Return

I have decided to return to Tennessee after spending a little over three months here in Tucson. I’m grateful to have taken the opportunity to live in a new city with new people, practicing a new lifestyle and working a new job. I learned a lot about myself, but if you didn’t notice, that’s a lot of new to take on. I experienced severe and ongoing anxiety and depression while living out here, as I struggled to adjust to all the new. After giving myself enough time to think through why I’d stay in Tucson v. why I’d go to Tennessee, I decided my overall wellbeing would benefit most from going home.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs. I plan to take a break from blogging for now. With such an abrupt change of plans, I will be getting back on my feet once I return home. Despite the mystery of what lies ahead, I’m learning how to trust myself better by choosing what’s best for me.

In trench I’m nøt aløne

“What I’m grateful for that I didn’t expect to be grateful for”… interesting prompt for someone like me who tries to practice gratitude regularly, and who has experienced a lot of sadness and frustration over the past few months. I have still found gratitude, of course, but through similar happenings in which I’ve always found it. So that’s not unexpected. And music might not be the most unexpected happening for someone who has looooved music since age 5, but….

On Oct. 5, 2018, Twenty Øne Piløts released their fourth album Trench. About 3 years ago, I listened to TØP non-stop – Blurryface, Vessel, their self-titled album, and all the beauty you can find on YouTube. I identify as a member of the Skeletøn Clique – their ever-faithful fan base – I’ve posted below a description from the Clique’s Facebook group to let you know why it exists. Within a year of being introduced to TØP’s music, I got a tattoo in reference to one of their songs and saw them in concert twice. Their music has given me hope in some of my most depressed and suicidal seasons, hope that introduced me to being myself, to pursuing authenticity for the first time.

Oct. 5, ‘18 also marks the day I visited my brother at The Carolina Center of Behavioral Health. Coincidence? Five days prior, he had suffered from an episode of psychosis. This was a first-time experience for him. I got a call from my mom about half-an-hour after getting home from a church service. With what I knew of our family history and my brother’s present-day circumstances, I felt deep urgency to be with my family and see him asap. I grieved and worried and hoped. I cried through phone calls and traveling the next few days. I listened to TØP. At this point, the band had released four songs from their coming album. The lyrics of the music uncannily lined up with my feelings and experiences. Here are some lyrics and my personal interpretations:

“Jumpsuit” – “I can’t believe how much I hate, pressures of a new place roll my way. Jumpsuit, jumpsuit cover me. I crumble underneath the weight, pressures of a new place roll my way. Jumpsuit, jumpsuit cover me….
I’ll be right there, but you’ll have to grab my throat and lift me in the air, if you need anyone. I’ll stop my plans, but you’ll have to tie me down and then break both my hands, if you need anyone.”

~to describe feelings of hiding and defensiveness while facing the disorientation of a new place; and to describe the feeling of commitment to a new opportunity, which would only be challenged by a situation so demanding that I’d have to change my course of action, which is the extremity I felt when I heard about my brother~

“Levitate” – “Oh, I know how to levitate up off my feet, and ever since the seventh grade I learned to fire-breathe; and though I feed on things that fell, you can learn to levitate with just a little help. You can levitate with just a little help.”

~to describe the coping mechanism of disconnecting/dissociating to feel as if I have transcended a difficult situation, until another one presents itself~

“My Blood” – “When everyone you thought you knew deserts your fight, I’ll go with you. You’re facin’ down a dark hall; I’ll grab my light and go with you. I’ll go with you…
Stay with me, no, you don’t need to run. Stay with me, my blood, you don’t need to run…
If you find yourself in a lion’s den, I’ll jump right in and pull my pin, and go with you. I’ll go with you. You don’t need to run. My blood, I’ll go with you.”

