Managing Expectations – 2019

Happy New Year

Image of a 2019 yearly planner with pen.

January 1st, the day of new beginnings, the day of resolutions, the day of tradition, the day of imagining our best selves.

Over the years I have had many strategies for facing a new year. Waking up to watch the sun rise. Doing only the things I love, and not things like cleaning the house- because what you do on the first day sets the tone for the year, completing the “Unravel(ing) the Year” packet (or attempting to), setting goals and sometimes a reward system or other hack1 to encourage me keep with them, and of course, going back to writing in my journal and/or updating my blog.

This year, however, I’m looking at the new year in a different way. Of course there are things I’d like to improve, but they are the things that I always want to improve: reply to letters more promptly, create and stick to a budget, declutter, reduce time on e-devices, do my physical therapy exercises more regularly. But I’m not setting specific goals to meet regarding these goals, with the exception of an aim to try to write (loosely defined to include all work around writing) every day, and this is a shared goal among my critique group.

With no hard and fast goals, my main focus to reach those improvements will be to reflect more on the decisions I am making, to not see straying off the path or having the direction I am heading changed mid-journey as failure, but rather growth. To acknowledge that I am only human, and that, as my former boss2 used to say, “Change is hard, Barbie.”

There are things that I am looking forward to this year – several concerts3, turning “the answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything4” years old, celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary5 – but I want to keep things as low-stress as possible. Not only do I believe that will help with my depression, but also could result in a more productive me.

  1. Some examples of hacks I’ve tried in the past: 38 ThingsThe Least I Could Do List from 2017; and a creating a Points System.
  2. Cathy Martyniak, who was Chair of the Preservation Department at UF Libraries (now at UCLA)
  3. Within Temptation, New York, NY; Weird Al, St. Augustine, FL; Delain, Amorphis and special guest Anneke van Giersbergen (solo acoustic), Tampa, FL
  4. Forty-two (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  5. Photo of Toby and Christy's wedding, along with parents.

Reflection: Hurricane Irma

Florida was just trounced by Hurricane Irma. She meandered, dragging predictions along with her, but the sheer size of the storm meant impacts for the entire state, regardless of where the eye of the storm ended up.

We live in the center of the state, nearish the panhandle, and about half-way between east and west coast in the peninsula. To see where we are, I took this screen capture of a map of Florida. I apologize if the state lines are a little obscured. Irma photobombed the image.

Screen capture of Gainesville Florida from Sunday, 9/10 at 1:33 pm, depicting large swaths of rain and potential tornado impact areas across the entire peninsula of Florida, and into Georgia

Screen capture of Gainesville on Sunday, 9/10, as Irma rode up the state

Typically when hurricanes come across Florida, the most we get in Gainesville are tropical storm winds. Because of the size of Irma, and the fact that the path in earlier predictions had her riding up the center of the state, we were preparing for worse. We got word on Thursday evening that our Governor was calling for all schools K-12, college and university, to be closed Friday through Monday. As the storm slowed down, it was extended through Tuesday (today). Tomorrow we go back to work at the University of Florida, though classes don’t resume until Thursday.

-Water, food, cat food, medicines all stocked up - Boarded front windows (we have a large bay window next to a 70 gallon fish tank, and some trees we are worried about) - All the laundry done - Photos of everything taken, loaded to the cloud - Cat carriers assembled - Cars gassed up - Generator moved to be easily accessible, gas for generator secured - Cash on hand - Devices charged, and portable chargers charged - Cat medical history and microchip numbers secured from vet - Phone numbers written down in case we lose access to our phones - Everything outside secured/ brought in. - Move car closer to house - Eat down remaining perishable food stores - Pre make some dry goods that we can eat cold (pasta, rice, etc) - Fill tub for toilet flushing in case we lose water - Disconnect computers and move near door (away from windows and the tree-line, ready to snag if we leave - Move remaining hurricane supplies (crank radio, candles, camp kettle) out of bottom of pantry for more convenient access

Our hurricane prep checklist for Irma.

One thing I have always said, and still believe, is that I would prefer hurricanes to other natural disasters (tornados, earthquakes, wildfires) because at least with a hurricane, you know it’s coming. Well, you have a pretty good idea that it is headed your way. Irma is the latest example that you can never actually know what the final path of the storm will be until it is done.

So we prepared the best we could, which was, in my opinion, pretty damn thorough given our location in the state. What they don’t tell you about hurricanes, however, is how boring the lead-up to them can be.

