It’s Friday for me, maybe weekend for you, I keep saying this but wow the moon is so intense.
A tiny note about seasons & hemispheres
This piece deals quite a bit my ongoing pre-winter panic which is sometimes small and sometimes enormous, but always on my mind. I know we have people reading this in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, possibly other places, and I do not want to forget or leave out any southern hemisphere friends where the seasons are going the opposite way!
If these themes of preparing for hunkering down for winter don’t apply to you, just switch it around and make it work for entry into summer, or save this for fall when you get there, I love you, happy spring to everyone on the other side!
Good + Cheer, or maybe Good/Cheer
About a month ago I wrote about how a switch turned on (or possibly off) in my brain, mysteriously and without notice, and suddenly I wasn’t lonely anymore.
Nothing had changed, not even slightly, if you look towards the external circumstances; there was just suddenly absence where previously there had been aching presence (the presence being the awareness of what isn’t there, which is a different kind of absence, it’s confusing).
Or maybe, let’s say it differently: I was able to experience a new absence, and this absence felt good to me. To be in a state of not-needing not-wanting, it felt like peace, it felt like freedom.
Absence of absence
The absence [of companionship, or anyone to talk to] in my life was no longer a source of distress to me, and so my awareness of that absence faded, until everything became just generally okay, not good and not terrible.
But now the aching loneliness is back, something must have flipped the switch again, but I couldn’t tell you what shifted for me.
Yet again, a mysterious switch just switched itself.
And so we must wait and see. Will it switch back, god I hope so, this is miserable.
There exists in my mind a very enthusiastic Greek Chorus of monsters (those devastatingly cruel voices of internal self-criticism), they line up in my head and offer unhelpful commentary.
Their favorite act is to dramatically chant the song of regrets, the not good enough never good enough dirge.
They are especially upset about equinox, and how it came and went, and everything is still miserable.
They also believe that nothing happened during this quarter, in these quarters, this time-space between solstice and equinox.
More than that, they believe nothing has been accomplished this year, whether you look at the year beginning in January, or at the head of the year in September as I do.
So we had to play a round of What’s True & What’s Also True….
What’s True & What’s Also True
This is a very efficient strategy to take with monsters and other forms of self-criticism, because it’s intentionally not engaging in fighting.
If you try to fight back and disagree emphatically and say NO YOU ARE WRONG, then they can say NO YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS WRONG, and it devolves into a great glumness.
But when you agree with them on some points, it disarms them.
It’s a yes-and. It returns your power. Now you are the one setting the pace/tone/energy of the interaction.
Sure, it is absolutely true that I did not accomplish many if not most of the things I’d hoped to do this year.
That’s called being disabled by a chronic illness, that’s the reality of where I’m at. It doesn’t have to mean I’m a fuckup, it just means I’m working with different parameters. Which in turn means we need to re-establish more reasonable expectations.
What’s true? It’s true that summer was lethargic, I don’t have air conditioning and it was a brutally hot summer, and hibernation in the form of sequestering in my bedroom was the only way.
What’s true? It’s true that I have been going through some stuff.
What else is true?
It’s also true that many things did happen, many steps were taken, many wishes came true!
The steps are important because even if the projects haven’t reached completion that does not mean the steps don’t matter, they matter tremendously.
I spent the entire summer working on Operation Reduce & Destroy, researching every bill I pay and finding a less expensive option to switch to (internet, car insurance, phone, absolutely everything).
The two rattling windows that either never shut properly or are impossible to open got replaced with double paned glass that will help me stay warm in winter and cool in summer. This was an enormous project with many steps and nothing went as planned, and it still happened. Incredible work.
That is the truth
I added new delicious recipes to the repertoire, did slow gentle bobcat stretching every day, and tended to my fragile mental health, good job. It all counts, it all matters.
We cannot say that nothing happened when actually I was tending to myself to the best of my ability.
