Self confidence is not the same as self forgiveness

Yesterday was the first day since I started my daily writing challenge at the beginning of December that I didn’t write.  I made it almost two months without fucking up.  I’m going to try and continue to make it the rest of the year.  I won’t be perfect, I may fuck up.  The point of this journey is growth and part of my growth is teaching myself that that is okay.

Yesterday started with taking one of my pups to the vet cause she had stopped eating.  She was diagnosed with lymphoma last year and went through chemo, and is now one year in remission.  Her battle with cancer has made me extra protective of her and extra nervous about losing her, so I suspected some GI problem, but my biggest fear was the cancer was back.  My vet ran bloodwork and sent us to a specialty hospital/ER about two hours away.  The cancer wasn’t back, or isn’t as far as we know right now, but instead she has IMHA.  I won’t go in depth into that condition, but the short version is a fair to guarded prognosis with a estimated 65% chance of survival after days or a week of hospitalization with medication and blood transfusions.  I was a mess, I still am.  I thought about writing when I got home, it didn’t happen.  I thought about doing homework too, it didn’t happen.  Aside from a short trip out to bring my niece home from work because she was considering walking 3 miles in 1 degree weather which was not happening on my watch, and talking to the doctor again about Kiwi a bit after midnight, I really wasn’t in any shape to do anything.  I’m still not, but homework has to happen, so I am going to at least try to do that now.

Anyway, I feel crappier because of not doing anything that I see as useful and productive, and because I failed to write yesterday or do homework.  Which teaches me something very important.  I may have a lot of self confidence, I don’t think I’m shitty in any way for not being functional right now, but I need to learn to forgive myself.  I can fail to meet my standards for myself and still maintain my self esteem because I don’t connect individual actions with my overall self image, as long as I’m not violating my core morals.  But that doesn’t mean I’m immune from feeling like a failure for a specific action or lack there of.  It doesn’t mean I’m not hard on myself.  And right now is not an appropriate time to be hard on myself.  It isn’t helpful or reasonable, and I need to foster forgiveness and compassion for myself instead.  So there is my lesson for the day, I have yet to figure out the exact hows of doing so.  Normally I learn through my writing, this process teaches me a lot about myself.  Today I learn from what happened when I failed to complete my writing, and I will use that learning to better myself even more.

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I didn’t know I’d lived so much until I reflected back

I am absolutely terrible at keeping track of time.  Not short time, like the hours in the day, but long time, like years passing by.  I think about things like when I first got on the path to stop drinking and I’m like hmm, that was a few years ago right?  A few years ago feels pretty short in my brain.  Then fb memories remind me that it was five years (and forty days) ago that I first truly acknowledged I had a problem and then took a hundred days of sobriety, which then led to learning moderation, and eventually the last year+ of complete sobriety.  Five years. When it’s a number instead of a vague concept of a few, it seems a lot longer.  Holy crap, has it really been five years?

Likewise, I often struggle with putting concrete times and dates on other big events, until I have something to measure them against.  My ex-fiance left the same year I stopped drinking, so now I know when that was.  That’s pretty exhilarating.  I love being able to concretely date the times of things better because it makes me feel more accomplished.  I’ve spent five years without a person who only saw how I could fail.  Five years later I’m sober, have gotten one degree and am working towards another, have a bunch of lovely stable relationships with fantastic communication and none of the toxicity of the ones in that older time period, have held down jobs where I literally saved lives (I mean, doggo and kitten lives, but that’s legit), and decluttered the mess of a house I once shared with him to have a home that on it’s messiest days is still eons cleaner then it ever was in it’s cleanest state before.  I’ve begun pursuing my BIG life dream of having an intentional community, and my life has been basically a whirlwind of forward momentum with a few little bumps in the road.  Oh, and I have a flat chest and facial hair now and get gendered correctly all the time, let’s not forget that.  Being able to recognize where events fit into time really helps me in feeling excited and accomplished about life, because I can see how much progress has been made.  In the day to day moments it may not feel like things are moving fast enough, but reflecting back really shows the huge transformations.

