I have friends with connections to music that amaze me. They find enough hope/joy/sadness in three and a half minutes to plant their feet, feel what they need to feel and move forward. It always astounds me. I love music. It's a thing I refuse to learn the 'good' things about so I can decide in a gut way if I like what I'm listening to. But, it doesn't anchor me that way. A good song hasn't inspired some of the life changes I've made over the last six or so years.
It's in the words that I find understanding and inspiration. Not in poetry with it's over processing. Not in memoir and stories about real people and real things with it's navel point of view. It's in the fiction where the sense that I'm not alone reached my isolation. Where the support staff has a role to play. Where someone else can imagine a way out of a box kinda like the one I've painted myself into. Where the power of the stories we tell ourselves is illustrated and the option of changing the stories is posited.
I was driving into work last week, thinking about how I got here. There have been people to push and support. There have been mental health professionals I've offered to buy nerf bats for. And there have been the books, with their small whispers of you're not alone, take a chance, and it doesn't have to stay this way.
Tonight, it's to the books I say thank you. Your help in making my journey something entertaining and challenging is immeasurable.
Like many things in my life I have a love/hate relationship  with the question are you religious/spiritual and the associated conversations about “energy”?
I’m culturally christian having been raised German Lutheran and spent part of my twenties in a southern evangelical church. The rituals and songs feel like home. Too much study of the old testament left me distrustful of God, and it’s kinda hard to serve someone, much less an almighty being, you don’t trust.
As for being spiritual, I am though I’m very lazy about it. I haven’t explored other philosophies nor do I dig around and try to find a spiritual home. I’ve made peace with being an actor in a world I largely don’t understand and expend my energy trying to actively live within the flow of what happens.
For me, energy has firmly found itself in the pile of woo. That area where I mentally raise and eyebrow, tilt the head to the right, pause, shake it out and say I do’t get it. A week or so ago I was talking with a friend of mine and I gave my usual spiel about energy. “I don’t get it. I understand there’s something going on that I can’t see and that I respond to it; but, I’m pretty clueless and usually don’t think about it too much.”
Five minutes further into the conversation she looked at me and said something to the effect of, “For someone who doesn’t think about the woo a lot, you certainly spend a lot of time there.”
Can I just say, it’s aways nice to be busted with a truth you didn’t realize.
That my regularly renewed intention of going with the flow and letting the next moment happen as it will - for immediate better or worse - is how I acknowledge and work with energy. I’m not always successful in finding the flow, sometimes I get in my own way. And because I can’t see it and don’t have the words to describe it I largely ignore it.
So, at the end of the day I feel the urge to say the following:
Hello, my name is Kelli and I’m a little woo and a lot practical.
 Most of the questions I have a love/hate relationship with are the ones I don’t have a definitive answer for.
 Maybe it’s wrong to conflate the religions/spiritual thing with the energy thing; but, that’s what happens in my head.
I have a ticket for the local convention.
I’m still not sure I’m going to the local convention.
During a conversation with some friends of mine last weekend I explained my dilemma - I’m not sure how much I want to pay for going. I only have so many hours of ‘social’ in me and I can push beyond those limits for short amounts of time - which I can almost guarantee will happen at Frolicon - but, I pay double or triple for them on the back end.
I framed the problem in terms of running out of spoons. Spoons are an often used analogy to explain the limits of social energy introverts have (or energy the chronically ill have). For example, taking a phone call takes one spoon of social energy and having dinner with eight other people takes four spoons. I’m using social energy in this context to mean how much juice I have available at any given time to deal with people within the parameters of politeness I expect of myself.
My friends pointed out the common advice of retreat to a room, take a calm break, and then rejoin the activity when you’re ready. I’ve done this, it helps me keep my temper; but, doesn’t reduce how much social energy the event costs.
The beauty of conversations is that I sometimes find myself speaking a truth without knowing the truth. Last weekend’s conversation yielded the following: From the time I leave my house until the time I return home, the social energy meter runs.
From that truth, my brain ran for hours honing in on how I find and use social energy and a new analogy emerged.
For me, social energy resides in a reservoir. Like man made bodies of water their capacity and health is dependent on how the people in charge (in this case, me) manage them.
- Reservoirs have capacity limits. There is only so much social energy I can store in preparation for an event. With the realities of my life and my work, however, I usually don’t have much in reserve.
- Reservoirs have functioning critical level. They can still kinda do what they need to do; but, there’s not much left to give without requiring an intensive process of refilling. It’s also when my filters begin to go and retreat for an hour or two is necessary.
