zetasyanthis: (Default)
Forgive the rambling start. I haven't had my coffee yet today, and for some reason my brain won't quite switch on.

I've been trying to write this journal for the better part of six months. I *originally* wrote it, or at least most of it, in early January, but for some reason it's never quite come together. I guess that's okay, though, because it'd been a long six months, and I've made a lot of progress in that time. Hopefully, I'll be able to make more sense this time.

Brains are mean, and gender... is hard. It's a hard concept to grasp, a harder one yet to explore, and so intrinsically tied to identity that even talking about it sometimes raises arguments to fever level. To be honest? I just want to be myself. >.<

Today I'm going to use a challenging word. I'm going to use a word that has, in many hearts, an ugly history, one filled with misunderstanding and pain. And before I begin, I want you to know that I will never, ever disrespect that. I know pain's face far too well to ever wish more upon another.

I guess I should just say it then.

Zeta (my 'sona) is a hermaphrodite.

She always has been, ever since I first created her. Or ever since she kind of... existed. I'm not really sure if the broken parts of me that had rejected her had much say in that. I think she (a crucial part of me, remember) kind of forced herself into meaningful existence, even while the rest of me was running as far as possible in the opposite direction.

Sidenote: I'm honestly not sure how you talk about shards of identity coalescing, and I sure as hell don't know how to do it without sounding kinda nuts. I'm going to do it anyways.

I don't know why I find myself where I am today. I don't know who the damaged child I was even is anymore, that broken shell pretending to be whole. I can't even separate external sources from internal ones entirely, but I surely suspect that not all of my problems come from the outside. Being trans sure as hell doesn't, and I guess we'll see what else comes up as I continue to progress through my therapy.

Zeta popped into existence around the middle of 2012. I don't remember exactly why she did, why I felt compelled at that moment to finally construct an image of a portion of myself. To add to the strangeness, I'd never even had a dragon character before, despite diving head-first into the furry RP scene a few years before. For some reason, though, it just seemed right. The imagery of legends, of power tempered by wisdom, may have had something to do with it.

At the time, I'd been away from the RP scene for the better part of 5 years, abruptly disappearing for what was actually the third(?) time during yet another cycle of religiously-motivated self-flagellation. Those years were crucial ones, though, as going from "This gets me off." to "This might actually be me." took a very long time to percolate. I've acknowledged this before, but it's important to note at this point that I primarily played hermaphroditic characters, as well as some female ones, but never had a male one. Funny how I never even realized that at the time. O.o;

2012 is four years in the past now as I write this, and I've changed a lot since those days. The road has absolutely fucking sucked for the most part, with more pain that I ever could have imagined. But I'm still here. And I'm still not male. I'm a woman stuck in a male body for the moment, though HRT is starting to change that day by day.

So why both, then? Why not just have a female 'sona? I don't know. I used to, but things have changed since then. It used to be a symbol, combining my physical self with my mental one, a tool I could use to balance out my mind and body. In imagining her and then in role-playing as her, I could make sense of my mis-wired brain, allowing the physical sensations of my body to make sense in a mental context that didn't quite match up.

Today, I'm not so sure. I've been leaning quite a bit more female these days, though there is still something I value in the blending. Something about being able to be both, being able to sheath yourself in your partner and *take* them, and to be able to carry their child too, is really, really special. It's a balance, and something that could be beautiful, if we let it. I'm not sure how we can, given the tension all around it, but I'm going to at least try.

So yeah. That came out a bit less structured than the first one, but maybe, just maybe, my heart spoke more directly today.

I love you all,
Zeta
zetasyanthis: (Default)
I've had a rough couple of days. Rough week, really... but I'm doing better, maybe even a lot better, than I ever have before. I don't often go into the details of my sessions with my therapist, but I wanted to share a little something from my last one, something that's kind of stunned me the last few days. But to do that, I need to mention a little bit about DNMS first.

DNMS (Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Developmental_Needs_Meeting_Strategy]) is one of the types of therapy that my therapist practices. It's not widely known, yet, and still being studied, but whatever our final conclusions on the matter, I know it's helped me. DNMS focuses on actually resolving the traumas of the past, not just managing them like many other types of therapy, and that's a hell of a difference. It also means that it can get pretty heavy to deal with, since you have to actually work through those old memories and feel the things you've been putting off for so long. >.<

One of the key features of DNMS is the use of three internal resources: a nurturing adult self, a protective adult self, and a spiritual core self. I'm... still working on connecting with mine, but I made a major breakthrough with my protective adult self on Thursday and haven't quite been the same since.

Zoe (my therapist) always talks about how "X is a trait you already have", reinforcing that these are things you possess, even if you can't see them right away... and she's right, though it can be a bitch to see that some days. The last few days, I have been able to see it, and even if storm clouds descend again, I don't feel quite as alone anymore. I... I don't think this'll be the end of this, but this is a major reason for hope.

I guess I should get to the point of this journal, which was to share a letter she had me write. I don't remember exactly what triggered the idea, but I do remember her gentle words encouraging me to write a letter *to* my protective adult self, right after finally making a connection. And so I wanted to share the words of that letter today.

----------------------------------------

Dear PAS,

It’s been a rough few days. Anxiety, thoughts of self-harm, and deep-seated pains have pretty much hammered me into the ground. It’s the worst it’s been in a long time.  >.<

If I didn’t have you, I don’t know where I’d be. Pretty sure I’d be in a lot of trouble. >.< Thank you. *hugs* >.<

----------------------------------------

It took me almost 15 minutes to write those few words... and I know they're not a lot, but they're really important. >.< I think I need to write a lot more letters now.

On Love

Dec. 27th, 2015 07:22 pm
zetasyanthis: (Default)
So... This should hopefully be a bit lighter than some of my journals as of late, though it's still pretty heavy and emotional.  In a way, I'm writing this to kind of confess something that I've always known, but have had absolutely no idea how to deal with. (Bonus points: It is one of the chief causes of my anxiety.)

I have problems with emotional connection.

I don't have a problem *making* connections. I have a problem with *not* making them. There's a whole ton of ways I think about it, from having too much love (an introject response), to just not knowing how to maintain boundaries. (Even the second one doesn't ring completely true, though, because I can set up and maintain them for certain things, and they can be ultra-strong at times. I just don't have the mental energy to maintain them over the long term... or maybe, I'm fooling myself and don't really have them in the first place. (Hint: It's the latter.))

So let's talk about the "too much love" angle. Clearly, there's no such thing, despite what my brain might tell me. However, this thing (I don't know what the hell to call it) has some ramifications. The first how I make emotional connections, and the second is how deep those go.

I have a really funny(?) (I think/hope?) (from an outside perspective) way of making friends. I kind of run into someone I like, and then just start treating them as a friend, usually resulting in them going "Huh, this person is a little bit odd. I guess it's not hurting anything though." (Hands up if I've done this to you!) Usually that's accompanied by the other person acknowledging me as an acquaintance and shrugging it off. Over time, though, a friendship just kind of happens, often surprising the other person quite a bit. The simple act of treating someone as a friend causes a friendship to grow, even if it doesn't have a label. The thing that throws people for a hell of a loop is that I don't actually have a goal in this. Nothing is ever expected from my side. It's simply a "I'm going to treat you as a friend unless you give me a reason not to." If you never feel the same way, I will probably be slightly sad, but I'm just kind of like that.

Those same friendships can deepen over time, though typically they won't without acknowledgement and acceptance from the other person involved. A lack of serious bond response from the other person might mean some slight heart-ache, depending, but if there is a response, that bond grows incredibly quickly. I suppose I should try to describe how this makes sense to me, but it might be slightly mind-boggling or incomprehensible, depending on how you form bonds...

Here's the truth.

I love *everyone*. I see the beauty in everyone's heart, as well as the potential that that beauty brings to the world. I even see it when people can't see it themselves (a discordance that is honestly one of the worst feelings in the world). When I look at you, I see you, the person, not the skin, not the gender... the whole. Each and every one of you is beautiful and amazing beyond your wildest dreams... and I see all of it.

As a result of this, the only way for me to maintain a level of emotional separation is distance. Physical separation keeps those bonds from growing too deep, too quickly, and (so my introject would have me believe) causing all kinds of havoc. If you've seen me flit close and then disappear, it's because of this, not because of anything you have done... especially since I've been afraid. I buried this deep, because my emotional core didn't fit with how the world said I should be. That said... I don't want to be afraid anymore, but I fear this will be my hardest lesson. I don't even know what the lesson to be learned is, but I fear it all the same. :S

On a scale of emotional connection from 0-10, I have zero through two, and then eleven. I could spend an afternoon with you and we could fall in love for a lifetime. I have done *exactly* that, and it scared me so deeply I had panic attacks for weeks, thinking I had destroyed an existing relationship in the process. (Luckily, I'm dating one of the most forgiving and generous-with-her-heart dragons on the planet, else things would have gone really badly. >.<)

In summary... I don't know where I'm going with this either. I am really sick of being afraid of my own heart, my own nature, my own music, but I am terrified to let it loose. The only boundary I've ever really held is not letting that fear go, but there's a big damned crack in that armor now. Part of me finally knows it isn't a bad thing. Here's the thing... Boundaries just kind of dissolve around me. Just like in the friendships above, the fact that they're weakening is not noticed until they're suddenly gone. And... this one is trying to, even as I write this.

