January 2019
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on "tidying up" and a reverence toward objects

I watched a few episodes of "Tidying Up" recently and it made me exclaim a lot because so many of the things that Marie says are literally things I have said. When I am helping people tidy I say "where does this live?" and "does this have a home?" because in my opinion the most important thing for tidiness is for things to have a home. I do things like greeting a home and waking up books (though not those specific things).

I LITERALLY FOLDED MY SHIRTS THE SAME WAY, before ever watching that, so that I could look through them at a glance. and I fold my skirts like Marie folds ties. I do the same thing of small boxes organizing the inside of big boxes.

and then in my memories today I found an entry I posted last year where I talk about having an ethic of things belonging to whomever will love them more. When I was a kid, I stole or gave away things based on that.

The show makes a lot of assumptions about people being able to buy replacement things, which bothers me, but I do love seeing someone else have as much reverence for things as I do. Though it bothers me that some people appear to just throw away useful things rather than donating them and Marie doesn't scold them, wtf.

But I think a better question than "does it spark joy" (especially for people who get joy easily) is "if you lost it, would you miss it?" and if you don't know, box it up and put the date on it. if a long time passes without you feeling the need to take it out (and you don't have a practical need for it), then you can give it away. That's also how I decide whether or not to get something at a thrift store -- would I regret NOT getting it?

This is part of why it is such a sign of me being in a bad place when my home is untidy. When I am in a good place, I don't even have to try to get things tidy... when I'm not, it looks horrific, because I just drop things everywhere. I get in a very "if I can't get it right why bother at all" mindset. I know it's destructive but that's my brain when it's being a jerk.

connecting: , ,

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This is just me popping the bubble of tension that always builds when I haven't posted in a while.

I hate that I have been so absent from here lately. One post in November and one in December, and I haven't commented on anything in I dunno how long... anything less than 3 posts per month is a sign that I'm really struggling with life. Definitely true right now.

and I only managed 56 posts for the whole year. I need that to change in 2019.

Anyone have tricks that worked for them to stay active on LJ?

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my experience with supplement brands, plus info from labdoor

icon: "Ma'at (a photo of one side of a brass balance scale, with a feather inside the bowl. The background is sky blue. On the bottom of the image, below the photo, is the word "Ma'at")"

I finally went through and compiled information from my own experience and from labdoor.com to come up with a top-brands list mostly for my own reference. A lot of brands have similar names and logos so with my memory there is no chance I would remember.

Note: the supplements most likely to be ineffective across the board are multivitamins and green tea supplements. Most likely to have an inaccurate label are non-vegetarian omega-3s. Most likely to be contaminated (usually with arsenic) is magnesium. Dr's Best and Pure Encapsulations have a safe magnesium: I would not recommend buying from anyone else without research! This includes all my favorite brands.

Brands I will try from without necessarily checking amazon reviews:
Jarrow Formulas (tested by independent third party lab),
Nature's Bounty (tested 3rd party, in-house & by labdoor),
Solaray (tested in-house & by labdoor),
Solgar (tested in-house & by labdoor),
Source Naturals (tested in-house & by labdoor),
Swanson (tested by independent third party lab & by labdoor).

Brands I will look for, but will check reviews before buying:
Bulk Supplements (tested by labdoor),
Dr's Best (tested by labdoor),
Garden of Life (tested by labdoor),
NatureMade (tested by labdoor),
Nature's Way (tru-ID tested & by labdoor),
NatureWise (tested by independent third party lab & by labdoor),
Now Foods (tested by labdoor).

I've contacted all the above brands about their 3rd-party testing and will update if they say yes they do.

One exception is KRK Supplements, who is the only brand I trust for choline, because I can feel when it works or not.

vouched for by me and labdoor, tested in my body multiple timesCollapse )

vouched for by labdoor and/or 3rd party labs and okay by meCollapse )

not tested by labdoor but works for me:Collapse )

tested well by labdoor but I have not tried it:Collapse )

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femmephobia and masc-centric attitudes in white queer circles

I have a dirty little secret to share about the queer world: it's just as misogynistic as the straight cis world, and even more femmephobic. At least among straight cis people it's fine for one group of people (women) to be femme, but among queer people (at least, white southern queer people), being femme whether you're afab or amab makes you undesirable or simply rejected as not real / not belonging. A common disclaimer on gay hookup ads is "no fems." (along with "no fats" "no Asians" "no blacks" because white gay cis men are every bit as disgusting as white straight cis men)

When I was a brand new baby queer, fresh out of a marriage to a straight cis man, I was completely devoid of queer friends or indeed, pretty much any friends. I came into contact with this group of queers and I fell in love with their sense of interconnectedness and I wanted to be part of that group so badly. I tried so hard to be friends. I was wide open to learning and willing to do far more than my fair share of the work.

[But none of them wanted to be my friend...]
But none of them wanted to be my friend. They never invited me to anything and the few people willing to spend time with me didn't find my company appealing enough to ever try to spend time with me on their own initative. Every time I spent time with one of them (except once), I had to drive an hour in my rickety, 20+ year old car down to their house or a place walking distance from their house because that was the only way they were willing to even see me, despite the fact that most of them had cars and lived near a public transit line.

If it was one person or even two people, I would have said oh well, they just don't like me. But there were at least five of them I actively tried to connect with, to varying degrees, and they all reacted the same. As soon as they learned where I lived, their willingness to invest in me dropped to zero (and it was low already). And the reason I lived where I lived (same as now) is because I couldn't afford to live in the city. Because you have to either be well-off, or know people who are willing to split a house with you. So they rejected me in large part because I couldn't afford to live in their neighborhood.

I'm also pretty damn sure that a huge part of why they rejected me was because I refused to wear the queer uniform. As a person with large breasts, wearing skirts and sleeveless clingy tops is not up to queer uniform code. It's too "straight"? too "gender normative"? (I laugh at this idea because no straight person dresses like me)

Femmephobia is real, and intense, especially in white queer middle/upper class circles in the south (apparently up north, masc is the uncool presentation). I remember someone approaching me about being femme and I didn't know what that meant and thought they were calling me feminine and I got very upset, partly because it felt like them affirming that I would never be accepted by queer society. Now I understand what it took to approach me, and why they did it, and I wish I had understood and taken that chance for connection.

I remember feeling immense pressure to change my look. I bought a binder, put it on and hated it thoroughly, instantly, and never wore it again. I cried because I felt like it damaged me in the 15 minutes I had it on. ...Wow I had never drawn the connection between the pressure I felt from those queers (nearly all of them masc) and buying a binder... I feel so bad for baby-me, so worn down by expectations and so lonely for a sense of community that I was willing to betray myself in an effort to become acceptable. My breasts have been one of my favorite parts of my body since I grew them, but I was willing to give them up in order to be accepted.

Being rejected by the entire group broke my spirit. It was first chance I had at in-person community ever in my life, because I had never had that in my family or in school etc. And they rejected me because I didn't have money and wasn't "on trend" or at least, that was how it read to me. It's possible I was just too socially awkward or too blunt or too excited or too invested etc, whatever it was, I needed them and they turned me away. All of them (except for the one who fell into drugs and cut contact and the one who moved away).

Godde, if even one had made even the slightest effort to include me, that would have changed my world. Or if they just foisted me off on some other set of queers they didn't like, that would have been wonderful. but no one bothered. I'm sure there are other queer groups in a city of over 5 million but finding them feels impossible and I am so tired of being rejected and/or ignored and/or disrespected.

This is why I don't ever want to go to gay bars. I expect to find anti-femme culture there and it hurts worse coming from people who should be my community.

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Kroger's clicklist is such salvation!

Kroger clicklist pickup service has changed my life for the better and I heartily recommend it to anyone who can afford the small fee and has a motor or social disability (and lives near a Kroger). The first 3 times are free and after that there is a $5 fee each time (plus tip if you want to do that -- it has to be in cash if so). Sometimes they have deals where if you buy certain items you get the pickup for free.

As a socially anxious, ADHD person I can't even describe how much work it is to weave around people and block out conversations and colors and words and unwanted items, especially now that my only times to go to the store are evenings and weekends. It is so hugely relieving to not have to manage that.

Even without clicklist, the Kroger app for android is incredibly useful. It allows you to add coupons to your card, shop sales, and save multiple grocery lists (saved items) as well as your cart (for pickup or delivery service). First you set your store, which allows you to search the entire store for an item you want (however you have to use whole words: "pap" won't bring up any items but "paper" will). When you search for an item you can add it to your cart and your list at the same time, or to just one of them. You can add to a list by manually entering items or by scanning in barcodes, and having a list makes it easy to find sales and coupons for the things you want.