That is the brave stuff of life. That is the truth.
What else is true!
So much has changed since a year ago. I got more insulation beneath the tiny house and around the windows, curtains on the windows, a cozy bench for sitting and writing.
I was a brave star who heroically made it through a long cold winter without heat or hot water and did not die, good job. Can we do it again?
I hope I won’t have to do it under the same circumstances, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
What do I want to focus on, equinox into solstice?
Or even equinox through to next equinox?
The project that feels most vital and enticing is something I’m calling Operation Winter Cheer.
It’s about coziness, brightness, sweetness, warmth, trust, the color yellow, the taste of cinnamon.
It is about reducing the elements that cause me to fall apart (long list), and adding more elements of cozy comfort.
Operation Winter Cheer
This is a six month plan, to amp up cheery cheeriness and cozy comforts, brightness and warmth, and see where I am at vernal equinox, on the other side.
I do not like how fall is spent dreading winter, and yet how can I not dread winter when I know what it is like here?! (Dark, cold, grey, windy and absolutely terrifying.)
This morning I had to wear a hat while kitchen-jogging; it is coming, and I am not ready.
What will help with readiness or perceived-readiness? What is the opposite of dread, or what is a clue about the opposite of dread?
This is a bit of a theme this year.
For example, the chai bourbon honey cake I made for the new year that at first seemed like maybe it didn’t turn out that great, not wildly delicious the way I’d hoped. But! Once it sat in fridge overnight and got icing, it was a delight. Some things just need to sit, you know?
What else is a delectable transformation?
And can I remember to keep asking this question?
What got me through last winter was tea lights (thank you so much to Darcy who mailed me an enormous package of them). I used them to light loose incense that I made on the solstice, and lit them as a morning ritual to get me through early morning bobcat stretching in the dark.
How do we reverse the theme of A Tolerable Level of Permanent Unhappiness and invoke the superpower of actually of no level of permanent unhappiness is acceptable (because fuck that, as Holly says).
Tea lights are one way. Fairy lights. Bright colors. Heating pads. Wrapping up in a warm shawl.
The warmest socks. We can do this. It’s going to be okay, and even better than okay. We will keep adjusting, trying things, trying different things, taking steps towards yes.
I want so much to paint the gates on my property, which right now is a faraway dream, because I don’t even always have standing energy never mind project energy.
But it’s a beautiful wish, and we love a beautiful wish.
Just deciding on colors feels hopeful, maybe even joyful.
Maybe a mysterious visitor will come and help me with a painting weekend. A tired desert assassin can dream…
Three to six months
It’s more than a chrysalis, not exactly an ocean voyage, it’s not quite a hibernation.
What is the framing for this period of time?
I don’t know yet but I am asking for the right name / image / metaphor / nickname to show up.
What else is cheery and cheerful?
Candles. Cooking Club experiments. A pepper shaker. A stack of books to read.
I often convince myself that I don’t know what I want.
And over time, I have learned that this is often a lie, a monster story, a self-deception in the name of protecting myself from knowing what I want.
It is easier for me to pretend, to convince myself that I don’t know what I want, than to name it and be with the vulnerability of the wanting, and the not-having.
It’s scary to allow myself to want.
Wanting (a cookie, for example, or something more)
My favorite Israeli author, Etgar Keret, has a lovely substack called Alphabet Soup, and recently he posted about wanting, here is an excerpt:
I don’t know what it’s like for you, but with me, at almost any given moment, I want something. Sometimes the wanting is clearly defined: I want the light to turn green, to find a seat on the train, to finish writing my piece on time. In those cases, it’s simple: it’s simply satisfying when I get what I want, and simply disappointing when I don’t, but even then, when everything falls apart and fails, it’s simple. The wanting starts to get complicated when it has no clear object. Oddly, it’s in those moments of contentment, when everything seems fine and just the way it should be, that the wanting inside me cries the loudest. And it cries twice: once because it wants—it wants so badly, and a second time because it has no idea what it wants.
