Today is not a special day. Yesterday was a "special day" but not in a good way. It made me realize that if I keep waiting for special days to write here, to update what meagre progress I feel I'm making... I simply don't write anything down.
Yesterday was a Death Day. There are three of them every year, and three birthdays of those same people and they always hit me harder than I'd like, even if I've managed to consciously forget what day it is (which is rare). I always feel sick to my stomach for a few hours before it hits me why I feel so sad. Then I understand the sad, even if there's still nothing I can do but ride it out.
The truth is that I wanted to be able to post here about progress, about victories, about things that made me feel good (and look good) and I still can't. This project began as a way to cajole myself into finishing things on To Do lists, a kind of pressure to knock things off my bucket list just in case I meet an unnaturally early demise, but what it's really been teaching me is how to let go of the fear of just that: the fear of dying in five years.
Instead of a series of small victories, of small boxes I can check off a list, it's become about building better daily habits -truly building them- forgiving myself when I miss a day or a week or I fall of some wagon completely, and learning how to discard the utterly useless shame and guilt that was dragging me down. Shame and guilt for not having already accomplished things, for not knowing earlier how, for being traumatized and not knowing sooner how to heal. The shame and guilt it's become clear have a lot to do with living with a neurodivergent brain in a world that told me I just wasn't trying hard enough for long enough that I began to believe it.
I've spent the better part of eighteen months (in just a few days, it will be eighteen months since I began this project) learning how to pivot, how to work WITH my brain rather than scolding it, and, most productively, finally learning what actually helps it function best.
One thing that's become glaringly obvious is that my body needs to move a lot more than sedentary modern life deems necessary.
I started ballet classes in July of 2021 on what was little more than a whim but ballet quickly became one of the highlights of my week.
Even if I am feeling horrible, I force myself to go to class because I always leave feeling better. Always. My mood always improves even if my IT bands or my hip flexors are unimpressed with what I've put them through.
Enjoying ballet classes led to me finally begin learning a choreography with my best friend (realistically, it's more her choreographing and VERY PATIENTLY teaching me) which has brought me great joy.
Then I started going to kpop dance workshops. Which is... well, I suck, but in a deeply FUN way! I have always struggled with coordinating my arms and my feet and learning all the moves all at once, and kpop is all about coordination and then doing it all at 170 beats per minute, but it doesn't stop me having fun or feeling happy at the end of the workshop. And, slowly, I do feel some small improvement even if it probably does not show.
The most wonderful thing about dance is that it really does bring people together who are in love with the same thing. You automatically have something to bond over and be friends about. Dance lends itself to understanding, to cooperation, to expression. I hope my knees and my hips and my ankles allow me to keep dancing for a very long time, no matter which kind of dance I am doing!
I've also learnt that I need to spend a lot more time outside than I ever expected. The sunshine and the fresh air and the trees and the wind. Those calm me down even before I turn on the music that helps me keep out of my head on my bad days.
Shutting down the intrusive thoughts was something I never entirely believed possible, but somehow just began happening, almost as a survival instinct, in 2020. Things were so bad and so overwhelming that the core of my soul just took one look at the Negative Nancy in my mind and stomped her to smithereens. The guilt I used to feel for being chronically ill, for having to take sick days disappeared halfway through 2020 and simply never returned.
Likewise, after writing a truly unholy 375,000+ words in 2021, I have not focussed on writing in 2022 and have not felt a shred of guilt. Do I miss writing? Yes. Do I miss the worlds I have created? Sure. But I do not feel the seeping acid in my gut of guilt that I am a terrible person for taking time to take care of my body and my brain after burning out last year. I will write again. Probably pretty soon now. However, I would never have been able to keep up the pace I set last year. I needed to get those words out in 2021, but in 2022 I needed to do other things and I am glad that I have been able to do so without feeling regret.
I still worry, I still have anxiety, and there are still people and situations that stress me out, but there are far fewer intrusive thoughts broadcasting in my brain now. When they begin, I have learnt to blast them with a few hours of kpop and they tend to die back down to a whimper.
Even in a stressful summer that began with a bipolar meds switch (that took 8 weeks and was a godawful rollercoaster), and included a broken wrist, finally getting Covid, missing a concert I was really looking forward to and then having our only bathroom renovated for two weeks, I was able to keep the intrusive thoughts to a whisper. It has been a frustrating few months and I have felt out of my element for much of it, but I have finally begun to feel like things are settling into a pattern again.
Lately, I have been trying to focus on filling my cup. Trying to fill my days with activities and people who fill me with joy. I have been trying to pivot again to treating my days like each is special, like each is precious, so that I am forced to live in each day and not wait for the pre-determined "special days" which realistically may never come or, if they do, may not live up to expectations.
So once again, I am trying to pivot. Instead of blogging on special days, I'm trying to simply blog more. So here goes...