Monday, May 16, 2022

Shittyversaries

 

Hello Invisible Audience,

 

Today I want to talk about what I call Shittyversaries.

 

I know, I know—I’ve been doing a lot of swearing in my posts lately, but you know what? Sometimes the best way to describe something is to include a swear word, and in this case specifically I think it fits.

 

Shittyversary is the name for something I think most of us have but few people talk about: dates of crappy things that have happened to us that make us sad or angry and or just all feely. These include—but are not limited to—death anniversaries of loved ones; dates of accidents that changed our lives forever; dates of miscarriages and other equally bad news.

 

Shittyversaries can also include dates that remind us of things, too, even if they weren’t always shitty. Since I broke off contact with my parents, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my parents’ birthdays and their anniversaries also fall into this category. 

 

It’s not often talked about, but the truth of the matter—so far as I have experienced it, anyway—is that even the best decisions we make for ourselves do not always leave us feeling irrevocably 100 percent happy. Even though I know it was the right decision to cut off contact with my parents—a decision backed up by every therapist I’ve had since—it does not change the fact that I grieve the ways my reality is different from other people’s that I know. 

 

I have two friends who send me messages on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day telling me that they’re thinking about me, and it means a lot. One friend reaches out to me on the anniversary of the last conversation I had with my parents for the same reason. In turn, I have friends whose parents or spouses have died; who have had shitty things happen to them whose dates I have put into my calendar so I can let them know that I’m thinking of them on that date. 

 

To be honest, Invisible Audience, it feels more important than remembering their birthdays. Most social media platforms have an option to share your birthday; none of them have the option of sharing a shittyversary with the world. And let’s be honest—it doesn’t always feel good to announce to the world that you’re feeling down on any given day, let alone on a day when everyone else seems to be celebrating the relationships they have with their parents. It just feels important to acknowledge the underside of the beast—the part of us that mourns loss annually just as we celebrate annually—a way to acknowledge both sides of the coin that makes us human. 

 

There’s another reason why I think this is important. Even if I try not to acknowledge a shittyversary, my body knows it’s happening anyway. I will be merrily skipping along, going through my day-to-day activities, and over several days I will start to feel myself plummet into either irritability or weepiness. I will be tired, withdrawn, and starting to reach for my coping mechanisms. Then I’ll have a thought and look at a calendar, and there it will be: a date slowly approaching like a stalking predator that I cannot avoid or outrun. It is infinitely better when I look that predator in the eye and acknowledge it. It doesn’t make it hurt less, but at least then I know why it hurts as much as it does, and I can plan accordingly.

 

Sometimes these shittyversaries fade with time. Sometimes they don’t. I think that’s beside the point. Our culture is so steeped in positive thinking sometimes—and so scared of acknowledging the reality of death—that I think we forget how much is known about how naming a thing can reduce its power over us; how honoring a shittyversary can make it less shitty. For us, and for others.

 

Love and shittyversaries,

Morgan

 

 P.S. Do you have a shittyversary you wish someone would remember for you? Shoot me a message (morganfraser444 at gmail) and I'll put it on my calendar to reach out to you on that day.


P.P.S. Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons. When I can't find time to post both here and on Patreon, I prioritize posts on Patreon--there's always more to read there.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Thank You. Also, F*** You.

 

Hello Invisible Audience,

 

Recently, an ex-boyfriend reached out to me on Facebook. This was is ironic, because he broke up with me more than a decade ago by defriending me on Facebook, despite the fact that we worked together at the same company at the time; we’d also been dating off and on for more than year at that point.

 

After he defriended me on Facebook, I sent him a text, which he didn’t answer. I sent him an instant message. No answer. When I went into his office at work to ask him what was happening, he said, “I can’t do this right now. I’ll call you later. I promise.”

 

He never did.

 

I will spare you all the reasons why our relationship was a dumpster fire, but please trust me when I say that it was. It wasn’t all his fault, either. We threw all those bags of trash into that dumpster together; he may have been the one that struck the match that got it burning, but I gleefully added a fair amount of flammable material to the mix before he did.

 

When he reached out recently, he told me that I had set him on a path to greatness, and that I was his one true regret. He said he was now ready to have a healthy relationship with me.

 

I blocked him.

 

I don’t have any malice for this man. I don’t hate him anymore. In fact, I rarely think of him at all. But that doesn’t mean that we should be friends, just because he’s decided he’s now ready to be.

