This post has nothing to do with being queer and trans; it’s not about janitors or mental health. I think I need a short break from that stuff…
My partner and I went camping this past weekend, and it was exactly the sort of thing I needed. Things had been feeling heavily monotonous and mundane, even on weekends. I hadn’t been getting much enjoyment out of things that are usually fun.
Leading up to going away, I had an anxiety meltdown about it – about all the planning and packing. Mostly, it was about the prospect of being away all weekend and not having enough time to regroup for the work week. It didn’t occur to me that being away could be rejuvenating in a way that doing things at home, worrying about work and mentally preparing for work, never could. Huh!
We left Friday right after work and drove for about 2 hours to our destination. We stopped at a farm stand along the way to buy firewood, and we got some golden plums too. We had wanted to camp at a state park, but all the ones near where we were headed were booked up already, so we had to resort ahead of time to a privately owned “campground.” It was actually an RV park with over 150 trailer sites and only 9 tent sites. Everyone was right on top of each other. Quite a few were blasting country music or classic rock music, and people were rowdy with the fires and the drinking till late into the night. We got the sense that some of these people had been there a while, and a lot of them seemed to know each other. (Other than the noise and the overcrowding), we had a great time! We didn’t spend all that much time at the site anyway – basically just making a fire both nights, making food over the fire, drinking some beers, and sleeping.
During the day, we did a bunch of stuff at the nearby town. We went to the very impressive (and very busy) local farmers’ market, then went to a craft supply store and a book store and a clothing store. For lunch we went to a (also very busy) brewery, where they had beet greens on their pizza and salads made of baby kale, tat soi, beets, candied peanuts, and grilled blackened tofu. Yum. We then went for a hike on a gorge trail and waded in the cold creek.
Back at the campsite, it was Christmas in July (7/25). Some trailers had gone all out with the decorations – it was pretty entertaining to see. Events included a hayride with Santa at 6, cookies with Santa at 7, and a Christmas movie in the field at 8:30. We’re not sure but we think at least the movie got rained out. Yep, it started raining, but we were prepared. We’d already made a fire and eaten quickly, as the sky darkened, and we spent some time reading books in the tent that night.
Before the rain started, we got a chance to make use of the campground’s pool. This monstrous pit was nothing like I’d ever seen before. It was huge, and it was 7 feet deep at its deepest, but there was no drop-off edge of the pool. So there was no way to jump into the pool – it just gradually got deeper from the edges, like a lake would. There was a rickety slide with one of the railings duck-taped at the top. My partner and I slid down it about 5 times each – that was the best part! It seemed to be not heavily chlorinated; algae was growing at the bottom of the “deep end.” Another great factor was that it was “swim at your own risk.” No lifeguard! And there was a bin for returnables (full of beer cans and bottles) near the gate where you sign in and enter.
So many people had golf carts! We saw people taking golf carts to the bathrooms, to the playground, to the camp store. People just driving around on them. Dogs looking regal in the passenger seats. Do people pack golf carts into campers and bring them? I’d never seen this. Do they rent them from the campground? I have no idea.
Sometimes when things have been rough, and options don’t seem possible because of mental energy or anxiety or difficulty initiating, mixing it up and going out of comfort zones is the best thing for the mind. We have a couple more trips planned for this summer. Trips I’ve been anxious about. I hope I can just remember how much fun going camping was, and harness that feeling as I get ready to go on vacations!
In two days, my partner and I will be on our way to this annual amazing, informative, free conference. It’ll be my 5th time going, and we’ll be staying with friends in South Philly like we’ve done in the past.
I’m a little fearful that I’m not well enough to make this trip and be engaged with the activities. I am definitely improving from this long depression, but I have to admit it’s been rare that I’ve been getting enjoyment out of anything. I’m worried that the stress of traveling and socializing and being present for workshops and people-watching will be too much. On the other hand, it’s an awesome opportunity, and we’ve gone before, so it’s not like going into something brand new. And I’ll be with my partner; we can check in with each other. There was a day or two where my partner was unsure if she’d be able to go, due to work. She told me to start preparing to go without her – maybe catch a ride with some friends we know are going. I thought about how this would play out in my head and was definitely less sure this was do-able. Fortunately, she got the work stuff squared away. I am super glad because I need her for emotional support right now.