- Reservoirs can and are refilled. Rest in the seclusion of my own flat is the biggest contributor to to the reservoir. Sleeping in uncommon places - like airplanes or hotel rooms - add to the energy levels but at a much slower rate than my own bed. Driving, if it’s not pressured by time constraints o r more than two hours long, can refill energy levels small amounts. When I’ve breached the critical energy level, intensive refilling requires 24-48 hours of near isolation (I still talk to my cats and maybe the delivery guy).
- Reservoir flow levels can vary. Mine vary all over the map. Leaving the door in the morning usually opens the tap. It may only be a drip or two at a time; but, once I’ve left the flat the social flows. The tap opens wider the more people you add. How much wider is dependent on whether or not I know the people. Additionally, the noise level, the light level, how comfortable I am in a physical space all influence the flow rate.
- Reservoirs can be complex systems where not all of the variables are well understood or behave in a consistent manner. What works to effectively manage one event, may not work for another similar event. All you can do is set yourself up the best you can based on your previous experience.
So, what does this knowledge mean for my attendance at the convention? I need to acknowledge that I’m going in with a limited amount of social energy, from what I’ve heard the event will be a high flow event, and I don’t have Monday off for reservoir refilling so I have to be cognizant of what my energy levels are. I’ll need to decide what I want to do and be very selective about what I do outside of that list - in this case, my habit of going with the flow may be less than ideal. I’ll have to say no and get over missing out on all the fun.
There are a couple of things that come from modeling my social energy as a reservoir that concern me. The one that really jumps out is how I find my balance if I ever end up sharing flat with someone in a capacity more intimate than as a roommate. I need to think about this, and other issues, the best I can until I cross those bridges.
I’ll probably also keep using the spoon analogy. It’s simple, clear cut, and leaves little room for negotiation among people that aren’t close friends.
Just a smidge of embellishment ruins a good many things.
- A well seasoned and grilled steak doesn’t need grilled onions or steak sauce. They just mask the flavor of the steak.
- A massive cherry headboard doesn’t need curlyques and whirlygigs to make it pretty. They just give an eight year old nightmares.
- Chocolate ice cream doesn’t need nuts or fudge. They just distract from the smooth, creamy goodness.
- Bridge barriers don’t need decorative insets representing the mountains surrounding the valley. They just make the damn thing harder to build and maintain.
- And, cheesecake doesn’t need nuts, chocolate, or raspberry sauce. They just make the whole thing taste messy.
Unembellished things require time, patience and dedication of a different sort than the fancy stuff.
I value that ethic.
Instead of watching the big game yesterday, I addressed the last big mess in my little flat - the stupidly large bookcase and two boxes of stuff set aside over the last six months to deal with later. Or, roughly 62 cubic feet of books, knickknacks, paper, buttons, chocolate, tums, beauty products, desk supplies, and some stuff I’ve explicitly forgotten. Luckily, the bulk of it was either books or already sorted; but, after two hours of cleaning off the shelf and returning the bulk things I still had a bed covered with stuff I had to address.
As I sorted through the miscellanea, tossing or finding a place for everything I realize I’ve approached organizing my life this way for thirty years. To be fair, I complete some basic maintenance tasks; but, about once a year I find myself with two boxes full of stuff that just won’t find a home and a bookshelf covered with goodness only know what. All I know that works for me is taking everything and dumping it on the bed so I have to deal with it before I go to sleep.
I pick up every item and make a judgment call. Do I need/want to keep this thing? Do I have somewhere logical to put it? If I’m waffling, I ask if I’m keeping it to make someone else happy? Does it serve a purpose other than collecting hair balls? There’s a ruthlessness to it. You have to do it fast, or you’ll never get to sleep. I end up groaning a lot as stuff gets thrown away or placed in the donation box. At the end of the task - yesterday it took six hours (there was a little broken door maintenance to tackle as well) and I look at the shelf and feel both lighter and a bit proud that it’s once again more than just a clutter collector.
Today, as I sat down to enjoy my grilled cheese sandwich I wondered if I needed to do a big sort to my personal and emotional life as well. Or, will the current approach keep me from being all kinds of worn out because of the clutter?
I am a listener. This is what I do. I listen and try to understand. Often I don’t; but, I’m also a big believer in your choices are your choices and I can’t be the one to make them for you.
I am female. I may be the only non-athletic tomboy my aunt has ever met; but, at the end of the day I am female. I’m not even entirely sure what that means. All I know is that after one memorable night of pick-up improv I knew that identifying as male was a foreign concept for me.