~my personal favorite~to describe the feelings of lost and darkness one feels when facing their [psychological] struggles alone and stigmatized; and the singer’s desire to not see the person feeling alone, no matter what the circumstances look like~to describe that it’s my literal bloodline feeling this pain, and they don’t need to hide or run because I love them and will be there for them~

Twenty Øne Piløts lyrics are inclusive to people who feel alone, different, weird, all the fun words used to stigmatize people who don’t quite fit in; and inclusive to all those who fight battles in their brains, those who don’t have the ability to suppress and “live normally”. This spirit has kept me and so many others alive, giving us a community of love, even in suffocating darkness. In the three-year gap between Blurryface and Trench, I stopped listening as avidly as I used to, though I will never forget the band. Their new album is now on the rise, and the relevance of the music to my life has taken me very much by surprise. I feel grateful every day for the band’s work, and just like I shouted to them at their concerts, I continue to say “thank you”.

This blog’s title is a lyric from the last song on the album, “Leave the City”, and the lyric that precedes it says, “Though I’m far from home”.

Skeletøn Clique: “Basically, we are responsible for the preservation of our personal joy, but happiness is different. Joy is not circumstantial; happiness is. You can be depressed and still have joy. We all stop thinking and we all stop sharing and we all stop creating – because by doing any of these things, we quickly find out just how unhappy we are. But that’s okay! That’s normal. Don’t let the fear of unhappiness cripple your pursuit of finding what it is you believe. Since joy is found in belief, we all have to push through unhappiness to find joy. We are the Skeletøn Clique, and so are you ||-//”

|-/ and ||-// generally denote “stay alive”, recognizing how difficult that pursuit is for those who live outside the norm of mental health.

what am I up to anyway??

Well, I’ll tell ya…

-I didn’t know until I got here, really. I knew I would be working at the YWCA. I had interviews and talked with my to-be supervisors. But I knew nothing about how the day-to-day would play out in this wildly new environment (and I didn’t want to.. because.. living in the present).-

Here’s some info on my new life, as I’ve received and experienced so far:

  1. The House of Neighborly Service (HNS) is where I spend my workdays ~ Monday-Thursday (lunes a jueves) ~ The job is multifaceted. I spend 5 hours on Mon. and Thurs. mornings in a program called Las Comadritas, playing bingo and sharing meals with seniors living in South Tucson.* HNS also hosts projects and events that 1) spread awareness about local issues, 2) connect the organizations that confront those issues, and 3) bring the people of South Tucson* together to celebrate their talents and interests in a safe, enthusiastic space.IMG_E0949
  2. The remainder of Mondays and Thursdays, as well as Tuesdays and Wednesdays (martes y miercoles), are devoted to office assistance at HNS’s Women’s Business Center (WBC). There are actually over 100 of these centers all around the country, each funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (federal grant money ….. AKA tax dollars). WBCs offer education and tools to entrepreneurs who face obstacles getting started in the business world (think oppressed groups: anyone born into poverty  women ∞ people of color the queer community*  the physically disabled the mentally disabled veterans  etc. etc. etc.). You don’t have to be a woman to start a business through South Tucson’s* WBC, but the office itself is run by women, so we be passin’ down feminine-styled leadership and business techniques <buh-bye patriarchy>.IMG_E0962
  3. On Fridays (en viernes), I spend time with my three housemates, whom I met at the end of August. We’ve all ended up in the same house, despite our differing backgrounds and personalities; and our goal is to give each other honesty, generosity, compassion, kindness, grace, and, really, anything else that falls under the umbrella of unconditional love. We share meals together, manage a budget together, and \more importantly/ laugh and cry together. This practice of intentional community is a beautifully unique part of the YAV program. It seemed intimidating at first, but I live with three real stand-up people, so I feel hopeful and grateful for the time I have left with them.