My heart, my magic, my music, doesn't know how to say no, and maybe it shouldn't have to. It's wild, it's free, and it's caged. >.<

The Church

Dec. 12th, 2015 07:17 pm
zetasyanthis: (Default)
I'm sitting here in Wicked Grounds, holding my collar. Been carrying it a lot lately, and even though I bought it almost two years ago I've never managed to put a finger on what it actually means to me. One thing I know for sure is that it's not really something sexual, which makes it rather strange. Somehow, it's felt like a safety token.

Even buying it was a spur of the moment thing, something I hadn't really considered seriously before Dakota convinced me to go over and check out the display with her. Somehow, though, when I saw it, I knew it was mine, even though I had never seen it before in my life. After a little nervous convincing, I bought it, and even ran back a few minutes later to get a few tighter notches added to the band.

Since then, I've carried it on and off, mostly to cons, but more recently it's been my daily companion, hiding in my pocket no matter where I am. It even traveled onto the factory floor in Hungary with me, though I had to take it out briefly every time I passed through the metal detectors there. I say these things to underscore its importance, even though I have not fully understood why it has held that until now. And honestly, the reason is not something I ever expected.

At first, I thought it was about control, about controlling the demons within me that I was afraid of, and that I've written about in the many journals leading up to this one. When that didn't make sense any longer, I thought it was about trust, about giving someone control... but that never quite fit, even as I said the words to myself. What it really is... is a memory, a long lost, and long forgotten memory. It is my deepest dark.

-----

A lot of folks know I was raised Catholic. If you don't, you know now. I went to a Lutheran K-8, a Catholic high school, and attended CCD growing up. Generally speaking, this meant that I had something around 8-12 hours of religious instruction per week, in addition to Mass on Sundays and (while I was at the K-8), a Lutheran service every Wednesday. My household wasn't very religious; you'll find no crosses in our kitchen, but you would have in the houses of my friends. First and foremost when I grew up was God, with a capital G, and I bought the /whole way in/.

Though the schooling was excellent, at the K-8 in particular, the culture was very aggressively conformist, and I never quite fit in. I didn't process it that way at the time, but I was "the Catholic kid" in a Lutheran school, which created pressure (usually around me), but occasionally on me as well. (I still remember and joke about the time I was sent to a half-hour detention for arguing with the pastor about transubstantiation!)

The real message here... the thing I'm trying to convey, is that I believed. I honestly, truly, did, and I was willing to fight for that belief. I took that detention in stride and was proud of it, because I knew they were wrong. If only I'd known how cripplingly wrong I was...

-----

But I didn't believe I was. At least not then.

At that time, I saw only the good that faith had done. I'd never encountered the true history of the Catholic church, nor had any major life event that really brought into question my faith in a more than theoretical way. And so I aspired, then as now, to do my part. I wanted to become a priest.

In theology I saw the same things I now see in science, the quest for understanding, the debates on the nature of the universe, all of it. I thought I could add to that debate, and even more so, that I could be a leader and a force for good within that community, something I still aspire to today, although my path is now vastly different.

That all shattered when I became sick. When the doctors couldn't find the cause, when all their tests were as useless as the medications they tried, I turned to God and asked "Why?". And I received silence. I eventually recovered, but it was science that saved me, that did what little it could and kept trying, no matter how many times the tests failed. It took years for those events to fully settle, but by the time I was confirmed as a Catholic in high school, even going so far as to chose a saint's name, I had lost what I once treasured. I had lost my faith. And in so doing, I had lost trust. Not trust in God, not trust in myself... the fundamental ability to truly trust anything or ever be safe again.

-----

I've been through a lot since those dark days, since the days I sealed those memories as deeply as I could. But now I am confronted with them, because I have found some small semblance of safety, and in so doing, have shattered again. This time, I'm not alone; I have friends I can lean on and ask for guidance, but it's still been rather rough. I've had to remember a lot of hard things, and my faith is one of them. It's not what it was... will never be what it was again, but some part of it remains. Today, I don't believe in a god anymore than I do the flying spaghetti monster, but some part of me wants to. Some part of my child self, hidden and weeping, has returned, and I desperately want to believe again. ...hopefully, this time in something real.

*very slow, very deep breath*

But I'm afraid. I know what it means to be a true believer, and know first hand what kind of damage that can cause yourself *and* others. It is a madness you can lose yourself in, and that I have the potential to lose myself in, again. And so I'm scared. I have a tremendous power in me to inspire, a tremendous power to communicate and level boundaries, and this is the source of that power that I have never acknowledged. I'm scared shitless of what I might do if I lose myself, and so I don't know what to do at all. This is why I freeze up when I feel safe, because I relapse to those memories, deep inside.

Friends and loved ones tell me that I'm not a monster, but that just makes it feel like they don't really know me at all. I'm more afraid than I have ever been in my entire life, even though I've made *so* *much* progress, but I don't know how to even dent this one. I need help, desperately, and I don't know what to do.

Please. Someone help. >.<

-----

At the start of this, I began with talking about my collar... but never answered the question of what it is... what it means. It is my deepest dark, a memory more terrifying than anything I have ever imagined. It's the collar of a priesthood I was never able to wear.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
I originally wrote this post on February 22nd, 2015, but had refrained from posting it until now.  Now, its time has come.

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This is going to be a difficult post. I'm a bit shaken after having returned from a movie that hit way too close to home in far too many ways... And let's get this out of the way up front. I am *very* angry.

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By now, some of you will have seen The Imitation Game. If you have not, do so. The movie is about Alan Turing's work as a cryptographer during World War II. Since you're reading this on a Turing machine, it's safe to say he's someone worth knowing about.

Alan's story is a difficult one, one of the most intensely personal tragedies of the modern age. Already a social outcast due to his odd personality, he had very few friends in his life, and only one person he ever truly bonded with. And, were it ever discovered, as it was at the end of his life, even that was forbidden him. You see, homosexuality was against the law in Britain at that time. Even though his work quite arguably won the war for the allies (estimates put him ending the war 2 years early and saving 14 million lives), he was, in the end, driven to suicide by the very country he helped save. He was forced into accepting hormone therapy, chemical castration, in order to remain out of jail, and his downward spiral found only one outlet.

In him, we lost one of the most foundational geniuses of our modern world. He not only *proved*, but *built* a universal computing engine, capable of solving any problem rather than fixed functions. It is his gift that powers the very screen you read this text on, his gift that connects this entire world. He could not have known exactly how it would grow and be shaped with time, but he *knew* what a fundamental change his discovery would cause. It is a poor testament to our legacy as a civilisation that we failed him and continue to fail others to this very day. The means may be different now, but our failures endure. *That* is what this post is about.

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Now, I knew this story before I saw the film. I thought I had grieved and dealt with the tragedy, but I was wrong... Why? Because his story is also, in some small part, my story... And it is also a difficult story to tell.

I've never had an easy time connecting with others... For a long time I made friends, interacted, and appeared to function normally to a large majority of folks I interacted with. Previous journals detail a bit more of than than I currently want to delve into, but a major part of finding myself over the past few years has involved the discovery of the term transgender, and the fact that it applies to me. I have been, and still am, fearful of judgement, even though I am trying daily to work a little bit at a time towards comfort in my identity.

I put out a few feelers via HR at my current workplace, trying to discover if there was insurance coverage, but beyond that, I've not really signaled very much. The few who I asked basically dropped the issue as soon as I was done asking the question, so it's clearly something that's still uncomfortable to them. I *think* the engineers and management I work with will be accepting, but it's going to be a struggle for me, especially as some of my roll is customer-facing. I'm not a field applications engineer (FAE), but I do stand in as one on occasion, and I doubt there are very many transgender ones of those...

That's today though, after my move to California, to a place that's hopefully more accepting than the state I had been living in. Arizona may be beautiful, but the minds of many of its inhabitants are sadly not as inspired as the geology that surrounds them...

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While in Arizona, I worked for a small defense contractor, the name of which I'm choosing to leave off here. Said contractor isn't a name you'd recognize, but their primary work is in a similar area to Turing's. Although it's been about 20 years since being gay would result in the loss of your security clearance, transgender employees are still rare enough (and security personnel paranoid enough) to result in all sorts of awkward questions. Having gender identity issues hanging over your head makes you a prime target for blackmail if you're not out as trans, something that can result in immediate loss of clearance.

As such, I lived in fear.

Though the president signed an executive order forbidding discrimination along gender lines in all federal contractors two years ago, it only takes one person to declare you a security risk and you're done. Job, lost. Career, in tatters. Hope you've got some savings, because who's going to want to hire someone who had and then lost a clearance, even in the private sector? I thought I could probably trust my coworkers with my secret, but what if I couldn't? It only takes one.

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If that wasn't problem enough, I began to have ethical problems with my work that I simply could not overcome. In the movie, Turing quickly realizes that an intelligence source that the enemy knows about is useless, a fact that remains true to this day. In order to protect access to German communications, he (and the other members of his team) had to carefully manage what intelligence they used, making sure to guard against the possibility of discovery. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands died while they watched on, knowing that to save one ship too many, one in just the wrong way, would result in the Germans changing all of their codes. They became the arbiters of life and death, a position none of them had ever desired.

