Poetry as soul-food, self-care as struggle

I haven’t posted a blog post since the first week of term, three weeks ago. My first instinct was to apologise here, but I’m not doing that. Instead, a brief explanation:

I have high expectations for myself, and I tend towards taking on more than I can handle. When the term started, I thought that I could post regularly on my blog, send a weekly newsletter, write for two sites 1-2 times a month, work 20 hours a week on campus, and get all of my homework done. That’s been much harder than I anticipated, particularly with the heavy amount of reading: some 500+ pages per week.

This week, my Audre Lorde class shifted from her memoir Zami to her poetry. Sunday, as I read, I felt amazing, happy and calm and still, and I realised that I hadn’t felt that way in weeks. When I got home, I shuffled one of my tarot decks and drew three cards: the 4 of Swords, Strength, and the 4 of Cups, which reflected some things that had been on my mind that morning. I set several intentions for my week:

  • I will listen to my body and its needs, instead of pushing for more than I can handle
  • I will set boundaries and protect my need for nurturing space and quiet
  • I will let my friends and loved ones know I value them

I also posted to Facebook my gratitude for the day: being moved by beautiful poetry that speaks to that which is my ancestors in me. I have struggled to act with my intentions in mind, but I will keep them with me. And having set them inspired me to talk to one of my professors about my time crunch, and get some clarity on where I can focus, which frees me from a piece of anxiety that has been building.

Going forward, I hope to keep writing a gratitude in my planner each day. I hope to get caught up on my homework. I hope to spend more time with friends, which I know is a source of energy renewal for me. I hope to reassert my self-imposed boundaries around protecting my sleep time, so that I can be better rested. I may do all of these things, or I may not. But that’s to come; for now, I am simply determined to ease up on myself. My high expectations are holding me back, exhausting me… so I need to let them go.

What this means is that I may post to this blog every week, or I may miss a week or two. I may send a newsletter out each week, or I may miss some. I don’t want this to be a space of anxiety for me—I like sharing this space with the folks who’ve connected with me here and on other platforms, and dashing out posts for the sake of making them is a disservice to you all and myself. I want this to be a community: reflective,  caring. I need to be realistic about my own limits, so that this space is the best it can possibly be.

Thank you for being here and sharing space with me. I hope you know that I appreciate you.

See you next week—maybe.

Another School Term Begins!

The new term started Monday, and I’ve been swamped! I set a really tough schedule for myself this term, and it looks like I’m gonna need every minute of study time I can get.

I have a total of ten books to read in their entirety. Four are by Audre Lorde, including Sister Outsider, The Cancer Journals, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, and Undersong. The rest are for my Memoir Writing class, and include Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett, The Autobiographer’s Handbook by Jennifer Traig, Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration by David Wojnarowicz, and The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch.

Here’s a selection of the things I will be using this term to help me be successful:

In addition to full time classes, I have 20 hours of work per week, and 2 weekly debate team practices, in addition to my freelance writing.  Like my post about NaNoWriMo last term, I have a lot on my plate. My health has been pretty good the last couple of weeks; hopefully, I can get ahead on my homework this weekend, and minimise my stress. (I’m also trying to colour more as a means of stress management; check it out.) We’ll see how it goes.

Have a good weekend, folks—and take care of yourselves!

Walking Wounded Towards Winter Term

Finals are over for the term. I was apprehensive—my health problems really derailed me and I ended up struggling to catch up, which was very disappointing; I started out ahead of the assignment schedule for the first couple weeks of term.

Still, these things happen. (Though this is the second fall term in a row where this happened, and I’m trying not to get superstitious about it.) I was lucky to have understanding teachers, and I pulled a B+ and two B- grades, which is not too bad at all—it absolutely could have been worse.

I’m looking forward to having a bit of a break, though I haven’t really been able to rest much, yet. Whenever I have free days in my calendar, they seem to mysteriously fill up.

I often say that I am quintessentially Gemini, and reading over common traits of Gemini, it really does seem to be true: energetic, imaginative, impulsive, restless, independent, creative, stubborn, scattered… I get grand ideas, and then realise that my own expectations are unrealistic. When a project stalls, I burn out spinning my wheels. I juggle more and more commitments, until it’s a constant struggle to keep all of the balls in the air, and I start dropping things.

This fed a lot into my difficulty this term: I had a lot of commitments going into the term, and I tried to maintain them all after I got sick, with varying degrees of success. And when I saw other places I could plug in, and take on even more…

Well, I’ll just say that I’m still learning to say no.

I’ve read about productivity and organisation strategies and self-care tips, and I think I may have to just start scheduling my life to the quarter hour. It’s clear that I can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing, but I have a lot of trouble protecting time for self-care. I want to say yes to everything, and so I take on more than I can handle, and work time spills into personal time, and before I know it I’m completely exhausted and I can’t function for a couple of days.

I feel like a broken record, but I’m still not sure how to move forward taking care of myself better. Maybe I’ll schedule to the minute in Google Calendars, and block off personal time and have alarms to move me through my day or something. But that feels too rigid and robotic. What if I need to change things on the fly?

One of my biggest problems is the length of my commute. It takes me an hour each way to get to campus and back home, and in the mornings there’s nowhere to sit (admittedly, this is less of a problem now that I walk with a cane), and studying crammed up against another commuter is awkward and uncomfortable, and I can’t really concentrate. I don’t study well at home, so I stay late on campus, but then having to travel means I won’t get enough sleep before I have to be up and back on transit. I missed one class twice this term from staying up late to finish work and then sleeping through my alarm and right up to the start of class time. That’s not a huge deal on campus, but with an hour long commute it’s literally impossible to get to class until it’s almost over.

This term, there were a lot of times that I accepted the penalty of not getting work done in order to get enough sleep to function. I sacrificed grades to my health. And it felt painfully cruel to have to pretend I wasn’t dying inside when the non-indictments of Officers Wilson and Pantaleo came in, to go to work and class as though nothing was wrong. It hurt. It still hurts.

For many people, this has been a truly disastrous year. My friends and family have struggled with health, faced the possibility of houselessness, fought to get enough to eat, and so much more. Family loss, environmental disaster, job loss. We are open, raw, exposed. Police violence and public callousness have ground us down, and we have had to push through, pretend that our souls are not bleeding from too many wounds to count. It’s so exhausting.

Finals are past, grades are in, and I have less than three weeks to get my equilibrium back, to patch the holes enough to go on. I’m excited for the classes I picked, but I’ve considered taking a term off—or even dropping out—more than once. I’m just exhausted.

I hope I can build my reserves back up before the start of next term, because I won’t make it through another term like this. My body won’t let me, and I don’t want to.