I am a questioner. It’s how I try to help; thus, the challenge. I push and prod occasionally just to get my friends to think. Sometimes, it works. ;)
I am a map maker. Not in the memory palace sense; but, rather I look at what’s happening around me and use it to add a bit more detail to the maps I keep in my head. They’re a weird amalgamation of actual physical places and word based connections that I’m constantly fiddling with to define/refine/recalibrate.
I am cautious. Absurdly cautious. Enough said.
I am a slave to my cats. I’ve loved Duncan since the first time I met him and this antisocial cat claimed me. Loving Annabelle took a bit longer; but, the first time she jumped from snuggling in my lap to have a conversation with the air handling unit she stole my heart.
I am an adult. I work. I wear cute t-shirts. I pay my bills. I schedule my time. I take responsibility for my actions. I try to avoid pissing contests.
I am a performer. I’ve done a bit of acting. I’ve done a bit of improvisation - both long and short forms. I’ve done standup - once. I find a freedom on the stage that’s exhilarating and when I’m in the groove my brain stops making maps which is just bliss.
I am dependable. Whether your a client or a friend I try really hard to keep the commitments I make.
I am warped in a funny, non-linear kinda way. (OK, so warping implies non-linearity, sorry.) While everyone’s point of view on the world is a bit different, mine can be a little further afield from most. That’s what happens when you stand a little shorter and to the right.
I’m not big on New Years Resolutions as I try very hard not to set myself up to loose if I can help it. I’ve found a goal for this year though, one I think I can achieve. By the end of the year next year I’d like to feel like boundaries between the parts of myself are more porous.
A month or so ago I [https://fetlife.com/users/278446/posts/1267805][spouted off about masks]. In a way, it reads like the boundaries between the contrary parts of my personality are locked in with each other and things flow smoothly between them. They don’t. In fact, conceptually, they live as isolated pieces not in contact with each other as if they’re filling in the slots on a cafeteria plate. It’s kinda hard to honor the whole person when you think of yourself as pieces disconnected from one another.
Last night as I fell into bed, I thought about the kid I carry around inside me and just how vital she’s been to my survival. Next New Year’s as I fall into bed I’d like to acknowledge the smart ass, the linear thinker and the kid and not think of them as three separate beings.
This salient point of this morning's parking lot conversation is that being known and respected within one community doesn't translate to a second community. So, the respect you built up over in A doesn't transfer automatically, or quickly, to B. Even if A and B are kissing cousins with a reasonable amount of overlap.
Expecting the respect level to transfer automatically to people who don't know your history and haven't heard stories about who you are is setting yourself up for trouble and a parking lot conversation with a grenade thrower who will tell you that to some degree we thought in our heads, "Who the fuck do you think you are?" Even with your grey hair and years of experience.
The above only applies to respect conferred to a person in a community based on the collected stories told - or not told - and the way the bulk of the community addresses/speaks of a person. I use this type of respect to help me navigate groups of people I don't know well, and wait to confer personalized respect/neutrality/disrespect until after I have observed and evaluated someone.
Warning: Rant Crossing
Dear heavens, do I want to have fights with words tonight. Yet once again my brain stands between me and sleep. Only tonight, instead of gauzy dreams of what might be, I’m having fights with words.
To enough, you can go suck it. You don’t mean anything. When something is enough, it’s never at the edge, it’s at a plateau where something more is going to be demanded. Stop trying to make me measure my self worth and value on a scale that keeps moving.
To feelings, mind your place. You’re just there to help me emotionally understand how I’m responding to a given moment. I’m responsible for how I respond to the information you’re giving me. That’s it. Now my behavior may trigger amusement or hurt in another (or even myself) but that doesn’t make me responsible for how someone else feels or expresses their feelings.
To just as a qualifier for my name, shut up. I have linguistic problems with you. In the end I’m both as simple as you imply I am and more complex than you could ever dream of. I cannot let you limit me more than I already do.
To the idea that the person who chooses me will have to be special, go fuck yourself. No, seriously. I’m bent and warped and a little fucked up; but, I’m not so broken and damaged that someone would have to be stupid to take up with me. Yeah, yeah, that wasn’t the intent; but, still, go fuck yourself.
To needy, you are a truth, not a bad thing. I am needy. I am not wrong for being needy. Stop painting yourself as something that needs to be suppressed or ignored or beat down. Yes, sometimes what I need exceeds what someone else is in a position to give. That’s OK. That doesn’t make me bad, or unworthy, or in need of fixing. It’s just two different truths that aren’t at the same theatre.
