Painful Monday

I have a suspicion that the trapped nerve that has been plaguing me is sticking around for the long haul. Keeping moving helps even if it does feel like someone is trying to drill new hip sockets through my left buttock.

Still, if that’s the worst that I have to contend with I shall continue to count myself lucky as it is nothing compared to the murder of George Floyd and the pain and heartache surrounding and arising out of it. I’m horrified by the stream of violent images, but also heartened by the positive instances of support and solidarity too.

I am white. I cannot pretend from my place of privilege, even as part of the LGBTQ+ community, to know the experiences of the black community. But I can raise my voice in support, I can listen and put myself in places to help. I can challenge languages and behaviours I encounter.

I am just so tired of this year.

DDC Shenanigans

Life continues to ebb and flow in its complexities, but the DDC continues to be a creative and entertaining source of comfort, support, and humour in all the oddness around us.

Our latest set of things has been creating quizzes and games to play through shared screens in Discord. Whoever is running the quiz sets up a PowerPoint document with questions and answers revealed in turn, while everyone works together to find the answers. Mre B created the template based on their running similar things with their friends, and myr s has taken up the baton to create rounds tailored to our various strengths and foibles.

Roughly once a week we gather of an evening to play. We start with general levity, and yet despite there not being any competition between players, there’s soon a very serious air as people try to identify TV theme tunes from sight reading music, interpret kinks by their formal clinical names, identify pop culture characters from pets dressed up as those characters, and puns based on shows where one character has been changed – and that was just for starters.

Lateral thinking, chat, and everyone trying to resist googling any answers – a fun combination that is proving as much a draw as the weekly Dungeons and Dragons session.

Oh, and then we used Roll20 to make a Trivial Pursuit board and grabbed four different sets to make a monstrous random hodgepodge of topics from Star Wars, Stranger Things, Harry Potter, and a general family edition. That got very silly, very fast. We’ll have to do that again…

Little Gifts

All the yum, to be savoured at leisure

Its been our turn to receive little somethings from the DDC – not as part of any schedule or expectation, but simply as nice things to do. Its always nice to get things in the post, but thoughtful things from loved ones rather than Amazon orders do put a bigger smile on the face.

In this instance, across two deliveries, it was things picked out by myr s and the cub as “just because” morale boosters for both myself and Lady M. The first was a hamper of cheese and chutneys – they know our foodie nature so well – that the cub had spotted and picked out

We don’t have a Groot problem, we’ve got plenty

While the second delivery contained a new Groot Funko for Lady M, and a really well stocked art roll of pencils, charcoal, and chalks for me to get lost in my artwork with.

The notes and letters that came with them are a wonderful boon and reassurance – just whats needed as lockdown continues.

Being a Listening Ear

My counsellor is the first to tell me that I have a tendency to want to help people and put their problems above my own – and she usually says so when I’ve spent a long time talking about my concerns about a friend, or someone I work with. So this extended period of lockdown and general stress has been an exercise in closely managing my own mental reserves so that I stay boundaried in the sense of maintaining my own safety while still being present for people.

Its not easy. It can be quite seductive a call to throw grand dramatic gestures. Everyone wants to be a hero after all, but keeping the slow and steady drip of checking in on people – listening when they do or do not respond, or sending the odd off-colour joke without expecting a reply – seems to be a middle ground that is allowing me to not over extend myself or to feel that I’m abandoning people.

Its hard when there’s that little voice wanting to leap down the phone and hug someone who is clearly in distress, but that little voice doesn’t take into account other people’s wants, needs, or support networks – that’s where it becomes unhealthy in trying to impose itself.

That’s the point where it becomes about me, not about them.

I am glad to bale to report that I amvery lucky with the support networks that I do have, and with the friends that can and do ping in and out of sight on various platforms. I’m doing my best to be a reliable generally positive part of their networks, rather than a burden on their time or the cause of a heavy sigh.

So, silly memes and reimaginings of scenes with disney characters, songs and daft videos – all of these and more will continue to flow as distractions. I might even get some work done in between them all too.

About Last Night

With isolation looming for many of us, a group of us self-confessed geeky queers set up a Discord server last night and started playing Cards Against Humanity.

The carnage was livestreamed on the Book of Faces for a while, and I have to say it was a wonderful three hours of letting our collective hair down and laughing at the world. My cheeks have not ached from grinning so much in ages.

Even with the coughing fits and pauses where we had to battle for bandwidth with everyone else using the site it was a great morale boost. It was exhausting, but much needed. Here’s to more, and I think there will be.

With all the worries and upsets around us, having a safe space to unwind is going to be all the more important, and this allows us to keep and make connections even as health dictates we keep our distance. I’d say it may even keep us sane, but that does seem like tempting fate.

It’s Nearly the Weekend

I don’t know if it’s the tail end of a bug or something but I seem to be very tired again as a consistent base-level status. Fortunately it’s almost the weekend, and in this instance that’s three days off. I’ve just got to get past an early start to oversee an asbestos audit of one of the buildings I manage. Who knew being a library manager could be so exciting?

I’m going to spend a couple of days with lady s – our first catch up this year – and part of it is going to be spent supporting her as she continues to develop and firm up the expression of her non-binary feelings. She wants to have the option of dressing and presenting in a more masculine way as she deals with her gender dysphoria – but has expressed that she wants to continue using she/her pronouns. To that end I’ve offered to help her pick out some masculine cut clothing options while I’m there.