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  4. I’ve spent a lot of my free time exploring the city via bicycle ~ trying to make friends, viewing the vast amount of public art, and undoubtedly seeking out the food culture. I need ideas for cooking community meals! And, when given the opportunity, I eat out at really dank food trucks and family-owned businesses. I don’t think I’ve eaten any “American food” since I’ve been here, just food from around the world that has made its way to Tucson.IMG_E0963

*South Tucson is a 1.02sqmi portion of Tucson that has historically resisted annexation from the city of Tucson. This resistance, unfortunately, has led to the city remaining in poverty, hence the need for thriving local businesses in the area. S. Tucson’s cultural richness comes from the Mexican community – an estimated 84% of the population – which has carried with them music, recipes, holidays, and so many other profound traditions.
*As someone who belongs to the queer community, I am reclaiming that word {queer} which people have historically used in a derogatory way to insult those who identify non-straight/non-cisgender. I’m also disinterested in typing out all the letters used as a labeling system for a group that I simply see as beautiful humans, free to love and express however they want.

Soccer

part one: self-care

Week 4. Day 24. Hour 15 of this day, 19 September, 2018.

As the adjustment process to my new residence in Tucson continues, memories of playing soccer have flooded my mind and [honestly, at times] kept me going.

The beautiful game helped me feel “better” for most of my growing up years, until it didn’t anymore (then I quit lol). Reflecting back on the years I spent with hundreds of other teammates, traveling from one tournament to the next, playing our hearts out for each other…… I learned ALOT about self-care during those years. My coaches taught me that with the right amount of preparation and careful attention to pace, I can pursue anything I want AND feel grateful for putting my all into something, regardless of the numbers on the scoreboard.

Playing soccer takes an extreme amount of focus, agility, and endurance. Here are the conditions: 70-90 minutes/game, the occasional 2-3 games/day, endless hours of practicing and warming up, listening to and incorporating coaches’ directions into the team’s talents and abilities, and coordinating with 10 other players on the field to make BeaUtiFULL plays happen (until the very!last!minute!). Long-term success came from – win or lose – taking honest looks at ourselves and what we needed to adjust in preparation for every next match. Never settle; there’s always progress to make; ~especially because every opponent is different, and expecting guaranteed success from a “playbook” is just ludicrous~. The sport is meant to be inventive; it pushes your mind just as much as your body, which makes the victories that much more gloriOUSSS. Imagine playing in those conditions. I did it, with a team, and did it as well as I could for a long, long time.

I don’t play for an official team anymore, but soccer taught me lessons about working hard that I still hold close. Those lessons have resurfaced since I moved to Tucson. What has kept me going most lately has been remembering ~~to take care of myself so that I can work hard in order to grow and thrive in my current position~~.

One of the most difficult parts of adjusting physically has been transport by bicycle. I love ridin’ bikes, but I’ve had to extremely *up* my water intake because of all the physical exercise I’m now doing in the desert’s dryyyy heat. This preparation involves planning my water intake around the places I’ll be throughout my day, as well as paying attention to my energy and hunger levels. So far, so good — no heat strokes yet.

As a sport-loving person, biking has become a major part of coping with homesickness and adjusting emotionally here. Physical activity clears my head. Some days it feels like my only self-care outlet in the midst of all the anxiety I’ve felt. THAT amount of /!\dIS|oRie|NTEd\;/ is something I don’t want to feel. I started to ponder how I might incorporate other forms of self-care into my adjustment process, expanding from just bikin’ around everywhere. I now realize and accept that I must do that to bring emotional stability back into my life….

….because my bike is currently in the shop. It fell, along with an entire bike rack and other bike, off a moving car I was driving. a little traumatizing.

I began this post with an official record of the time I’ve spent here in Tucson because, though three weeks is a comparatively short period of time, those weeks have draaagggedd on by. Within the past few days, I’ve let myself rest more and process the anxious emotions that affecting me at this journey’s onset. I realize I won’t feel personal success from my experience unless I >>get my head in the game<< (sounds harsh; it’s not). I want to quiet and still my mind, which can only be done by careful attention to preparation and pace. Self-care – which now includes for me awholelotta drawing, cooking, and writing – before every big match…. which this year-long appointment kinda feels like the World Cup.
Living out my personal prep and pace has already given me deeper peace with each passing day. Thanks, soccer, for lasting as an influential part of my life, and thank you to everyone who has been a part of the widespread soccer community. It’s the world’s most loved sport for a reason. ;D

Holy Moment Recognition

I often notice connections between my consciousness and the perceived world around me; sometimes they absolutely bewilder me.

