Here’s the thing about realizing you’re a selfish prick

You can only go up from here.

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You can only go up from here.

I wrote my last post with a great weight of sadness. No, not depression–just sadness. It’s just that I don’t want to be self-serving. I want to give and give.

Perhaps coming from selfish origin, this came up when I was considering killing myself: when I die, I want people to think of me as a giver, as a selfless human, as someone who loved his friends and family and lover with the deepest, admirable amount.

As we know, anyone who kills themselves is not thought of as “selfless.” I don’t like it when people judge victims of depression and call them “selfish” and spit at their name. I don’t find that particularly helpful for anybody. But truly, the act of ending your own life because of your own pain–while being aware of the harm it would cause to others–is ultimately not particularly selfless. I think we can agree on that.

But still. When you spend hours each day imagining your eulogy, you give yourself some thought. What note does your life-tune end on?

I want to be better. And the good news is, in a lot of ways, I can only go up from here. I for sure have a few redeeming qualities, but let’s not get too distracted. I want to put others before myself. I want to care for others. I want to do so without concentration or effort–that it just OCCURS to me to love beyond my own sphere.

I just watched a show called The Good Place. I don’t really watch anything at all, so this is notable. I watched the whole first season (are there other seasons? idk). It’s about a woman who is a real asshole her whole life but somehow ends up in The Good Place (“heaven”) when she dies. She is very confused the whole show and considers herself a mistake, but doesn’t want to go to The Bad Place so she attempts to do a bunch of good deeds to make the cut, basically. Well, without giving away the ending too much, the “points” she’s trying to win are ineffective when her INTENTIONS are self-serving.

In other words, when she only held the door open for her neighborhood’s residents when it somehow benefited her in the end, it didn’t really count in the universe’s judgment.

I bring this up because I don’t really have any post-life intentions in mind. The imagining of my funeral is just a tool. I’m not really like, “I’ll only get into heaven if I do good things,” I’m just like, I want to give back. I want to change my heart to look to help others instead of just trying to barely survive. I think that’s a lot more doable now that I’m not desperate for life. Now that it’s possible, let’s move forward.

Yesterday I felt pretty sad, but feeling sorry for myself is ultimately pretty unhelpful. So I wrote a concise version of my to-dos at the end of that post from yesterday on a small whiteboard in my bedroom. I can’t really enter the room without looking at it. I hope it serves as a reminder, even for a short time, that I have a lot of work to do so let’s get to it, huh?

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Change the course of Februaries

Last Sunday, I think I dipped to my lowest low. A week ago I had conviction for dying in a way I hadn’t before. I won’t go into it in any more detail than that. But it was a wild day. I cannot believe it was only a week ago.

Since that Sunday, I’ve felt pretty great. Of the 168 hours that have passed since last Sunday, I was probably only suffering for 24 of them total. What joy! This is compared to a 160/168 hours of suffering ratio that I’ve had pretty consistently since like October or so. Twenty-four is a dream.

Now that I’m (cautiously) feeling optimistic about the future of my mood and my mortality, it’s time to catch up. It’s time to clean up all the spilled milk of the last three months. Now that I’m capable, it’s time for unabashed self-care, and one of the ways is to prepare for the month of February, it its entirety.

If you love me and your birthday is in February–fear not. I am happy you exist. But the month itself is a black hole, no offense.

As you’ve heard time and time again, two of my friends died in the same month in the same year from suicide. One of those people was a trans brother, a dear friend from high school. Both friends were shining lights of the universe, and now they’ve both ceased to exist in my world. February brings very difficult anniversaries and memories.

It’s not just suicide; it’s about how February is the shortest month of the year and yet perseveres as the longest-feeling month of the year. In Minnesota it is dark and dreary–there are typically few days of temperatures over a solid 15 degrees. It’s a time for vitamin D3-deprived Minnesotans to walk around like hungry zombies, for single-and-also-miserable people to cry on the 14th, for rent to be the same amount but fewer days are lived in your space. It’s basically just a bogus 4 weeks, tbh.