 

I learned a lot about myself from that relationship; most of it wasn’t good. I learned how badly I would allow others to treat me. I learned how much I had a savior complex; I learned how codependent I was. That breakup, in combination to quitting the terrible job where I met him and moving away from the Seattle area and writing my first cookbook, was the beginning of becoming who I am now. He did me a huge favor by breaking up with me. There were many lessons I learned from that relationship, and many toxic behaviors of mine that died in that dumpster fire.

 

That doesn’t mean I am grateful to him.

 

That was one of many occasions where I’ve been able to gather lessons from experiences I’ve had. Really truly terrible experiences. A lot of the message I hear out in the culture is that we should be grateful for these dumpster fires; even more mind-boggling to me, we should see them as ways we’re being shown that we’re special. That resilience is living through them and being stronger because of it, and therefore we should be thankful for the lesson—for being forged into something steely through the flames.

 

I don’t think I’ll ever get there, Invisible Audience.

 

To me, there’s a huge difference between these two sentences:

 

A terrible thing happened to me. It’s because I was supposed to learn something, and now I have. I’m so grateful for this terrible experience for teaching me this thing.  

 

A terrible thing happened to me. I have held this experience in my hands with curiosity, turned it over and over, and discovered where I can make a different choice in the future.

 

When I wrote the first of those two sentences, my heart squeezed and I stopped breathing. It felt like I was trying to tell myself that I not only deserved this pain I was dealt, but that I should thank whatever that pain brought me.

 

When I wrote the second sentence, it felt like I was empowered to own making the best of a shitty situation by choosing to learn something from it.

 

This has come up again and again lately. I never would have taken all the time and money I did to figure out why I felt so physically sick if it wasn’t for the pandemic. Thank you, Covid-19. Also, f*** you.

 

I would never have learned so much about boundaries and how to set them without a lot of shitty, shitty relationships, including those with my family of origin, most of whom I no longer speak to. Thanks for the lesson. F*** you very much for the mountains of pain, and years of lying curled in the fetal position.

 

It used to be that I learned things the hard way, Invisible Audience. It used to be that I stuck around because it felt more predictable than leaving. It felt like I was earning some martyr stripes; that they were a badge of honor I should enjoy carrying.

 

I never did.

 

So now, I don’t.

 

Love and f*** it kisses,

Morgan


Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons. When I can't find time to post both here and on Patreon, I prioritize posts on Patreon--there's always more to read there.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

A Rich, Indoor Life

 

Hello Invisible Audience,

 

It feels like it’s been cold and cloudy for days. To make it worse, there’s this slight breeze that makes it that much colder, and the sky has been this solid, concrete gray for perhaps forever.

 

Yesterday I forced myself to go snowshoeing, and I didn’t enjoy it. The snow was loud and crunchy, and it was cold and gray, and I had convinced myself I should do it even though what I really wanted to be doing was reading a book.

 

There’s a reason I’m telling you this. It’s because I finally need to admit something out loud to you.

 

I no longer enjoy winter sports.

 

Half the issue is all the gear that goes into being outside. The snowpants—whose swishing sound when I walk scares my cats—the boots, the gloves, the coats. To live in the mountains here, it’s essential to have multiple coat options. I have a coat for 40-75 degree weather, and a coat for 30-40 degree weather, and a coat for 15 to 29 degree weather, and a coat that goes over my coat for below 15 degrees. SO MANY COATS.

 

If it’s sunny out, all I want to do is go for a walk. I don’t want to find my skis and sweat through my clothes trying to put all my stuff together. So often that’s what I do: I chuck the snowshoes in a pile, grab the boot chains if there’s ice on the road, and walk instead.

 

Or, better yet, I put on sweatpants, drive to the athletic club I belong to and sit reading in the hot tub until I’m ready to lap swim.

 

A couple years ago I asked a woman who has lived in my area for decades what she does in the winter to get outside.

 

“I live a rich indoor life,” she said.

 

Just like that. Like it was OK to not be outside when she didn’t want to be.

 

Mind blowing.

 

I love nature, Invisible Audience. A couple weeks ago, I couldn’t focus and was having issues sitting down to finish something I needed to get done. I went for a walk. It wasn’t even a long one, but it did the trick. I got back, sat down and powered through a couple hours of work that I’d been putting off for days. But what makes me feel better is just the simple act of walking: not skiing, not snowshoeing, not snowmobiling, just walking.