Often I look back and wonder how I’ve packed so much -stuff- into such short amounts of time.  I’ve been an adult for a bit over ten years.  I spent about three or four of those years in a drunken haze.  Yet just in that time I’ve lived with 20+ people in households of various sizes, had 20+ relationships that on average lasted a bit over 3 years, gone to 4 different schools and gotten 2 college degrees and now working on a 3rd, raised my own livestock and fed my family with the meat and eggs from them, traveled to 2 countries outside of my own and 12 states within my country, worked 9 different jobs, and tried to run my own business.  I’ve had an uncountable amount of experiences trying amazing new foods, exploring new kinks and developing deep bonds of trust, making absolutely phenomenal friendships, taking ridiculous risks and feeling ecstatically alive, and generally living life to the fullest.  And I mean, I spent quite a few years drunk on my couch and pretty much out of commission, so when I think of where I packed that all in, I can’t even really include those years.  I don’t often reflect on it all as a whole, I may think of specific moments or dwell on specific relationships, but it takes looking at it all at once to put it into perspective.

Now I know this whole post might seem like some sort of long humble brag.  First of all, there’s nothing fucking wrong with that if it is.  I am all for each person listing their accomplishments that make them feel fantastic, reading the fuck out of that list, and feeling on top of the world because they are a rad fucking person who can do anything.  And I’m happy to do that and feel no shame in celebrating what I’ve done.  But, this is more then that.  I don’t know if I’ve always come across as confident to others, but I’ve always felt I was a confident person.  I’ve realized recently that it was because I’ve gotten very good at telling myself that narrative and ignoring the parts where I felt like I wasn’t enough, or was failing somehow to do this whole life thing.  I hear those parts of my mind, I recognize them, but I didn’t let it disrupt the view I had of myself as a confident individual with great self esteem.  It was a discordant note, viewing myself one way, and feeling things that were quite to the contrary.  And therein lies the problem, I could tell myself I had great self esteem and believe it, but that didn’t actually make me feel any less shitty and like a failure when those were the messages my brain meat focused on for the day.  So instead I’m learning to recognize those, to see that I do struggle at times and I can admit that.  Oof, that vulnerability hurts.  I don’t want to be a person who has to admit that.  It is part of me though, and in recognizing that, I can begin to accept and heal parts of myself that were damaged by years of abuse, by the hands of others, and even more so by myself.  I hurt myself when I spent years being a pretty toxic being to my own body and to everyone around me.  Healing that means recognizing the time that was my reality, and how much time since I’ve begun to move on from that.  It means acknowledging all I’ve done, the amazing life I’ve led, and what I can do when I am a better little human.  Somewhere in there I might have to forgive myself for the person I was through some of the dark years, though I’m not quite there yet.  For now, I look back at time, and I build a real confidence rather then a fabricated one, through seeing the journey and really cementing in my mind how far I’ve come.

Learning the space I fit into, balance, and how to ask for it

As a young child I was very much a loner.  I didn’t often fit in, and often didn’t care to.  I was usually content to play on my own, or have a single close friend.  I spent a lot of time in the woods or fields by myself when we lived in the country, or playing with my stuffed animals alone, or creating tracks for my matchbox cars of sand and pine needles on vacations in Lake Tahoe.  I think when I switched schools five times within four years in my pre-teen and early teen years, that was the first time I tried to fit in, because I did feel a little isolated having absolutely no friends.  It wasn’t even that I minded the solitude all too much, but that I saw everyone around me with a multitude of friends around them and I felt I was doing something wrong.  In my middle and later teenage years I came out of my shell again, I was a constantly hyper and outgoing creature, a whirling ball of energy and charisma among the crowd of oddballs and outcasts I found.  Since identity is more firmly formed around that age, I figured myself to be an extrovert.  I neglected to notice how starved I was for attention and affection at times, and how I was also going through the tumultuous and confusing time period of raging hormones for the first time. I’m sure now those things motivated the intensity of my extroversion.  I would flit from one house to another with my amorphous group of older friends, and thrill myself in the time spent on the astroturf, the unofficial hangout of every misfit teen, making new friends of absolute strangers on a whim.

