Gratitude for Gratitudes

Today, I’m feeling really grateful for Gratitudes – my favorite part of our daily routine here. It’s an optional meeting, every afternoon, but I try to never miss one. It’s been an anxious few weeks for me, but I can always rely on Grats (as I affectionately call it) to be a safe, quiet space (or a silly one, on those magical days when we decide to run an upside down meeting). We use the custom Gameshift board pictured above (featuring secret menu – you have to be here) and take 10 or so minutes to draw a ritual space together. All 4 ALFs usually attend. The kids are more varied – Timo, Iphy, and Hugo are pretty consistent participants and Tamia, Mason, Ash, Aniya and Olive come more occasionally. Even when no kids come, the ALFs hold the space (a rare but not unheard of occurrence). We’ve increased enrollment recently, so there are a lot of bodies in the space, and spring fever has us real energized (though not necessarily eager to go to the park as the early-spring chill continues) and I am a human that is sensitive to noise and others’ energy – when I arrive at Gratitudes after a particularly raucous day, I can literally feel my nervous system relax a bit. That’s because praciticing paying attention to what your grateful for is really good for you – it’s science. Today I’m grateful for water, and the space that is this blog, and a Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, and for my fellow ALFs, and that the magnolia tree on my block is starting to bloom….

On the Work of Love

When we see love as a combination of trust, commitment, care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility, we can work on developing these qualities or, if they are already a part of who we are, we can learn to extend them to ourselves.

True love is unconditional, but to truly flourish it requires an ongoing commitment to constructive struggle and change.

-bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions

The Self, the Mind, Time, the Brain and Reality

The question is, what precisely makes something what it is; and what makes it the same thing with the passage of time?

Phenomenal consciousness is about the temporal “depth” of the present moment. The subjective “now” is, paradoxically, extended in time: it is “temporally thick.” We experience it not as an infinitely thin sliver of time but as a moment in which times present, past and future overlap. We travel through life as if in a “time ship,” which “has a prow and stern and room inside for us to move around.”

There is no clear dividing line in the brain between inner imaginings and perceptions of the real, solid “world out there.” Reality and fantasy are built into the same neural circuits.

It takes roughly seven billion billion billion atoms to build a 70kg human being. Adjust this figure according to your weight. The bulk of you (93 percent) is made up of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen, with nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus atoms accounting for most of the remaining 7 percent of your mass. Hydrogen has been around since the Big Bang, but the other elements are spewed out from the fusion factories of dying stars.

Neuropsychology is the study of the relation between brain and mind. We know what the brain is. It’s an organ located in the head. But what is the mind?

What Is Magic?

What is magic? There is the wizards’ explanation, which comes in two forms, depending on the age of the wizard. Older wizards talk about candles, circles, planets, stars, bananas, chants, runes, and the importance of having at least four good meals every day. Younger wizards, particularly the pale ones who spend most of their time in the High Energy Magic building,* chatter at length about fluxes in the morphic nature of the universe, the essentially impermanent quality of even the most apparently rigid time-space framework, the implausibility of reality, and so on: what this means is that they have got hold of something hot and are gabbling the physics as they go along…

What is magic? Then there is the witches’ explanation, which comes in two forms, depending on the age of the witch. Older witches hardly put words to it at all, but may suspect in their hearts that the universe really doesn’t know what the hell is going on and consists of a zillion trillion billion possibilities, and could become any one of them if a trained mind rigid with quantum certainty was inserted in the crack and twisted; that, if you really had to make someone’s hat explode, all you needed to do was twist into that universe where a large number of hat molecules all decide at the same time to bounce off in different directions. Younger witches, on the other hand, talk about it all the time and believe it involves crystals, mystic forces, and dancing about without yer drawers on. Everyone may be right, all at the same time. That’s the thing about quantum.

Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies

An Unabridged Free Write

Wow we’re silly today. I usually feel a rush to get started in writing time but today I feel really spacy and all over the place and you know what that’s fine that’s what we’re doing I’m not wordsing great but I’m wordsing and that’s what counts. It’s Wednesday and it feels like this week has been endless and that’s probably because I didn’t give myself any introvert space this weekend. I’m not mad about having plans – I went to painting class and saw my family and hung out at Chuck’s birthday party and met some cool humans – but then suddenly it was Monday and I had school and it’s a visiting week and on Monday nights I do the ALF call and then I went to bed and had some really intense dreams and woke up and it was Tuesday and it’s still a visiting week and with all the people in the space we had almost 40 people here! And then after I took saylor and zoe home on the subway and then my roommate locked herself out and our train was delayed and so I was texting everyone to meet me at the climbing gym and then everyone did and I felt weird about having my life spheres all colliding – introducing Saylor to my friend Mimi and then giving my roommate my keys and pointing out Zoe to her (she’s heard many tiny Scorpio stories). And then I went climbing and that was awesome because I did so good and I finished a V3 I’ve been working on for WEEKS and it felt so good and then I also almost finished another V3 and then I went out to dinner with my friends Mimi and Lou and Yael and that was wonderful because it’s a safe queer bubble I get to be in every week that feels so good but also it’s a late night and I didn’t get home until after 10 and Arielle (that’s my roommate) had to let me in cause she had my keys and it’s her last week at work and so we talked about that and so I didn’t get to bed until after my bedtime which was fine but then I had more intense dreams (Neptune and Mercury are dancing around each other all week, which might account for it – they’re not bad they’re just out of reach and I wake up thinking and it’s loud in my head)

