Archive for the ‘disappointment’ Category

Strangest. Day. Ever.

Posted: February 12, 2012 in disappointment, perseverance

You know those days when you kinda sorta wish you’d just stayed in bed, because they just keep getting weirder and weirder and snowballing into a giant vortex of insanity that sucks you in and makes you want to go just a little bit crazy (if you weren’t there already)?

That.

That kind of day.

I slept in until 10 (which was lovely) and reveled in that extra time in bed, since it was raining outside and I was snuggled up with a pile of blankets and a purring kitty cat. I had a pretty boring day planned, beginning with a visit to a tax professional and continuing on to a mini-mission to find a pair of black ballet flats to wear for my choir performance next week. It turns out, the only black shoes I own are attached to 4 inch stilettos….

In the course of getting my taxes done, it turned out I was getting screwed by a stipend for a grant I worked on over two years ago, and for which I did not receive a 1098-MISC until well after April 15th last year. I thought I could just claim it this year, since I didn’t receive it until after taxes were due last year…but apparently that was a very wrong assumption, and now I not only owe a giant lump sum in actual taxes, but additional hundreds of dollars in penalties, and some change on top of that for having the tax people fix it for me.

Awesome.

I may have cried a little in the tax lady’s office.

…okay, more than a little.

It feels like when you’re poor, the universe just conspires to keep you that way sometimes.

But what can you do, besides fix it and move on?

I learned from this that I’m never doing my own taxes again, because “fast free and easy” really just means “you pay more later.”

Tax drama over (for the day), I picked up a buddy and headed to the mall to search for shoes. I ended up finding a pair in under 10 minutes, so we scurried across town for dinner. There was crazy traffic and no parking anywhere, which was odd for that part of town on a Saturday evening, but we braved it because the Mexican food at this place is addictive. As we were leaving, I had a strange desire to stop into a coffee shop on the corner…but we kept walking.

I got home, and then discovered a tweet from Buddy Levy….that he was at the coffee shop giving a reading.

By that point, it was an hour and a half after the reading started, and half an hour before it ended. It takes about 15 minutes to get from my house back to the coffee shop in question, so after a few more tears of frustration (it’s been that kind of a day…) I threw my shoes back on and jumped back in the truck, and drove through the rain, back into town, trying not to think too hard about what would happen if things didn’t go the way I wanted them to, and hoping this would be a good time to introduce myself.

I emailed Buddy Levy a few days ago, because I want his input on a project I’m working on. He was nice enough to email me back, and we’ve been discussing a time to meet. I thought an informal introduction at a coffee shop might be a nice way to get the process started. And demonstrate to him that I’m not crazy. Because I imagine he gets some of that.

I got lucky this time around, and scored a sweet parking spot right out front. There were two more readings, so I got to listen to those (I haven’t been to a fiction reading since I was an undergrad, and this reminded me that I actually miss them…note to self). When things settled down, I was able to wander over and introduce myself, and actually got to spend a few minutes chatting with Buddy Levy about my research and how I hoped his insight might be helpful. He was really nice about it, promised to answer more questions, and gave me a fist bump. Score!

Add that to the resume…

I headed back to my truck, where I promptly bumped into my choir director, who was looking for a local music venue. I flashed back to playing there with my band, gave him directions, and headed home to contemplate the strange, strange state of my life as of February 11, 2012.

I’m going back to bed.

I Feel…Old…

Posted: January 13, 2012 in disappointment, responsibility

…and yes, yes you should be reading that as Captain Barbossa says it at the end of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Today was kind of a roller coaster. I’m glad it’s over, and I can chillax with my cat and some bad TV. And, in a little bit, my guitar.

I started my morning sipping coffee and reading random articles on cracked.com

All was well with my world.

Then the professor I work for dropped in and demanded (nicely) that I move most of my books out of the office to make room for more of his books. This is well within the realm of reasonable, but it’s still frustrating. So instead of spending the day reading, I spent it trying to sort through every book I own and make sure the ones I will NEED for my research stayed in my office, and packing up the ones I just kind-of-sort-of need into boxes to bring home.

I was still sort of pissy about it when I headed off to my guitar class, though there’s really nothing for me to do about this one but build a bridge and get over it. I’m entitled to be irritated, but I don’t have any grounds to be upset.

