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Sprinkled With Hope

Feeling all kinds of feelings. My son is no longer a teenager. He is now twenty years old. And I just met with his autism program advisor at the college. So far, so good! Because school just started (for us both - he’s attending, I’m teaching again) and we just moved, I sort of dropped the ball on birthday party planning. And yes, turning 20 does still warrant a celebration.

There’s only about 20 birthdays you should be allowed to celebrate. And the others? You’re wasting cake and paper….Here are the 20 you can celebrate: 1 through 9 you get a birthday. Cos you’re a little kid! A little kid gets a birthday. 10, you get a birthday. Now you’re in the double digits. Something’s different…13, you get a birthday. Now you’re a teenager….16 you get a birthday, cos now you can drive…18? Awesome birthday, cos you can buy a gun and vote….When you’re 19, you get a birthday, because it’s your last year as a teenager….When you’re 20, you get a birthday. Any time you enter a new set of tens: 20, 30, 40, 50, you get a birthday. 21, you get an awesome birthday. And then, THAT’S IT. A birthday every ten years. “I’m 26!” Great, go to work. Who gives a shit? -Patton Oswalt, on when you should get a birthday, from Werewolves and Lollipops

On the day of his birthday, the Twin Cities Veg Fest happened downtown St. Paul, at Harriet Island, and the weather was gorgeous. We went down early and caught up with some friends and family while sampling vegan poutine and other delights. In the evening we had more friends and family over for a small gathering, with cupcakes. Next year it will be legal for him to consume alcohol in his home state, but I doubt he’s going to want a rager. And that is just fine. I didn’t start drinking until I was 36 years old. And I’m doing a (mostly) sober September, just to give my body a break. And to remind myself I can manage my social anxiety without introducing alcohol into my system.

How about five hopeful things?

This week has been frustrating. I’ve had a migraine, on and off, for days. There have been fuck-ups/factors out of my control (thanks a lot big finance). My therapist flaked out on me Monday with no warning. I’m still in love with the man I am no longer dating. The weather turned too sticky-hot and our new home doesn’t have central air. Just death by a thousand paper cuts. So I found myself feeling particularly low last night. But I am making a concerted effort to turn it around. And forcing myself out of the house to be social this evening, when all I want to do is crawl into bed. But that would only lead to me feeling more isolated, and I’d be pissed at myself later, for missing out on these opportunities. I’ve got this.

My beautiful son is now 20
Self, with pineapple smoothie in a whole ass pineapple

The Psychology of Waiting

The first podcast that hooked me was 99% Invisible. They’ve just celebrated their nine-year anniversary (congrats!) with yet another engrossing episode. This time about the psychology of waiting. And - one of my favorite things - the notion of radical transparency. Which helps reduce anxiety, among other things. For the frustrated worker sitting behind a slow computer, the commuter waiting for a train or a resident wondering when the city will tear down an abandoned property. Definitely worth listening to.

Five more items that have inspired me recently:

On the home front, we have settled in nicely. Nearly everything is already in its place. We continue to refine. Reorganizing cupboards and closets. Today I unpacked a few more bins (there aren’t many left) and hung the remaining art that was waiting for its wall spot. It’s strange to think I spent the bulk of the summer wishing I could fast forward - through all the tough work of moving - to this very week and here I am! Home. Where I may have binge-watched Carnival Row this weekend.

Olive the cat, checking out all the new and exciting window sills

Begin the Begin

It felt like I limped to the finish line but I did it! Friday night I got our old place cleaned out (with the assistance of a professional house cleaner) and cleared the remaining junk out of my old garage. Then slept for a solid eight hours. A rarity. Saturday I was so wiped out I allowed myself to stay in pajamas and indoors all day long. But I was basking. My last go at homeownership was a complete nightmare. I hadn’t expected to choose this path again. But I am older (20 years older) and wiser (I hope) and this place feels so right. I feel it in my bones. I made such a solid choice and am equal parts overjoyed and relieved. The entire household is settling in nicely. The cats are enjoying all of the open windows to perch in - the last place was on a busy street and it was too loud to open the windows. My son and I are both thrilled with our lovely new kitchen. We’ve made multiple meals and batches of baked goods and have already run the dishwasher at least four times. After being deprived of one for over a year. I’ve already got some of our art hung along with curtains. And plans in the works to replace the tacky light fixtures. But the big things are out of the way. The walls were repainted before we moved in and our important items have been unpacked and put in their places. I honestly can’t recall the last time I felt so at home.

Five more items that spark joy:

Living near the lakes is so wonderful. Yesterday - Labor Day - I took a nearly two-hour stroll around them after stepping out of my back door. I’m excited by the prospect of our first Fall here, watching the leaves change. And I may want to travel less for a while, as we settle in here. But oops. I already booked a solo trip to Lisbon for January.