Once everything is bought, and you hunker down, knowing the winds and rain are coming but no sure when, knowing you’re going to lose power, but not when or for how long, all you can do is wait. Well, that and check Facebook obsessively to get updates from others who are hunkering down, and the storm path, and what impacts have been felt already. Of course I had entertainment prepped for when the power went out (writing letters, reading books, critiquing stories I’d saved on my tablet). But dang it if I wasn’t going to save those for the power going out. So Saturday I bought and watched the 10th season of Doctor Who on Amazon Prime, because I still had power, and wasn’t going to waste that entertainment that I would need once the power went out.

Picked up most of the down branches for pickupThing is, the storm came through our area mostly on Sunday night/ Monday morning. My hubby tells me the power went out a couple of times in the night, and the winds were bad. There were sounds like transformers popping, and branches falling, and I slept through the night. Monday it was still raining, a bit, then in late morning it switched to winds, with gusts up to 50 mph, but lessening to 24 mph guts as evening came on. We lost power for a full 30 minutes around 1pm, but I was settling for a nap, and missed that, too.

As the winds died down, we called and texted and messaged friends and family to see how they fared. We are fortunate – the worst we had among our group was power out for a day, and one couple who had two trees down – one from the neighbor’s yard that fell, missing their house, and stopping above their fence; the other clipped the shed in the back yard, but again, no damage to the house.

And so we pick up the small branches that fell in our yard, eat more of the pre-made food, offer our house for those still without power / hot water for showers, and take a breath before we go back to the reports and see what this Hurricane Jose is about.

Picture of intact house with blue sky, and yard waste at curb

Most of the branches Irma tossed around waiting for pickup

Lies Depression Tells Me, 6 – activism

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts. Hell, it’s been a while (6 months) since I made any post. I’ve felt pretty good and balanced, just with no desire to create – my writing has fallen by the wayside, as has blogging and other creative ventures. I’ve also noticed my efforts to hang out with my friends have fall off. I’ve been content to read, watch shows on Netflix, and occasionally invite folks to my house for board game days.

Oh and getting upset and pissed off and generally feeling hopeless at things posted on Facebook. Because so far this year has sucked – politically, with shit going down that is dragging us backwards in terms of the environment, health care, international standing, rights for LGBTQ+, women, muslims, brown and black individuals (particularly in case of police overreacting to situations with these folks) – basically it feels like anyone who isn’t a wealthy , cis-het, able-bodied, white, christian, gun-owning male has reason to fear getting overlooked by the government at best, or at worst screwed over or killed.

And if feels like it is happening all because those in charge want to tear down anything done by our previous president, a black man.

Me in a pink pussy hat in front of the capital building at the Women’s March on Washington this past January.

I’m pissed, I’m discouraged, I’m disheartened, and I feel impotent. I marched in Washington in January. I went with some really awesome women who have continued to meet, and have made regular calls to our representatives and senators, and have joined local activist groups (though some may have been part of them prior). Women who have basically kept working to make a difference. Me? I worry, and sometimes I repost things on Facebook.

Trying to unpack why I’m not more involved like the folks I know, I’m coming to a few realizations:

  1. I assume that my voice is inconsequential – that nothing I do will really make a difference
  2. I don’t try to spend energy looking for things I can do, because I fear on some level that pursing those kinds of activist, out-spoken activities will have a negative impact on my mental health
  3. (the most sobering) – I’m pretty well off, despite the shit-storm of things going on. I’m a cis-het, able-bodied, middle-class white woman. Yes I have mental health concerns, yes I have folks int the LGBTQ+ community I am really concerned about, yes I am in that unfortunate state of checking the female box, but overall, personally, I’m not really impacted by what is going on. I am weathering this storm pretty well, so I let points 1 and 2 rule the day. And I am disappointed and sickened by myself for that. And yet.

The post is a “Lies Depression Tells Me,” and I know that part of the reason I sit in my complacency is because of the depression. Or, in the very least, I can blame it on the depression, and fear of it.

And it sucks, and I’m not proud, and I feel like I want to change, but the fear of making my mental health tip back to the unbalanced side is holding me back. And then I look at my lack of desire to do anything but the light fluffy consumeristic activities I’ve been doing, and can’t help but wonder if I’m just hiding because it’s easier, or if my depression has gotten sneakier about impacting my life, since I’ve built up defenses against it’s other messaging.

And I can’t help but wonder if the voice telling me that my efforts won’t make a difference anyway and that if I act, and that acting would impact my mental health for the worse are just my depression being tricksy. Because depression it like that – and it doesn’t always look like what you expect, but it always lies to you about what you are capable of, and I am f’n sick and tired of it, already.