a Maker

Like my Creator I too have been given the blessing of being able to create. I have been given hands that can hold my instruments, and a mind that can see things that are not yet there. I have seen beauty beget beauty and deep searing pain beget beauty. I have seen that which seems impossible and made it so. I make words work together. I make small beautiful things to adorn people and places.

I work on my artistry and craft for the same reason I write here…for therapy. Every piece has held, helped, and healed a moment in my life that was joyful or painful. Each piece I have crafted is a monument to my desire to make beautiful things as I have been made into a beautiful thing. To remind others that though they adorn their homes and themselves with my work, they have been adorned with a souls, crafted by the greatest hands of an Almighty Craftsman.

I work to remind the world, that if you want beautiful things you must…absolutely must….stop starving the artists.

Below is a collection of some of my small adornments. They are a combination of metals and natural materials. If you’d like to see more you’re welcome to visit my business Facebook page.

Christmas Plans

The day has been grey, and as I sit here at my laptop I can only be thankful to be indoors. The combination snow and rain is making my bones chill, even though my heat is on full blast and my cats are warmly tucked at my feet and behind my back as I type.┬áIt officially feels like winter now, as I can watch the sun sink a little earlier in the day. It’s only 4pm and nearly dark out, accompanied by clouds looking stern and cold through the water droplets on my window pane.

My husband and I set up our Christmas Trees last weekend. This year we set out only 3 instead of 4. Our little 3 ft white tree in the living room, our 2 ft frocked tree in the bedroom, and a 3 ft metal frame “tree” my husband keeps in the basement with the rest of his nerd ornaments. This year we have no travel plans and no required places to be. We’ve not committed to anything at all.

I’m actually looking forward to Christmas this year.

As I’ve posted in the past, I do not often like Christmas. I dislike the commercialism, even though I do enjoy shopping to a fault. I struggle between wanting things and wishing I didn’t want things, as I think most people my age do. We’re raised by TV and Internet to be consumers and then we we are adults, we realize we cannot afford to consume as much as we want, and more than half the time, we can’t even afford what we need. So while I love shopping, I shouldn’t, and while I would love to give Christmas Gifts to people I love, I usually can’t.

One of the remedies I have discussed in past posts has been to alternate Christmas gift giving between making handmade gifts, and giving gifts that support greater causes like Charities or a small family-owned business. By doing this, I find either I give something a little more thoughtful and custom made, or I’m giving a gift that gives back in some way or another. That way my family gets gifts, and my gift giving feels more meaningful than just buying the lasted gadget at a large corporation that doesn’t do that much for it’s community or the charities it claims to support. Plus, I leave with less buyers remorse than usual.

A few of the Charities I’ve given to and supported this year I posted in a previous blog post and have been supporting for a while either with my money or my time (or both).

Another reason I’ve been enjoying Christmas more this year, is because I’m doing more to celebrate. My husband and I are starting to formulate and investigate Christmas traditions, which we hadn’t done last year because we were only celebrating our first Christmas and didn’t quite know what the other thought about the holiday, much less what we thought about traditions. One of the traditions we decided on, that also works as a personal goal, is that we’ve decided to attend every Advent sermon at church this Advent season to help us reflect on not only the positivity we should feel for the season, but also the greatest Gift of all…The birth of Jesus Christ.

Another tradition my husband and I are starting this year, is we’re throwing a small Krampus celebration, where we have invited friends over on Dec. 5th (Krampusnacht) to watch the Dark Comedy Film based on the old lore of Krampus, the Christmas Demon. Apparently an old European tale of a demon who took care of the naughty children in a way that St. Nick didn’t (usually kidnapping and eating them). A little dark and ridiculous, but all the same a fun little something that we can look forward to every year.

What are your holiday plans? What traditions do you celebrate in the winter months?

Anticipation Wayzgoose

Every year around this time the letterpress community comes together to spend time with one another at the convention known as Wayzgoose. The first weekend of November, the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum hosts the event, and every year since 2016, I have volunteered my time for this long weekend of creativity, fun, and chaos.

I’m expected at the museum at 7am, and as I lay here, frightfully aware of what little I have prepared for my swap table on Sunday, I’m terribly excited to see people I only see once a year.

During the chaos of Wayzgoose I will be thankful for a thing I often take for granted: toilets. During my time at Wayzgoose this weekend, my bathroom is getting remodeled and I will be without a toilet from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. Besides that fact, I will also be thankful for the respite that public restrooms can provide for a little introverted girl looking for a moment to get away from the crowds of people swarming around her. Not that the crowds are unfriendly, but they are thick with familiar faces, stimulating conversations, and an overall drain on my psyche and body. I love Wayzgoose, I love seeing friends yearly and catching up. It just drains me to my core in the days following.