The fact that I can shop by sales and coupons without getting distracted means that I can more than make up for the $5 it costs to use clicklist. I don't buy impulse items (unless there is a really great coupon or sale) and I don't forget to get things because I can add them to my cart the second I think of them, rather than having to wait and add them when I am in the store.

The fact that I don't have to be in the store after work or on the weekends means that:
* I get back at least 4 hours of my small amount of free time per month (I use clicklist about once every 2 weeks).
* I don't have to do a lot of difficult blocking out of sensation after a long day of cognitive labor.
* I don't have to sacrifice part of my 2 rest days to do hard mental and emotional work.
* I don't have to interact with more than one stranger in person.

Here's how I do it:

First I open the coupon section and sort by value. I scroll through and anytime I see something that I might want, I add that coupon to my card. When I get down to the low-value coupons I then switch to the "my coupons" tab and click on each coupon that I want to use on this trip. From the coupon details page, I scroll down and select the item I want from the list of things that match the coupon. Because everything is sorted this way I never mistakenly get things that don't match the coupon!

When I have done this with each coupon that I want to use, I then open my primary shopping list. On my primary shopping list I have everything I ever buy*. I scroll through and scan for the sale items, which are marked with a yellow and red highlighted price showing how much cheaper they are than usual. If it is on sale and I need it now or if it will store for a long time, I click on the picture of the item and then click "add to cart."

Finally, I look through my cart and consider what I have at home and what else I might need that goes with the things I am buying -- for example if I am buying eggs for french toast I get milk and bread if I don't already have those. When I am finished, I add instructions for any items I want substituted if they're out, and pick a time! at my Kroger you have to order at least 4 hours ahead of pickup, which stops at 8pm, but that's just enough time for me to get there after work.

They will even bring it out in crates unbagged so that you can bag it at the car (at least at my Kroger)! You do have to call the store when you arrive but it is a dedicated number and a series of rote questions, so at least for me it is not too difficult.

*If you use a Kroger plus card every time you shop, you can go online and log in to see everything you've ever bought! I used this feature to populate my shopping list. Every time I see something I might want, I add it to my list so that I can easily see when it goes on sale. This helps keep me from impulsively buying things because now I can "remember" to try them later.

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lj cleanup / need a home weekend regularly

icon: "slytherin (a closeup of the Slytherin crest: a rearing silver serpent in front of a green background patterned in stylized waves of water and plush upholstery)"

Yesterday I finally went through my flist and removed inactive journals and journals of people who I never really interacted with and who didn't interact with me, or who I never really clicked with. If I unfriended you and you still use your LJ to read, let me know.

I'm hoping this will help me keep up with my current friends better, because with the last two months getting absolutely swallowed by stress, I just haven't been able to read half as often as I wish. I'm trying to catch up now.

I've realized that even though I spend all my weeknights at home now, I still never get any real alone time because my evenings after work, workout, and commute are about 2.5 hours long and I need literally all of that time to get my brain to relax (through watching netflix/hulu) and then get ready for bed. So I need to make one weekend a month a stay-at-home weekend and I need to actually follow through and do it. Yesterday was the first full day I have had at home in months and months (unless you count sick days, which I don't).

I feel like I have been just surviving for a long time now, and my life feels mostly pointless. I feel like I am not doing anything except work, spending time with Topaz, and family-in-love events. That's not where I want all of my time to be going. I talked about this with Topaz, who felt like we don't do much family stuff but for me, more than twice a year is a LOT. I told Topaz that I need to keep it to only 1 family event per month, because it takes all of my social energy and then I have none for my friendships or for community.

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my personal cure for a yeast infection or UTI

icon: "hypnotiq (my fractal "Windwheel" -- an abstract swirl of yellow red and orange with a little green)"

If you have a UTI or yeast infection and don't want to go to the doctor*, you might try what I do. I combine certain supplements with drinking a lot of water and avoiding sugar and acidic drinks (sadly this includes coffee). I haven't needed antibiotics/antifungals for a UTI or yeast infection since I figured out this regimen.

Food: avoid sweet or very processed foods: go for raw veggies & cooked grains, stuff with lots of fiber.
Drink: avoid sweet or acidic drinks: go for water.
Supplements: take these throughout the day:
* cranberry 25,200mg, 3x the daily serving size
* garlic oil softgels, 1,000mg pills at 6-10 per day
* oregano oil softgels at max daily dose
* betacarotene 25,000 at max daily dose
* vitamin e softgels 800-1000mg daily
* evening primrose oil softgels 1000-1200mg daily

Note: this works best if you use it as the infection is coming on, before it gets too intense. If you take the garlic and cranberry right at the start and drink plenty of water you may not need the others.

for me, the ONLY cranberry that works is the one that has 25,200mg from concentrate. Nature's bounty triple strength is the one I most often use, but Azo also works (most others don't). I take triple the daily serving size, spaced throughout the day.

along with this I take odorless garlic oil softgels, 1,000mg pills at 6-10 per day (they're tiny if you get the oil ones) -- again it depends on the brand and type for them to be useful. BRI Nutrition and Nature's Bounty are good for me (most others give me awful burps). Take these with food.

Then, if it's already an infection, I also take oregano oil softgels at whatever the maximum daily dose is. Sometimes these are sold with parsley in them too and that works just as well. Take these with food.

If there is dry/irritated/inflamed skin, I also recommend betacarotene 25,000 (NOT vitamin A made with retinyl palmitate because you can overdose on that but you can't overdose on beta carotene because your body only converts what it needs) and vitamin e softgels 800-1000mg, and evening primrose oil softgels 1000-1200mg.

Another thing that helps me -- and this is weird but it helps SO MUCH -- is getting in the shower, applying plain (NOT flavored or sweetened!) yogurt to the outside, letting it sit a minute, then rinsing the area with lukewarm (not hot!) water. Soap will make it worse for me but this helps a lot. I'm not willing to use the yeast-killing creams so this is my solution. Also, airing out the area daily, while odd and potentially uncomfortable, helps too.

The cranberry and garlic I mentioned (taken as specified on the bottle) can work together as a great preventative. I have tested it out when I had to take antibiotics, and one of my friends tested it out too when they had to take antibiotics, and it helped both of us a lot. For me at least, taking meds for a yeast infection tends to bring on further problems so I want to avoid that if possible.

Speaking of antibiotics, I always take Florastor along with any antibiotics. It is a beneficial yeast which is not killed by antibiotics and it helps keep the bad yeast from overpopulating in the absence of the bacteria being killed by the antibiotics. It is expensive (about a dollar per once-a-day pill) but if you can afford it, it's worth it, especially if you tend to always get infections and/or gut problems after a course of antibiotics.

As you take it, keep in mind that all probiotics need fiber and a low-acid environment to survive, so you should take it with some raw fruit or vegetable and a full glass of water. (Cooked food has less fiber than raw) Also whenever you take antibiotics it is a good idea to avoid sugar and simple carbs like white bread because those feed the bad microbes.

*a final note of caution: if it doesn't improve noticeably within 3 days, or if it gets worse despite doing these things, I would encourage you to go to the doctor because if UTIs get really bad they can spread to your kidneys, which can be dangerous. If you have upper back and side pain, fever over 101f, chills, nausea, or vomiting that develops along with a UTI or yeast infection please go to urgent care and do not waste time trying this method!

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what to do after someone tells you that you violated their sexual consent

icon: "progressing (a deeply, vividly green forest of thick vines and trees, with a tunnel running through where unused train tracks lay)"

Note: I am of course assuming that it was not an intentional violatiom because why would you read this if so. I'm also writing this in the context of a relationship but it mostly applies to casual encounters as well.

If someone lets you know that you have violated their sexual consent, here's how I suggest you react:

1) Listen carefully and accept their experience as real without editing or "interpreting.".

Do not reframe what they say as "you did bad" or "I'm mad at you" -- instead listen for each specific action you took which caused them pain. You need this information in order to keep from violating people in the future.

2) Apologize in very plain words and use the language they used.

If they called it rape, call it rape; if they called it sexual violation, call it sexual violation. Don't make it sound worse or better than they did. Do not assume you can guess the impact; don't assume it is devastating and don't assume it is NOT devastating.

3) Do not request or expect any kind of response.

Accept that they may never respond. Accept that they have the right to be angry or sad. Do not ask for nor expect forgiveness. This is not about you.

4) Do not use negative language about yourself and do not talk to them more than once about your guilt / sadness / etc about your mistake.

DO NOT SEEK COMFORT FROM THEM. DO NOT make them defend you by whining about how you feel like a terrible person. Find someone else to talk to about it. Seriously. Don't make your feelings their problem.

5) Figure out why you did what you did, and be very honest with yourself; then IF they ask why, tell them.