On the 20th, the anniversary of the day my trans brother took his life, it hits the heart too much. Last year around that time I was just starting to date my current girlfriend. I texted like six of my friends and asked them to hang out with me so I wouldn’t be alone on the arguably worst day of the year for me. All six, for reasons that are probably very innocent, bailed. My now-girlfriend came over and held me close and it held me together.

In the past couple of years I’ve just kind of braced myself for the month but done little to try to actually set myself up for success. This year I want to do it differently.

Just because these lives ended in this month doesn’t mean mine has to.

I mean that figuratively and literally both. I don’t have to stop in my tracks and dive so far into sadness. Being sad won’t bring him back–it won’t even bring me closer to him, unless I’m trying to just connect with his final hours. Fuck that. I’ve always seen so much of myself in him, but I am not the same. Sometimes it takes a lot of reminders. But I gotta show up for myself, you know?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s normal and healthy (in moderation) to be sad about the deaths of those we have loved dearly. As long as I’m moving forward, whether it’s a downward slope or upward slope, sadness is appropriate. What gets dicey is feeling like my world is ending just because it ended for someone else.

For February version 2017, I made two very intentional, thoughtful goals for myself (taken from that linked post):

  • Do something for Aidan. February 20th is my friend Aidan’s anniversary of his passing and I happen to have the day off from work for President’s Day (??). I think that’s a good opportunity to try and volunteer or at least write about him. Something like that.
  • Express daily gratitude in some way. I want to do something like make a FB post or write a blog or send a grateful message to someone every single day in February. It’s the shortest month of the year, so I think I can manage.

How can I turn this grief into something productive–not in the capitalistic sense but in the sense that I must turn this energy into something that will not destroy me. I must take extra care of myself. What am I going to do for him? I don’t know yet. But it will be something I prioritize.

As for the second goal, I think this might be hard since this isn’t my normal habit, to intentionally express gratitude this way (my current version is pretty intermittent), but I hope I make this a thing. I hope I realize even in the bowels of February that this is good for me, and I can only benefit from that kind of act. Maybe if I make a clever hashtag out of it, it will work.

(That was simultaneously a jab at myself, a facetious statement and also a stroke of inspiration. We’ll see what happens).

PREPARE for February. I once wrote this poem about Februaries, which is the inspiration for this blog post’s title. It’s from my first little book of poems, and even though I wrote it “so long ago” I still think it’s among my favorite I’ve written:

 

Februaries

we’d write poems with shoulders touching
with long hair we didn’t want
it’d be years before we’d cut it
in another life.

the last word you said to me was indeed
I’d made vague plans to meet you in three weekends
your invitation declined
in favor of getting laid in St. Paul
I said I was sick and I was.

under a February moon
someone told me of your ended life
and later they asked if I wanted to know
how you did it–
and I said no.

if forgiveness is found in a casket let me know
if I had just said yes
if I had come when you said come
I could have changed the course of Februaries.

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30 chest hairs and how to be OK with changing slowly

This morning my girlfriend inspected my facial hair progression as she often does, and she said a corner mustache hair was much more red than the other hairs. I said, “They don’t call me Redbeard for nothing!” (These are the jokes I always make. I’m so sorry to everyone who knows me).

Since we met, she’s been pointing out my changes and it makes this frustratingly long journey to beard fulfillment a little more bearable. It just occurs to her to check out my chin and make delightful comments like, “This is grown in so much since we met! Do you remember when you just had a tiny patch right here?”

She’s truly a gem among us.

I spend a lot less time looking at my chest. I think the critical need for top surgery makes it difficult to look down and then look back up again. But today, I’m feeling good, and I decided to actually count those chest hairs.

It seemed forEVER there were about 16 of them. But lately I’ve noticed a little growth spurt, and I was not wrong–there are 30 now. I realize many men have hundreds, thousands of chest hairs. But like, this is my slow progression and it’s okay.

Note: I also have two back hairs, and that’s only what I can see over my shoulder. We won’t focus on this.