Time passes, and in recent years I’ve been rediscovering myself.  There was a lot of time in between my early years of discovering my identity and now.  There were years of alcohol induced haze, tumultuous years of abuse, years of dysphoria and confusion, years of heartbreak and loss.  On the other side I began my transition, I began pursuing fulfilling career paths, I began forming healthy relationships and nurturing the few I had through those dark years.  I began to reform my identity and I found it hard to be around people at times.  Often it was just more tense, less easy and comfortable than being alone.  Sometimes it was enjoyable, but exhausting, draining until I hit a point where I’d pushed myself too far to social and felt sick and anxious for days after.  I decided I must be an introvert, I learned to stick up for my space and boundaries and aloneness.  I also battle co-dependency and swung myself far in the opposite direction to break my ties to a toxic style of existence.

This new discovery of introversion culminated in my living on my own for a short while after the folks I lived with chose to leave, or I asked them to do so over a period of time because I knew I needed space.  I was desperate for space really.  I craved being left alone, saw through rose colored glasses some idealized dream of wandering off into the wilderness and becoming a hermit on a mountain.  I looked forward to living in a small household of just myself and Kelev, a person with greater independence then I had ever reached by that point at least.  Then the one I hadn’t asked to leave, Kelev, chose to move out as well for a time.  I had my space, it was terrifying and glorious.  I loved that while I kept in touch with the friends and partners and loves that I cared for dearly, that there were uncountable moments in my day where I was floating unattached to any other person.  There was just myself, my thoughts, and whatever tasks I set before me to complete for the day.

Then time passed, not much time, and other folks moved in, folks I was close to and working on founding an intentional community with.  They are comfortable to live with, and Kelev is comfortable to live with during the half of the time he spends here.  But I still value my alone time greatly and need it on a regular basis.  I also became more active in my local poly community and had sudden bursts of social energy, the like of which I hadn’t experienced since my teenage years.  After years of being so introverted that I never wanted to leave the house and interact outside of my little zone, I wanted to go out and meet new people and have new adventures! I remember the word ambivert, a mixture of introversion and extroversion.  Does it fit?

Sometimes I am very high energy for my introverted partners. I want to constantly be on the go, I feel cooped up when in the house too long.  I want late night runs to all night eateries, the pounding of music at the hookah bar or on a dance floor, the thrill of meeting a new group of strangers.  Sometimes I’m too introverted for my partners as a whole, I fear.  I need space, I sometimes struggle with wanting to take a week of silence from social interaction but knowing it would hurt the people I love not to hear from me for that long.  It may likely drive me a bit up the wall too, after a day or two I’d be reaching out to people left and right.  Or maybe I wouldn’t, I want to experience aloneness, and even loneliness, and bask in isolating and silence for a time.  When I am around the people that I love, the people that thrill me, it’s a high.  After a couple days of constant contact I’m exhausted and anxious.  This feeds self doubt.  Am I good enough for the people I am close to if I get exhausted and edgy from just the company of others?  Is there something wrong with me and does it make me incompatible for partnership or living with people or sharing closeness?  No, I don’t think so.

What I do think is that I still have a lot to learn about standing up for my boundaries.  I need space, every single day I need some measure of space.  I need to be better at defining my needs for space.  With one of my partners, when I ask for space, they leave the room and wander off on some adventure, returning in a few hours and messaging me to ask if I still need space or want company.  With another partner, when I say I need space, he retreats off the bed or couch we are sharing, to a space nearby but not quite as adjacent.  With another partner, when I say I need space, he disentangles his body from mine if we are cuddling, and maintains a nearness on the same bed, but with minimal or no direct contact.  With another partner, if I say I need space, he leaves me be and doesn’t talk to me at all, sometimes for a few days, until I initiate contact again.  These are wide variations.  When some are too little for me to satisfy my need for aloneness, and some are too much and make me feel like I have done something wrong and upset someone because of a complete lack of contact, I need to speak up.  I am a balance, inside me is love of excitement and deep vulnerability, emotional closeness and intimacy, and thrilling terrifying social interactions that are new and push my comfort zones.  Inside me is a love for solitude, for the coldness of an empty bed, the silence of an empty room, and a lonely walk with only my own thoughts for company.  I know that both my exuberant need for extroverted moments or my absolute need for introverted time alone may mean I’m not quite suited to everyone else’s needs or preferences.  That is okay, but I won’t know how comfortable I can get and how much my partners will make space for my needs and allow me to grow into them, until I better learn to express them and find my voice.