Don't shy away from uncomfortable truths like "I cared more about getting sexual gratification than I cared about how my actions might affect them" or "I didn't bother to think about their boundaries or desires." If your reason was terrible, you must accept and admit it or all hope is lost of you not violating someone like that again. also, don't tell them why unless they confirm that they want to know: telling them may cause additional pain so it MUST be their choice.

6) Figure out how you can prevent yourself from making the same mistake.

Then in extremely brief words, IF they are trying to rebuild with you, describe how you will prevent this happening again. no more than one long sentence. don't make them listen to your whole damn life plan.

7) Ask what, if anything, you can do to best help them recover from the violation and be determined to do anything you can.

Offer 2-3 things with a wide range between so that they can tell you really mean it and know how far you are willing to go. Don't offer anything you can't do.

For example, "if you need to change our relationship to nonsexual for a time or forever, I am okay with that; if you need to be out of contact for a time or forever, I can support that; if you need me to give you nonsexual physical affection every day, I will do that as long as I can. Or if you think of anything you'd like me to do please let me know."

Make sure you are clear that they can ask for anything, and you will do what is within your resources to do. If you don't want to do everything that is within your resources to do, have the decency to end the relationship. Violating someone sexually will not be healed with anything less than whole-hearted efforts.

8) do what they ask without bargaining or complaint.

If they want to heal without you, accept that and move on. Do not keep offering things after they said no. Do not try to bargain! Do not try to change what they asked for. If you're not sure what they mean, ask clarifying questions like "this or that?" and phrase them in neutral ways.

9) Don't ask for new kinds of relationship or household work from them for a while.

If this situation made you realize some new thing you want from them, keep that to yourself unless specifically asked, and wait until they seem to be less fragile to discuss it. This is not the time to be asking for emotional labor -- or any labor -- from them.

10) Don't try to have sex with them again unless and until they tell you that they would like that.

Let them know that you are not going to initiate sex unless / until they express a desire for that. Don't bring it up. don't hint. don't make sly comments or "jokes." If they decide they do want to have sex with you, trust that they know themself and accept their desire as real. Be very alert to their feelings the entire time and ask questions before increasing the intensity.

11) if you tend to avoid and suppress emotion, learn to express in an ethical way. Do the work!

If your reason for violating them had anything to do with avoiding or suppressing your emotions, and you have the ability to do so, then do SOME kind of intensive, continuous work to learn how to process your emotions: go to therapy or take a class or complete a workbook etc. Keep going until you start getting spontaneous compliments on your emotional maturity.

Handling your own emotions is a basic necessity of being an adult and if you are so bad at it that you violated someone sexually because of it, your need to learn is at emergency status. DO NOT ASK THE PERSON YOU VIOLATED TO HELP YOU. Not even if they are a therapist. Not even if they're really good at it. Be careful not to put the burden of your inexperience on them.


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recently: busy at work, Topaz moving, ex-friend attack, back pain, car broke, close friend suffering

icon: "pain (a digital painting of a thin naked person crouching with arms tight to their chest and hands over their face, and long hair spilling over their face and down their body, balancing on the balls of their feet on top of a precariously thin column of rock)"

Sorry I have been absent lately. It has been busy season at work, plus Topaz is moving so every weekend has been spent on that. And last week I hurt my back to the point that I took pain meds for five days in a row and after 8 days, it still aches at any strain and I feel so worried it won't completely heal. And my car conked out last week which reduced my energy to zero and pretty much wiped out my paycheck as well, but at least it is fixed now. And a close friend is going through agony about a personal betrayal they experienced and I'm attempting to offer support -- I'm glad to be able to offer what I can but I wish I was more capable.

Oh, and two weeks ago, someone who I was friends with at the time asked to send me an email and being the literal person I am, I said yes, not thinking that they had any expectation of response. When I read it, they started out with four paragraphs of praise of an ex-friend who they know hurt me, explaining why they trust this person because they met them through me, despite the fact that I don't trust them.

They then sent over a dozen more emails, together in length more than 12,000 words. I used google docs to get the word count. For context, that's a fourth of a short novel. It was more than 20 pages, single spaced. I share these details to explain why I was overwhelmed at the idea of trying to reply. Most people would not be willing to read that due to the length alone, honestly, and the content was super intense and involved a lot of talking rapturously about an ex-lover of mine who also hurt me deeply. It was heavy, but I read it all.

I replied a short message to only that part about the ex-friend because it felt urgent to me to explain, and said that I would try to respond to the rest but that I probably wouldn't get to it. I said this because they have known me for years and there have been many emails or messages that I have failed to respond to. I just have a very hard time with it and I feel bad about that but I don't seem able to fix it, and they are aware of this.

I thought they would be like "haha yeah that executive function fail, I know it well." I thought they would be like "yeah I know it's a lot, I just wanted to share it with you so thanks for reading." That was not at all what happened.

They got very upset that I didn't respond positively, and said that I disrespected them by doing this. Then when I replied explaining further they went to my facebook and said that they didn't read my further replies and they were confronting me in public because they didn't trust me in private, and said a lot of arrogant things implying that they knew me better than I did, etc etc.

Then they blocked me and then started posting negative shit about me on their wall (with notes saying that it was encouraged for mutuals to share with me) and messaging all of our mutual friends complaining about me -- along with uncomfortably over-the-top praise. Trying to talk to me without me having a chance to talk back, basically.

This activated a lot of previous trauma from being attacked by people I trusted. but I was relieved and felt very loved when our mutual friends kindly but firmly said "no" to the negative shit and pointed out that their behavior towards me wasn't okay. I was relieved also because I was worried that the stress they put on my friends would cause them to be upset with me for bringing this source of stress into their lives. I felt really cared about and understood and trusted by several close friends so that helped me cope much more quickly than I otherwise would have been able to. In particular Topaz, Nik, Allison, Rachel, and Serenity were kind to me about it and it meant the world to me.

This week there is road work making it difficult to get to my office, so my boss let us have three days of teleworking. I am so grateful because I needed it so badly. My house had turned into a giant horrible mess because it is a direct reflection of my mental state. So today is my third day of working from home and I have tidied my room and the hallway (neither fully but both much better) and did some dishes (which I hadn't managed to do for weeks) and managed to write this. Which I am going to post immediately rather than letting it languish at 95% complete for weeks.

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about time w Evelyn (from early June)

I started writing this at the beginning of June and never finished it, so here it is belatedly.

Recently Evelyn came over and we talked about our lives over the past year. They discussed some suspicions of abuse in their family and how it was affecting their relationships, and I talked about the fall-out in my life from an evil thing an ex-friend did, and how I am still sort of in shock from all the loss that resulted.

We also talked about the song-portrait I made of them and their thorough, analytical, and emotional response to it (which I find very beautiful). They said they were tempted to make a document of all the lyrics and highlight the ones that especially resonated and include a cover image, which I had literally almost done (according to my guess of what would resonate) before giving it to them and really only didn't because I was impatient. I told them about how I used to do just that in my music sharing posts, and that I had always wanted someone to respond so thoroughly to a mix I made for them. They covered their face and said "don't say that!" and then I worried that I was being too effusive or too intense and asked if I really should not have told them. They reassured me that they were just having an emotional reaction but that it was fine to tell them and they wanted to know.

I told them that I love how analytical they are, which embarrassed them but I think pleased them also. They said that they think of it as being a bad thing to be so geeky and I wryly pointed out "you're talking to someone who makes spreadsheets for fun." Then they enthused about their latest geeky infatuation -- creating a kind of alphabet of gender symbols (if I understood them correctly -- it was difficult for me to follow without visual examples).

Earlier that week I had asked what they would like to do when we were together and they mentioned feral play, which I also wanted. So after talking for a couple of hours we went to the cuddle room to play (so that I didn't have to fret about breaking anything) and wrestled without hands, head-butting and body-slamming, sniffing and nipping, laughingly trying to pin or throw each other. It was delightful, but short, because it was difficult for them to stay in a non-sexual space. We stopped, and they said something to the effect of having forgotten why they made that decision and not wanting it any more, and I told them that since when they said no they were sober (as in, not feeling an immediate craving for sex), they would have to be sober again when they told me yes. They expressed gratitude for that response.

We talked about their reasons some and about how they found it difficult to refrain, and I talked about how I had been through periods of non-sexual romance with several of my partners and said that I was good at sort of de-escalating sex if it had been decided against by one of us. They asked if I thought I had always had that ability or if I grew it, and I said I thought I always had it, but later I realized that they were really asking if I thought it was a skill or an innate ability which is a different question. I think the skill of de-escalating sex is almost the same skill as de-escalating anger, and I learned to do that long before I ever had sex.