Then, there is the anxiety. You get around all these famous designers who are Somebodies with massive talent and bank accounts, only to feel like the smallest of the small. It’s intimidating being around so many big name artists and graphic designers, that one cannot help but feel self conscious in just about every way. Not only that, but I only recently got myself a tiny showcard press for myself, and while I put forth efforts to utilize my press and develop in many ways, my work is limited and falls short compared to other designers around me.

All around, it’s an exciting event. I love listening to designers tell their stories, and I love being part of a community of creatives that are intentional about spending time together and sharing ideas. I love taking in the sights, the sounds, and the smells. Not to mention how great the food is each year.

I’m really excited, I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow.

Nostalgic for Another Age

The Lady in Gold by Anne Marie O’Connor holds my thoughts a lot lately as I’ve been reading it. In a time where wealth, elitism, and a hostile environment towards modernism in art and Jewish culture become a chaotic romantic period all its own. I continually think about what it must have been like to be part of high society. To live with papers writing about you and to see painters display portraits of yourself commissioned and hung on gallery walls. To live during a time of revolution and oppression all at once.

I often think about the way things were then. About what being a young woman in society looked like. The oppression of the feminine sexuality in the brink of its liberation. A time when social standing could be both a blessing and a curse to the private and social life depending on the pastime you chose as a lady. The more I read about it, the more I find myself wishing to ah e lived it. To be part of the golden revolution of sexuality and modernism. To go to fashionable parties and meet the artists of the time, talk to hem about their artistry, to speak on political climates and to spend time bejeweled in gowns at operas with friends.

Most days I wish I was born in another era.

What I both love and loath about the time is he way men treated women. Male callers would respectfully call on you and show you a good time, but to be seen as anything but virtuous while out with the male caller would mean the complete destruction of your eligibility were things not to work out. If you were less fortunate, you’re marriages would be arranged, with wealthy older men who probably had mistresses and STDs. Still, the glamor of the wealthy lifestyle would have been nice. To own palaces and fine jewelry. To attend social events regularly at salons to exchange new and exciting ideas. To get dressed to the aces and go out dancing as a single debutante. The thrill of being chased after, and the thrill of knowing you had a chance against all chances to sense the changing tide of female liberation.

Of course, the book I’m reading takes placed during both WWI and WWII. With political anxiety at its height threatening the liberation you so desperately were seeking and the research of Freud was so nearly honoring, only to be swept under the rug of war along with racism. What a trying, terrifying, and anxious time it would be to live in, if we are being realistic. Not something to envy.

Still, I romanticize the idea of living high society life in those days at its glamorous height. I envision myself much like the rebellious women of the time. Sensually dressed in the latest forbidden fashions. Frequenting salons to talk on the artistic and political climate (which only means talking about men, which I would be a considerable advocate of being young, single, and allowed my forgivable ignorance). Sipping champagne and tea on hot afternoons in galleries, alone and mysterious…and stubbornly unchaperoned. Loudly fighting for women’s suffrage and rights at the turn of the century.

Yes, I’ve been daydreaming about it a lot. Wondering why such things no longer take place? Though, to be realistic once again, such lifestyles require not just wealth, but elitism, something most Americans, myself included, would cringe at. That is the unfortunate issue with fantasies like this…they have so many negatives about them that at the end of the day you wonder how good could anyone in high society, then or now, really have it? Still, the shallow part of me wishes being able to dress up and go to respectable house parties Gatsby style wouldn’t be too bad if one could avoid the drama and times were fairly peaceful.

Fallen Tree

Days passed. As they did, the demise of the felled tree in the neighboring house’s back yard became more and more apparent. The leaves turned a triumphant gold before withering to brown and wilting to the ground. The remnants of crab apples clung to the dead and dying branches, their last chance at life, withering hopelessly as they clung.

Our neighbor had died some months ago, and while the yard was still being kept, nothing was done to remove the old fallen crab apple tree from the yard for several weeks. I inspected the thing the day after it fell. During a storm, the night before, the winds had howled ominously and the rain beat the ground hard, as if the earth its self had committed some kind of terrible crime they sky could not, and would not forgive. It was no punishment for the ground, despite the violence, because the ground took in the water, practically dying of thirst from the many dry and hot days that came before the storm’s relief.

I contemplated the dying tree as I sat with a large cup of tea in one hand, and my feet planted firmly on the freshly cut grass. How long until all things fall and die? How long did that tree stand for before it’s unexpected demise? How long had the old widow next door (who I can say I never saw nor met) lived in that house and for how long alone? I could not and cannot say. We saw the ambulance take her away, and heard from another neighbor she had passed.

She was as much a mystery to me as her death. No. As death itself.

Design Problems

The piles of products that needed rebranding only got bigger, as the team got smaller. Down a designer and with only three of us left to “work our graphics magic” as other employees would say, our week days were filled with the constant struggle of hurrying up only to wait when another department had to provide us with information. Thankfully the waiting gave us time to finish other small side projects, but we all knew that we would be needing a fourth designer…and soon.

