Life, controlled

I love lists. To-do lists, short-term, long-term, lists of accomplishments, lists that track data or statistics… oh I love them and I know I’m not the only one. Most of us who are like this don’t necessarily talk too much about it though, we know we’re the minority and it’s almost a closet passion. I’ve met a few kindred spirits though and learned that there are incredibly similar reasons behind our love of lists. Our gathering and tracking (and yes, sometimes hoarding) of information and data makes us feel secure and grounded – safe. They make a person feel like they can clearly see, assess, measure – control – everything in our reach and even those things beyond our current reach. Goals and dreams for the future even factor into the never-ending compilation of lists and spreadsheets. So does looking back and tracking where we’ve come from in so many areas of life. From work performance and tasks to personal activity, health and fitness tracking and goals to budgets, it can all be sorted and tracked and analyzed – almost obsessively so. “Archive” is a word that gives people like me the warm fuzzies – but we’ll almost never admit that, except to another like-minded spreadsheet-loving freak.  I am not exaggerating when I say I have budgets archived from at least 10 years ago and I can tell you exactly how much I spent in a coffee shop in October 2003 ($41.85). Want to know what the postal code was for the apartment that I lived in for a few months in 1990? I have that too. What was my body fat percentage in March 2013, just one second while I pull that up. This goes beyond the usual grocery list on the fridge type of behaviour that is what most people limit themselves to – and I know that. Being in control and task oriented is a good thing, even necessary depending on how you live your life. Yet what I’m looking at here is something other than what would be considered “normal”. An easy analogy: having a drink with friends when you get together is all good; secretly drinking alone every night until you pass out is not healthy behaviour. Same idea but without the alcohol….

So why is it that some people are so bound by lists and the need to collect and track information? Any behaviour that is habitual must serve a need to be continued. The question then is how is it serving a need – and more importantly – if you want to change it – what is that need?

Some introspection this past week has me pondering the reasons behind it all. It’s not the first time that I’ve thought “what would happen if I just stopped?” Would the world stop spinning if I chose to “delete forever” from my drive? Would my ability to function within my safety net of knowing everything be affected? It’s these thoughts that drive me to peruse the “why”. It’s actually something I contemplate every time someone in my life points out that these lists and compilations aren’t always the healthiest of behaviour patterns for me.

Breaking it down, It comes down to two very separate and distinct motivators. From the people who I’ve encountered, and my own experience, these reasons exist with very blurred lines of separation and aren’t mutually exclusive.

The first is control. The control that a person has over their lives, or the illusion of control, serves a massive need to feel secure and stable. It is personal safety 101 and it is one of our most basic, primal needs that we search to have met. If you grow up experiencing life with trauma, abuse, neglect, instability or a feeling of not being secure – this is where it can manifest from. From a sense of not being able to control even the most basic of your needs like personal safety or stability in your environment we learn coping mechanisms. Some people put up walls so thick and high that their own internal space becomes the only space they need or want to feel that security. They dissociate, find a secure place inside of themselves and hunker down for the long haul, sometimes for life. Others turn outwards, looking to obsessively control any aspect that they can. For these people, when they start to have control over some areas of their lives, they exert it stringently and with an iron fist. Welcome to homes that are never cluttered or untidy, bookshelves arranged by colour or author or book size, closets that are micro-organized. Lives that are lived scheduled to the minute and smartphones that are linked to every calendar imaginable for cross referencing. This type of behaviour is something that can be a healthy characteristic to possess. It’s when it creeps into needing to control other people’s actions (or reactions) that it can get messy and toxic.  In teen years, or even younger, this control shows up as eating disorders and other forms of self harm. You can’t control if someone is abusing you but you sure as hell can decide to not eat or to secretly hurt yourself with blades. You exert dominance over the one thing you can; your body.

Which brings me to the next option for “why”. Closely linked but different.