And so was I. Many still are. To work with these technologies, even to build them for another's use, must imply knowledge of their purpose. These agencies, these departments, compartmentalize their knowledge, seeking to remove the ethical choice from the builders, to place it on the users of the machines. But compartmentalization is damned from the start. These people know what they're building, they know how powerful it's becoming, and they sure as hell know exactly what it's being used for. As such they are as ethically liable as anyone else. As I was.

That is not to say that these technologies are bad, that the ability to intercept and read communications is fundamentally flawed. But it does mean that when those systems are turned into targeting systems, or handed to foreign governments who abuse their own people, that we are responsible. A lot of people have asked me why I left my job in Arizona, despite knowing how "important" it was. I know there are people alive today who would not be if I had not worked there. But I also know that there are the dead.

I am no naive innocent, imagining that every conflict can be solved without the use of violence. Though I now seek peace more directly, I fully recognize that there are some people who can only be dealt with through the use of deadly force. My problem is with neither of these statements. It is with the avoidance of responsibility. And even more fundamentally than that, it is that I am a healer, and that is not my path.

So yes. I left defense contracting. I will never return. I have seen the lack of accountability that comes with secret decision making turn into erroneous claims that "you know better than the public," that your "special access to information" gives you the right to make the call that affects so many others without their knowledge. And I am done with it.

Had I been discovered with these views in my time working for them, I would also have been escorted from the premises. It's dangerous to profess Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden as heroes while working for the self-same industry, even on projects that are far less egregious than the ones they disclosed. But the end is the same. I could no longer trust those who I built machines for to use them in good faith, or to not hand them over to 'allies' who imprison their own people in the name of political expediency.

No human being should have to make the choices Alan Turing made as he decided who lived and who died. We *still* make those same choices now, though we are told that others will make that decision for us in the end. It does not absolve him of his responsibility then, and it does not absolve us of ours now. Some actively avoid this knowledge, safe in the fact that the system is geared towards that isolation, but others, like myself, are leaving because we can no longer stay. We are asked to be trustworthy by a system and by people who cannot be trusted themselves, and that can no longer endure.

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I'm tired of living in fear. I'm tired of living with guilt. I'm tired of pretending that this shit isn't broken, and that we aren't failing both those who serve and those who they intend to protect. I am fucking pissed, and this is the end of my imitation game.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
Another update... I'm still not handling this very well, though I'm learning.

I ended up getting home at about 8:45 yesterday. I kind of saw time passing at work, but was working on something that I felt was important enough to justify staying a bit late. We had had another outage due to a major infrastructure failure on Thursday, with a secondary infrastructure failure ongoing, and I tried to stay and get the replacement / backup system into test over the weekend. Why?  Well, I don't enjoy having to answer questions from the CIO of the company that owns our company, my boss's boss's boss's boss's boss, etc... It's not my fault the bloody thing isn't here and running yet, but I do seem to be one of only four people at the entire company that are capable of handling this for some reason... </rant>

Anyways...

This week has been really really stressful. It's not been a lot of hours, but a hell of a lot of noise, emergencies, and meetings, all of which don't really go well with an introverted personality. I came back home yesterday so overloaded that I had to just sit in my room in the dark for two hours before I could handle any kind of stimulus at all. Moving, talking to Dakota was too much. Hell, snuggling with my kitty was actually too much input to handle. I was shaken and emotionally wiped.

There is, however, good news on the horizon.

1. I've not gotten any evening calls this week. Actual work hours have trended back towards a normal 40/week for the most part.
2. I made a very important realization yesterday. Occasionally, I just kinda have these realizations pop into my head, and this one was about my motivations and why I seem to care more than a lot of other people.

So let's talk about #2. I think it's because of love. I don't know if I have an excess of it, or if others just can't always touch it in the same way, but it's part of everything I do. I'm a healer, whether it be people, animals, or even electronics. I see things that are broken and I can't help but try to make things better. I've gotten burned by it a few times, because I refuse to stop caring in spite of, well, anything. Despite that though, I think I'm working on burning myself out right now, so I'm going to start managing what energy I have a lot more pro-actively. I know we have emergencies at work, but dealing with them is killing me at home, and that is going to stop. It's going to stop *now*. There are too many other things that matter way more. Work is just so I can have a roof. I need to start treating it that way.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
So the conversation about overload with my boss went reasonably well.  Preliminary sanity measures are in place, and we'll be re-evaluating as things progress.  A few interesting developments also came up today, as apparently my boss straight up asked the other guy on 1.0 if he'd work the graveyard shift for the next month.  (He laughed and said no.)  I wasn't asked, but we'll see what happens in the next little while.  Interestingly, that question was popped was after our meeting on rotation schedules and such.

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Current steps being taken:

1. For now, the two of us on 1.0 are split on rotating 24 hour cycles of support.  I think that'll be alright for the moment since we (in theory) just crushed a major problem today/tomorrow that should take a ton of load off of us.

2. Extra hours accrued are going to be recorded as unofficial comp time, from which we can take vacations later.

3. I'm definitely in on the yearly bonus/raises that apply in March, despite starting a few days after the cutoff date of Jan 1st.

4. Any overloads / if we can't manage this, things will be re-evaluated.

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Planned additional requests going forward:

1. Meals due to extended work hours are typically comp'd.  Planning to ask this to be made more or less official policy for the two of us going forward.

2. If there ends up being a hell of a lot of overtime / evening work, I plan to straight up ask for a pay bump.  I didn't sign up to be on call and don't really want to be.  If they really want me pulling long shifts, they're going to have to feel the pain from it too.  (I'm expecting to be called in at 3:30 this morning due to something I know is running until then, so I have a strong feeling this may come up.)

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My only disappointment so far is that my boss (who knows a little about 1.0, but not a lot), didn't put himself on the rotating support shift roster we put together today.  He puts in a lot of hours as is, so I guess I can't complain too much, but I'd have done it if I were him.  IMHO, that's how you lead during a crisis.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
I ranted a bit about this on twitter today, but I think I'll feel better if I just get this crap out of my brain and onto a page(?).

Basically, work is trying to eat me, and my subconscious isn't helping.  There's a lot of good reasons, plenty of explanation, teamwork, and all the rest, but the gist is that I've gotten calls on my work phone while at home four days out of the previous week.  Email chains are also including me and directed to me, though I was rather blunt about the likelihood of my response to any of those when not at work.  I'm effectively being treated as though I'm on-call 24/7, having had one call as late as 11:30 PM the other night, and some other coworkers are (in my view, insanely) actually responding at that hour.

What's the situation at work that's spawning this?  Glad you asked, because there is a good explanation, kind of.

The team I'm on are a group of software engineers who provide support on an internal set of tools used by a manufacturing floor.  At the moment, some vendor fuck-ups mean that the floor is actually running three shifts, requiring 24/7 uptime on the tool infrastructure to support them.  "What's the problem with that?", I hear you say.  "Surely they must be built to handle that since the company has been in business for more than 75 years!"  HA!  Well, they're going to be soon, when the 2.0 codebase rolls out, but 1.0 is a steaming pile of shit!  And there's been a perfect storm on top of that that's conspired to completely fuck us over!

Here's the list!

1. Massive rework effort due to a vendor fuckup.  Usually we run from 8-5, sometimes having a second shift on the production floor.  Right now, we're running 24/7 and weekends to help one of our major customers out after another vendor fucked up rather solidly.
2. Main 1.0 server RAID array failure combined with lack of backups means the 1.0 infrastructure is in tatters.  The backup server isn't even running the same versions of software, but at least it's online...  >.<  (I voluntarily pulled a 30 hour shift to help ensure that two weeks ago since I knew it was a good opportunity to show I was serious, among other things.)
3. Lack of proper version control, code reviews, and well, sanity in 1.0 codebase means that all kinds of things are breaking. Any change may have unknown ramifications that breaks something completely unexpected, sometimes at the very end of a multi-hour or multi-day run!  Local, unversioned copies of files are all over the place and used in production, which I'm slowly crushing into line with sheer force of will.
4. Main 1.0 developer left three weeks ago, leaving only myself (who got dragged into this mess when he gave his notice 5 weeks ago - I was supposed to be on 2.0) and one other guy who keeps taking shortcuts and writes fairly crappy code...
5. New products being introduced constantly and having to be added to the codebase!
6. Updated firmwares supplied by customers at the last minute (5 PM, but please ship tomorrow!) with bugs causing further delays.
7. Production floor fucking up basic instructions over and over and apparently unable to debug anything without assistance.
8. Customer showing up and further eating into engineering time.

Basically, this means that the two of us who are on 1.0 are kinda hosed.  Manufacturing needs constant handholding and the customer is breathing down our neck and actually showing up at our facility demanding answers.  I had several engineers from them hovering behind me for more than six hours last week while I live debugged issues with their stuff.  In total, I've lost at least three work days to similar activity in the last two weeks.