Cats in a window

The Age of Impatience

Simultaneously wanting to fast forward to September (just next week) while panicking that I don’t have enough time. We are moved into our new place. And I love it. But we aren’t completely moved out of the old one. I took a vacation day yesterday. The idea was to clear out more clutter in the old place. I managed one carload before food poisoning struck me down. All my days’ plans had to be scrapped. But I rested in my new bedroom, listening to the rain while reading a good book. That wasn’t so bad. Other positives?

  • We’ve had lovely, cooler than usual weather, perfect for moving and unpacking.
  • Our new kitchen has a dishwasher and garbage disposal. Oh, how I missed both!
  • Our new bathroom has a shower with an amazing shower head. Bliss.
  • We’re much closer to many of our favorite restaurants, people, places, etc.
  • Our new neighborhood is so quiet and peaceful and my bedroom is a beautiful sanctuary.

The cats seem to be settling in nicely. Olive, in particular, has been enjoying all of the open windows to hang out in. We’ve made a few meals here already. We haven’t had a chance to settle in and watch a movie, but soon. I am looking forward to all the new memories we’ll make here. And to not moving again for a very very long time.

Moving Truck

Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn

Aging is an interesting process. Some people seem to get stuck. I’ve been trying to get unstuck. Four or five years ago I found a therapist. I experienced a lifetime of serious trauma that I hadn’t processed but never realized to what extent it impacted my life. I’m sure my therapist was very aware right away and she’s been helping me slowly uncover more and more of it in manageable portions. But she’s had a strange summer and hasn’t been around much. I’m taking things into my own hands a bit more. I know a lot of what I need to do but I have trouble getting out of my own way. I’m not big on a lot of woo-woo business. Evidence-based approaches resonate with me (which is one reason I really gel with my therapist). But there’s something to be said for ideas like vision boarding (I blame/thank Ron Funches for that). And that’s how I found Christie Inge and her site. I knew I was on to something when everything I read on her site caused me to burst into tears. Why yes, I would like to work on “transforming unprocessed feelings, limiting beliefs, bad habits, and self-sabotaging patterns.”

Coincidentally, a close friend gave me the heads up about “fawning” and we both had the same reaction to it (IT ME). 7 Subtle Signs Your Trauma Response is to ‘Fawn’ and, from the same author, People-pleasing can be a result of trauma. It’s called ‘fawning’ — here’s how to recognize it. TOO REAL.

To avoid conflict, negative emotions, and re-traumatization, people who “fawn” when triggered will go out of their way to mirror someone’s opinions and appease them in order to deescalate situations or potential issues. For me, this meant that the more invested I was in an emotional connection, the less likely I was to criticize that person, vocalize when my boundaries were crossed, express unhappiness with their behavior, or share anything that I felt might damage that relationship. This could come across as being excessively nice and complimentary, overly-concerned with another person’s happiness

Again, that is so close to my own experience it feels like I could have written that myself. But knowledge really is power here. Understanding how and why we respond the way we do can help us break bad habits. That is a work in progress for me. I’ve gained a lot of insight so at least I can recognize when I’m falling into unproductive patterns. Now I just need to be kinder to myself when I do backslide. And to realize that some of my coping skills have been beneficial. Sometimes I beat myself up about splurging on travel but I know it’s critical to my well-being. And reading this helped reinforce that: How to Plan Your Most Joyful Trip, According to a Happiness Expert

Why is unscheduled free time so important to our well-being?
There are studies showing that people who have unscheduled time, and who commit to unscheduled time, tend to be happier overall than people who don’t. Overly scheduled time can make us feel anxious. Unscheduled time allows us to have more of a journey.

And I will close with Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies (subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas). It was a card-based method for promoting creativity. I don’t have the cards (if only) but there is a web-based randomizer version. My last pick yielded “turn it upside down.” That’s a pretty good one!

Goldenrod Soldier Beetles

Telling the Story Without Knowing the End

Lately every news cycle is even uglier than the last. But I need to take care of myself. And to keep my forward momentum going. Fostering that positive mental attitude. Trying to quash the negative self-talk and work on the gratitude. To that end, I find myself grateful for many things:

  • After weeks of back and forth my mortgage was officially approved. And the condo across the hall from mine (the one that I’m buying) just went on the market, and for significantly more than I paid, though they are the pretty much the same. Am I driving property values up?
  • I made an appointment with an estate planning attorney. Leveling up in adulthood. Last year I acquired a safe deposit box. Now I’ll have more important documents to put into it. And some lingering anxieties I can file away.
  • I signed my contract to continue teaching at MCTC. It’s been a learning experience for me, as much as it is teaching. And the extra income gives me some breathing room.
  • Between my day job and my part-time teaching gig, my schedule is pretty tight. The only time I can travel is the second week of January. I looked at Miami, California, Denver. But I don’t want to go somewhere I need to rent a car and Europe is still more affordable, overall. I found myself a great deal on a trip to Portugal. Never been and I’m super excited.
  • The other night I attended the Cat Video Fest, again, with my son. We had the most perfect weather. And getting to sit on the field itself at CHS Stadium is always a good time.