I think that’s it. I’m going to try and sleep now.
As I celebrate my 37th birthday, I’ve started to jokingly call it the twentieth anniversary of my twenty-seventh birthday. It really does feel like I’ve been twenty seven for a very long time.
The year I turned eighteen, I was already an old soul and people routinely mistook me for a med student. As I approached my birthday I left behind me a childhood spent being the well kid and implemented a plan to head off to Cleveland, Ohio to pursue a degree. Yeah, I didn’t leave home to pursue a dream; for me the most important part about going to college was leaving home. If I happened to find a job concurrently, well, that was just expected. I made a concerted effort to make friends in school and would have made it out the other side more mentally healthy if my Dad hadn’t died at the end of my freshman year.
It’s strange, but, the events of the last year have helped me to understand just how locked down I was before Dad died. The rules only grew after his death. While in school the proximity to so many people made it harder to keep the steam from being visible. While I made a few new friends during the last three years of school, I don’t know how I survived. Getting out of bed in the morning almost always took the promise of an afternoon nap. I went from class to class with little enthusiasm and just enough effort to keep my grades up.
The two years after school were little more than survival years. I officially moved away from home and did little more than work, grocery shop and hang out at home. Seriously, I was boring.
Then came the six or seven years as a member of an evangelical church. It was great for helping me to be more social. It was ordered and structured and I felt safe to some degree. This is where I really lost track of time. I made some great friends and then one year both of my roommates got married and I was in three additional weddings. And things were so structured that the newly married people had little to do with the unmarried people and I felt unwanted. Then the order and structure that made me feel safe became stifling and I slunk away.
Since then it’s been survival mode interspersed with therapy, a bit of improv training, a bit of improv and more recently stepping into a different public sphere and onto the stage as an actor.
As I contemplate the last year of my 27th year there are a couple of things on my plate.
- The third and fourth tattoos I want to get. The third is an owl. It’s about wisdom in flight and being more aggressive. She’ll complement the turtle that represents the steady wisdom with a portable shell that I already have. The wings scare me a bit. I’m not sure I’m ready to make that leap. The fourth will be a lighthouse in remembrance of Grams.
- I’ve begun creating a 13 item list I admitted to struggling with ten days ago. Whether I complete it or publish it is still up in the air. Way up in the air.
- I haven’t fully or formally committed to the Thursday night advanced acting class. I’m still waffling. I know which way the pancake is leaning; but, I haven’t said yes/no yet.
- When/where and with whom to become a more active participant within my new public sphere. In the last nine months I’ve developed a better sense of where I might fit and find what I need. Of course, I am called to a road that isn’t the easiest for someone entering the path without a dedicated partner and with a skill at making bland impressions.
- The knowledge that my home is a wreck and seriously needs a good cleaning.
So, happy birthday to me and here’s hoping it’s the last time I turn twenty-seven. ;)
As I work to ward being my authentic self - that is whittling the masks I wear down to just the ones I truly need* - one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn to accept is that there are consequences to being me.
Much is said about the importance of being who you are in the quest to find happiness and balance. Little is said about how being who you are impacts how the world sees and interacts with you.
It’s a fact of life that I’m slow to warm to people. It’s who I am and I can’t change that about me, trust me I’ve tried. So, if this is my reality, how do I navigate in a world that makes decisions about people in the first seconds? I know that at my first encounter with new people, I’ll likely come across as bland - more like white grape juice than sparkling wine. The result is that many people write me off as someone they don’t want to know and my friends are usually friends of friends because someone includes me frequently enough that I overcome the first impression. I wish I felt accepted by nifty people/groups sooner. I’m learning to trust that one day there will be a quiet moment where a deeper connection can germinate will actually happen.
It’s another fact of life that I’m not pushy. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to stand my ground; but, I don’t push my way into your life, dynamic or group**. The world seems to reward those who push with attention and what they want. So, there are things i want, that I don’t get and I try hard not to fuss/whine about it. Regularly, I remind myself that asking isn’t the same as pushing.
There was a third thing; but, writing this has take too long already. I guess my point is that how fast/slow you’re accepted into a group is due to both the group dynamics and how you approach the world. Typically, neither is right or wrong, bad or good they just are. Make sure you’re looking at the larger picture before you get your fuss on.
* the masks we wear are part of who we authentically are, and that’s a whole different conversation.
** I can hear you now, if I really wanted something I would push my way in. It’s not going to happen. I’ve done it several times before and the over riding feeling I had for the entirety of the time I was somewhere I’d pushed to be was being unwanted. The only person I push is myself.