~Unexpected artwork~
Ms. Debbie from Riverwood, one of Knoxville’s ability ministries for adults, entrusted to me a coloring book masterpiece of hers, as well as a page for me to color: An ornate urn pouring out water full of mystery, representative of my zodiac sign. Would not have met her without my life-friend Kimberly, who has one of the silliest minds and strongest hearts I know.

~Sacred rebellion~
You’ve heard visitors of the Sistine Chapel are not permitted to take photos of the ceiling, right? (I actually followed that rule… Got some reverence left in me yet.) Have you also heard that having food/drink in the Chapel is neither permitted? Maybe that one’s a given. Wellllllllll… I found myself in the midst of a fellow rule-breaker after taking a seat on a pew along the Chapel’s wall.
I had just lowered my head down from the entrancing ceiling and reeled back in my jaw when I noticed the woman next to me whispering to her friend and munching on small, shortbread cookies. I laughed [hard] [to myself] because of her sneaky demeanor accompanying her actions. Her companion arose and left; she turned to me; we fleetingly locked eyes and smiled; looked away; and before I could process the next moment, she had stealthily placed 4 cookies from her purse to her hands to mine.
As a foodie with a high metabolism, I easily fell weak to shock and gratitude {BEWILDERED}. We could not speak each other’s languages, so I hope I succeeded in thanking her by showing her how much joy I felt because of her actions (laughter, hugs, clasping hands… all the good stuff).
I broke bread under Michelangelo’s artwork with a loving, aged Portuguese woman because she had the wild idea to sneak cookies through the entire Vatican Museum to the Sistine Chapel.

~A cynic’s love~
In my lucky experience, people who work in kitchens have no interest in downplaying the shit that life may bring, but they try to face it with as much bravery, stoicism, kindness, and silliness as possible, depending on the situation. I have a dear friend who lovingly and relentlessly calls me a maniac. I feel called out on my maniacal behavior by his very presence. We pass the time and hard work in the kitchen by listening to more music than any one person can imagine.
One evening, my ridiculously intuitive and cynical friend {mentioned above} knew I was hating everything during that hour, including myself, so he decided to play a song that proclaimed, “Love’ll get you like a case of anthrax, and that’s something I don’t want to catch.” I’m still not sure if he knows how encouraged//loved I felt by his song choice – both because of 1) the impeccable timing of the song in relation to my circumstances and 2) his enigmatic lip-syncing rendition after a long, hard day. Convinced he was a mind-reader, I later asked him why he chose to play that song at that moment in the kitchen… All he said was, “Don’t know, it’s something that helped me when I was your age,” and I ’bout cried at that response.
(“Love Like Anthrax” by Gang of Four)

~Young resilience~
Teach hundreds of kids how to swim; realize that most of them are too afraid to believe they can succeed (until you, against their will, strongly nudge them into it); watch them trust you more and take the strokes of faith required to swim well; celebrate the success and do it all again….. And then try to tell me you wouldn’t be moved by Ahadi, a 6-year-old sweet baby, go from screaming in fear in the 4-foot part of the pool to <all on his own> exclaiming, “The LORD is my shepherd!!!” and moving his arms and legs in a beautifully successful front crawl/freestyle stroke.
(Psalm 23- The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want)

Life somehow overflows with holy moments that I miss unless I pay attention. Learning how to see brings me the potential to experience great joy in every moment of happenstance.

Just live in the uncertainty.

One step,

One breath

At a time.

In and out.

YHWH.

The way and being of life- finite,

But eternal because we all breathe the same air.

resurrection sunday

Allowing myself to feel the depths of depravity and hopelessness brought by trying to stay alive, I find myself longing for a life completely restored, joyful, and abundant – without suffering. I may even allow myself to believe that life will be reality someday.

“Just a fool’s hope.” -Gandalf the White

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