So here's the thing.  How the hell do I deal with this?  I can feel the burnout already coming, and I didn't sign up to be on-call with this position.  (As far as I knew, I was to work 8:30-5:30 with breaks and was rather confused when I was issued a work phone in the first place.)  I'm salaried, and in theory they can kind of require me to come in, but that's not the basis I want to be on with my brand new employer.  I want to be a valued part of this team.  I know they need the help.  I know I'm the only one who really *can* help.  But I have to have my own personal time where I have a guarantee that I will not be contacted.  I need that to be healthy myself, and to have a healthy relationship with my mate Dakota.  If I'm in 'professional mode' 24/7, I'm not emotionally receptive or calm enough to connect with her, and that is unacceptable.

How do I find a balance in this middle of this crisis?  I had been answering my phone this last week, but when my boss texted me this morning I just turned the damned thing off.  For all I know, 200+ people are sitting around doing nothing and we may lose one of our biggest customers as a result of it.  What the hell do I even do?  This continuous-crisis situation could last until the end of March, and I definitely can't handle it that long.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
Darkness.  That's all there ever seems to be, anymore.  It's not that the sun isn't up there, not that the landscape isn't touched by its rays.  It's just that it doesn't seem to matter anymore.  Everything is just... gray.  It should be colorful and bright, enough to cheer anyone up, but it isn't.  Just gray.  It's not even that you can't see the colors, noting a little yellow in that gray there, a little dark green in that one.  It's just that they don't matter, that they don't touch you like they used to.  Just enough to let you know something's wrong.

That's the story my parents woke up to when I was eleven years old.

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Kids get sick.  It happens.  They get better, too, little immune systems kicking into gear and storming their way through all the standard childhood illnesses.  From chickenpox to sore throats, and sometimes even to cough-I-really-don't-want-to-go-to-school-today-cough-no-really-I'm-sick-cough, parents are used to their kids being down and out once in a while.  That doesn't mean they don't worry, or take care of them, especially when they're very young, but it does mean that there's an expectation that they'll shake off most things and be okay with a doctor's visit, a little bit of best rest, and maybe some penicillin.  I didn't.

You see, when I got an ear infection, followed by a sore throat in the summer before my sixth grade year, I was pretty miserable, but it was nothing unusual for a kid to have, or to get over.  The trip to Denver wasn't much fun once my ear flared up halfway through the trip, aching so badly I could hardly focus, but a few days at home and I was better.  Except for the cough.  That lingered a little while.

Kids think they're invincible, don't you know?  And so did I.  I bounced around, thinking nothing of it, as coughs are usually the last thing to go.  I'm not sure what my parents thought of it at the time, but I don't remember us really give it a second thought until I ended up with strep throat a few weeks later, just as the school year began. 

That wasn't very much fun.  Stuck in bed, hardly able to eat, I missed about a week of class before feeling well enough to return.  The shivers of fever subsided, and the acid at the back of my throat cooled, but the cough remained.  For a little while longer, we chalked it up to the sore throat, a not unexpected hold-over, but then it got worse.

By the time things started heading towards Thanksgiving, I was in a very bad way.  The cough wouldn't stop, day or night, and I quickly grew exhausted.  Harder and harder, my chest wracked itself, but there was no relief, just a tickle at the back of my throat that would never go away.  Eventually, I was asked to leave school until such time we got it under control, as I was disrupting class for all the other students.

Steroids were tried, as was some sort of inhalant device I can no longer remember.  I'm not sure what was in that one, but it caused the worst attack I had ever had, to the point where I almost ended up in the hospital (it was administered in a small clinic).  My parents tried everything, but nothing worked.  Eventually, psychological possibilities were looked into, and we started driving deep into the city of Chicago to see one of the few psychiatrists that seemed to have any idea what was going on.  Things still had a long ways to go, though...

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I don't remember when the tremors started.  We called them tremors because the doctor did, but they were essentially seizures, my motor neurons going insane and firing all at once in tremendous waves of activity.  It would start with a little fuzzy feeling somewhere back inside my brain, as though someone was tickling me along the border between my cerebellum and occipital lobe.  Eventually, over the course of minutes, or even hours, I would feel more and more energy leaking upwards into my brain and fanning out towards my fingertips, millimeters at a time.  I could hold it at bay for a while, but like a static charge building up in a thundercloud, there was no stopping it.  And the longer I waited, the worse it was...

If you've ever been electrocuted before, felt the jolt as you lost control of your muscles, you'll know about what I experienced, minus the burns.  Every muscle spasming, flailing wildly for minutes until all the energy in every cell was utterly exhausted, leaving me twitching, shorted out on the bed or couch.  The doctors were flummoxed, though my family doctor, Miroslav Kovacevic refused to give up on me.  A friend of my dad, he was the one who found the specialists, one after another, and kept trying.  I can't even imagine how long he was up nights trying to find anything to help, but I know he must have been, because he cared.  I know my mom and dad sure were.

About six months in, Dr. K, working with the psychiatrist whose name I can no longer recall, had built up a theory.  It didn't have a name then, but the gist was that there was some sort of correlation between anxiety, puberty, and an autoimmune disease.  Signs were starting to point towards my immune system attacking my motor neurons, triggering some sort of periodic overload.  Experiments continued, but I was basically out-of-commission aside from a few hours a day.  Tourettes Syndrom was considered as a diagnosis, as was early-onset MS, neither of which my parents wanted to hear.  I wasn't sure what they were, being so young, but now knowing what those are, it's terrifying that that was even a thought in my doctor's minds.

Eventually, we tried something new, an experimental treatment called an IVIG, which as I now understand, is used for many other autoimmune disorders.  I don't remember the details of what it was supposed to do, but I do remember having a needle in my arm for 5 days straight while the cool liquid drained into me, resetting my immune system and leaving me vulnerable to further disease.  For three years after that, I was required to take daily anti-biotics as a precautionary measure, but it didn't matter, because within days, the tremors started to fade away.  I can't even tell you what that meant to me, or my parents, but even tears were insufficient.  It took me the entire summer to catch up on my work so I wouldn't be behind a grade, but it didn't matter.  I was healthy again.  Mostly...

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Relapses are awful.  Worrying about relapses is terrifying.  Hiding a potential for relapses from your parents for years is just... don't.  They still don't know this, and I doubt I'll ever have the heart to tell them, because they've been through so many terrible things since then with my brother, but every single day I know it could come back.  If I ever overloaded to a certain point, it could, and I don't know what I'd do.  You see, that tickle in the back of my brain?  It's never gone away.  And when I'm stressed, it grows stronger, buzzing against my hind-brain...  I have to be *very* careful.

I still have lingering neurological damage from the episodes too.  Muscles all over my body, from my arm to my back to my legs will trigger randomly, small bundles twitching outside of my control.  Sometimes it's my whole leg, spasming for half a second.  It's disconcerting and harmless for now, but I am keeping an eye on it lest it grow.  Just another thing to worry about.

Those of you who know me know that my memory is just awful.  I don't think it always was, but, ironically, I can't remember.  For now, I can only assume my ability to remember things was severely damaged by this experience, meaning I have to intuit pretty much everything I do.  Luckily, I'm pretty good at patterns, because rote memorization is out for me.  (Note that this means that this story is also a recollection to the best of that memory, and the dates and times are most certainly not 100% accurate.)

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Since those days, it seems that quite a community of folks have come forward working on and dealing with a disorder that now has a name.  PANDAS, short for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections, is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system basically triggers against your own neurons with all sorts of ramifications.

Reading for those curious:
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/pandas/index.shtml
http://www.chicagoparent.com/magazines/chicago-parent/2012-august/features/pandas

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P.S.: Interestingly, it was 1998 when I treated, the same year a paper came out proposing a classification of the disorder with the first 50 cases.  I'm not sure if my results were included in that paper, but that would be something, wouldn't it?  If nothing else, I was one of the first diagnosed in Chicago.  Though, truth be told, if that's my claim to fame, I'd like it back please...  Something else would be a bit more enjoyable than this.  :/

The Rain

Feb. 7th, 2015 11:16 pm
zetasyanthis: (Default)
Sometimes, it rains... Sometimes.  But that's not the point of life, now is it?  It may rain a while, but there's no sense in it, no thing, no thought to find within.  Sometimes, it just rains, and that's it.

Today, it's raining, and I find, maybe so inside myself as well.  For the last few days beauty has been difficult to touch for me.  There have been moments, but they've been fleeting, leaving me feeling... not so much myself as I should be.  I'm not sure what it is, but I'm writing this in the hopes that that can change.  A friend of mine did something similar, and if he still can, with all he's been through, I damned well should be able to.

Thing is, this week has been stressful.  Hell, this whole month...  Moving is hard; leaving friends is hard; and surely, trying to find a new balance for yourself is hard.  This week particularly, I've not really been balanced, working more than 50 hours (one 30 hour shift, among other things) during a crisis at work.  I didn't have to do that, but I was needed, and so I stayed.  The problem is that that crisis isn't even over today, wasn't over yesterday, and probably won't be for another two weeks at least.