Two weeks into being a three man (or two woman and a man) team, our supervisor came into our office having realized we never had job descriptions created for anyone in our graphics department. So we all sat down as a team and started describing our responsibilities as a whole and as individuals. “You guys share a lot of responsibilities.” She said, shocked and wondering how we were going to be reviewed in the future if everything we did, we shared with only a couple exceptions. “Well, design is collaborative, so isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?” I asked confused. “Well how am I supposed to know who did what amount of work for these projects?” She asked trying to understand where the hierarchy in our department was. “We all do large chunks of it.” He said looking puzzled. “Sometimes we each take a whole project start to finish, but our team members offer critique and suggestions.” Said our other team member in an attempt to get the full scope of how we worked together on projects.

Our supervisor, new to how we had done things, still didn’t fully understand. In a competitive corporate setting, collectivism wasn’t something people saw very often. In other departments, individuals took on certain tasks in an assembly line sort of process. In a small graphics department, everyone just did a little bit of everything, because we all have equal talent, and because we all knew we were a department far too small for a company of this scale…so no one could afford to slack, and no one could afford the luxury of a single responsibility.

Still, afterward we collaborated as a team to help assign one another leadership tasks. We wrote out our job descriptions together, with some things shared, and some things realized as singular strengths that met the needs of certain tasks.

Mostly, we laughed at the ignorance of our superiors to our plight. How little they understood the importance of creativity. How little they understood that it took a village to raise a corporate brand…much less 9 in-house and 12 private label. No wonder artists are so misunderstood. We are seen as islands when we are meant to be, and try to live as, villages.

Still, we knew what we had to do. We knew nothing changed in our department. We knew we would keep going as we were because it worked for us. We knew that the powers that be just needed labels to organize themselves. We knew that we could share and didn’t need the labels and titles of individual tasks. It was a hoop. A hoop to jump through and kill an hour of our time with while we waited for the rest of the company to catch up with us.

Until After the Wedding

Every word she spoke increased my sorrow, and made me realize just how bad my parents relationship had become. Not that I didn’t suspect it at some point to happen. When I was a teenager I noticed that my parents didn’t have much of a relationship, and despite my mothers efforts, my father was clueless and unfortunately more selfish than he would ever realize in his emotional ignorance.

My sorrow deepened even more as I recalled all the times I confided in my mother about concerns I had in my own marriage…and she responded with “You definitely married someone like your father.” No less, all the times she told me “You’re just like your father.”

Thank you mom. You’re so supportive.

The sense of hopelessness that it left in me made me consider that my marriage may end up looking like hers one day. Where my husband feels more like a roommate and less like a husband. Unfortunately hints of that have already started in my relationship, and to divulge my feelings to my husband and get an honest response out of him….I had to get him buzzed so we could talk about it without anyone saving face or telling lies a few nights ago last week.

The hardest part of being in my mothers situation is knowing that she was worth more long before my father was married to her. She was a teacher, with a good savings, paid well in her district, and a solid retirement plan. When my father got hold of the finances after they were married, he lost my mothers retirement and asked her not to go back to work until after we kids were out of the house. A closeted sexist and an unfortunate product of the era of his parents. He wasn’t counting on pregnancy and time to increase my mother’s health problems, and eventually he seemed to set himself up well for retirement and with life insurance policies on both he and my mother, but unfortunately no retirement plan for my mother, and no financial security either. Now she is unable to go back to work, and her health costs are taking them both for all they’re worth…which oddly enough gives me a sense of comfort know my fathers poor decision making has not come without consequences to his actions. It’s just unfortunate that my mother has to lose her peace of mind and security in her marriage over his lacking.

I had been wise in asking my husband to keep our finances separate. A method that many family and friends had given me flack for. Saying that I was not being wise or truthful to my husband about our finances and that it wasn’t right of me as a wife to request it or withhold from my household. Still, my husband was kind enough to agree to it. We each put what we can into our joint account, and we each do what we can to keep our own savings and checking accounts in line. If I’m broke, it is only my fault and no one else’s. No one can financially abuse me. I can choose what I want to invest in or not.

Still, financial abuse is not he only concern my parents relationship has caused me to be afraid of. My father, will sell nothing of his own, but often suggest selling things of my mothers to make ends meet. He will often be distant or removed emotionally and not have any kind of romantic attachment to my mother when he doesn’t feel like it. His moods swing and she falls victim to his coldness, not that he cheats or physically hurts her…but he neglects her…something I have noticed ever since I was old enough to become observant. All attributes I can see great potential of in my own relationship. Which makes me increasingly afraid.

Still I fight so hard to remind myself that my husband is not my father. He tried to ask me how I’m doing. He tries to take care of me. Even if he’s feeling distant he never pushes me away if I attempt to emotionally approach him. He may struggle with words, but he admits that. He asks for affirmation. He asks for my respect when he feels he is not getting it. He never makes unreasonable demands.

Still, we are young both in age and marriage…and so much has yet to happen.