— Etgar Keret
I mean. Wow. Yes. The cry of wanting and the cry of what do I want
What do I want?
What do I want?
(Something, not this, not how things are right now, but what…?)
Superpowers: come in, come in
These are the superpowers I am calling on, asking to stay with me, keep me company…
Solve The Small Things
Take Tiny Steps
It Solves Itself
Light A Candle for ease
Make Room for the Wanting
Luckily, X (name what is good, what surprisingly turned out okay)
I am the Tough Survivalist of the Bunkhouse
Oh wow, what beautiful wishes
Say it with me: Oh wow, what beautiful wishes!
Yes, that helps.
What will help?
I have mostly been in bed again this week. I tried to do an errands day and it fucked me up so hard that I injured myself five separate times in the same day, and have been in a confused fog since then.
It is so scary to not be okay, to not know how to get to okay, to just keep existing with chronic illness, Long Covid brain fog, traumatic brain injury and the big unknowns of feeling unsteady, in a state of derealization and fuzziness.
And yet, the color yellow cheers me, the tea lights help.
I am making room for the wanting, lighting a candle for ease, resting a lot, taking tiny steps, calling on the power of It Solves Itself.
We have made it through harder things than this and we will again.
Can I make even more more room for the wanting
Can I make even more room for the wanting, let it cry out as it needs? Can I also be kind and just allow the little lie of “oh I don’t know what I want” when wanting is too big and too much? Let it slide, as an act of compassion.
Can I glow sweetness towards these small unknowns so that they feel safe revealing themselves in right timing?
That’s what this wish is really about, isn’t it?
Meeting myself and my various selves with kindness and sweetness, making safe sanctuary spaces where my wants are held in love and they can introduce themselves when they feel ready?
Yes, let’s aim towards that. Let’s want towards that.
What is needed? What helps?
A replenishing glass of water.
Opening the front door and glowing love for my tree friends and meadow friends and bird friends.
Ten percent more relaxed? Ten percent more relaxed!
Asking what it would feel like to be ten percent more relaxed, and letting that imagined sensation move through my body.
Doing one small thing to clear space so that I feel less overwhelmed, good job.
Being a praise machine and giving myself so much praise for literally anything, I love you, you are so brave, you’re doing amazing, sweetie…
How do I wish to welcome Operation Winter Cheer
Light a candle.
Do some journaling, maybe with some incoming selves, see what wise tidings they have.
Who is the incoming of Operation Winter Cheer
Tough, Magnanimous, Steady (Equilibrium powers), Constant, Ready, Unperturbed, Eyes On The Prize, focused on what works and what helps, deeply obsessed with obsessing, they easily say no to a no, and yes to a yes. They don’t stress over it the way I do.
Ah, yes, it’s the Tough Survivalist of the Bunkhouse, we have met before. What do they want me to know?
TSoB: I am with you, I’m proud of you, every step counts. You are getting closer to embodying these qualities. We can practice together.
Where do we go from here?
I think it’s time to go for a slow walk in nature again once I recover from the crash of my laundromat excursion.
Trying to stay focused on small, symbolic steps, letting them add up.
Recommitting to taking exquisitely good care of myself, which means not over-extending, not allowing guilt to con me into over-extending.
Take porch breaths beneath the stars. Keep going. That’s what matters right now.
Yes, that is it. That is it exactly. We are here, I love you, let’s keep going.
Come play in the comments, I love company!
You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything on your mind.
Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship always helps.
You can wish any wishes that come to mind (come to heart?), or echo “Oh wow, what beautiful wishes!” for my wishes or anyone else’s.
I’m so happy you’re here with me.
I’m making progress on bonus material about how I relate to time and map out my quarters, let me know if there anything you want to know more about specifically? Drop any questions or thoughts here…
Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email as soon as I finish editing!
If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.
I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.
And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️