I've made it a policy to not respond to email during my personal time, regardless of the fact that I now have a company cell phone.  If I'm needed that badly, they'll call, which, so far today, they have not.  But the crisis weighs on me today, since I did reach for that phone and saw the problems that are occurring, even though I said I wouldn't.  I haven't done anything to fix it, haven't called or got on my work laptop or gone in, but it weighs all the same.  I know I can't though.  I need today for myself, needed yesterday, really, though I didn't have it.

I've been feeling depressed this week, and I'm not sure why; but I need time to recover.  I need today and tomorrow with no demands, and to find a way to create and be able to enjoy things again.  I know it's bad when I try to read and it's just words on a page.  Hell, I watched Rent last night with Dakota, and it was just images and noise.  Not good.

I slept in this morning, felt a bit better, and even posted about writing a bit while making some boba tea.  But by the time I was done making it, I felt wiped out again, and haven't put a single word to page besides these few, not exactly what I was going for.  I'm hoping the rain will pass.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
Identity is a tricky thing.  We use words to describe ourselves, to try and define who we are so that other people can understand.  It’s not easy though, as both the questions themselves and the answers must be discovered with great care.  Asking the wrong question is potentially just as damaging as forcing yourself to fit within the confines of one of your answers.

“What am I?”  "Who am I?"  "What do I want?"

These questions haunt us.  They have for generations, ever since we developed the intelligence to wonder about our place in the universe, our place among the stars.  We have created stories and legends, models and explanations, and still we seek.  We may know the biological explanation for why we are here, but we sure as heck don't know what it means to us.

The thing is…  We’re so used to having to fit in boxes, and the world so used to us being easily labelled and categorized, that those of us who don’t fit end up thinking about this a lot.  It seems to be the case that the farther you are from society’s norms, the more you end up having to find your own meaning in things.  Religion, or lack thereof, is a fantastic example of this, in that those of us who find ourselves outside the norm that is belief in a higher power find ourselves seeking something we don’t know how to find.  When you don’t believe in either destiny or an overall plan for the universe, the notion that you are “meant for X” loses meaning.  I don’t know if it’s the case for everyone else in this spot, but that leaves me kind of drifting.  And since drifting means thinking way too much, here’s a thought…  Stick with it, because it’s not going to go where you expect if you only read part of it.

I’m a big history buff, and keep up with current events on top of that, paying quite a bit of attention to not only what’s going on, but why it’s happening.  (The former without the latter isn’t very useful, as you can’t really know what’s going on without context.)  And so my eyes have turned to the Middle East, as exemplified by Egypt, as well as Russia.  I’m aware there are much more extreme cases, but we’ll stick to those two for now.

In general, these countries, the governments in them, and the people, all seem to share common threads as far as how they think about themselves.  In moments of uncertainty (and this isn’t exactly unusual!), their leaders have rallied the people to nationalism, dismissing the value of all those who speak against their specific strategies and goals for maintaining power.  And so it goes and has gone for many years…  They use policy and media to push aside the personal goals and growth of members of their society in favor of appearing strong upon the world stage at great personal cost to their own people.

Now, I’m not going to go into specifics, as libraries have been written on this particular subject and I’m actually trying to make a different point altogether.  It's a thought inspired by one of my favorite writers, J. Michael Straczynski.  There’s a particular episode in a show he wrote (Babylon 5) called “Comes the Inquisitor” in which one of the cast members is interrogated, and more-or-less tortured by an outside ‘observer’ sent by an ancient alien race.  The goal of this observer was to see that the people who were about to be put into a position of incredible importance were the “right people, at the right place, at the right time.”

The way he goes about this is ingenious, and actually forces the audience to answer much the same questions.  Over and over, he asks, “Who are you?  What do you want?” and does not accept any answer that defines the individual by *what* they are.  It’s a really crazy and intense scene, in which the character tries repeatedly to answer with her name, her titles, even the story of how she came to be where she is.  He accepts none of it, and actually inflicts pain on her every time she fails to answer in the way he approves.

Although this is obviously a somewhat crazy premise, the questions are very real, and have a serious impact on the way people think of themselves.  If you ask yourself who you really are, and what you really want, can you answer that without falling back on things defined by others?  Can you speak about it without referring to your job, or one you’d like to have?  Defining yourself in terms of what you are (work, ethnicity, tribe, even nationality) might keep you moving, but never considering who you are, and, mayhaps, who you’d like to be seems to be a very dangerous path.

That’s my thought for the day.  I’m curious as to responses…  You know where the comment box is.  :)
zetasyanthis: (Default)
I have two topics tonight, and I'm not quite sure how I'm going to spin them together.  I want to talk about compassion, but also about the year that is now past, and all the things that came with it.  My "2013 Overload" post focused a bit on the "Oh hell, this was crazy" bits, but there was a lot of good there too.  Due to that, and the fact that 2013 seemed to be overly hard on a lot of folks, I wanted to add at least some positive perspective on it.

Let's start with compassion.  A lot of people will tell you that compassion is easy.  I'm here to tell you that, sometimes, it is the hardest thing you can do.  The reason is that you have to open yourself to the potential of being hurt, and in some cases, being hurt terribly, in order to help someone else.  Often times, that window of vulnerability is small, hence the imagining that compassion is something easy, but more often than not, that difficulty level is a bit higher than we care to admit.  And so we avoid conversations; we look sideways at people we'd rather not lay eyes on; and sometimes, we pretend, trying to fool ourselves that within our walls we are strong.

We are not.  When we hide within those walls, we do it out of fear.  We fear that our heart, our most secret and treasured self, could not contain or comprehend the chaos that is the world we live in.  This is understandable, but it isn't enough.  It isn't enough for the heart we hide inside, and it sure as hell isn't enough for everyone else, many of whom are holed up in their own castles, looking out at the no-man's land between as though it was the breadth of the Pacific ocean.

Compassion is *powerful*.  In fact, I dare say that there is nothing more powerful than it, especially in its ultimate expression, love.  Unlike anger or hate or intolerance, compassion isn't a "force", persay.  It's more like water, ever flowing and eroding at the rough edges it encounters, and much like its physical analog, it's not something that you can really fight.  It just is, and everything else has to find a way to live with it; because it isn't going away any time soon.  This gives rise to its second quality...  It doesn't just change the person on the receiving end.  It changes the person who is giving too, because compassion always reflects back, even if only a little at first.  You can't open yourself on any serious level and not change a little yourself in the process.

What am I thankful for in the year 2013?  I'm thankful for compassion.  I'm thankful for my friends who were there when I needed them, even if I wasn't always smart enough to ask.  I'm thankful that I could be there for a few of them when they needed me, though I do wish I had been able to do more.  2013 may have been the worst year to date for a whole host of reasons, but it was also the best year for reasons as uncountable as the stars themselves.  I found something really special, someone special to share that with, and though I don't know what the future holds, I sure as hell know that it's brighter than it used to be.  I say that in spite of the fact that I'm still very much not entirely stable (a surprise to me too) as echoes of the past year are still haunting me at times.  I say that in spite of the fact that the chaos and pain I see in the world around me causes me to twitch and lose focus and want to cry when I least expect it.  I say it in spite of these things, because I've learned that I can make a difference, even if it's only a small one for now, and because I have hope that it may not always be as small as it is now.

2014...  This is going to be different...  I have never opened up to the level I now am, and honestly, I've no idea how I'm going to deal with the flood of emotional input and internal turmoil that's caused.  While still working on being comfortable expressing my gender and sexual side, I'm dealing with continued financial and other stresses that make it a bit hard to relax and just (find and) be myself.  On top of this, I'm also trying to write (something that means a great deal to me) and helping plan out the next year for AFC.  I'm trying not to be too spread out again this year, but that's starting to look unfortunately familiar.  :/

The good news is that I have support this year, and I'm going to try and lean on it a little more than I have in the past.  To all of you who've been there: Thank you.   And to all of those who will be there, thank you too.  Let's see if we can't make this year better than the last one, better than all that have come before.  Compassion is the key; you just have to be willing to open up yourself to see it.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
This isn't the final entry in the touchy-feely saga, but it may be a holding point for now.  We'll get to why, and to what in a bit, but I just want to say thank you to anyone who played a part in this.  A lot of you may not think you did much of anything, but it turns out that simply being there can help more than you can know at times.  We've a couple of big news items to go through, so let's begin...

As those who have been reading this blog know, I've had a bit of a rough year.  What some of you may not know is exactly how stressful it was.  Between work stress, family stress, and especially mental gymnastics related to my transgender issues, I've only narrowly avoided a full nervous breakdown close to half-a-dozen times, something I do not care to repeat for quite a while.  Thankfully, this year is now past, and I am in a much better place than I have been, probably ever in my life.  This journal, and the ones that have come before, documents the path I have taken, and though it might ramble and get off track a bit at times, it only did so because my journey did so as well.

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On to the bombshells...

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Yesterday I came out as having transgender issues to my mom, and she accepted me for them.  That conversation was probably the single most dreaded collection of words I had ever imagined, and I had no idea how it was going to go.  Before this year, she'd never heard of furries, never imagined her son might be bisexual, and certainly hardly knew anything about transgender issues to begin with.  Hell, before the last 24 or so months, I hadn't sorted enough of this mess out to be able to talk about it in the first place, let alone have the words to explain it to someone for whom these words were almost alien concepts.  I've fought and dealt and hidden this for the best part of 14 years now, and to have it in the open and be able to be comfortable talking about it is nothing short of amazing.  Why did I tell her?...