We’re going for a day more than we have in the past, so we’ll have opportunities to go to all three conference days (Thursday through Saturday). We will have time to do other things (not sure what exactly yet) and still get in plenty of conference time.
I’m excited about a few of the workshops. Looking forward to one facilitated by the founder of Transgress Press. And a film about FTM people from 10 different countries. And especially, a couple of workshops about non-binary identities. One called The Future of Gender Queer, and another called Non-Binary (In)visibility. Over all, there seems to be less programming about non-binary topics than last year, and I wonder why this might be. Just how it happened, I guess. I have to admit that while looking at the schedule, I’m not getting that same feeling of excitement and limitless resource potential as I have in the past, but I think that’s more about where I am emotionally. I hope I do get a lot out of it. I hope I can feel present and engaged.
My partner and I are so excited/anxious about the trip that we already picked out some outfits, did some ironing, and packed our bags!
Is anyone else going to the conference? I’d love to say “hi” in person. I’m not the best at facial recognition, but I do hope to recognize some people! I’ll be wearing turquoise shorts (if you want help spotting me). Don’t worry – I have a couple of pairs of turquoise shorts; I won’t be wearing the same clothes every day.
It’s really hard to quantify these things, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that this past year was the best year of my life. A lot of great things happened, I got to travel a lot, I got married (as I’ve been mentioning in every single recent post, haha)! And all those things are awesome. But the reason this year was so good was because I felt so different. I’d been struggling with some pretty crippling anxiety for like, forever. And I’d made quite a bit of progress over the past 2 years in therapy, but basically, I had constructed much of my life in ways to insulate myself from the things that were anxiety provoking. And no amount of therapy was going to help me strip that all away if I was still experiencing such unpleasant physiological reactions. Then I started taking a low dose of testosterone on March 18th and POOF! Anxiety dissipated into thin air, and I’ve just kinda been reveling in how good everything feels for the rest of this year. I hope I get to keep reveling for years to come… We’ll see. Here’s a couple of other things that were awesome:
– C and I went on vacation to Asheville, NC. It was our first grown-up vacation ever, by which I mean we flew there, rented a car (I’d never done this before), used Airbnb to find lodging (we always go somewhere on vacation where we can stay with friends – don’t get me wrong, I love seeing friends, but this just felt so different.), and just did a lot of local things – restaurants, microbreweries, hiking, cultural arts center, etc.
– We went on a bunch of other smaller trips: to Toronto twice (we went to the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and to the Sister Spit Tour), to Philadelphia (Trans Health Conference!), to NYC (Brothers Quay exhibit at MOMA!), and I went on a solo trip to Worcester and Boston.
(Here I am at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival, making a ridiculous face – I’m in line, in the middle, the short guy. I found this pic on the Fantagraphics website – er rather, a friend came across it and sent it to me, and Fantagraphics captioned it: “Then the magical Ulli Lust made her appearance. Leon Avelino of Secret Acres and The Beguiling’s Peter Birkmoe showed up but were sadly outdone by the BEST CON FACE EVER. Thank you, Toronto.” I’m highly amused by this, haha.)
– Like I mentioned, I started using a low dose of testosterone in March. Best. Thing. Ever.
– My supervisor and I started to actually get along at work. We now work really well together (so far), whereas in the past, we have had some pretty major clashes.
– I read 26 books. This number is way down from the past few years, but for prior to a few years ago, I wasn’t reading anything at all, so it’s still kinda a big deal for me!
– C and I got married and went on a fun weekend getaway!
– I met a new friend, a really introspective, really effeminate and handsome queer guy.
– I got a new bike, but did not really ride it nearly enough.
– I was in a really fun play and did a couple of drag shows.
– I started this blog!
There’s probably more, but that was pretty much what 2013 looked like for me.