Near the end they told me that they had thought about me and even considered my past advice during the time we were apart, which surprised me. If I had been thinking fondly of someone who I knew wanted to be with me, I wouldn't have been able to resist reaching out to them, so I had just assumed they had shut me firmly out of their mind or that they thought negatively of me in the times they were not in touch. It filled me with questions and made me wonder about other people who tend to flake out of my life for chunks of time.

They also told me recently via text that they wanted to be a very close friend to me, someone I can rely on for help without fear of losing. They said they want to really know me, "from the birds eye of years of intimate accumulation." That they want to be family, or in my terms, they want to be one of my lifesharers. This was something I desperately wanted them to want last year, and hearing it now feels surreal. I told them:

"what you say you want with me makes me want to cry. I can't choose to have faith in that yet because it would really be too much to trust in that and lose it. I want it so much. But I can try to have faith right now that you want to know me and you want to be my friend. I want those things and vice versa. and I want you to want to be known by me also."

I also told them (in very brief terms) how my prosopagnosia makes it really important for me to have access to photos of people I love, and they just started sending me photos of themself. It means the world to me and it makes me feel a lot more connected to them. They also have made a point to let me know when they expect to have delayed responses, so that I don't worry that they have just cut contact. They have told me how they want to see me again and made an effort to set the next plan at the end of the first two times, which is very affirming.

I felt more loved and attended-to by them in the past few weeks than I have in all the other time we spent together combined. They are sharing parts of their life with me that bring them joy as well as the parts of their life that are stressful. They text thoughtful replies to my questions and ask questions about my life, sometimes even initiating conversations.

The next time I saw them we met at a hookah bar, which was still good conversation but it was loud and felt the opposite of intimate. We talked about the kinds of connections we want to create and cultivate, and when I talked with them about intimacy practice, I realized I hadn't done it in over a year, maybe 2 years. Last time was a workshop I ran at Southern Fried Queer Pride, with a bunch of strangers. It works so much better when it is a group of people who have set the intention to invest in each other and learn about each other. I still feel like that is far out of reach, and I feel a mild sense of dissatisfaction at the various silos of my people, where trust is non-existent and not fair to even ask for at this point. I just hope that all my little seedlings of friendships can grow into a single garden of mutualistic symbiosis.

Most recently when I saw them they had just learned something that had them very stressed out, so we spent most of the time discussing it. It wasn't anything new, but I feel like they're listening more now than last time we were in touch. Still, I know they have a series of intense stressors for the next four weeks so I expect diminished contact for a bit. In the back of my mind is a worry because I am historically terrible about discerning the difference between behavior due to a pattern and behavior due to a situation. I just have to stay in touch with my feelings and not let myself get in that place where I start feeling responsible for...

and that's where I stopped writing, on June 8th. Since that time at the hookah bar over three months ago, I haven't seen them and have exchanged only very minimal texts. I think they are back in that uncommunicative rut but I think and I hope that they are making effort to get out of it. I recently had a conversation with them about how I think they need to prioritize their own health and well-being but I'm not sure it got through. They did take some positive steps afterwards though so I have a little hope.


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being ungendered in a body read as femme with a femme clothing aesthetic

icon: "revolutionary (a gif series of four nude self-portraits of/by me: one from the back with me looking over my shoulder, one from the front with my arms up and arched, one with an upraised, arched arm and the other arm across my belly in a dance pose, and one from the side with both hands raised in a shrug gesture)"

[recent gender ramblings that I posted on fb]
I feel like everyone who exists thinks of their own gender identity and sex identity as more real and valid than mine. I fight with myself to ever say anything about my experience related to someone else's because I imagine they are offended to be compared to my "pretend" self.

No one in particular has made me feel like I'm not valid, it's just this pervasive thing. I've been reflecting and I think it's because I don't know anyone else with my experience.

Afab + gender-free/ungendered + non-binary sexed + aggressively femmed aesthetic is a very particular experience and from the outside I think most people just read me as a cis woman. While that confers privilege, it also means that my selfhood often drowns in invisibility.

When I can't even witness myself it becomes really hard to feel like I am real.

My genitals really have nothing to do with my (un)gender except that people assume they understand what my genitals are from my clothes. To have people constantly guessing and always wrong is upsetting but there aren't clothes that would induce a correct assumption anyway.

I used to be anti-femme in clothing aesthetic because all the assumptions of weak, pliable, sweet, frail, easy-going, follower, submissive etc that get put on most people who dress femme made me so upset that I avoided the fuck out of looking like that. I wanted my clothes to communicate that I was powerful, forceful, strong, resistant, a leader, not someone you wanna fuck with, etc.

But then I got fat. Now I could wear a literal suit of armor and people would still assume all the same things as if I wore a damn tutu, because my large breasts and wide hips are considered so femme that it overwhelms everything else. I love my breasts and hips and I refuse to smash them flat or straight, so my body is always gonna read femme.

So now I am aggressively femme, though still not in a performative way. I usually don't wear makeup; I often have messy hair, and always wear it up in a braid; I never shave my body hair; on my feet I only wear comfortable black sneakers; I never paint my nails and I keep them very short. But I have come to embrace beading, appliqués, lace, ruffles, and even the color pink (though rarely).

I wear femme clothes defiantly, because I know people are going to get it wrong. I wear them because they don't mean weak, pliable, frail, easy-going, follower, submissive, etc; they mean whatever the fuck I want them to mean because only I can assign meaning to the clothes on my body. I will wear them when working out; I will wear them when topping someone; I will wear them in every situation where I am expected to be wearing boxed-in plain dark stiff heavy structured masc clothes. And I will make people accept the meaning I assign to how I dress.

connecting: ,

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I think we all need the experience of being fully loved

icon: "interconnectedness (two bald purple-skinned people in the ocean: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

Disclaimer: the ideas in this post are just my own philosophical musings, not facts.

For most of my life I felt constantly hungry for love. Even while someone was being loving to me I would feel desperate for more. It wasn't until I was 27 that I even had one moment where I was receiving love and felt satisfied and like I didn't need more -- would enjoy it, but didn't need it. And it wasn't until I was 33 that I ever had that sensation on a regular basis.

I have this theory that until a person reaches a saturation point with loving nourishment, they can never feel relaxed or secure in any of their relationships. This one experience is so pivotal that it is like a stage of development, and a human's life perspective is profoundly changed once they have this experience. Parents are supposed to give this experience to their kids so that their kids can then enter adulthood ready to meet others as equals. Instead most parents don't, and most people enter adulthood still desperate for love, wanting to get without having to give, feeling like there is never enough. Like starved children we snatch at any nourishment offered and many times spill it everywhere.

People who felt fully loved as children often can't relate to feeling insecure or needy without logical cause. These people are put off by the expression of those feelings, thinking of them as irrational or silly, but I think feeling "full" of love is a real human need as powerful as the need for food or air. For me at least, having food in my hand is not comforting when it is not going to fill me and I doubt any more will ever come. We scarf it down as quick as we can so we have our hands free to grab the next scrap. Or we "save" it for when we will need it more, which is a day that almost never comes.

There are so many harms that can spring from this. Perhaps the biggest is that people who have never experienced saturation (I will call them hungry, for lack of a better word) are willing to accept all manner of ill treatment along with love because they are starving. It is ridiculous to expect people who have never had enough food to ever eat slowly or turn down crappy food.

In the same way, it makes no sense to expect people who have never felt fully loved to ever be satisfied with an easy amount of love, and it makes no sense to expect them to be able to say no to people who offer love as an appetizer to abuse. So many hungry people raised by abusive or selfish parents have absolutely no way to tell what is real love and what is bribery.

Many times we choke out our opportunities for real love because we get so desperate and cling so hard. We can delude ourselves, magnifying small kindnesses and minimizing all negatives to try and trick ourselves into feeling nourished; this prevents either person in the relationship from learning and growing. We can lose ourselves, becoming so desperate for the other person to keep loving us and not leave us that we compromise more and more of who we are until we are just a reflection of the other.

The worst part is that often, someone has to have experienced saturation themselves to be able to give it to someone else. A hungry person can't purely focus on nourishing someone else because as you feed them a part of you watches jealously, wishing you were the one getting that care.

I recognize it so easily now and it always makes me ache and feel an urge to throw out my whole life and dedicate it to making this person feel loved. But I can't do that, and it wouldn't be a good way to spend my life, pouring myself out endlessly for people who literally can't give back. That's not remotely sustainable.

Other than meeting one of those lucky ones who got saturated with love in childhood, I think we can only hope to find someone who wants to get love in the way we are inclined to give it, and wants to give love in the way we want to get it. I think other than basic ethics, this is the number 1 most important thing in a relationship.