... because she needed to know.  My mom and I had grown apart due to a trust breakdown, created by differing religious, political, and societal views.  None of them really matter in a healthy relationship, but when you have the triple furry/bi/trans bombs to drop, being on the opposite side of someone's conservative viewpoints makes it really hard to talk about.  And so the trust breakdown began.  Last year it came to a head a few times, with my passing on a *fully paid* trip to Italy and almost leaving early last Christmas.  Neither of those times were intended to shield me, but rather my mom from my own differences.  Somehow, though, we've worked past a few things this year, sometimes aided by the 1700 mile distance between us when we couldn't handle much more for a while.

For a long time, she had a view of me that was basically as I grew up, a view where I was essentially the golden kid in the family, never getting into trouble or straying too far from the path that was expected of me.  I have myself to blame on a lot of that, because I was never comfortable talking about it until now.  It's at this point I have to once again point at :icondakotawolf: as having helped, giving me guidance and support even yesterday, when I wasn't sure if I could do it.  I wish I'd been ready years ago, but sometimes things take a while, and this one certainly did.  I'm happy to say that my mom is okay with it, as long as I'm healthy and stable, and pending my making damned sure I have support if any when I need it.  Because of the awesomeness of every last one of you, and especially the aforementioned wolf-butt, I don't think she, or I have any need to worry on that front.  :)

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Now...  On to Dakotawolf!  This one's a bit of a story too, but it's certainly easier to tell than the one I already have.  A lot brighter and happier too.  ^^

I've known Dakota for a bit over a year at this point, originally meeting her through :icondopr5:.  We can't remember exactly which came first, whether it was a Tucson camping meet, or a group of us crashing at her place after trying to drive from Denver to Tucson in a single night (haha, bad idea!).  Whatever the case, she was awesome, is awesome, and apparently, stole my heart somewhere along the way.  :)

I'm not going to rehash all my prior journals, but I will make a note of how all this started here.  From my realization of loneliniess to searching out and finding new friends, this has been a transformative 18 months or so, and though Dakota wasn't the first I encountered, she never feared to ask me questions of myself.  Even when I was hella-uncomfortable, I encouraged her to do so, and she did.  Sometimes she didn't get an answer right away "It's complicated" being a favorite dodge/"I don't know yet" response of mine, but those questions (and those of others) did set the wheels turning on the journey I have now undertaken.  I didn't always have the words to put to my thoughts on a lot of this, in some cases simply not knowing the vocabulary that would allow myself to think along the right lines, but now I do.

Dakota, like myself, has had a pretty rough year at times.  (Quick note: I mention these things only to set context.  Dakota may or may not speak to them on her own if and when she's ready to do so.)  From a breakup that threatened to turn nasty (confined living conditions can be a pressure cooker >.<), to losing a job and being unable to fully support herself, and finally, to almost moving back to family in California earlier this year, it's been fairly brutal for her as well.  I'm sad to say that I wasn't able to be there for all of it, but I did manage to be there for some of it, including the Tuesday before her move-out deadline, when a few friends came together to wish her farewell.  I drove up from Tucson that night after work, booking it up and back to say goodbye, and feeling a bit awkward the entire time for a reason I couldn't quite put my finger on.  On the way home, it hit me like a ton of bricks, almost forcing me to pull of the highway.  I cared for her, and a hell of a lot more than I'd admitted that night, to either myself, or to her.  As I drove home that night, I knew I had lost someone truly special, and I wasn't sure what the hell to do.  Thoughts raced of making it to FC early next year and trying to build up something, but I made it home, sort of collapsing under the weight of emotional exhaustion.

From that day on, I resolved to be a better friend, one who would be there when she needed me.  I knew she didn't need any more pressure at the time, so I just tried to be present, a supporting force to catch her a bit when she stumbled.  And stumble she did, more than a few times before the year was out...  Stress led to pain and urgent care visits, luckily resulting in nothing major in the end, but life never quite let up.  Even when I finally admitted to having feelings for her, it was tough, her job and financial stresses bringing her to the brink of tears more often than not.  And though I live in Tucson, I'm still lucky enough to have a job where I can drop things once in a while and make the run up.  During those trips, and that support, I realized something I'd known all along.

Though the support was helpful, she *was* strong enough to do it on her own.  She doesn't realize it all the time, but she is.  There's a reason I fell in love with you, :icondakotawolf:.  You're amazing, and just thinking about you can make me cry for joy.
zetasyanthis: (Default)
Though this journal won't go into all the details of how and why (that comes later), for now, I'll say this.

I am happy.  I am a dragon.  I love.  I don't always know what I'm doing, and sometimes I'm still afraid..  But in spite of that, I seem to have found someone to share and explore everything beautiful about this world with.  This one's for you, Dakotawolf!

On a sidenote, a while ago, she jokingly asked for a poem.  She got half of one, as one day I went to write a journal about pain and compassion and love for another, but couldn't help see her in those unexpected words as well. https://www.furaffinity.net/view/12329060/
zetasyanthis: (Default)
Apparently I'm writing another one!  Not sure exactly where this one's going, but since these help me put two and two together (equaling negative Pi, of course) I figured I'd go ahead and try.  There's a good chance that this post in particular may vacillate between happy-go-lucky and really serious, but that's only because that's sort of been my mental state as of late.

This time, we'll start with a link to a short video.  This one means a lot to me, and if you're interested in reading further, I'd suggest starting with it.  A good friend of mine, :icondakotawolf:, shared it with me a few days ago, and although it didn't start this train of thought, it definitely helped me go ahead and write this next one.  Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSR4xuU07sc

Good stuff first...  I'm healing.  I know I keep saying that, but damn if it isn't true.  This has been a very difficult year for me, for every imaginable reason...  I was going to try and write a sentence here, but it's pretty much impossible, so I'm going to toss out a list and then touch on them one-by-one below.  Not all of them are bad, and most are at least somewhat resolved at this point, but it's been absolutely brutal both mentally and physically this year.  One common thread they do have is that I'm actually responsible for getting myself into these messes in the first place.  (No, there's no self-blame or anything like that.  They just happened, and I'm learning to deal with them, one at a time.)

- Releasing emotional barriers [99% there. *sigh of relief*]
- Coming to terms with being trans-gendered [resolved-ish - Will be a work in progress all my life, and I'm okay with that.]
- Family stresses (health, siblings, AND relationships with parents)
- Almost switching careers [resolved, though I'd still like to do it at some stage]
- Almost moving cities [resolved, though I'd still like to do it at some stage]
- Starting to write (and stressing about not being able to due to other stress!)
- Helping to start a convention (still have at least two years to stabilize fully)
- Financial stress [resolved]
- Personal health stresses [resolved]

Lets start with the first one, as it triggered a lot of the other ones.  This year (really, the last 18 months), I have finally managed to let down the emotional walls I'd built up around myself, finally dropping the last of them only days ago now.  I've alluded to this in prior journals, but I'm actually an incredibly emotional and, especially, and *empathic* person.  I feel the pain of others around me as though it's a knife in my own side, and even that of those I've never known in news reports thousands of miles away is sufficient to shake my mental state.  Because of that, for many years now, I'd cut myself off from my emotional center, not really allowing myself to touch that wellspring, for fear of losing control of it.  For a long time, I even feared writing, terrified that my own words would be filled with a sadness that would seem to drown the world.  Instead, I attempted, and even somewhat succeeded in building myself into a weapon that could protect those I cared about, at the expense of my own self.  In my last years of college, I became quite the militant as far as politics and current events went, and was quite angry at how cruel and cold the world seemed to be.  I was also frustrated by my inability to do anything to make it better, though I never quite despaired.

Now, that emotional empathy is not only, or even primarily, negative.  I've said a few times that "I'm happiest when other people are happy."  That statement is true, and I'd even extend that to "It's almost impossible for me to be happy (even when separated by distance) when others are not."  When they are happy, though, I share their joy, and I would not trade that loss for anything in this world.  Through that link, as it were, I've learned to appreciate the little beauty that's everywhere around us, seeing through others eyes when I couldn't find it using my own.  I've learned that life can be, and often is beautiful, despite the horrible things that are happening in some parts of the globe.  Having friends who can really help me through this is very new to me, as without letting those walls down, it was impossible for others to help previously, but I appreciate all the assistance I've been given both in letting those down, and now coming to terms with what that means.  I've used the words "I'm awake now", and other variants of, before, and I earnestly mean it.  It's like I grew up thinking I was happy and was really only seeing black and white, when the world is in fact, living color.

Back to this year.  2013 has been completely, loony-jacket, insane.  Even beyond the challenges themselves, I've been incredibly worn down and frustrated since every time I think I've made progress, I seem to find another obstacle in my path.  That has been *especially* true with the mental/emotional blocks, with my only realizing the next level once I'd passed through.  All of the other stresses have added in too, to the point where I pretty much went into shutdown on some of them for a while, as I was completely unable to deal with all of them at once.  As might be expected, the stress hit my physical health too, leading to me being out sick a total of two and a half weeks over the course of this year.  (I almost didn't have enough PPTO left to go to AFC!)