 

I live in a mountain town. People move here to be close to the skiing. And I just need to let that go. I need to let go of the idea that I am failing somehow because I’d rather be somewhere warm; that I’ve failed at living in this mountain town if I don’t want to do all the winter sports.

 

Not to mention that, even though I’m better, I still am not physically 100 percent. If I’m not careful, over-exercising will leave me flat on my back with no energy for days. So who knows how much that’s feeding into my dislike of some of the outdoor sports that are more taxing than a walk would be.

 

Does this sound simple to you? Because if it does, I’m envious of you, Invisible Audience. These are the ways that I beat myself up. These are the places that I am learning to catch myself before I go down a rabbit hole of self-flagellation.

 

Even catching it is new to me. Picking it up, turning it over, looking at it with curiosity, then tossing it over my shoulder when I realize it doesn’t have to apply to me.

 

Like this one. Like going snowshoeing when I’d rather be doing anything else.

 

Love and warm indoor kisses,

Morgan

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Everything Isn't Always OK

 

Hi Invisible Audience,

 

Last week was full on, as they say. All my kids’ classes start this coming week, and I did a lot of prep for that, in addition to trying to get a bunch of stuff in order for my taxes, in addition to seeing several people to catch up. I made a trip to Wenatchee and only did half the stuff I meant to get done, although nothing that I didn’t finish was all that pressing except for in my head. Which means that 1) no, I did not starve this weekend because I didn’t make it to the grocery store, and 2) no, my cats didn’t starve or run out of clean and appropriate places to poop, and 3) no, I didn’t drop the ball on my classes in any way.

 

But survival isn’t usually how I measure success in terms of my productivity, and sometimes it pisses me off. One part of me wants to do nothing all day; another part of me looks around at the pile of dirty dishes or the laundry basket or the to-do list and says, “Other people are out SKIING and you can’t even bring yourself to load the dishwasher.” And then I take a nap and wait around for the daylight to fade so I can go to bed and hope I will feel more up for productive work in the morning.

 

It makes me sad that this is my life sometimes—that I can’t see all the ways I’m rocking it, and get caught up in the ways I’m not.

 

I know, I know: I’m not alone in this. Social media especially is really good at robbing us of our own triumphs by showing us others’ highlight reels to compare to our own every day, mundane chores and dusty houses. But I’m getting fed up, Invisible Audience—fed up with the idea that I’m supposed to work on being more grateful for this life, when it feels like such a goddamn slog sometimes.

 

A friend of mine sent me this article recently, called “Everything is Broken.” Yes, I thought. Finally. All the things I’ve been noticing and feeling the weight of, named in print. You see, despite the fact that I know it’s true, the many ways that life feels hard feels like it’s hard for me but easy for others; if I could just get my shit together, I’d feel better; be better; do better.

 

Yes, I’ll say it: I am trying to feel more in control of whether I could ever afford to buy a house by keeping my counters clean. I am trying to stave off fatigue by reading about people who have more energy than I do. I am trying to make my reality different by pretending that it is, indeed, different.

 

It’s not, Invisible Audience.

 

I spent nearly 45 percent of last year’s income on medical costs. I spend about 9-10 hours a night sleeping. I give excuses for reasons not to get together with people when the activity is physical because I’m just not up for that much physical activity, and I can’t bring myself to say that because it sounds like an excuse. I work my ass off at my business, and I do it because it gives me the time I need to feel awful without having to report to a boss who would feel like they’ve hired a dud.

 

And it’s not enough, Invisible Audience. The world is slowly turning into a harder place for me to operate in, and I keep turning in circles, wondering if anyone else notices, and not seeing that anyone does.

 

Does this sound like a rant? Well, it is. It’s a rant I’ve been keeping to myself for far too long. I am one of the people negatively affected by the housing crisis; by inflation; by the pandemic. I only found answers about more than a decade of terrible health after I stepped outside the system, which means paying for things on my own. (I am feeling so much better now, Invisible Audience, it’s not even funny. All it took was finding a doctor in another state who finally believes me, is willing to test me for things I’d never been tested for, and who doesn’t take my insurance, which is shitty anyway because it’s what’s available to me through Obamacare as a self-employed person.)