Tonight, I’ve been playing around in my Poems folder, and I re-read those five poems I was telling you about yesterday. It was a disappointing exercise. First of all, there aren’t even five poems, there are four. And I had to delete one because it was so bad. So now I have three poems and I don’t really love any of them.

I went to try and make some initial edits and I just had to quit. It feels like I’ve completely forgotten how to write. Poems aren’t even something you can measure, except maybe the number of them, or the number of lines or whatever. But even through the subjectivity there is this expectation I’m holding over myself, that I have to be improving or performing always, that I have to either be the best I can possibly be, or be moving quickly to get there.

One of the biggest obstacles that holds me back sometimes is that I am a little bit bad about practicing self-care. The classic example is that I probably took 1/3 of my T shots I was supposed to in 2015-early 2016. That may even be generous.

If confused all the medical professionals–don’t you WANT to be taking T? Should we get you off of it? Are you actually trans? Why aren’t you taking this thing you’ve fought so hard for?

When in actuality, it had nothing to do with the ~legitimacy~ of my trans-ness. It was just that I put off some things that are good for me.

And it has contributed to my very slow hair growth. My own actions kinda made this happen. How is that supposed to make me feel?

I’ve been thinking about moving slowly for a couple weeks. Since I started #180to180, I have been making very small decisions, just a handful every day, to better my health and habits. I don’t deprive myself of simple pleasures so much as just be more conscientious of what’s happening with my actions. It’s an ongoing project. I’ve lost five pounds so far.

I think if this were a couple of years ago, I’d be frustrated it wasn’t 10 pounds. I’d be constantly re-evaluating to see if I’m actually a failure after all. But I am really proud of these five little pounds. I feel like the slowness of the project is helping make it more of a life change than a phase.

I am learning to be more patient. And still, the beard grows, the beard grows.

(and the poems simmer)

(and the back hairs thicken)

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There’s Trump, and then there’s focus on personal projects for survival

In honor of “President” Trump, I really needed to focus on something I can do right now. Part of why I made this blog in November is because the election happened and I felt powerless. I felt there was no hope. I still feel that way, tbh, but there’s also this duty in which I MUST persevere.

One of the best ways I feel better during hard times (when I’m not also overcome by debilitating mental illness) is to focus on a project. That’s why I created #180to180, and that’s why for January I made a goal to start a new writing project.

  • Kick off a new writing project. I haven’t written a poem in a while. I think it’s time to end this break and get going again.

The outcomes are unclear, but I know there will be a good one. Do I want to do the exact same thing I’ve done three times—make and self-publish a chapbook? Do I want to try and get my work published by someone else? Do I want to write a full-length book and spend three years editing it? Not sure yet.

But I’ve started writing poems again. I have a folder called Old Stuff and my previous projects are in it. My Poems folder has five new poems. Are they good? Not yet. But we are on our way, people! It feels good.

I will work on this project becoming my default when I have nothing to do in the evenings (right now my default is eating too many snacks and going to bed). I want this thing to be on my mind at least once a day, becoming part of me as I navigate spaces and interact with others. I want to be writing poems on napkins again—interrupting people’s stories (including my own) to say, “Sorry, I gotta write that down.” I want to be frustrated when I’m doing something because I’d rather be writing instead. I miss that shit.

I don’t know if five poems counts as a ~started project~ but I’m calling the shots in my own life and this is what I’m doing. I am starting a project.

I’ve been pretty good this week. From Monday night to Thursday night I was actually supreme. I wasn’t high or manic or anything, but it felt ENLIVENING to be legitimately present again. Everything from my relationship to my bowling scores benefited.

Then Thursday night I took a bit of a turn. Friday morning I remained sad. By the afternoon, I felt a whole lot better. It’s a bummer I was a bummer, but this bounce-back action I’m witnessing is much more important to me than three days of mental peace. Yes, I still experience the downfalls of humanity. Trump is indeed President (for example). I may even dive because of them. But I’m able to not dive so deep, and I’m able to bounce back into normalcy after a little time-out and a little self-care. This was not possible 4, 2 or even 1 week ago. I don’t care what they say—just because chocolate or exercise exists does not mean it cures you from your own mind.