You grow up, move out and get away from the external influences that you sought to wrestle control from. Now you are competent and in control and perfection in action… Unless you aren’t. Instead of your mother or father or society inflicting the hurt or telling you that you aren’t good enough or you are a failure, you learn to (outwardly at least) shake that off and be strong and independent! Yet the firmly entrenched and expected feeling of being not good enough or “wrong” somehow is – sadly – a comfortable way to feel. As dysfunctional as that sounds, it’s what is the most normal and it’s been the most consistent feeling in your life for so long that it actually feels better when you feel badly. Messed up, but not uncommon unfortunately. So, what better way to punish or hurt yourself (and create that familiar, if unhealthy, feeling) than by being the one to set up the parameters for how you measure up? This is an easy one to hide from even yourself though. It very often masquerades as “good” and “healthy” to the person doing it, even motivational. These types of behaviours are routinely even praised and encouraged by others. You feel accomplished and organized and you are the envy of your friends who can never find the tax papers they need or who run out of socks because they let their laundry pile up in the corners of their cluttered rooms. You give yourself a big pat on the back for having it all so together.

Looking deeper though, you’ll see the patterns of reactionary behaviour that go with this type of behaviour and tracking and list making. You know the exhaustion that comes from always needing to be perfect and the need to have everything around you perfect. You know that holding onto those spreadsheets of weekly or monthly goals not quite met sends you into an emotional spin. You know that every time you analyze what you consider a failure to meet unachievable goals (that you set for yourself…see the loop here?) you feel badly. Yet you still do it. You have become the abuser and the abused, and in some twisted way, you know this and it’s better than it was because now at least, you are in control of it.  You are the only one who can stop the cycle and be, ironically, in control of ending the cycle that eats away at your self-image and self-love. But how about instead of you being the one to control the hurt, you chose to stop it instead?

Whether it’s about control or self-harm, unhealthy actions need to be changed. It may sound simplistic and it is. Simple, but not easy. Being aware of the “why” is sometimes the first stop on the road to making changes. From there, you’re in control, in a good way.

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through the fire and back

the bright center of amber lost,

the sheen of the metal tarnished.

it is now forever altered, changed.

in the blink of an eye,

in the span of a few seconds,

the scorch of the flames

appeared to devour the essence of its beauty.

however, it remains;

loved, held close,

recovered and reclaimed,

literally from the ashes.

it is, still now,

as it always was,

beautiful.

only now in a new way,

a different way.

fullsizerender1

So badly wanted.

For years I had wanted something so badly, I craved it more than I can ever remember wanting anything else. It wasn’t a singular item or want exactly. It was something that I would daydream about though. I would make plans about what I would do with it when I had it and I would imagine what it would be like to have it. Oh, you can bet I dreamed and wished and planned for the elusive, but certain, day when I would have it. When it would be mine.

What was it that I wanted so badly? Time. Time was what I wanted. Not just any old kind of time though. I wanted time to myself. Time that was just for me to use as I wanted. Time that was for my pursuits and dreams and needs – and wants. Selfish time that had only one focus, me.

You see, back then, when that was what I wanted more than anything else, time was a valuable commodity to me. I was a single parent, I had young (and numerous) children and work outside of the home and my own business. Oh, and attempts at a social life in there somewhere as well. Volunteering, community and school commitments aplenty and all of the late night hours that went along with those. My time was given freely and readily to everyone else in my life. I didn’t begrudge the fact that this was my life, in fact I loved it. I thrived on the pace of it all and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

But time for myself just was never there. Each day when everything all was done, I would fall into bed exhausted and imagine what it would be like to have even just a couple of hours to myself that I could do anything I wanted with. Even getting to enjoy a bath without knocks on the door and voices asking me questions and wanting to know when I would be done was unheard of back then. I craved solitude and silence. I couldn’t even grasp the concept of what entire day or weekend just for me would be like. That was beyond even my imagination!

Now though, I have that. I have time to myself. I have crafted my life after a change in circumstances into what it is now, and that life includes time for me. I have hours to myself. Days even, all to myself. I still have work and other commitments but the demands on my time that used to fill the other hours are no longer there. Silence and solitude is the standard for this new life of mine. So what is it that I do with the time that I so desperately wanted and that I now actually possess?

Nothing, for the most part. I wanted it more than anything and now that I have it, I don’t use it.

Do I spend hours writing and creating like I always wanted to, but never had the time for?

No, barely ever.

What about those imagined hobbies or interests that were going to be sought out “some day”? Still waiting on those.

What about me seeking out the little dalliances that pique my desires to explore?

Not a single one delved into yet.

What about spending indulgent days doing nothing and feeling amazing about it?

Nope.

The one thing that I have ever wanted the most is mine now, and I don’t even use it – and it’s time that changed.

What’s between your legs? And why does it matter?!