I’m anxious that I embarrassed Saylor yesterday when I introduced her to Mimi and that I’m just repeating myself about volume stuff and nothing is moving and I have plans tonight and tomorrow and Friday and Saturday and I had to tell a friend who I’ve been having a hard time connecting with that no, we can’t hang out Sunday and I didn’t say that it’s because I desperately need time to myself alone with no plans, even though that’s true, because I feel guilty about needing that even though that’s being mean to myself. I want to absolve myself of that guilt but it’s hard when our culture is like GO GO GO especially in new york where everyone has plans all the time and that’s not my preference but I’m doing the best I can to exist in capitalism and take care of my mental health and my vibrating nervous system and

[that’s the point at which the timer ran out – for instructions on how to do a free write, check out Beth’s blog post here and mine here. What follows is an addendum.]

Some days (especially when I haven’t had introvert time to soothe my body and listen for what I really need in what can feel like an endless monologue of brain-chatter-anxiety) I feel really overwhelmed by it all. I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder – when I say I feel anxious I mean it clinically. I am doing a lot of work to try and move through the world in ways that ease it – from therapy, to journaling, to learning to meditate. On the other hand, I feel an intense impulse to edit the self that I present to the world – to appear at ease and in control, to not ask for space or time that I need, to put the [perceived] needs of others before my self. I’m posting this as-is to counteract some of that editing, to put out into the world some of my self as I experience them. Thanks for witnessing <3

Mercury Retrograde: a Review

It’s been a weird few weeks, y’all, and I’m blaming Mercury retrograde. You’ve probably heard of this astrological phenomenon, since it’s sucked up into pop culture in recent years. That may be because it happens fairly often – three times a year, for a few weeks at a time – but I think it’s because it’s really, truly annoying. Mercury is the planet that rules communication, travel, technology, and commerce, and when it goes retrograde (appears to move backwards in the sky) it makes those things go wonky – tech malfunctions, communication goes awry and travel gets snarled.

Retrograde GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

when a planet goes retrograde it appears to move backwards in the sky because of the relative locations of their orbit and Earth’s

The wifi has been in and out of functioning for no apparent reason all morning, here at ALC-NYC, and I’ve been in and out of a not-fight with a friend for three weeks now. On Monday, I got to the train station to find that my metrocard expired, and all three of the machines at my station were only accepting cash. Luckily, I had enough cash for a single ride, but not for the monthly unlimited card that I rely on. When I swiped the card at the turnstile, though, it told me to swipe card again at this turnstile… and then it told me that I had an insufficient fare. I went and argued with the stationmaster about it, and they opened the gate to let me in. Then I went to school, did a whole day, and forgot about it – until I got on the bus in the afternoon. I swiped 2 different (empty) metrocards, shrugged at the driver and got on the bus. When I got to 86th street to transfer to my train, I thought to myself finally, I’ll be able to get my unlimited and I won’t have to deal with this any more. But, of course, none of the machines at 86th street were working either – every one of the (seven!!!!) machines at the station were only selling single rides. Knowing it’s Mercury retrograde helped me find a sense of amusement about it as I bought a single ride, explained what was happening to a tourist, and swiped into the station just in time to miss my train.

Mercury retrograde is annoying, but it’s not just an annoyance. It forces us to slow day, and slowing down things we take for granted makes us notice them – like how I discovered that I could, in fact, hold boundaries with my anxious brain on my Mercury retrograde journey to Australia last year.

I’ve been spending a lot of time, this retrograde, with my old notebooks and past selves – 25 books worth of them. I got sick the first week, and was forced to slow down all the way to a halt. I spent 4 straight days in my apartment, sitting with my changing selves. It is still loud in my head, but not a cacophonous as it once was, I’m noticing.

As I record my present selves – in free writes, in staff check in notes, in journals and reflections on tarot cards, in blog posts – and the data available to me about my patterns piles up, becomes several-cycles-worth of observations, I can see my self getting better at slowing down. I can trace the path of learning to hold my paradoxes: all of my thoughts are valid, even if they are not all as urgent as my brain would have me believe.

It’s a shift that I didn’t notice until this retrograde-review-cycle, but it’s been a seismic one. It didn’t start now, but now is when I can finally feel it: not all of my strongest thoughts and feelings are urgent and need to be acted on. It’s really hard for me to just sit with them – to not go racing down the mental track of contingency plans and what-ifs and hypothetical conversations – but it is possible. When I read my traveling-to-Australia-through-Mercury-retrograde thoughts I can see the buds that are now flowering – I can’t wait to discover the buds under this flower when I check back with this post in a year, or five, or ten…