This upswing and upcoming mood balance has been brought to you by magnesium glycinate, Lamictal, 10,000 IU of vitamin D3, and a whole lot of tireless love from J, B, A, M, and M. (and others) (I’m going to start referring to my care team as JBAMM)

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24 goals

I’ve been trying a tiny bit to explore the WordPress community. I LOVE when people “like” my posts or comment or interact with my work in some way, but I have previously never returned the favor. I want to get better about that.

In my scratching of the WordPress surface, I’ve found this blog that has New Year’s Resolutions that are actually small goals for each month, all laid out already. Now she’s going to record her progress for each goal as the year goes along. I think that’s pretty rad, and it allows for smaller but still important experiments to happen.

As we know, I’ve already made my big New Year’s Resolutions post, but in addition to these goals, I kinda want to follow whiskywolfcub’s lead and try some smaller goals each month too.

Oh, writing these made me realize that these might sound like really boring goals, or not very adventurous, or something. But I’ve been working on this post for two weeks (I often write blog posts in one sitting and publish them right away) trying to think of goals that are important to me, even if it just means they are chores that I’ve put off for a long time. When they get deadlines, suddenly they have some power potential. ALSO I don’t want to say a goal I don’t actually care about, even if it would be good for me. For example, a goal like “drink 8 glasses of water every day this month :)” is cute and stuff but first of all, I’ll never do that, and second of all, I really don’t care about my water intake. Not a thing I think about. Anyway:

JANUARY

  • Schedule an appointment with at least one new therapist. Sometimes therapists’s calendars are full, so I don’t want to guarantee that I will see someone new before the end of the month, but I want to prioritize this process. (I crossed this off already because in the process of writing this post, I’ve completed this task. woo!)
  • Kick off a new writing project. I haven’t written a poem in a while. I think it’s time to end this break and get going again.

FEBRUARY

  • Do something for Aidan. February 20th is my friend Aidan’s anniversary of his passing and I happen to have the day off from work for President’s Day (??). I think that’s a good opportunity to try and volunteer or at least write about him. Something like that. I usually fall apart in February, so I want to intentionally do something healthy and hopefully productive in his honor.
  • Express daily gratitude in some way. I want to do something like make a FB post or write a blog or send a grateful message to someone every single day in February. It’s the shortest month of the year, so I think I can manage. Again, this is a goal that will help me get through what is normally a very difficult month for me.

MARCH

  • Do my taxes if I haven’t already. No waiting until April 14 bullshit.
  • Cook dinner for someone else. It’d be great if I picked someone other than my gf just because it will be more out of my comfort zone. I hope this goal will help encourage me to make this cooking thing not just a phase but a habit.

APRIL

  • Attend one writing group session. There’s a writing group in my town that meets every Saturday at like 9am or something, and it seems very chill and very cool, but I never make time for it. I want to at least check it out. I picked a month with five Saturdays just in case 😉 .
  • Wash my truck. This sounds kinda funny but I always put off washing my vehicles, and after a winter and spring of grossness, I’ll definitely need it by the end of April. This truck is like my favorite possession so I should probs take care of it. If I’m feeling ambitious maybe I’ll even get it detailed.

MAY

  • Change my name with Social Security if I haven’t already. Talk about problematic procrastination! My name is legally changed and it’s changed with the bank and everywhere important… except with the Social Security office. It’s only really been an issue once and it worked out fine, but it’s still something I need to do. It involves a few hours of my time on a business day, but maybe planning ahead will actually make it happen.
  • Get my eyes checked. I could probably use an updated prescription by this point. I already sense some changes in my vision, but it’s not a huge deal right now. I have good insurance for eye stuff so it will be worth the time.

JUNE

  • Go to the dentist. You might be like, ew, why do you have to schedule this out so far, what the hell. That’s fair. But I haven’t been to the dentist in like 5 years and I really really don’t want to go but this will help motivate me to put a deadline on this.
  • Sing karaoke again. I’ve been thinking about a couple of songs. I might go country. I know you didn’t know this (it’s not your fault) but I’m actually Keith Urban in disguise.