Guitar class was one part awesome, one part uncomfortable. It’s becoming very clear that the professor for the class is very patient with helping students who need it, but also expects everyone to do what he says when he says it. And I’m pretty okay with that combination. High expectations will keep me moving forward.

Which is happening, because I have learned more about reading sheet music in the last two days than I have in the last ten years. And an actual scale.

Progress!!

Today the class was split into three groups – people who were struggling with the stuff we learned on Tuesday (there were tears involved), people who were okay with what we learned and had moved on to the first exercise and were content to keep practicing that (me), and people who were ready to move on to the next lesson (got to go outside).

A couple of girls and I went to coffee after class. It was fun, but having a conversation with girls who aren’t even twenty-somethings yet made me feel like ancient history. It was inevitable that one of them asked how old I was.

Twenty…seven…

“What?! No way! You don’t look that old,” she insisted.

…good to know.

Still processing how I feel about that one. I might be in the beginning stages of a midlife crisis.

…I’m going to go write a song about that now.

Visiting Seattle is a strange experience for me sometimes. I lived here for four years, but for most of that time, my anxiety prevented me from getting out and exploring the city in any meaningful way. When I come back, now, it’s a strange mixture of familiarity and newness.

Boyfriend has a work conference this week, so I get to stay for free in a suite at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. It’s lovely. It comes with designer-brand sheets, an assortment of bath goodies, plush bathrobes, and $8 bottled water. It’s the kind of place that I usually feel out of place in – like I’m pretending, because I can’t really afford this stuff.

It’s nice to be in Seattle and be able to get out an explore it now, without feeling anxious or overwhelmed at every new turn. Last night, I met up with one of my roommates from my undergraduate years. It’s always interesting to see people who knew me back then, and hear their observations of the person I was. I compare that girl to who I am now, and sometimes I wonder where she went. Other times, I feel like she’s looking over my shoulder, waiting to see if she can force her way back in and turn this new life I’ve been building upside down. She’s the voice of self-doubt that always wants me to give up on things; who tells me it’s not worth it to keep trying whenever the slightest hint of disappointment crops up.

I’m doing a much better job, lately, of shutting her up.

I had a very interesting conversation with former roomie, over a Dry Blood Orange Soda and a delicious snack platter of roasted nuts and olives:

What was most intriguing to me, on this particular night, was her view of me, from back then.

When I look back, on the girl who struggled through undergraduate school, I don’t see much that’s positive beyond the school part. I was an excellent student. I earned grades commensurate with the hours and hours I spent locked up in my bedroom, or the library, or (on really good days, when I was feeling adventurous) a coffee shop. That part of my being then tends to fade into a background of student loans, bad fashion, damaged skin, anxiety, and bad decisions. I didn’t know how to function in that world, away from my parents’ dysfunction. I didn’t know how to be social, or how to have fun. Literally – that was a new phenomenon to me, when I worked through the walls OCD and anxiety helped me put up so early in my life.

When I look back at my undergraduate years, I tend to only see what I missed. In reality, there were parties at my house that I didn’t attend…even when I was in the house. I’d lock my door, stuff in ear plugs, and do homework. Not because I didn’t want to be social, but because I genuinely didn’t know how.

I look back, and see that girl – alone, and isolated, and miserable. I knew then, even before I got help, that I wanted something different, but it took time to make those changes. Time that I tend to look at, even now, as lost years.

I looked at my roommates as my polar opposites – friendly and outgoing; smart and funny; fearless and uninhibited. I wanted to be like them, but I assumed it just wasn’t possible.

When I finally started to unravel the deep dark secrets that hoarding and anxiety had kept hidden in my past, I learned there really was a whole new, big, exciting world out there. When I moved to Seattle, I was filled with that excitement and wonder, because back then, at 18, I really thought that if I could just get out of California, everything would be different. I would be different, because people in Seattle were different. Something had to change.

It wasn’t that easy. But it is more rewarding now, in a strange way, to come back to Seattle and see it with brand new eyes. What I wasn’t expecting from this conversation was to hear that my smart, funny, beautiful, fabulous roommate had found things to admire and envy in me, too.

While I was wishing for just a tiny bit of her talent for navigating the world, she was looking at my dedication to my studies. While I was hoping to learn from watching her how this business of making friends worked, she was watching me push through classes. She tells me I did a very good job of hiding my misery, and loneliness. Which is also interesting to me, because I assumed I must be transparent; that everyone could look right inside to see how pathetic I really felt most of the time.