About midway through the year, I was inches from freaking out entirely.  I came to within inches of moving up to Phoenix (something I'd still like to do eventually) for a whole host of reasons both real and imaginary, and almost succeeded in making one of the largest mistakes of my life.  The timing was off, the job wasn't one I'd have been happy in, and the financial and living situations would have become untenable rather quickly on top of that.  On top of that, many of the (job-related) reasons and fears for the move turned out to be groundless, and I ended up being able to switch to a (mostly) 4/10 schedule so that I could spend more time up in Phoenix.  At the time, I had basically no friends in Tucson (didn't manage to hook up with some of the other furry groups for one, and emotional OMGWTFBBQ wasn't helping either.  I'm happy to say I have several good friends in Tucson now, and that's helped me stabilize quite a lot.  If I'd moved, it's possible that I'd never have met them, and I can't even imagine that at this point.  (Completely random tangent...  How the hell am I so lucky to know *any* of you guys?  (Phoenix included, of course!)  I sure as hell don't know, but I'm damned glad that I can call you that...)

I guess all I can do for now is conk out for the night, having vented a bit onto this poor page.  I'm doing a hell of a lot better, but holy flying flipping fuck, I could do with a sanity break in the near future.  (Still basically out of PPTO though.  >.<)

Oh, and one last thing.  I try to share books, videos, and other things that resonate with me, as stories are incredibly powerful at times.  Here's a few to give a touch of what I've been dealing with, the first of which was already linked above.  I've subtitled them with emotions / the thing they made me think about.  Maybe, just maybe, if someone else is going through some of this themselves, that can help.  I hope it does.

Links:
 - Coming Out of Your Closet (Meaning)
  - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSR4xuU07sc
 - Hands Held High (Sadness)
  - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PibXTko6VC4
 - Remember How We Forgot (Inspiration, Kindness)
  - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBVJuA0jr6Y
 - More Often Than Sometimes (Beauty, Love)
  - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX4s04wlxQA
zetasyanthis: (Default)
As is usual, I don't know exactly where this post is going to go, but I'm going to write it down anyways.  I *think* this is going to be a shorter post, but that's what I told myself about the last one...  O.o  [Edit: Haha, fat chance!  :P]

Since my last, and likely very confusing journal, I've been thinking quite a lot.  Bringing up deep questions about your identity inevitably leads to questions about what you want to do, who you want to be, and why.  (How figures in later, only after you can start to answer those initial questions.)  Let's start there.

I am happy to be me.  More than a year ago, I wrote up my first ever bio on FA, which included the words "I now revel in my strangeness and that of those around me."  If you've followed my story in the last few posts, you'll know that despite the fact that I may have written that a while back, it's been very much a work in progress.  It's tough to know others without letting your barriers drop, and its even harder to know yourself.  That said, I think I have finally made peace with mine.  Last night, as that final barrier broke, I genuinely cried for the first time in years.  It's... tough to explain what exactly caused it, between the mental place I was in at the time, the story I was reading, and the connections to my own life, but I am very grateful for it, and for you, my friends.

Anyone who's encountered me has likely been aware that I've been somewhat out-of-sorts for the past few months, almost wandering around dazed at times.  I'm not quite through that yet, but some of the haze is clearing; I'm waking up.  I've admitted things to myself that have terrified me, and the repercussions on my mental state have not always been the most immediately positive.  Between that, and some of my recent discoveries on side projects (AI-related things), I've probably come across as reasonably bi-polar.  Thankfully, I'm not; I've just been hit with rushes of positive and negative from a bunch of different angles all at once, and I've been trying to get a handle on that.  I'm still not quite 100%, but I am improving, thanks to you guys.

Who do I want to be?  That one is oddly easy.  I'm happy to be me, and I wouldn't want to be anyone else.  I perhaps wouldn't mind entertaining the idea of actually being a dragon, but that's not really what this question is about.  :)

What do I want to do?  ...  ...  This one's the hard one.

I want to help.

I have what I believe to be a rare gift.  I see people and things not as they are, but as they could one day be.  I see them as their secret selves that, sometimes, even they don't know they are.  What I want is to help them see that too.  This isn't a spiritual thing, or a mission of any kind, just a statement of possibilities.  When people learn what they are capable of, it changes them and their outlook on life completely, and in my own humble opinion (I'm still in the process of understanding this myself.) it is the single most amazing gift that can ever be given.

There are those who understand this, those who understand the power of empathy, kindness, and compassion.  And though there are many more who do not, we are a growing number.  We are also stronger than even we know.  Trapped in a world that seems to endure endless cycles of violence, with leaders who posture and engage in diplomacy with force of arms, we are often lost as to what to do.  (I am no fool to think that force is never necessary, but its careless application easily costs more lives than it ever saves.)  The news as of late seems to be worse and worse, in every corner of the globe.  In a lot of places, things are falling apart, and hard times are upon us.  I cannot claim any special knowledge of how to fix this, how to save what must be preserved, or how to live peaceably with neighbors who have hated and killed for generations, but I know one thing.  We have to try.  And we have to start, somehow.

In the very near future, I will be launching a new project.  It's going to start as a basic wiki, just a few threadbare pages with thoughts, connections, and a bit of hope.  The name of this project is Keyspace, after the solution space described by cryptographic problems.  Its task will be to start mapping the world, but not in any traditional sense.  Keyspace's goal is to find problems, link them, and dig down until their roots can be extricated.  In so doing, it will provide a platform for ideas, thoughts about what makes us who we are.  A lot of the problems in our world today stem from questions of identity, of 'otherness', and I think we might just have a chance to start putting things together.  Anyone will be welcome to join, to create, and to help if they so chose.  Even simple feedback will be appreciated, from "Hah, this'll never work!" to "Hey, what about X?"  I'll be the first one to admit that we may not succeed, that nothing may change at all, but taking a chance to think just a little bit sideways is a wonderfully dangerous thing.  ;)

"Our thoughts form the universe.  They always matter."
zetasyanthis: (Default)
I just want to say at the start that you guys are the best.  I'm not as good as I should be at asking for help, but when I finally did, you were there for me in spades.  It's tough to describe, let alone summarize, what's happened in the last few weeks, but I'm going to at least give it a shot.  This may or may not make any kind of sense at all to anyone who isn't me, but I'm writing it anyhow.  A lot of it has only recently become clear, so some of the terminology might seem a bit strange, but that can't be helped.

Mentally, I'm in a much better place than I was when I wrote my last journal.  In fact, I dare say that I'm in a better place than I've been in quite some time.  For some time now, I've been dealing with the crashing together of my online self and my IRL vision of who I thought I was.  Essentially, I've been dealing with the realization that I had pretty much trapped a part of myself by subconsciously forcing myself to keep those two separate,  Once I realized that, a ball started rolling that even I had no ability to stop.

Early on in this process, I did realize what was happening, but I had no idea how a) to go about fusing myself back together in the first place, nor b) who the hell I'd end up being at the end.  In a tremendous fit of irony both have turned out to be more obvious than I ever imagined.  What I failed to realize at that time was that this irrevocable change had already occurred at the very moment of that discovery, and that it was a matter of coming to terms with who I now was.  Since then, it's taken me the better part of nine months and the help of many friends to teach me that I shouldn't be afraid of who I really am.  They... you... asked me questions that I was afraid to ask and in some cases teased the everliving hell out of me, inspiring me to ask yet more about myself, often when no one else was watching.  For someone as outgoing as I am, I can *astonishingly* shy when it comes down to it.  As such, this next part is going to be *damned* awkward to admit.

So... who am I?  I'm still a work in progress, as all of us are, but... I'm not lying to myself anymore.

I'm not straight, and honestly haven't ever been as far as I can remember.  The best term I can think of is pansexual, or even 'gender-blind.'  I care about *people*, not the particular physical traits they possess, below the belt or otherwise.  That said, I can be, and usually am, physically attracted to those I care about, and I care about pretty much everyone I meet.  I've said in the past that I don't make friends, only best friends, but the truth is that the connection runs far deeper than that.  The truth is that I cut off my emotional and sexual side because of how strong it is.  I was afraid I would scare everyone off, because I love everyone and everything living in a way I cannot even describe.  Most of that time, that connection is completely platonic, translating into an extreme respect for and desire to preserve life and help anyone I can, but that is definitely not always the case.  I am, in fact, a very sexual person, something that figures into the very core of my identity.

Some would describe me as gender-confused, up to and including myself as of two weeks ago.  I am not.  I'm just not what I appear to be, and now quite seriously consider myself to be transgendered.  Unlike many, however, I do not hate my gender of origin.  Rather, I find it incomplete.  It was as much a shock to me as it is to anyone, but mentally, I am a hermaphrodite, bi-gender in the complete sense of the word.  I don't begin to understand how this works, but when this finally clicked not two days ago, I was almost crying for joy, having found myself in a way I have never known.  These poor words are horrifyingly insufficient to express what that means to me, but it may well be the single most important moment of my life.  It's going to take me some time to process what that means in its entirety, but it's very clear that it figures into the paragraph before this one in a very profound way.