JULY

  • Go somewhere new. This can be a vacation or just going to a new restaurant. I want to keep this open. But I tend to even stick with the same restaurants once I like something. I like new things too ok! I just don’t prioritize them.
  • Try canoeing or kayaking or something. I’m not much for swimming because wearing a swim suit when you have boobs but don’t want them is complicated. Maybe by July I won’t even have boobs, who knows, but I think kayaking or some other water activity like this can be pretty dry but still really fun.

AUGUST

  • Go see a show. I want to keep this open. Is it a play? Is it a concert? Is it a jazz trio in a quiet club? Don’t care. Go see a show.
  • Treat myself? I am thinking like creating an amazon wishlist or something and choosing an item I never prioritize but am pretty interested in. For example, I’d really like one of those wireless bluetooth fancy speakers so I can sing in the shower more effectively. But when I’m out and about, I never think to get one or care enough to drop the cash on it. This goal only makes sense if I’m responsible with my money in 2017, which I plan to be (don’t we all). It also only makes sense if I do/buy this thing with some intentionality. So like if I just buy something I want, that doesn’t count. What GIFT am I gonna give myself?

SEPTEMBER

  • Find an open mic and read a poem at it. I’m gonna h8 myself later for this.
  • Successfully move or successfully stay. At this point, my apartment lease will be up and I’ll have to decide where I’m living. This might seem like a cheater goal but moving can be really fucking stressful and I want to be sure I don’t sign up for too much. I want to take care of myself in this process! (I guess).

OCTOBER

  • Watch 7 youtube videos that will teach me something. I know of YouTube (lol), but I don’t spend like any time on it at all (the only thing I use it for is to practice karaoke). It seems like a resource I should consider. It’d be great to watch a bunch of videos teaching me how to change a tire or do car things or like, do something crafty. This would be fun to blog about too, like I can list what videos I watched and if I found them useful.
  • Spend time with a dog. This should be all 24 of my goals. October has historically been a challenging month for me, and even if I’m feeling wonderful in October 2017, I think going out of my way and seeking out a dog is extremely legit. This can be my parents’ dog too–I don’t think that’s cheating, since she’s like, the best dog of all dogs.

NOVEMBER

  • Host a Friendsgiving of some kind. Maybe make it a pot luck so I don’t have to feel scared of cooking for a bunch of people by myself.
  • Make a list of movies I want to see and maybe even fire up a Netflix account. I think a lot of people in my life want to watch fewer movies/tv shows because they have so much screen time. But I’m completely movie illiterate, and it’s not for hipster I’m-too-cool-for-movies thing; it really just means I miss out on a bunch of pop culture stuff. Also, another thought behind this: as it gets colder and winterier and sadder I want to have a little indoor project.

DECEMBER

  • Write a Christmas letter. For a few years I wrote my family’s Christmas letter and I loved it. It was so fun to do a recap of the year and touch base with people I don’t talk to all the time. I regretted not writing one this year. This letter task also includes collecting addresses to mail them 🙂
  • Read a book. LOL. So you’re probably like, hey, don’t you read already? No. And chances are, I’ll make it for the entirety of 2017 without reading a single book. So I want to put this in here–I want to read a book. I can spend 11 months deciding which one if I want. But by the end of December, I want to be one book more well-read.

That’s all! If you want, you can copy me (or copy the WordPress user I copied). I have a few friends that are starting blogging a bit and this might be a good way to stay focused/consistent. 🙂

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On postponing death

When I resurface from my depression for a few hours or a day or something, I try to blog because it shows hey, I’m ok, things are good, and they will continue being good, right? It’s much easier to read a depressed person’s perspective when they can talk about it in the past tense. “I WAS suicidal but I’m good now and here’s how I survived my mind” is a bit easier to stomach than “I don’t think there’s hope for me, and I probably will die from this.”

It’s isolating, because people in my life have offered to talk with me, or they’ve given up evenings to come spend time with me while at my worst. People have let me reach out to them when I’m incorrigible. It’s amazing. But to tell  you exactly how bad it is is probably pretty alarming, and often the one I reach out to ends up feeling uncomfortable–not just because they are untrained in psychology but also because I sound pretty scary.