Which led to another turn in the conversation. One I won’t talk about here, because there is too much at stake for too many people in its revelation. But I will say that it made me consider just how far I’ve come, that in the course of this conversation, I felt capable of doing something I didn’t feel like I could do for most of my life: I told the truth, even though it was scandalous and ugly. And I didn’t feel bad about it, because being able to take responsibility for my mistakes while also recognizing that not everything that goes wrong in the world is my fault is a big accomplishment for me. It’s been a long time coming.

We moved the conversation to a nearby sushi restaurant, where little bites of heaven came to a dark lacquered table on fancy white plates:

We sat there, talking about our hopes and dreams, and it came home to me that I’ve turned a corner here, somewhere, when I wasn’t really paying attention. The past is still there, and still a part of me, but the future is brighter and more promising now than it ever was in my wild, desperate dreams when I first left California almost a decade ago. Being realistic about the future used to mean giving up on long-shot dreams to me. Now it means finding new ways to harness and build upon them. That something real, and worthwhile, could come out of all this has been a hazy, troubling thing to try and wrap my head and heart around for a long time. But it’s there now, and real, and it’s been worth fighting for.

Boyfriend is wrapped up with conference duties all day, so this morning, I took myself to breakfast at the same little coffeehouse that served me a delicious Dry Blood Orange Soda and wonderful conversation last night:

Boyfriend seemed a little surprised that I left the hotel room by myself this morning. He’s still catching up to the place where my being alone is a choice and a treat, and not a byproduct of being too afraid to make friends. I already have dinner plans this evening… with myself.

And as for the scared, anxious, girl that spent so many nights alone when she lived in Seattle – maybe I’ll take her too. To tell her one more time to look around and appreciate how far she’s come. And that, above all else, even though she still holds me back sometimes, I’m proud of her.

Today I got yet another reminder of how importance persistence and tenacity are, as well as another chance to work on not letting my trauma brain take over. It’s amazing how the littlest things can trigger trauma brain to kick in and start raising my anxiety levels. It’s a little surreal to find myself in the position of middle manager between my healthy, intellectual brain and my trauma brain. Now that I’m capable of recognizing when trauma brain is trying to take over, I can generally calm myself down without having an anxiety attack. Reaching this stage in my healing process makes me feel confident that I’m prepared to ease off my medication soon, which is a goal I’ve had for a long time. I’ve been taking Effexor for about 2 years now, and for the past six months or so I’ve been on an extremely low dose (37.5 mg per day). For the first few weeks that I took the lower dose, I did notice some moodiness and heightened anxiety, but that gradually balanced out. I’m expecting that when I go off the medication, I’ll experience something similar, but knowing that it’s going to get better gives me a lot of confidence that everything is going to be okay.

Back to today.  I got a text message this afternoon from the girlfriend of the bass player in the band I joined asking if I could meet up with her for drinks. She characterized this as “girl talk,” but insisted that it was nothing bad. Still, somewhere in the back of my head, even though I knew that the most likely situation really didn’t involve anything bad happening, I was nervous. Really nervous. My stomach tightened up and I could feel the anxiety coming on. My mind instantly went to the worst case scenario – that this was going to be an uncomfortable talk that somehow involved something going wrong with the band. I recognized that my trauma brain was taking over and told myself to breathe and work through it. Trauma brain insisted that practice last night wasn’t that great…we learned a lot, but it was a difficult night for me vocally. I jumped right to worst case scenarios…my voice just wasn’t strong enough to allow them to keep me in the band; they just really weren’t feeling it; I needed way too much work…

Flash forward to a few hours later. I arrived at the bar for drinks, composed, but still nervous. The conversation started off in a direction that made me nervous, but as it progressed it finally sank in for me that I was making myself a wreck on the inside for nothing. While we were talking about personalities in the band and how the group dynamic developed, I wavered between waiting for the hammer to fall and telling myself that I was reading too much into things. Then she insisted that she had been meaning to have this conversation with me for a couple of weeks and I relaxed…it had nothing to do with last night’s practice, or any other practice. She was trying to give me friendly advice and insight because she wants this band to work, and so do all the other guys in it. They wanted to make sure I was comfortable. Not only was nothing wrong with the band, but she was trying to reassure me that all of the guys in the band (who are guys, and therefore will probably never tell me this on their own) are really and truly excited about having me join. They’re nervous about being too critical or pushing me too hard – which is reassuring in a strange way. I’ve been so worried about making a mistake that would screw up everything I love about this band, I haven’t taken as much notice as I should have of the things that are working well…and there are a lot of them. This goes back to my trauma brain, which tells me not to get too excited over anything, because my past experience tells me that any time something good happens to me, something bad will follow. I’m in a healthy place now and making healthy decisions based on thoughtful consideration, so I have every reason to believe this won’t be the case. Yes, there will still be disappointments and challenges, but those are part of life. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the good things too as they happen.