I'd advise my former self to ask, first and foremost, as a precursor to close friendship and/or romance, "think of the three closest people in your life. What do you think they get out of their relationship with you? how do you bring them nourishment and joy most often? most easily? most happily? and on the other hand, what actions of others make you feel nourished and contented?" and then I'd consider whether I could feel nourished by the same things, and if I could nourish them in the way that works best for them.

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magic / spiritual energy is focused emotion

icon: "spiritual (a photo of a snow leopard with (edited) violet eyes staring straight into the camera)"

How do you view the energies of the world? Do you believe in the healing powers of such things, for example? How do natural energies affect you? How do the energies of people affect you?

I'm interpreting this question as being about the spiritual energies of things rather than their measurable energies. It is an interesting question for me right now because I am sort of transitioning from one view/belief to another, and my answer is very different than it would have been even last year.

I think that emotions are a kind of energy. In the literal sense, adrenaline comes from emotion and can give a body more power than it should logically have. But beyond hormonal surges, emotions have a power over the mind which has power over the body and this can transfer in a way that seems magical and is inexplicable. I think that only creatures which have emotions can be affected by this energy; in my opinion this includes any creature with memory and the ability to make decisions.

I don't think there is magical power outside of emotion. I don't think objects have the power to do anything unless a sentient being gives them that power using emotion. So if natural energies means places in nature, stones, plants, etc, having powers to heal someone without emotion, then I do not believe that.

When it comes to things like prayer for healing, I think it can be a powerful way to focus emotions, and those focused emotions can heal a person. If nothing else, a belief that you will get better will soothe your stress, which makes it easier for your body to heal. Or simply being distracted from your illness by displays of love from people can also soothe stress, even if one doesn't believe in prayer.

I feel that a place in nature which has been left to itself for long enough has an emotional sense of interconnectedness with itself. That feeling makes me feel rested, nourished, and safe, and I am healed by those emotions, so I find protected natural places to be healing. However another person entering that space who finds such places to be unfamiliar and full of danger would not at ALL be healed by it; that interconnectedness might feel like a giant flashing keep out sign. It is my emotional response that heals me, not the place itself.

The same goes for objects like stones. They are not inherently anything, but if someone likes the way a particular stone makes them feel, then it can be healing for them to have it around. Stones are not more capable of healing than plush toy animals -- maybe less.
Emotions are magic, but they only work on beings that have memory and the ability to make decisions, and they only work on the micro scale. So you cannot pray for a better world and expect any kind of result, but you can pray for more confidence and get it.

But I do think sometimes when we pray or do spellwork for things, we actually end up getting them in a round-about way. For example, praying for a new job and because of this focus and hope, becoming more observant to notice opportunities and more courageous to follow through on them, and due to to that observation and courage, getting a new job. I definitely use crafted phrases, repetitively spoken, to help focus my emotions to bring me closer to my goals, and I have had astonishing successes that I would have thought laughably impossible.

The reason that testing things like prayer and magical spells always falls apart is that part of the scientific method is to remove the chance that emotion is swaying the results, but the thing works on emotions, so you can never reproduce it in an emotionless way. The placebo effect is literally the same thing as prayer: emotion causing an effect on the mind and/or body. The placebo effect is real, proven over and over: sometimes people get better just because their mind is convinced that they should. I don't think this is an unimportant fact, though of course it cannot be relied on and is no substitute for verified medical treatment.

[emotions have the most effect on humans]
As for the emotions of people, affecting each other's emotions is the main power that our emotions have. One can walk near a stranger who is very upset and pick up that emotion without even talking to them; emotions are often contagious. I do small rituals to deliberately remove emotions I picked up from someone else, or to re-align my emotional self with a person who I am trying to connect with.

I consider it a kind of attack to be angry at someone and stay near them physically while feeling and thinking about that anger. I consider it bad consent at best to be around someone and think about them sexually when they have not consented to that. I consider it a kind of attack to be wanting something from someone that they don't want to give and feeling sad about it and stay near them physically while feeling and thinking about it.

I don't broadcast anger or sex or sad at people and I don't allow people to do it to me if I can help it. Affecting people with your emotions is a kind of manipulation and it's not okay. Some aspects are inescapable, but at the very least, when the negative emotion is at its peak you should warn people and give them the choice to avoid you if that is what they need. Choice means that if they avoid you during that peak, they do not have to deal with fall-out afterwards. If one kind of choice gets punished, it is not a real choice.

To try to sum up this jumble: There is no magic but emotion, which is the power in prayer and spellwork. Emotion has power only on emotional creatures, only on the micro level. We have the ability to influence others with our emotions and we have the responsibility to be ethical with that power.

Edited to add, for clarity: I don't believe in or advocate prayer or positive thinking as a method of any kind of problem-solving. I just think that the mind has a lot of power for change within itself, and humans are HIGHLY affected by emotions.

I think this mostly has a chance to hurt us, which is why it's important. Like, there is this idea that for instance, someone saying something that hurts your feelings is no big deal if they didn't do it on purpose, but it IS a big deal and it can cause a ripple effect in your mind and body. And being exposed to trauma has a real impact on the mind and body even if the trauma is not to you or someone you know. Etc.

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working out in a skirt: the ongoing saga

icon: "bloodcurdling (photo of me w wide-eyed snarling wild expression wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

Every time I go to the gym, I am by far the fattest femme there and usually the fattest person, as well as the only one in a skirt. I feel like I am doing important work because if I was not me, and I saw someone my size and shape doing weight training in a skirt, it would encourage me and make me feel like I belong and like it is okay to be there. I want other femmes and fat people to feel empowered to take up space in a gym. Yesterday I did have a femme person come up and compliment me on my skirt, which made me happy. I'm worried that I gave them a "back the fuck off" look before they said that though because staff members keep on bothering me about it.

On my second visit to the gym one of the workers came and told me I couldn't work out in a skirt. The skirt fell to slightly below my knees: definitely long enough for "modesty" without being so long that it might create risk of tripping, and stretchy with no buttons or zippers to get caught on anything. I probably got an "I will FIGHT you" look on my face because it got my anti-discrimination hackles up. I was thinking of all the femmes who wouldn't feel able to talk back and would be effectively banned from weight training by this sexist bullshit, and all the people who don't have workout-specific clothes and can't afford to go buy them.

I asked to talk to their supervisor and when two tall barbie and ken people came over (seriously I was like "what is this, a surfer movie?") I said "this IS my athletic wear: I only wear skirts" (the worker was silent, probly embarrassed). Then ken said "well you can't have your midriff showing because of our rules about no skin on machines due to sweat" so I said I would pull my skirt up higher to cover the 1 inch strip of my belly that was showing, and did so. Then I returned to my workout.

It was a bullshit thing to enforce on me because many people in the room were wearing tiny shorts that were basically underwear and sleeveless racerback tops where their whole shoulderblades showed: they definitely had more skin touching the equipment. The worker who initially told me my skirt wasn't athletic wear didn't mention to the supervisors that that was what they meant, so we didn't even discuss that. Which was lucky for them cause I was ready to spend the whole night arguing.

Then the next week (last week) a different worker came over and told me I couldn't wear a skirt, and then called down their manager (2 steps up heirarchy wise), who I had the same argument with. They told me it was in the policy and I said no, skirts aren't mentioned (fact) and every argument they made I refuted but they kept on saying that it's against policy. Finally something seemed to get through and they said that I should email them and they would look in to getting the policy changed. This show of respect broke my self-illusion that this issue didn't affect me personally and I lost the ability to speak and left as quickly as I could because I knew an anxiety meltdown was imminent.

I went to the locker room and sobbed for a while, struggling to calm myself. Two people at different times talked to me and asked if they could help, and I said no it's anxiety and I just need to gather myself and focus on breathing to calm down. I was touched that they expressed concern and them asking what they could do reminded me of what I could do (breathing) so it did help indirectly.

After I gathered myself I went out to the weight room again and asked for the email address of the manager, they gave it to me and the following day I sent this (the binary language is so that there is less for them to argue with):

[long email]
Good afternoon [managers name],

You spoke with me yesterday and invited me to email you with my concerns after one of the staff interrupted my workout to tell me that my clothing was not acceptable.  Despite there being no mention of skirts in the policy (as defined here: [link to policies] ), my wearing a skirt has resulted in staff interrupting me multiple times to discuss whether or not it was acceptable.

My inclination is to just obey because I just want to work out in peace and it is very difficult for me to deal with these confrontations with staff.  But I can't in good conscience do that because this unspoken -- yet rigorously enforced -- skirt policy disproportionately affects women, particularly poor women. 

