Forget what Andy Williams sang; fall is the most wonderful time of the year.
And I, for one will enjoy all two days of autumn we get here in eastern North Carolina. Jokes aside I really do enjoy fall the most: the cooler-but-not-cold weather, pumpkins patches and apple orchards, bonfires and s’mores (and a warming drink nearby.), soups and pies, and Halloween decorations all speak to me on a basic level.
Does that make me basic? I don’t know. what I do know is that this October I have felt the happiest I have been in a very, very long time. That’s not to say nothing stressing or anxiety-inducing has happened, but rather my general sense of peace and wellbeing has outweighed any negative, intrusive thoughts that tried to rear their heads (and try they did).
I was joking with my coworkers back in September that the calendar read “first day of fall” and it felt like a massive shift took place. They looked at me more seriously than I would have expected and said “no, you’re right” and processed to tell my that while my attitude/demeanor hadn’t been bad, I now had an outright joy and happiness they hand’t seen for some time. That’s because summer is the worst season and the heat and oppressive humidity literally drain the energy and joy out of life. I have a hard time believing anyone truly enjoys summer; I think it’s a Pavlovian response to almost two decades of “summer break” during childhood.
Work has been going well. A ten-month-long project is now in full swing and working wonderfully. We’ve been working with a communications resource management system to more effectively communicate with our applicants, and now that we have a good handle on what we’re doing, we’re poised to help departments all across the college. It’ll mean I’ll have more small projects on my plate, but I’m not going to complain about that. There’s also projects in the works that I can’t talk about yet but that I’m nonetheless excited to be working on.
This past week a few people reached out and offered some much-needed perspective about myself. I’ve always struggled a bit with self-evaluation and seeing just how far I’ve come on trying to improve myself. I’ve also struggled with being okay not only with accepting positive feedback, but also “tooting my own horn” so to speak. But leaving two toxic environments behind since 2020 has allowed me room for growth, and while it still makes e nervous to share my own achievements, I’d like to think I’m doing better at it.
These friends reached out (without prompting or anything like that) to tell me I am kind, encouraging, and nonjudgmental – the kind of person they feel they can share anything with. And that makes me feel good about myself because for the longest time I know I was the exact opposite: mean and spiteful and extremely judgmental. Part of that was on me, but part of it was also the toxic environments I was in that treated these attitudes as “normal” – and I reflected what I received.
For the past several years I’ve tried to practice consent-based prayer/meditation, offering it with no strings attached, but not praying for those that have asked me not to do so. And now I find more folks accepting the offer or outright asking me to pray or light a candle for them because “whatever you’re doing works, or at least doesn’t make things worse”. My own spiritual/religious practice has proven more beneficial to myself as well. I find myself lacking the right words to explain it. Again, removing myself from a toxic church environment (and any church that supports thinly-veiled death threats is toxic) has done wonders for my mental wellbeing.
October marked a year since my dad passed away from cancer. Everyone experiences grief and loss differently, and while September was rough in the weeks leading up to the actual date, I think I was able to make a breakthrough with my own thoughts and emotions that finally allowed me to move on from much of how I felt since last year.
It seems my bonsai tree, who I need Ofelia, agreed. She was given to me as a sympathy gift, and while I have never kept a plant alive for more than a few weeks, Ofelia seemed to thrive. Until October, when I went to giver her the weekly watering and all her leaves fell off. Taking her home and consulting several books and resources, as well as other folks who know plants, I discovered she had root rot. I hoped I had caught it in time to salvage enough of her to survive, but it was not to be. Krystal said “it’s okay. She was there when you needed her and lasted as long as she was needed.”.
There was one weekend I nearly went into a panic attack as, in almost a repetition of the accident that nearly killed me in 2011 – a driver blew a red light as I was making a left-hand turn. And I mean this wasn’t even close like they ran through a yellow light; the way the light cycled meant they hadn’t had a green light in some minutes. But that previous accident has made me wary of intersections, and I think that caution is what allowed me to see what was happening and hit the brakes in time for avoid getting t-boned yet again. Unfortunately, there were no police around and I only got the first three digits of their license plate. I finished the turn and then pulled off the road as Krystal said she could drive, She was shaken as well, but knew what I was feeling.
October 19 was International Pronouns Day, and while I made the announcement on my other social media, I didn’t share it here. With my sincerest apologies for the belated news, I’d like you to know:
My pronouns are they/them
This had been kinda-sorta open for some time as I had listed my pronouns in Instagram and Twitter and TikTok since 2020, and I also trusted a few close friends and coworkers (and Krystal’s known for quite some time, of course) – but after much discussion and preparation I decided to make the news known to everyone.
I was nervous about what to expect, but so far things have been supportive. A few friends and family have reached out with questions, so let me share some things with you.
What does this mean?
It means that instead of using he/him, I use they them. For example, you might say:
This is Jay.
They like cats, coffee, and music.
Why do you use they/them?
For me, I use they/them because I realized some time ago that I am nonbinary, and using they/them pronouns most accurately describes myself.
How did you come to this realization?
Rather than being a “hasty decision”, this was something it took me many years to realize. It seems strange, but thanks to Covid, I was able to extricate myself from some certain toxic situations that made it impossible for any kind of self-reflection and discovery. Free to work on myself, I discovered one of the reasons I’ve felt like I don’t “fit in” or “belong” was because I was trying to be something I’m not. As a whole, the segment of society I spent a majority of my life moving in has very rigidly defined gender roles and expectations, and I found myself trying to “fit” into the “male” box they had created. But that isn’t who I am, and trying to make myself something I wasn’t played a large part of my mental distress, depression, and (sometimes) suicidal ideation. I would wake up most mornings and hate seeing myself in the mirror because I felt like I had to “pretend” and knew that “faking til I made it” wasn’t going to happen.
Over the past several years I’ve expanded the circle of folks “in the know” and realized that yes, this is right. It fits. And having come to that realization, I want everyone to know.
How has this affected your mental health?
Now, this doesn’t mean all my mental health issues have been resolved. It just means that one part of what I’ve been dealing with has been on a healing path for almost three years now. It means that I’m more comfortable expressing certain interests, participating in certain activities, wearing certain clothes, and other things like that because I am comfortable with myself.
Does this also mean you are bisexual?
For me, no. While it is possible for someone who is nonbinary to be attracted to more than one gender, gender identity is not the same as sexual attraction, and I am literally attracted to exactly one person on the planet: Krystal.
How has your family responded?
Only a few family members have reached out directly, and that’s okay. I didn’t know what to expect, so I’ll take “no news is good news”. However, those that have have been incredibly respectful and understanding and prompted a few of the questions above.
One such exchange occurred with my nephew as we discussed Taylor Swift’s new album and the various vinyl editions available. His wife picked some up for him at Target, and he took them outside to take brightly-lit photos so I could then go outside with my “colorblind” glasses to kinda-sorta-maybe see what they look like. The whole thing was enough to bring tears to my eyes.
I realize I haven’t posted anything since August 18th, and have thoughts about the direction this blog may take (I’m still planning on sticking around) but I think that’s going to be another blog post – look for it soon! (maybe tomorrow?!?)