I left drinks feeling much better, and also more bonded with my band mates, even though none of them were actually present. Learning that they were getting disillusioned about the prospects of finding the right lead singer at the same time I was getting disillusioned about finding the right band mates was a strange sort of reminder that timing does happen at certain times for certain reasons. I truly do believe that we end up in the places we need to be at the times we need to be there for a reason, and this is a case where finally the timing and all the other factors fell into place. All the other bands I auditioned for that weren’t the right fit were trial runs for this one – and it looks like it’s going be a great experience. I love that my band mates have a lot of experience and a lot of technical knowledge that I can learn from, and after the conversation I had this evening I feel even more confident asking for their guidance and input because it’s clear to me now that they are excited about having me grow right along with them as part of the band. They are willing to invest the time and effort that it takes to make this all come together, and that’s the best kind of support system I could possibly have. Finally finding the right group of people to work with who can give me constructive criticism and feedback and help me improve is a really good feeling. I’m grateful for all the experiences that have gotten me to this point – steps forward and setbacks alike.

Someone told me once that attitude is the only thing 100% in my control. For a lot of the past 10 years since he told me that, I’ve been too anxious and too traumatized to really put it into practice in my life…it’s hard to have a good attitude when you’re miserable and depressed and hurt and angry and don’t understand why. I still struggle with this, but it’s good to finally see myself coming out at a healthy place where I can have control of my attitude…maybe not 100% of the time, but I’m working on it.

Persistence: It Pays Off

Posted: March 27, 2011 in anxiety, disappointment

For the past year or so, I’ve been focused on getting back into something I gave up on a long time ago: joining a band and writing, singing, and performing music again. I started my first band at 14 with every intention of becoming a rock star: I gave up on it when I realized my anxiety was simply too severe to enable me to perform in front of people. After I was raped at 17, I gave up on even trying to be actively social, and retreated into my own little world filled with unhealthy relationships (usually with significantly older men) and lots of studying. I just wasn’t healthy enough to put myself out there and pursue what it was I really wanted to do. Even making normal friendships was hard for me.

Getting into therapy, learning to manage and overcome my anxiety, and making healthy changes in my life has opened up a whole host of new doors for me. In the last two years I’ve finally been able to come out of my shell and develop healthy friendships, and expand my range of activities. I can travel, go out, and do all kinds of things without anxiety, and that’s a pretty amazing thing for someone who used to suffer from debilitating panic attacks just leaving the house or talking to another person.

Last May, one of my favorite bands came to a town nearby for a concert, and I went with a couple of girlfriends. It was there, watching the concert, that I realized how badly I missed making music, and how much I wanted it to be a part of my life again. I started looking for other musicians in the area and for potential bands to join.

As I’ve posted in other blogs, this led to a lot of meetings with new people, and to a lot of dead ends. I met lots of musicians who were individually cool people but couldn’t get a cohesive group together. I auditioned for more than one band that didn’t like my voice and elected not to work with me. It was devastating, but also an extremely valuable learning experience. Going to auditions helped me learn how to manage my nerves, and also taught me what to expect.

A little over a week ago, I was house sitting and mulling over the state of my quest to once again be in a band. I was feeling a little depressed over the whole thing. I had just been into one of the local music shops looking for musicians and hadn’t turned up any promising leads. I talked to a drummer I’ve become friends with who informed me that he had found a band nearby to join. I was happy for him, but disappointed that I hadn’t found anything of my own. I looked on the local message boards again and sent out some emails, fully expecting that nothing would come of them.