A conversation happened today in which the subject of the events going on in the US was being discussed. I was present but not part of the discussion but when a remark was made that we didn’t need to worry , up here in Canada, and especially here in this city because, after all… there weren’t really that many gays. As a matter of fact, this person said, she didn’t even know anyone who was gay. Well, hold on there…now I was part of the discussion, thank you very much.

After outing myself and being open that I have many friends and chosen family who live in the states and that they have very real and very founded fears for themselves and their lives, not to mention the potential ramifications on their employment and basic human rights, I explained that it wasn’t something that was just an issue in the states. That as a gay woman, in an openly lesbian relationship with another woman, safety IS something that is a consideration, even in Canada.

I was told bluntly that, as a “straight looking feminine woman” I don’t look like a “real gay person” and therefore, I don’t have any reason to be afraid for what is happening in the US since the election. Sadly, this is not the first time – or the last probably – that this sentiment is voiced.

As a Femme dyke, I know that I am very often misread as being straight. I also know that I am always quick to openly correct someone when that assumption is made known. One reason for that is for that exact point – because I don’t look like what some uninformed or unexposed people would expect a gay person to look like. So, in my little way, in my predominantly safe area of the world that we live in, I try to do what I can to expose people.  It’s often frustrating and feels like one step forward two steps back as I see a stranger being dismissive or worse yet, seeing someone who has been working to understand and accept suddenly come out with a remark that is born of long standing beliefs that are, clearly, not as changed as I had hoped.

Later in the day, a small remark from a co-worker about someone who may or may not “be a man” sparked a remark back from me that asked the question “what makes a person a man or a woman. If they say they’re a man, then they’re a man”.

I was frustrated and upset from the earlier conversation and would normally have let this go but not today. So here’s my little roller coaster of “nope, not dropping this one today”, it’s time for a bit of a rant…

*disclaimer, this is in no way comprehensive, it covers just what I ranted about today in person with my co-worker, notably, masculine/feminine and the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation*

What defines a person’s gender? Or their sexual orientation? Or their self identity? Or, or, or….? Spoiler alert, aka the short answer: Not you.

The terms masculine and feminine are not gender specific. They are simply terms that are used to categorize certain traits, mannerisms and characteristics of behaviour and appearance or presentation. Yet they are so often used in such a limited, and limiting way that it’s harmful.

We are taught from as far back as we can recall that a person is labelled as a boy or a girl because of what they are born with between their legs. Along with whatever parts are visible is the expectation of how they will dress, behave and what what roles in society they will fit into. All based on genitals. That’s a lot to live up to based on physical presentation. So what if what a person is, who they are, is not what society says they should be, based on what is between their legs and on their chest?

What do you do with the little girl who wants to ride dirt bikes and play ice hockey instead of ringette? Or the little boy who loves to match his socks to his shirts and draws intricate doodles of flowers. Both of these examples by the way are of children that I knew when my kids were in school, and in both cases, it was the parents who were far more judgemental than the other kids.

Ok you say, some people are gay and that’s ok. Ah, but what if these little kids aren’t gay? What if they are what they are in their expression of themselves and it has nothing to do with who they will be sexually and/or romantically attracted to when they grow up? A person’s gender identity and their sexual orientation are not the same thing.

How do you classify a masculine woman; one who identifies as a woman, has the commonly accepted physical aspects of female (pssst, I mean a vagina) but who is more masculine than feminine in her dress and mannerisms.

How do you classify a feminine man; one that has a penis – so he must be a man (because that is, of course, how you determine these things after all) but his mannerisms and way of dressing or acting would be more commonly called feminine?

Then add in the aspect of sexuality and sexuality orientation.

What if that masculine woman isn’t a lesbian like you thought she would be when you slotted her into that category in your mind? Because all women who dress and act more “like a man” must be lesbians. Just like that woman that you see in feminine dress and make up must be straight. Maybe, maybe not – on both accounts. Oh but what if that pretty, feminine woman has a penis? She might, or she might not. How would you know, and why would it make a difference to what you see her as. What matters is how she sees herself and how she lives her life.

What if that man who is so feminine, and who you assume must be a gay man, isn’t? What if he’s a straight man who is, just simply, more feminine that what you think a straight man should be like? Oh but wait, what if he has a vagina? But then again how would you know, and what would it matter.

So many what if’s! So many varieties and options and possibilities! What if you just accepted a person as just that: a person. My sexual orientation has nothing to do with how I interact with someone in day to day life. Neither does my self identity of gender. Unless we are looking to hookup or date, it just doesn’t matter. It’s really that simple.