And I get that. So I sometimes try to water it down a little bit, so I can still get some support but maybe not be such a scary ticking bomb.

Whenever I feel good, I am so relieved because I assume it means I will never feel bad again. It’s actually very similar to how I feel when I’m down. I feel like I’ll never feel good again, even if I KNOW I will, but it sounds impossible.

At the end of 2016, my girlfriend lost someone close to her and this funeral was yesterday. It’s been of utmost importance to me that I show up for that, that I be present, in the moment, fantastically supportive. No matter how my brain is feeling, I must go to this funeral, and I must be there for her and her family. I was able to attend and even though I was kinda sad (other than for the fact it was a sad event), I pushed with all my might to be there for my girlfriend as she is so often there for me.

As a suicidal person, it’s weird to be at a funeral. Every funeral I’ve thought of lately has been one for me. To be in the presence of death and the family who’s lost someone, it puts a different perspective on death. It’s sobering. Just Friday morning I felt like I was choosing between suicide and going to work (Note: going to work has nothing to do with my depression–my job is actually really great. It’s just brought up here because it was the morning of a business day). I literally sat on my bed half-clothed wondering what I should do next.

But then I went to this funeral and suddenly the selfishness of suicide seems laughable. Why would I ever consider doing that? This man we celebrated on Saturday was so accomplished. He lived a full life, climbed mountains (literally), spent a ton of time outdoors, loved his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren to a full extent, making an everlasting impression on them. I only met him once and I’ll never forget him. He asked me some questions since I am dating his granddaughter, and what could have felt interrogating actually felt welcoming. He hugged me goodbye when I left his house.

I feel like I’ve just been postponing my inevitable suicide. That’s how it feels sometimes. And it still comes in waves but I MUST stick around. I must. I keep forgetting but I need to keep re-remembering. It’s not all better and I’m not magically cured. But it’s okay because I can be fueled by the times I feel good again. I can coast for the bad parts, that’s fine, but dying is not an option. There’s nothing like a funeral outside of your imagination to remind you of that.

I’ve been reflecting about this and I think I need to do two things:

  1. Start exercising
  2. Start and continue a large writing project

I’m not going to get into the fat thing in this post, but all I know is that I hate my body and what I’m currently doing (nothing) is not working. Capitalistic industry or not, I guess I just have to live in this society too, and even though I know it’s fucked up, I can’t outsmart it.

As for the writing project, I need to write poems, a book’s worth. I need to write good poems and bad poems and collect them. I want to be able to write something other than poetry but I also don’t want to, so like, w/e.

Thanks.

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New Chest’s Eve

Tomorrow is the day I meet with a plastic surgeon to have my first consultation for top surgery. This is a meeting I’ve canceled before, in part because of insurance uncertainties and in part because of cold feet.

I rescheduled a month or more ago, and now it’s tomorrow. It’s kind of surreal. I feel shy.

Because most of you had something to do with the ability to pursue this (many of you gave money to my GoFundMe or you shared my post or you looked me in the eyes and said you were excited for me), I want to keep you posted on how it’s going. I feel like it’s the least I can do.

Tonight I feel kind of nervous, like tomorrow I’m going to a job interview and I have to choose what I should wear. Do I need to impress her? Do I need to prove how badly I want this? How can I prove the tissue closest to my heart needs to go?

Here’s a poem from my latest chapbook. I don’t have a lot of words right now, but maybe this will do:

Chest

the first time you suggested we shower together
I placed a hand over my chest
bound to my lungs with spandex.
you undressed in front of me
smiling and kissing me between
each garment.

I sat on the toilet lid fully clothed
while water plummeted your nakedness
behind a curtain.
I don’t know if you saw me
but I got up several times,
pulled an arm through the sleeve,
put it back out,
sat back down,
put my head in my hands
combed my hair back with my fingers
pulled–

you told me I didn’t have to join
but after standing up several times
just to sit back,
I walked out of the bathroom
let the steam go.

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