Surprise. Surprise.

I just heard from a co-worker, who travels in the same circles that my Ex does, that he has something for me, from her. This is never good news. Abusive, angry, ugly mail. In fact, the last two things she sent to me via my parents, they wouldn’t even show me because it was so nasty. This suggests some premeditation on her part; why would she go to a Christmas party with something for me in hand? I thought I was doing okay, but I’m not. I’m shaking and all my resolve to get a bunch of work done today has evaporated as I sit here and wonder what ugliness is coming my way. I should probably go do a bit of reading on trauma and try to let go.

Nothing Changed

How I feel about my work could probably fill a novel. As Christmas approached and I was facing a huge backlog of work to get done I was feeling like I should just keep at it; pick away at it every day. I figured it would be good to clear it off and that it would be satisfying. But the reality of actually having some days off with family thwarted most of those plans and I found that there were better things to do. Now, faced with going back to work tomorrow, I just don’t want to. The pile of work is the same, the pressures are the same, the rewards are the same, but it feels far less interesting. Sadly, I think the interest I felt before Christmas was because I was operating at high level of unhealthy compulsion; constant crisis-driven movement. It was exhausting. So, while nothing has actually changed, I need to do some thinking about what could change to find a more settled and sane pace.

Joyful Sounds

A little piece of wisdom I’ve learned from performing is that, once all the rehearsals are done and you walk out on stage, all that is really left to do is to have fun. Tonight I was part of a local Christmas concert; I sang in some choral pieces, played accompaniment on others and my band played a few tunes ourselves. We realized, rather late, that one of those tunes had a really suitable part for children’s choir. So, yesterday at rehearsal, we taught the kids the part. One run through was all we had time for. Tonight, they climbed up on stage and they showed everybody in that church just how much fun you can have with a performance. It was sincere, infectious, and joyous and I am so grateful to have been a part of it.

The Little Things…

I’m working late tonight running some data conversions and while I’m waiting I’m working on editing some practice choral tracks. The choir I’m singing with is doing There is Peace; the SATB adult part of the choir joins up with the children’s choir a practice or two before the community concert. I sat in on last weekend’s children’s choir to record it and sang my bass part along with them and a few of the altos and sopranos who have kids in the choir. I’m sitting here tonight worrying some tricky bits in this data conversion and growling when the data export didn’t work. While waiting for some processing to finish, I loaded this track to edit and took a listen and felt my spirits lift far above the noise of a bit of tricky data. I’ve really been quite fortunate to have this experience with the choir.

Failure: Freedom

A friend of mine, who often suffers from depression, today posted a plea on social media for people to tell him why they cared about him. It offered an interesting moment of introspection because I’m pretty sure the words he uses to talk to himself in those times are very similar to the words I’ve been using in my own head. I said a few kind words but pointed out that my words to him are mostly meaningless. And so are the words in his head. They’re just stories from a primitive spot in our brain that’s trying to save us from potentially life-threatening mistakes. He, and I, can change those stories when we are mindful of the fact that very little of what our brain tells us in those times is true.

Failure: Floundering

Now I’ve identified this problem of failure (which is totally normal and can be handled quite well in small doses) and its cumulative affect I’m noticing it everywhere. I went to a small concert tonight, saw a great act. These things usually inspire me and I typically resist that “I can never be good enough” feeling; I can be inspired to improve to what I can be even if I never get to the level of a gifted performer. And yet, tonight, I’m feeling utterly flat. I recognize, intellectually, what is going on (at least, I think I do) but my emotional train has left the station leaving the logical part standing forlorn at the platform. I’m thinking, despite myself, that there is a way through. With a little care and good emotional hygiene I’ll find it.

Failure: Forward

While exploring this whole idea of failure as akin to pneumonia I also came to a self-realization that I was, well contagious. I was forwarding it on to other things and people. The job, my partner, my colleagues. I’d have a vague inkling that it wasn’t their fault and I’d feel bad, guilty, ashamed, and then take it all back on as another failure. Which turned the failure pneumonia into double pneumonia with a helping of scarlet fever on top. None of that is helpful. The only way to deal with this is personally and constructively. Yes, the job has some demands that make failures inevitable. My partner and I disagree, and sometimes that may seem like a failure. But preventing those day-to-day “failures” from becoming full blown psychological damage is entirely on me. That realization is pretty exciting because it means I have some hope of controlling the degree of the infection.

Failure: Fear

I realized, over the last few mornings, that I often wake up thinking about what a failure I am, or how stupid I am. Nothing even has to have happened yet. I may have gone to bed feeling great. And yet, there it is, unbidden. Emotional First Aid likens failure to a cold, something we get all the time and throw off with a bit of rest. If we don’t take care of ourselves we can end up with emotional pneumonia. It is an apt analogy. To wake up every morning afraid of one’s upcoming failures is pretty depressing. The good news is that I’m now aware of it. Ironically, perhaps, that’s a success!

Failure: Fail

I’m struggling mightily with failure this week. Some difficult work challenges, some stressors around home. As a result, every little things feels like a massive failure. A small bug in some code is clear indication of my incompetence. My partner disagreeing with me feels like complete rejection. I feel like a total fraud doing demos at work. Playing music feels the same; I’ve never really been good enough. It creates a vicious cycle because you grow to expect it, you don’t try as hard, you look for reasons for self criticism. And in the ultimate fail, I didn’t recognize how bad it had become.

PS I’m reading Emotional First Aid right now, and will share a few insights on this topic.

What We See in the Dark

These two images were taken moments apart, the one on the left was taken when the sky was overcast on a mostly cloudy day. I had been just thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to have a bit of sun for this picture when the sun came out, lighting the wrong way, resulting in the picture on the right. As most photographers know, cloudy days are often better for photography because you get better detail without the bright sun. And so it is with people; we learn more about ourselves, we see more deeply into ourselves and our relationships on the difficult, cloudy, days. We can see more detail and with more clarity. Maybe that’s a good reason to welcome those days for what they can show us.

PS: I did a bit of processing on this picture but started off with both pictures directly off the camera and processed them together as a single shot.