You may now unbuckle and get off the roller coaster. The tilt-a-whirl is just around the corner, I’ll meet you there for the next ride 😉

Picture this

My new little foray into more image and less words for the lolabits expression can be found at my new blog site, such stuff as dreams. Still very much keeping up this site, but sometimes a picture can speak louder than words and sometimes words just aren’t needed so this new exploration fills that gap for me :).

For those of you that aren’t on my Facebook feed or haven’t seen it, a little invite to come stop by and see what it’s about.

Lola

This could become a “thing”!

So today is my birthday and, unlike most years, I’m embracing it in ways that I normally wouldn’t. I’m not one to put a lot of significance into acknowledging or celebrating it. It’s not a day that has usually had much recognition, by myself more so than anyone else. I don’t mean it in a way of saying that I feel like it’s been ignored or that it’s been a negative thing, it’s just the way that I’m wired for it. Some people make a huge deal out of their birthdays, and that’s all good, I’m just not one of them. I had actually kept my birth date off of social media for years because I don;t like a lot of attention being paid to it, usually.

Last year was a bit out of the norm for me. My partner did make a deal of. She treated me to a surprise night out at an amazing show and a wonderful home-cooked dinner. Being made to feel special was a new experience for me. The way she did it was the best and I loved it’s simplicity and it’s personal nature. It felt good to feel good and to celebrate something that is so intrinsically personal and all about me. Not an easy thing for me to understand.

This year, from the moment go this morning, it’s been a new experience. I’m not “doing” anything for my birthday but I am “being” different today and how that is feeling to me has taken me by surprise. It began though, before today even. Last night I took the time to pick up a couple of things while I was grocery shopping. Items that would help make an already planned and looked-forward-to dinner even better. Items that will compliment the scrumptious pasta sauce that my sweetie sent me home with from the weekend.

I took the time to think of how to make my planned experience even better.

I took the time to think of myself and how could I could make myself happier.

I put my attention on myself.

That’s a big thing. That’s not something that is my usually way of being and thinking. Felt good though.

I woke up this morning and made myself coffee and took my time getting ready. I actually dawdled and sat and scrolled through social media and smiled as I saw messages and wishes for a happy day.

I made a conscious and very intentional decision to pick out something to wear that I loved and that made me feel good today. Why? For the unheard of reason that I decided that I wanted to feel amazing today and that I deserved that.

What a concept! One that, as simple and easy and obvious as it sounds, isn’t one that I operate with as part of my life usually. It’s not anything as dysfunctional as “I hate myself” (most of the time) but it’s just that I don;t register on my own radar for doing something, anything, for myself beyond necessity and basics.

Being, what I would consider self indulgent, or even just being attentive to what will put a smile on my face or make me feel good inside or out doesn’t exist for me really.

But you know what? I have spent the day (so far! It’s not over yet!) paying attention to myself and putting myself and feeling good foremost in my mind – even while working a full day and getting things done!

I’ve taken the time to indulge in thinking about  myself and in recognizing that my feeling good is important and worth spending time and energy on. This may have to become a daily thing, it feels so good. This could become a thing!

Miscommunication by Generation Gap

*her (client, early twenties)* “excuse me, do you have the wifi password for here?”

*me (working, nearing mid forties)* “Of course, it’s (I pause, giving her time to get ready to type as she is holding her device in her hand, at the ready) Spine, with a capital S, pound sign, zero, zero, seven.”

*her* (typing, she stops and looks at me) “is pound with a capital P too?”

*me* “Nope, I mean the pound sign, not the word pound. You know, the “number” sign it’s called too. It’s Spine, with a capital S, pound sign, then zero, zero, seven.” (I smile)

*her* blinks and stares at me, silent.

*me* stares back, smiling, silent

*her* stares back and smiles

*me*Would you like me to write it down?”

*her* “That would be great” she beams.

*me* writes down “Spine#007” and hands her the piece of paper.

*her* “Oh, you mean a hashtag! That symbol is a hashtag, not whatever you called it – a pound? It’s a hashtag. It came out a couple of years ago.” She smiles.

she hands me back the piece of paper as she starts typing and turns to sit down.

*me* “Yeah, thanks” I smile back.

#itusedtobecalledsomethingelsereallyitdid