To restrict femme clothing and require pants or shorts excludes women who

1) do not own pants or shorts other than work pants (jeans / khakis / zippered pants) and can't afford to go out and buy them;

2) are modest and thus uncomfortable with displaying their legs all the way up to the crotch;

3) have body dysmorphia or dysphoria which make the exposure of pants a prohibitive barrier;

4) are religiously devout and wear skirts as part of their religious practice;

5) are fat and have a difficult time finding shorts/pants which fit (skirts are much easier);

and most likely women in additional situations which I can’t readily imagine.

You said that it was a safety hazard because my skirt might get caught in machines, but this is not true.  I am happy to try out every type of machine in the room while you watch so that you can see what I know from years of wearing skirts: as long as they are at least 8 inches above the ankle, it is practically impossible for them to get caught in the spokes of an exercise bike wheel. Skirts that are approximately knee-length do not get in the way of working out. There is no valid safety argument here, particularly given that loose pants are not banned and fabric around the ankle is far more likely to get caught in a machine.

In an environment which is already highly masculinized, putting additional financial and emotional burdens on women will result in women not participating; they will be excluded by default.  A no-skirts policy is plainly discriminatory. I propose that the clothing policy be amended to state that skirts worn must be at least 8 inches above the ankle to keep them from getting caught in any machines.  That should cover any actual safety issue while also making it clear to staff that any skirt that is shorter than mid-calf is acceptable.

I hope to hear back from you very soon on this matter.

[my name and workplace]

Then I went in to the gym and spotted the manager, who nodded and waved me over to follow to their office, which I did. They then said they had been expecting an email, and I told them that I just sent one a bit ago, so they read it while I sat there so that I didn't have to say it all again. They were nodding a lot while reading (I watched out of the corner of my eye) and afterward they said that they totally agree and that they have made religious exemptions before so it is not an absolute rule. They said they will take my name off it for anonymity and send it to the director and get it discussed and that until it is settled I can wear my usual skirts. Then they gave me their card and went and talked to the workers so that no one would bother me.

I had initially interpreted them in a very negative light but now I'm realizing that that might have been due to my anxiety. I think they genuinely do agree that it is the right thing to do and will advocate for it. I hope this policy gets changed but I am pretty sure their bosses are old white men who want to discourage women from working out, so we'll see. I have title 9 (anti-sexism mandate) in my corner since this facility receives federal funds (I didn't mention it in the email because I was trying to be less hostile in tone).

If they end up not changing the policy, I'm gonna get a bunch of skorts and femmme the fuck out of them with fabric paint.

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I have my first ever gym membership and I'm doing weight training!

icon: "burn baby burn (a photo of me silhouetted dancing in front of the effigy fire at my first burn)"

Last week I went to the gym and did weight training for the first time in over a decade -- and after that day I decided to change my work schedule slightly so that I would have more time after work for working out, and set up paycheck deductions for my first ever gym membership. I went three times last week and twice already this week, each time spending about an hour.

I am lucky that my gym is literally a 3 minute walk from my work, and that I have a 1.4 mile walk to the bus stop and hate the trolley (which is the other option besides walking). It's easy for me to get started and once I am started it is hard for me to stop because rapid context switches are so unpleasant for me. Working out has become a normal part of my work day.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy weights -- so much more so with the very fancy weight stack machines at this gym! I love pulling and pushing against the resistance of weight, when doing so doesn't hurt my hands. Free weights are just so horrible on my hands.

My gym has like 14 weight stack machines, half of which are for arms and shoulders. (these are machines where you push or pull while sitting in a certain position, and the machine resists using suspended weights, which you can easily adjust) Each machine is designed to focus on a specific set of muscles. This is perfect for me because I can change machines quickly enough that I don't get bored or lose count. I do 3 sets of reps on each machine that I like, and try to keep the weight low enough that I can do all the machines but high enough that it's not too easy.

I'm excited about developing more muscle! I am already able to increase the weight on some of them (partly because I started out below my absolute max so that I could get more of a sense of momentum). One of my favorite things about my body is how fast I build muscle. I was worried that now that I am older that wouldn't be true anymore but it still is -- I can already see a slight but real difference in my arms! I can't wait to see more definition in my back and shoulders too.

I feel like I am moving into my body in a way I haven't since I took bellydance lessons in 2004. I think I had to do the walking regularly for a while first, both to get more stamina and heart health, and to get comfortable with how much I sweat. I have never before been okay with getting sweaty, but I have ALWAYS sweated a lot and easily so it had always been a barrier to exercise. Now I'm okay with it. It's still a little annoying but not horribly frustrating.

I feel much more myself when I am strong -- that was the one part of my old body that I missed. I had to have a gap in my work outs though because originally it was fueled by self loathing. Now, it is fueled by self love: I am not going to be mean to my body or try to make it do things when it says no. I'm listening, and working with it.

I'm actually feeling grateful for that anxiety attack because I dunno when/if I would have started weight training if not for needing strong physical activity as medicine. I am so glad that I broke that barrier.

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new LJ goal: brevity

I have over 25 work-in-progress posts on my phone because I get so nitpicky perfectionist about them and when they are 2 sentences from done I end up leaving them for like a month. I also have a weird block about not posting things until they get a certain length, and I make most of my posts too long. So I am going to try to break them up more and hopefully this will result in me posting more often.

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months of regular aerobic exercise are changing my body

(Most of this was written at the end of April, but is still accurate)

So my new activity levels have been changing my body, and I dunno how to feel about it. I like the difference in how I feel but am really weirded out by the difference in how I look. I can see a difference but it is very hard for me to tell, visually, how it is different except that my belly and inner thighs are "looser," less dense. My belly seems smaller but also like it pokes out more. I think my waist is narrower but my lower belly is more pokey (which is a shape I really like, as I associate it with strength). I also noticed that there is less fat around my ribs, which weirdly makes my boobs more pronounced when I am naked.

I don't like feeling like I don't know what is going on with my body, so I tried weighing myself and I have gained. I know muscle weighs more than fat, and I can see the increased muscle in my butt, lower legs, and shoulders, but it still was disturbing because I have not varied... [cn/tw: talk of weight/size with specific numbers for lbs/inches]

...more than 7 pounds from my normal 212 in like... 5 years. Currently I am about 230, averaging the last 2 weights I took while approximately the same size. It just seems sudden and shocking and it's really new to me. From 1996 to 2000 I stayed the same weight (I was heavy as a young teen and then starved myself for years). Then from about 2000 to 2013 I gained about 5 pounds per year, and then I stayed about the same for 5 years. I have never experienced a 10 change in a year, ever.

I finally pulled out the measuring tape and took my chest, waist, hip, and thigh measurements and if I did them right, there's an inch less on chest, waist, and hip, and a quarter inch more on my thighs. I had taken my measurements a few months ago to order from eshakti, so I had the old measurements to compare to. I was really disbelieving that I could have changed that much while still looking the same and feeling the same in my clothes, until I realized that I was using a tighter notch on my mi band (which I lost, sadly) which is a quarter inch difference. So now I am pretty sure that it is that much difference.

It's really weird to have my body change shape like this. I honestly wasn't expecting it. I started doing the daily 1.5 mile primarily because I am worried about the effects that my ADHD meds have on my heart, and some daily heart rate increase for at least 30 minutes is the best way to strengthen your heart (or so says the internet). I was just hoping to get overall increased stamina and for my body to be less hyper-reactive to exertion, and for my ankles to stop swelling up.

And I have certainly gained these things! on days when I have gotten enough sleep, it is not even difficult to make the walk any more, even though there is a very long steep hill near the end (I still hate that part though!). I still sweat a lot, but it is more like a cup of water instead of a pint, and I cool down much much faster after stopping. It used to take me about 15-20 minutes and now it takes less than 5 minutes (as long as I am hydrated enough and not in a hot room w stagnant air).

I do think that taking glutamine and serine (two amino acids which help counteract cortizol*) has helped my body and brain recover a lot from the years of stress. I know that my brain and body both suffer when I don't eat enough, so even though I consider it an annoying chore, I take it seriously now. I aim to eat three meals (rather than my usual 1 snack and 1 meal), to have some fresh or frozen fruits and/or veggies, and to eat something at the beginning of each day. I found some dry cereal that I don't mind eating like crackers, and I have that in the morning (it counts as food! it's high protein and low sugar). Lunch is hard because it takes so much planning ahead, but I had a real lunch several times this week. I have gotten back into making smoothies and have had one for dinner most days when I'm home.

*Cortizol is a hormone that your body produces in reaction to stress and/or low blood sugar. It is meant for emergency use only so when you live in daily survival stress for a long period of time, it can wreak havoc on your body. One of the things it does is prevent you from using stored energy reserves (fat). This is how you can actually gain fat by restricting calories. If your body thinks you are starving, it will save everything it can. Many times when people get stressed they gain fat, and when they are less stressed they will lose it again; this is in large part because your hormones have more control over your body than you do.