My podcast queue is already full but Getting Better with Ron Funches has been the best addition. I was already a fan of his. I appreciate his positivity. And we are both parenting teenaged sons with autism. And he’s got me back on the vision boarding idea. Somehow I missed his comedy special, Giggle Fit. It’s at the top of my queue now. And I was so excited to learn he’ll be here in October for the 10,000 Laughs Comedy Festival along with Aparna Nancherla, Brian Posehn and others. I know I need to get better at living in the moment but it’s also good to have things to look forward to.

Little Miss Olive

This Little Light of Mine

What a world. I was stricken last night, after the first mass shooting was reported in Texas. And woke up to news of the second terrorist attack, in Ohio. I found myself sobbing. In need of a break, I carried on with my usual Sunday activities. Laundry, cooking, listening to podcasts. The Moth usually makes me feel better. I threw on an episode at random. Each story was equal parts cringeworthy and joyful, as they often are, until I got to the final storyteller. Telling a tale of another terrorist attack, in London this time. Toxic masculinity is clearly a global problem. But the US seems to be in the lead for gun-loving white insanity.

In times like these, I need to lean on distractions to get through. I won’t apologize for my coping methods. Especially while my therapist has been on hiatus. Five things to help me feel better temporarily:

Someone I follow on twitter recently relocated from Minnesota to Texas. She just posted a pic from church this morning, where the pews contain laminated instructions for surviving an active shooter event. What a country.

My beautiful son

Operation Not Actually A Completely Terrible Plan

It’s been an eventful year for Team Sharyn. At the start of 2019, I began teaching evening classes at a local community college. Those days are long, as I teach after working my full-time day job. But it’s been a rewarding experience. Recently I received my contract for the next semester of classes. I will continue with that. The first six months of this year I was also seeing someone, rather a lot. I will not be continuing with that. We want different things. I want to be treated with the same kindness, consideration, and affection I was offering him. He does not want to offer any of that in return. Cool.

My son and I had an amazing trip to Amsterdam in April. It was only after that that I decided to buy property again. The first time I bought a house was also after just spending a lot of money and vacation time on international travel. Super counter-intuitive. My travels have made me want to leave the country and not come back. But in both instances, I was buying property for my son. The first time, to have a home to raise a baby/child in. Now? To set up this young adult for success. Rents are skyrocketing everywhere. It will be best for us to have a home base that is ours for the long haul. If I pay too much attention to the news I vacillate between thinking this is even more critical and wondering if it’s all futile. I’ve been trying not to watch the world burn so much. And reducing my caffeine intake. Both are helpful for my anxiety’s sake. But this condo business is finally feeling like a real thing. I pushed the closing date out pretty far - over two months from the day I made my offer - and now closing is two weeks from today. I just received a check for my down payment that I pulled from my retirement funds. Oof. Movers and painters are booked. I need to find an electrician. I’m not buying many new things for the place. But my son hasn’t had a new mattress since his age was still in the single digits. I found an ethically-made environmentally-friendly vegan mattress for him.

This is a big life decision but I believe I’m on the right path. To quell the anxiety, I’ve been re-reading favorite books before bed. And this post title comes from the Martha Wells Murderbot Diaries series. Perfection. Now to continue with the purging/packing cycle.

pretty yellow mustard plant against a blue sky

Like Tears In Rain

Surreal times we live in, for so many reasons. Rutger Hauer died yesterday. His Roy Batty character from Blade Runner also died in 2019. That has been one of my favorite movies as long as I can remember. My son won’t watch anything with me until he has seen the trailer first. Last night he watched the Blade Runner trailer then shrugged. And actually said “meh.”

In other news, yesterday I had an invigorating “Nothing About Us Without Us” lunch break. First I listened to another great 99% Invisible episode with Caroline Criado Perez about her book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. Please listen to it. Then listen to women. After that, I listened to Tatiana Mac on Kim Crayton’s Cause a Scene podcast. More of the same. We need to value the lived experiences of other people. To acknowledge our own privilege and biases. And to routinely include marginalized groups by default. Humanity is not a monolith. I understand this stuff can be challenging. But we have the opportunity to improve everyone’s overall quality of life when we include others in the conversation while designing solutions, projects, processes, etc.

Five more things I’ve been thinking about:

I had hoped to spend this coming weekend enjoying some of my favorite bands in a frontier ghost town just outside of Toronto. If only. I couldn’t find anyone to join me. And my time and resources are better spent on the impending move. So many sad trombones. One day I will see my favorite enigmatic queer cowboy Orville Peck perform!

Olive, sunning herself

Out Of Plumb

We’re in the home stretch. I close on my condo in a month. Unless I change my mind. There are pros and cons to being unpartnered (or partnered). Not having a partner to make this decision with feels tough right now. So I’m still wrestling with this on my own. My gut is telling me this is the right move, for my son and me. But my gut has been misguided before. I’m in dire need of five things that brighten my mood:

Yesterday we spent a good chunk of time outside. At the beach with friends and a patio dinner after. I’m barely keeping up with the household basics, let alone packing for the impending move. I am only one woman but I will make it all happen. I always do.

Self, after a haircut