But persistence pays off, and this time, something did come of one of my inquiries to a local band that had recently lost their lead singer. I heard back from them on Wednesday and exchanged several emails with one of the members over the course of the next several days. On Saturday, I met the bassist, guitarist, and manager for coffee; it went well, and on Sunday, I auditioned for them informally with a microphone and my ipod for back up. It went well, and they asked me back for a second audition last Thursday. I spent the week tied up in knots and trying to keep out of my own way. I kept thinking about an audition I went to for another band, who had nothing but positive things to say while I was in their presence, but decided they didn’t like my voice. I was afraid to get my hopes up and be disappointed again. No matter how badly you want something, after a string of disappointments it’s hard not to let it get to you.

I spent most of Thursday staring at the wall in my office and watching videos on youtube. Getting work done just wasn’t happening with all my anxiety. I felt a strange mixture of nervous excitement that I haven’t felt in a long time. By the time I walked into the little rehearsal space the band practices in, I was ready to just get things over with.  About two hours into the audition, the bassist casually leaned into his microphone and said, “Okay…you can be in the band.”

And just like that, I find myself in a band again for the first time in ten years. I couldn’t be happier, or more excited to see where this journey is going to take me. By the time I got home from the audition, there were multiple posts on my facebook wall welcoming me to the band. We’re brainstorming names, working on new songs, and starting to talk about practice times and upcoming shows. These are experienced musicians that I’m excited to be able to work with and learn from, and it will be amazing to be surrounded by people who can help me reach my full potential as a singer and performer.

In short: persistence pays off. This is something that a few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to stick with, because the anxiety and disappointment would have been too much. Now I’m able to learn from all the experiences – acknowledging that they suck at the time, but ultimately help me improve and expand my horizons. I heard once that life hands you the lessons you need to learn over and over again. It’s pretty amazing to be able to see them paying off now, and to finally feel like I’ve reached a turning point and I’m moving on to a new phase in my life. Amen to lessons learned.

Sometimes…Life Just Sucks

Posted: March 11, 2011 in disappointment

So…I’ll get around to posting more of the details surrounding the past/present/future brouhaha with my department, but suffice it to say that it’s been the week from hell. It started with rejection from the Avon competition (expected) and from some jobs I applied for (also expected) and some drama/bitchy emails from my soon to be former adviser about some summer projects (dreaded, but expected). Even though I was mostly prepared for these things, they’ve still hindered my ability to take deep breaths and keep functioning.

I finally have the go ahead to change my dissertation committee and drop my current chair, who has been absolutely non-communicative since last May. It’s a huge relief and I’m excited to work with the new members of my committee. At the same time, it means I have to get ready for the nuclear warfare that is about to happen when I tell my current adviser that he’s been officially given the boot. There is no way to go about that process that will make it suck any less. There’s no way I can prepare myself enough to not be hurt by his reaction.

The one thing I can do differently is take better care of myself. Gaining and then losing and then gaining back and now trying to lose it again has been extremely frustrating, but I’m learning how to work little changes into an overall lifestyle transition. I’m eating healthier, reducing portion sizes, trying to avoid mindless snacking, and taking the stairs (sometimes). I signed up for yoga classes again after a hiatus since last summer and I’m trying to actually use my treadclimber consistently instead of just thinking about it. I’m picking my skin more than I would like to be, but mostly less than I expect that I would be under the circumstances, especially since I’m still taking a drastically reduced dose of Effexor (37.5 mg a day). I guess more than anything it’s just been one of those weeks that reminds me both of all the work I’ve done, and the work I still have left to do.

Jumping Off Points

Posted: February 12, 2011 in anxiety, disappointment
Tags: ,

And cliffs, maybe. Lots of things going on this week. In ever-present grad school news, I got an unexpected email from the chair of my department this evening that said essentially “We need to have a meeting to talk about your relationship with Dr. X in more detail. Tuesday, 10:00?” I can only imagine what this will entail. Probably more mundane details about what Dr. X is failing to do when it comes to helping me get ready for exams. In any case, it makes me nervous when he calls it “my relationship with Dr. X.”

At the top of a completely different cliff, I just submitted a video clip to the AvonVoices contest. The submission part is over, and now I get to sit back and wait to see if I’m selected, rejected, or…what other options are there? This is another one of those things I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to do a year or two ago, so in that sense, I’m happy that I’ve followed through on this. You can’t get rejected  from things if you don’t try, and if you don’t try, you never know what will happen. I promise I’ll post a link if the video actually makes it through the first selection process.