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so I had a nervous breakdown last week -- 3 day anxiety attack

icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

My anxiety has been increasingly intense for at least a month, maybe 2. I haven't been able to eat without forcing myself, I lay awake for at least an hour when I try to go to bed, and I feel worried all the time and easily cry. Last week it all came to a head and I basically had a breakdown.

For over 72 hours I felt like someone who is afraid of flying feels right before they board a plane, though there was nothing scary happening. I kept feeling scared enough to cry but there was no threat! I turned everything over in my head trying to find what could have caused it but there wasn't anything. It felt like torture, and I couldn't bear to think of living that way every day.

I couldn't work, could hardly stand to be alive. (So grateful to have a job that allows me to take sick time at my discretion, and gives adequate amounts!) I couldn't control my thoughts at all and even writing my 2 sentence daily summary was way too much. I was having to consciously remind myself to stop holding my breath, which I do when something is too intense physically and apparently also when I am so anxious it hurts.

I finally wondered if my meds had stopped working -- which made sense considering the appetite and sleep symptoms which are usually fixed by my anxiety meds. I looked at the bottle to see the manufacturer and it was the same one that I thought was giving me less-effective adhd meds, and then I googled the name of the manufacturer and the name of my adhd meds and my anti-anxiety meds came up, with people saying that the quality is sometimes just shit!

That made me feel that my suspicion was valid, so I went to my pharmacy and talked to a tech who ordered a different generic for anxiety, but it wouldn't arrive for days. I had asked a similar question before but gotten a wrong answer (that they didn't have any other generics). Monday it finally arrived and when I picked it up I talked to the senior pharmacist who helped me get some of the other manufacturer meds to tide me over until my insurance will cover it again, and also found me a different generic source for my adhd meds.

Today is my third day on both (though only 2/3rds of my usual anxiety med dose, because I don't have enough to last me otherwise) and I think it is better. I am still pretty anxious and my brain is still trying to divebomb at every little thing but at least I can mostly breathe. I'm desperately hoping that within a week I can feel normal, at least my normal. Basically it was like I went off my meds even though I was taking them, and mirtazapine is one of those that is VERY BAD to stop cold turkey. it also apparently needs to be kept at even temperatures, so possibly I got a batch that went off.

In addition to that, I had run out of my serine supplement, which I take to counteract cortisol. I had thought I noticed a small positive effect but now I am thinking it had a much stronger impact as time went on. I plan to be more careful to maintain that one.

Also in the days leading up to my breakdown I had not been getting as much activity as before, and I realize now that exercise really helps with my anxiety. At the worst points it was literally the only thing that helped. Even cuddles and sweet attention didn't help as much, and literally nothing could distract me enough to escape the feeling. So since I realized that last week I have been getting at least 30 min of activity every day, more on most days, strenuous intensity on most days. Thank fuck I have finally come to terms with my sweatiness and thus it is not a barrier to working out any more.

Edit: after posting this, I actually had a good night with no huge anxiety spikes in it! SUCH RELIEF.

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living alone again! a shocking quiet / return of the ghost / tidying & organizing

icon: "exuviate (photo of a dragonfly with shimmery green wings after its last metamorphosis, standing next to its previous exoskeleton)"

Sunday night was the first night I got to be home since Serenity (housemate) finished moving out and cleaning up behind themselves and it was WORLDS quieter. Not of physical noise, but of mental/emotional noise. The quiet felt almost shocking, like when the power goes out. I felt like I was in a hotel, or like I was sleeping in an empty house without even furniture. My house felt clean, open, and full of space -- despite the fact that my living room is still a clutterbomb from my returned things after Topaz' move.

I was subconsciously worried that I didn't actually need to live alone for a while, or that it wouldn't be a significant difference because Serenity did try hard to be unobtrusive. I was worried that maybe I was making it up, maybe I was just being uselessly picky. Now I feel validated, and happy that I knew this would be good for me even though I had no proof. I'm delightedly anticipating a decrease in my overall cognitive and emotional strain, from the sense of rest I can get now from going home.

Weirdly I have heard the ghost moving around again, and Kanika has started breaking into the room where it stays again. They didn't do that for almost the entire 2 years that Serenity was here -- at least not when I was home. The door to that bedroom stayed shut. Now I keep shutting it and finding it open again, and last night the light was inexplicably on (I never turn it on) -- most likely Serenity turned it on and I just didn't notice the first 3 times I passed it, but I would have thought I'd notice since it was dark and there is a large gap between the door and the floor. It creeped me out a little but I dismissed it. If it is a ghost, it's got no ill intention, or Kanika wouldn't be friends with it.

I've been helping Topaz with various cleaning projects and they offered to come help me clean and tidy my living room this week which will be SUCH a relief as tackling it alone is just something I haven't motivated to do, at all. Once I have it tidy I can do an allergy clean regularly and hopefully host hearts and crafts sometimes. I've only just been able to start doing big cleaning and tidying projects, having stored up enough spoons. So many days when I get home I am just so wiped from work that feeding myself dinner and occasionally soaking my feet is about all I can manage. But having a tidy space that is all mine and all tidy is going to help so much.

I don't remember if I posted about it, but I organized my closet (the clothes at least) and put some things in canvas boxes on a wire cube shelf outside the closet, and I have done a lot better about putting away clean clothes and planning out work outfits since then. It's so good to for me to plan ahead with outfits because otherwise I end up slapping together something in the morning and it's not something that feels like self-decorating. If I have to wear clothes I want to be thoughtful and creative about it. Side note: I need so many more clothes now that I have to wear a different outfit every damn day, which I usually sweat in while walking to the bus. Luckily my thrifting magic has kept that from being too dreary.

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my prosopagnosia makes it really important to have photos of people I love

icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

For most people, faces are stored in the brain as a single piece of information, and when they see a familiar face they instantly know who it is. Memories of human faces are actually stored in a specialized place in the brain, and there is evidence to suggest that lesions in that part of the brain may cause prosopagnosia (face-blindness), or at least contribute to it. Whatever the reason, I don't have the ability to recognize faces as a whole.

I can remember an individual feature but each one is stored separately. So I have to scan a face for eye shape (upper lid, lower lid, length, width), nose shape/size, lips shape, eyebrows, jawline, cheek shape, coloring -- each piece running though every stored feature and filtering out people who don't match the features met so far. To put it another way, where your average person sees "8" I see "1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1" only it's much harder because each piece has so many possible shapes. The idea of recognizing an adult by their child photo is so unfathomable to me, because all the features have changed size at least and everything looks different.

I always have to put effort into recognizing people. It usually takes at least three filtering steps before I realize who it is, and that takes more time when it is out of context or when it has been a long time since I have seen someone because I store features by how soon and in what context I expect to see them. I have gotten good enough at my work-arounds that it is not often that I talk with someone for more than 15 seconds without realizing who that is, but that's partly because I am using their voice and movements to help me place them. this is true whether the face is familiar to me or notCollapse )

This is part of the reason I find unusual faces so attractive; they are easier to place so it gives me a sense of relief, which I feel every time I see them. I also love faces with sharp delineations of their features and people who habitually wear eyeliner and/or have dark eyebrows because I don't have to mentally trace the outline before I scan my memory for that feature. Conversely, I get irrationally irritated when more than one person has the same "unnatural" hair color, especially if they have similar skin coloring. Why are you fuckin up my cheat sheet?! I want no more than one blue-haired person in my life at a time okay? ideally everyone I cared about would look completely different from everyone else I cared about even at a distance of 500 feet.

This inability to see faces as a whole can be hacked in one way: photos and sometimes videos. Because they get stored in my brain as a whole image, I can remember them better than a live face. I am better at recognizing celebrities than most people because I've never seen them live, only on a screen or page. It has happened quite often that I see an actor playing a minor character for the second time in a very different role, and I will figure out where I remember seeing them while the non-prosopagnosiac next to me is completely surprised that it is the same person even though they had the same exposure that I did.

This memory hack makes it really important to me to see photos of people I love. As I told a friend recently, it makes people feel more real to me. I had a crushing moment about 2 years ago when I realized that part of the reason it was so difficult for me to feel secure in being loved was that I can't pull up an image of someone smiling at me lovingly, so even though I knew it had happened, it felt like it never did. When I talked about it with Topaz 2 years ago, they finally got why I always wanted to take photos of them, and they started sending me photos of themself. I definitely think that a big part of why I feel so loved by them is that they do this.