How do I feel about this? It’s an opportunity to go clothes shopping, and as we’re a fairly similar build it does give us both wardrobe options if either of us is visiting the other. More importantly I’m supporting my partner in a matter that has been causing considerable distress and in a way that will hopefully help them feel better.

I have however been told off for suggesting buying a squeaky toy to put in her boxer shorts. No matter what, the teasing and silliness continues..!

Self Care Musings

Between planned leave and taking time to support Lady M as unplanned leave I seem to have ended up with enough down time for my brain to go sideways without a focus. It’s not unlike the scenario of counting spoons as a marker of mental reserve levels, but coupled with a degree of existential flatness that I choose to believe is a side effect of being present for loved ones and work colleagues alike.

One of the best self-care things that I remind myself to do is not feel guilty about doing very little, because in these moments that is what I need; but it’s not easy – my whole upbringing and history has been based on the value of achievement, so my every instinct is to see sitting and doing nothing as a waste of time rather than of taking time for myself.

I find myself being apologetic if asked what I’ve done and responding that I’ve not done much beyond read, play games, or sketch. I should be cleaning, solving world peace, or inventing sliced bread 2.0 for this time on my own to have significance.

Never mind that my thoughts are with my partners, who have both been or are about to be visiting hospitals for different reasons – or with organisational issues around work that really can wait until I get back because I have peers and staff who can and will deal with anything unexpected in a field that is basically getting books and information in the hands of the right people in a reasonable amount of time.

Never mind that I have had no contact or news from most of my family or friends for a while (since coming out mostly, but I’m sure that’s coincidental because I hear through other channels just how busy their lives have been) – or that we’re nearly at a point to be able to have serious conversations about buying our own place at long last, as long as no one else dies or has anything catastrophic happen in the immediate future.

I worry about the future of my work, about my enthusiasm for writing and cosplay, about my health, about the health of my loved ones, and about how tired I feel all the time at the moment.

But, I am loved, in a huge cloud of support that uplifts and surprises me at every turn – from partners, our metamour, my colleagues, my daughter, friends – and it’s nearly payday, which is a nice bonus.

As ever, I know I’ll be okay, especially when I remember that it’s okay to look after myself so that I can recharge my own batteries to keep the black dog in its kennel.

Supported and Supporting

There’s a couple of friends going through – well let’s call it a high stress situation – at the moment. Not, I hasten to add, with each other, nor are they in any way connected besides their common friendship with me; but nevertheless they are dealing with similar circumstances and worries, albeit from different directions.

All I can do is be there as a shoulder, a set of ears, and perhaps as a lightning rod as stress needs earthing – and that’s well within my capacity right now because of the support I am in turn receiving from important people in my life. The saturation through concern for them that I might otherwise experience is offset by the love and sarcasm of those who care for me.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a huge improvement on where I’ve been recently, and the timing in that respect couldn’t be better. 

This year has brought me experiences that are making it easier to be congruent with my friends’ current situations. This isn’t in a “I know how they feel” way in any shape or form – I can’t do that, but I can recall how I’ve felt in similar situations, or what I’ve done to plod through them and out the other side. The things they are relating are therefore less worrying or scary because they are in some ways already familiar.

Best of all my experiences have taught me to shut the hell up and just be there. To listen and hear what is said and not said – and not dig for details because it’s not about me.

My friends know I’m present with them as they need, just as they have been for me in the past and will no doubt be in the future. Those closest to me are both letting me do that, and being supportive in ways they may not even entirely realise at the time.

My thoughts are with my friends, even when I can’t be there physically. When they need the latter, I’ll do my best to do that too.

Little Bright Moments

Among all the oddities and turmoils, something that will always brighten my day is sight or sound of friends having moments of success. There’s something about hearing unalloyed joy in someone’s voice when they talk about a new job despite its demands, or seeing the sparkle in someone’s eye when they talk about a new discovery that just can’t be equalled.

Best of all is hearing someone who is recovering from injury or illness. It doesn’t matter if it’s an improvement in the process of healing from physical injury, or just someone having a good day in their fight against a chronic condition.

All these moments of brightness are worth cherishing, especially when in contrast to whatever else is or has been happening in their or my lives. Recognising and celebrating these bright moments is important, both for them and for me. It reminds us all that there actually is brightness.

Articles and Powercuts

It’s been a bit of a mixed day, at least for those around me. My day has gone rather well, with articles flying off the presses and some pleasant chats with various people through the day.

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Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code

Others seem not to have been so lucky. My local supermarket seemed to be plunged into darkness when I wandered over to get some bread. Apparently they lost everything except emergency power midmorning, so the freezer aisles were barricaded off, and the various cold cabinets were under close scrutiny as I picked up my groceries. About half the lights were still going, as well as the tills and self service units but everywhere else seemed paralysed.

The coffee shop wasn’t faring much better, what with being on the same electrical board. The manager had sent most of the staff home and was offering cold drinks and cake to any lost souls that ventured in. I stopped in for a chinwag and then beat a hasty retreat in case shadow demons emerged from the kitchen to drag me away.

I must have got into the zone with the writing after that as the next time I consciously checked the time it was gone five pm. Lady M returned home, muttering under her breath about various work related things in her usual stream of consciousness decompression monologue, and then in quick succession we each received phonecalls from friends in need of safe venting.

What’s left of the evening has gone in a blur of paella, wine and comedy shows – a surefire way to dispel worries. Everyone else seems to have had an odd or stressful day, but I haven’t so at least I’ve been able to be a point of stability for other people. It feels good to be able to do that for other people, rather than relying on it from them.