 

I usually try to end my blog posts with something uplifting—a lesson I’ve learned. Can it be ok to not do that this week, Invisible Audience? Because I’m not feeling a lesson coming. I’m not feeling anything more than the weight of responsibility with no promise of reprieve in a broken system. It’s no longer enough to just find the small things that make me feel better—they do not add up into enough to stave off the dread of what the future holds.

 

Today, maybe it’s enough just to be.

 

Love and It-Is-What-It-Is Kisses,

Morgan

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Past Doesn't Always Repeat Itself

 

Hello Invisible Audience,

 

Something novel happened to me a couple weeks ago.

 

As anyone who follows me on social media knows, I have recently adopted two cats from a litter I had been fostering with their mother from the Humane Society. Hetty and Oso have added years to my life with their hilarious antics, and also caused me to yell more than I do in my kids’ Spanish classes—they’re always up to something mischievous, like knocking over glass candle holders that shatter all over the floor or pulling a curtain off the wall one thumbtack at a time or deciding my head is a hurdle to leap at 4 am as part of their self-made, house-wide obstacle course.

 

I adore them.

I left them.

 

I made plans to go to California for Christmas, as I have for six years now, and one of my friends offered to take care of them for me. She is definitely one of the friends that I would trust most in the world with the care of my small furry creatures, and yet leading up to the date of my departure I found it hard to sleep or concentrate. I kept having waking nightmares of them escaping from her house and running into the forest to be gobbled up by coyotes or owls or being lost forever.

 

The day before I left, I spoke to my friend Jason on the phone. He’s the one I stay with in LA for the holidays, and he also recently adopted a cat.

“How are you?” he said.

“Awful,” I said.

“I can hear it in your voice,” he said.

“I know,” I said. “It doesn’t matter how much I know logically that they’ll be ok. Emotionally I feel like I’m gearing myself up to say goodbye to them because I’ll never see them again.”

“You know you’re always welcome here,” he said. “But you don’t have to come if this is too hard for you.”

 

No. I said to myself. No, that won’t work.

 

I thanked him for that option, but told him he should plan to see me unless he heard otherwise.

The next morning, I got up and packed the car, then took a bunch of Kleenex and sat on my bed as I waited for 10 a.m. to roll around, which was when I had a regularly scheduled phone call planned with my therapist.

 

I cried so hard, Invisible Audience. I piled tear- and snot-filled tissues in little mountains around me as my cats dozed nearby and I talked through and cried through and felt through every old fear I had about this. I sat with the knowledge that I have always held myself accountable for anything that happens, whether it is reasonable to or not, including whether it will ultimately be my fault for leaving if something happens to my cats while I’m gone.

Fifty minutes later, I felt wrung out but completely different. I would still miss my cats, but it would not be the end of me, and I wouldn’t be in a puddle of anxiety the whole time I was gone.

 

My friend sent me pictures and updates about my cats while I was in California. At some point, they learned to trust her enough that even if they’d gotten outside, I knew they would have known it was safe to go back in and wouldn’t have run off into the sunset like my greatest fears insisted. Meanwhile, I walked around unencumbered by snow with the sun on my face—one of my many reasons for spending Christmas away from home that makes it possible for me to live in the mountains otherwise.

 

This was different for me, Invisible Audience. I didn’t believe the story inside of me that told me the world was about to end, even as it ravaged my system and told me lies. Even when all my other coping mechanisms didn’t work to quell the anxiety, I knew what I was hearing wasn’t true. I knew that I had the tools to figure it out, and that I didn’t need to change my plans to acquiesce to a terror nearly as old as I am whose existence no longer helps me. And I knew I could trust my friend to take care of my cats, even though I’ve found it hard to trust people for so long.

 

Even if the cats had escaped, it wouldn’t mean my friend wasn’t trustworthy, or that I was to blame for leaving them. It would mean that cats are cats and sometimes shit happens.

 

Sometimes shit happens in the past, and in the present I can learn that I don’t have to keep carrying the fear that the past will repeat itself.

 

Love and kitten kisses,

Morgan

 

Thanks for reading, Invisible Audience member. Interested in reading more and supporting me in the process? Check out my profile on Patreon. Pledge as little as $1.50 a month to get access to more of my ponderings and become one of my Semi-Invisible Patrons.