Still, they don't like being looked at and they are uncomfortable with me taking their photo. The other day I was cuddling with Topaz and started trying to take a photo of them, but couldn't get one that worked, so kept deleting and trying again. They got self-conscious and hid their face and asked why I was taking "so many" photos. I told them that I didn't have any photos of them making that face so I was trying to capture it, and they asked "what face?" I said "that 'I love you' face." They then tried to let me take the photo but the feeling had been interrupted and the face was different. I feel really sad now that I couldn't capture it because even the blurry impressionist memory of it is gone.

Part of the reason I always felt so loved and connected and real with Hannah and Kylei was because we took photos of each other all the time and they were comfortable enough with a camera that when I went to take a photo, that act didn't change the feeling of the moment. I could actually take photos of them in a particular emotion without it vanishing in front of the camera. Then we would look at our photos together, so I had visual memories of connecting with them. My memory is deeply terrible; to have memories of my life, I have to study. Without photos or journal entries, I have nothing to study, so the memory is just lost. Most of my experiences are lost to me within a week.

It feels so unfair that other people don't have to ask permission before storing a face in their memory, but I do because I can only do it with a camera. It feels so unfair that others don't have to disrupt the experience in order to create a memory of it.

I think people who can pull up visual memories of people acting loving towards them have no idea what a gift it is to have that mental evidence of love. It took me years to even be able to get the impression of Topaz' face that I use to feel loved: a corner of one eye crinkles in this particular way when they are feeling charmed by me. I can pull up a blurry impressionist image of this and the feeling of the rest of their face is there even though I can't imagine it. I cling to that tiny fragment of face memory with all my might.

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such freedom in no longer needing to be needed

icon: "wild (me with vivid violet hair standing in a forest, viewed from above with my head tipped back and a wide, wild grin.)"

A friend of mine was describing their feelings about being a support and it reminded me of this post: fear of love being taken away if I'm not comforting & helpful / my worth / who I am vs what I do and I realized that finally, FINALLY, after years and years of struggling with this compulsion, I have it under control. It's still there, to some extent, but I can tell it no.

And really Topaz gets all the credit for that, because they went in with me on a hiatus of our relationship and then still loved me after I hadn't given to them for a month and a half, and that taught me that I can be loved without being needed. And in the time since, when I have said that I need time for myself or said no to a request for help, they have been supportive -- not perfectly but so often that it averages out to them having a positive response when I say no to something they want me to do. And if I can value my needs without fearing losing my closest person, then I can observe my other connections in that light and know that they should support me in valuing my needs as I support them in valuing their needs.

This gives me a freedom beyond what I can describe. Being needed is a kind of burden that I always thought was the sacrifice one must make to be close to another person. To be able to be at the most profound level of closeness I have ever experienced, without either of us expecting the other to meet most of our needs in general, or any one of our needs in particular -- even our greatest needs? I wouldn't have even imagined it possible. I'm so grateful.

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Evelyn is back in my life (perhaps)

icon: "artless (a painting of a nude person in sun-dappled shade, unselfconscioualy pulling off red stockings. They have a soft round belly and breasts that slope down)"

So when Saleena died and I started thinking about the people I didn't want to miss the chance to connect with, I emailed Evelyn a very short message saying that I hope life is going well for them, and then a few days ago they replied and asked to hang out. I said okay and gave them options and they chose this past Wednesday. I then put it out of my mind as much as possible so that I didn't fret or get my hopes up -- I think subconsciously I was expecting them to cancel. But they didn't!

They came over and we talked for about 2 hours. It was a meaningful conversation though uncomfortable in several ways. I initially asked them what they valued about me and they talked about my integrity and justice-minded-ness and how they wanted to create a project for social change with me. I told them that their response worried me as I feel like they are interacting with me like I am an idea and not a person. They responded "that is a fair concern" which was both reassuringly honest and dismayingly fear-affirming.

I said I am not looking to start a big project right now as I am in need of a rest period after years of financial trauma and lots of loss, and I don't know how long I need this rest period to be but I am guessing at least a year. What I want to create right now is a web of connections which are mutually nourishing, healing, and growthful. I added that I don't find it nourishing to be admired or to be an inspiration to others. They listened and seemed to take in what I was saying, and they apologized for not being nourishing when we were together before.

They expressed that they didn't feel disappointed or distressed that I don't want to start a project with them right now, which is good but that left me again with no answer about what they are looking for (I don't think they know). They said they didn't want to make promises and I emphatically agreed that I don't want them to make promises. That was part of the problem last time: it was part of the reason I got so hurt and I think that the pressure of those promises was part of the reason they just disappeared. I do however want to know their desires and whatever factors they are aware of that influence the experience of those desires (so I said this).

They asked me if I consider them trustworthy and I said I trust them not to intentionally hurt me, and to try to avoid hurting me by anything I specifically mention as hurtful but I don't trust them to know what is hurtful and not do it without me mentioning. I didn't mention it at the time because it didn't occur to me but I also don't trust them not to cut contact, which is something I find hurtful and I know they are aware of that.

They asked if I think they are a reliable source on their own self and I said no. I think to be that, one has to practice self-awareness daily and when you are in crisis, many times you cannot be self-aware: for survival you have to shut down to your own thoughts and feelings. And I think they have been in crisis as long as I have known them. They were unsurprised that I said no, but taken aback by my reasoning as they hadn't thought of themselves as in crisis but on reflecting, think that that is probably true.

We talked a lot about managing the impulse to give the people we love whatever we think they want, even to a damaging extent. I touched on How Loss of Alone Time, Constant Caretaking, & Medication Stigma Almost Killed Me and how constant caretaking without sufficient rest is damaging for caretaker, caretaken, & the relationship... "it is ultimately damaging for the person who is being taken care of. Coming to depend on someone for your needs and then having that ripped suddenly away when they run out of ability is profoundly destabilizing and terrifying, and it is inevitable because no one has infinite energy or the ability to give endlessly without being nourished enough to refill. If you love the person you're caretaking and you want to help them the most you can, you MUST take care of yourself. Otherwise you are setting them up for a really, really awful crash (and setting yourself up for the same)."

They talked about how they felt that part of the problem last time for them was getting distracted with sex, and I couldn't relate because I know I wouldn't have wanted sex if I didn't feel emotionally connected, but I understood that they probably had a different experience. I told them that I wanted sex and romance with them but that I could turn those desires off if they wanted, and they said no. We talked around it for a bit and I felt like they were hinting at wanting a nonsexual relationship but weren't admitting it even to themself, but the more we talked about it the more I felt like that was the case. So I told them that I wanted to be romantic but not sexual with them at least for a while -- if they liked that idea -- and they enthusiastically said yes.

Later we talked about it more and they clarified that they do in fact want to be nonsexual with me (I was relieved for them to be direct with me) and they also want to be romantic. I do think it would be a good idea to keep sex off the table for a while because sex tends to make me impatient but I'm a bit concerned over definitions because the line between sex and romance gets muddy for me. Especially when it comes to kissing, as I can and have had orgasms purely from kisses. To maintain a non-sexual demeanor will require putting some really strict limits on romantic stuff. It's easy to do when the other person doesn't want sex because then I just don't want it. It's much MUCH more difficult when the person is ambivalent.

Then this past weekend Quinn hosted hearts and crafts and Evelyn attended. I felt as awkward as an eel on land, but later I realized that a lot of that was fear that Quinn wouldn't want to be my friend anymore if Evelyn and I were dating. But Quinn felt, if anything different, more warm and friendly than before. Hearts and crafts is so important to me and I feel really protective of it. I want everyone to stay feeling wanted and belonging (which I hope they feel now) and so I'm definitely not ready to introduce any new people to it. I sent this to Evelyn:

btw, you had mentioned wanting to attend more hearts and crafts, and I said I need to check with people which is true but is not the first step. Right now I feel wary of how things may develop or falter between us, and I'm very protective of hearts n crafts. I'd say it's my second most important relationship right now, after Topaz. So I need to feel like I can depend on the me-you connection before I am comfortable asking for everyone to expand the group. I'm fine with you attending whenever Quinn hosts but other than that I want to wait, because the idea of us-ness crumbling and that poisoning h&c is horrible. Does all that make sense? I am worried that this will hurt your feelings but I want to be totally honest and open with you.

They responded saying, in gist, that they understand and support my choice, and I thanked them and added that I do very much want them to be part of it, but I can't risk hurting my people by proxy again. In the past I have encouraged my friends to invest in people and then had to watch them suffer when the people I vouched for hurt them. Before I even passively encourage people to invest in someone now, I need to ask myself if I have proof that this person is more likely to be net-positive for my friends rather than net-negative. And if I have no proof I have to wait.

It is EXTREMELY weird to be the more-cautious one for once. I'm always jumping in the dark water and THEN checking for leeches but this time I'm doing a careful sweep with one limb and inspecting it as I move from spot to spot.

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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.