Lastly, a note about Zeta, my 'sona.  Unlike a lot of furs, I will never have another.  She is very special to me, because she is the truest form that I can possibly imagine for myself, in both mind and body.  I created her as a concept approximately two years ago, striking off somewhat randomly as a dragoness for the first time ever.  Somehow, as I went through a lot of this self-discovery, I was able to use her as sort of mental battery, placing parts of myself I couldn't yet deal with into her psyche.  Slowly, as things have been clicking back into place, we've merged, and the process has left just me.  That struggle is the reason I will never have another.  She's no random character any longer...  I'm me, and she's a part of that.  (Really, she always was, and I was too blind to see it.)

I know full well this is not the end of this journey, but it's one hell of a start...

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now for the disclaimers...

Please take this seriously, and if you have concerns, ask, either here or privately.  I know that I've said a few things that will concern some of you, and I'd encourage you to ask rather than just WTF in silence.  I would have told you sooner, but I didn't understand it myself, and sure as hell wasn't able to even partially articulate this.  :/  (See previous journal's comment about needing to come with a warning label.  :S)

Again, I'm refraining from specific shout-outs and such, but I think you all know who you are.  I couldn't have done this without you.

P.S.:  If any of this is even somewhat normal, feel free to chime in, as although I feel like I've made tremendous progress, I'm pretty sure that I'm *way* out there with some of these statements.  :/
zetasyanthis: (Default)
This is going to be a somewhat-sequel to my previous 'Touchy-feely' journal from way back in November, which can be read here: https://www.furaffinity.net/journal/4068006/. ; I'm not sure exactly where it's going to go, but it's important for me to write it out, as I need some help.  It may not make a lot of sense at first, but bear with me if you can, as I could use some wisdom just now.

This story, such as it is, will mention a few individuals anonymously.  The point of mentioning them is not to single them out, or blame them for anything, but rather, to thank them for things that I doubt they understood the importance of at the time.  Their small, caring actions fundamentally changed both myself and the way I look at the world in a way that's going to take quite some effort to describe.  Unfortunately, there are a few complications whenever something like that happens, and this story is no exception.  Let's begin, shall we?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am a furry.  Silly statement, I know, on a website such as this, but it means a bit more to me than people realize.  (It perhaps matters more than it should, but that's not the ground we're going to tread tonight.)  To clarify, that doesn't make me an otherkin, therian, were, or anything else of the sort.  I'm just a human with a stranger side than most, and a healthy respect for legends and the power they command.

Unlike most furs I've met, I didn't self-identify as a furry for a very long time, though in hindsight I can say that I've been a furry since I was old enough to get on the internet, starting at about 13 years old.  That age is known for a few things, and I was no exception.  I found a few sites and ended up hooked quite deeply into the adult side of the fandom, choosing a female persona in my online interactions from day one.  I didn't know why, but somehow it just felt right.  Years passed, and as I mentally fought with my religious upbringing, I turned away and back several times.  As time passed, my 'sona also changed, from mostly human, to naga, and then finally, to the bi-gender dragoness I've now settled on.  It's taken years for me to come to terms with this, and most of my progress on that front has resulted very directly from discovering other people like myself, in terms of not just furry, but also not-quite-standard gender identity and sexuality.  I still might be the strangest person in the room, but I'm among others who are okay with that, and that means the entire world to me.  Specifically, you guys reading this mean the world to me.  You are kinder, more thoughtful, and all have your own little twist that makes life a bit more interesting!

Back to the subject at hand...

Since my last post, I've had a bit of a hard time dealing with some things on the emotional front.  My barriers have been crashing down right, left, and center, and leaving me quite exposed to a lot of feelings that I'd sealed off without ever meaning to.  Can you imagine what finally recognizing affection means to someone?  How about how confused they are when they find themselves physically attracted as well?  It sounds crazy, but I somehow lost this a long time ago, and have only rediscovered it in the last two years or so.  It's come crashing in, shaking apart many assumptions I'd made about myself...  (Can you believe I thought I was straight as an arrow until two years ago, even while having a herm 'sona?  WTF, past self, wtf?)

You guys helped with that, and I'm very grateful, as I really did need that part of myself to be a healthy whole.  All the little playing, teasing, etc, helped break through walls that all the gunpowder on the planet could never have hoped to breach.  It's also left me in a very serious bind.

Imagine, for a moment, that you wake up for the first time in your 26 years and discover that you've been missing something all your life.  Imagine having drifted away from family for various reasons, and somehow never having had much beyond fairly good friends in the meantime.  Add to that never trusting anyone enough to tell them your secret, that you are a fur, and of the type that the stereotypes warn about.  Imagine that somehow converging into a mental place where *it never even occurred* to you to date, or seek out a serious relationship with someone else.  Imagine thinking that you were strong enough to handle everything on your own, and then imagine those illusions shattering like a fortress constructed entirely of glass.  This is my problem.

In all 'normal' respects, I appear perfectly fine, my life in general being considerably less complicated than for most.  However, this recent internal turmoil has damned near brought me to my knees a few times in the last year.  A few months back, a friend of mine simply held me for a few minutes, snugging up and giving me a hug.  She didn't know it, and I was so surprised that I didn't realize it at first, but it was the first time ever in my life that a friend had done that.  It shattered me.  I had no benchmark, no yardstick for that level of geniune affection, and I broke down crying.  It was the second of three 'happiest moments of my life' that seem to be coming at an alarming rate as of late.  In answer to the obvious questions, nothing 'untoward' happened.  It was a simple hug, letting me know that she cared, and even that nearly broke me.  Weeks later, as my mind caught up with that simple act, I realized for the first time in my life that I was deeply lonely.  Not only lonely, but that I had been for a long time, and had never known.  That realization hit me like a cannonball to the gut, and I was still trying to handle that when...

...a few friends, and even a few strangers have recently complimented my appearance or made advances towards me.  Holy crap, batman.  What does do?  Brain what now... *faceplant*.  I'm blushing even as I write this damned text.  I was, and am utterly flattered by those remarks, and in most cases was far too embarrassed to return them, even though I felt the same.  This sounds crazy, but I've never had that happen before either, and I sure as hell don't know how to deal with it.  Physically, I am a 26 year old virgin, but mentally, I've been involved in the adult side of the fandom for the better part of 13 years, RP scene included.  One side of my brain turns into a gibbering idiot, and the other... well, let's just say my fursona is a hermaphrodite for a reason.  That side would like nothing more than to... *clears throat*  Back to the subject...  (To note, I am genuinely gender-confused, and that seems to be the happy medium as far as I'm concerned.  I don't consider myself fully trans-gendered, but I certainly fall into that spectrum somewhere...  That's a big part of the reason this has taken so long and been so difficult.  >.<)

I'm just very confused...  I don't know what to do, and I've been afraid to even write this for fear of scaring friends off.  There are way too many furs out there who write journals similar to this, tending towards the emotional vampirism state in the process.  I'm not that, and will never be.  I just need some help...  I need someone, someones, or even everyone, to talk to about some of this stuff, and I need some feedback (preferably not of the "you're fucking nuts" variety, though that may also be fair :P).  I know I don't always come off as touchy-feely, either, but I could really use a hug as of late.  :s

This is probably the single hardest thing I've ever written, and every word of it is true.  I'm writing this, not to just vent and be all 'woe is me', but in the hopes that at least one of you will have some idea of how to help.  I sure as hell don't know what the hell to do...
zetasyanthis: (Default)
This is going to be a weird post, but I'm weird, so I suppose that's appropriate.  I've no idea how this is going to come out...

So, there are some things that everyone's bad at...  Personally, I'm terrible at letting others know how much I care about them.  I used to know, but at some point along the way I closed up and hid myself.  I sealed something away, and though I'm not sure exactly how or what it was, I know I need it again.  I want to share myself, share
what I've become and what I've only started to be with someone special, but I don't know how to start...

For a long time, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.  Before I even knew what furry was, I tended towards the outcast roles: computer, math, and science.  Though I'm happy to claim to be pretty decent at those things, implicitly choosing the outcast role has ramification just like anything else. With the terms 'geek,' 'nerd,' and later 'furry,' I built myself into an impregnable fortress, someone who could not be hurt, but someone who was also deeply alone and unable to recognize it.  I turned to online RP, among other things, to satisfy some of the physical changes I went through in those years, and somewhere along the way the real world and online divorced each other.  They would not speak again for over 12 years.

Approximately two years ago, I began to slowly awaken again.  I'm not sure what it was, but I'm thankful for it, and my friends who saw me through that time.  It may not have been as dark as it could have been, but they certainly helped with the healing process, just as making new friends (you all) has.  Part of that time was spent dealing with my own sexuality, which is incredibly complicated and something that I'm terrible about talking about even to this day.  I'm still decompressing and working on losing most of the absurd cultural background that has held me back, but I'm not afraid myself anymore, and damn if that doesn't mean the world.

My sexuality, especially as a furry, is something that few outside this community can understand, and even fewer would probably want to.  As a result, I hid it and myself from the world, quite unintentionally transitioning into full-blown asexuality in real life.  It wasn't a conscious choice, but somehow I ended up with a complete disconnect between the side of myself that I let show online and who I was in real life.  I think I've managed to cross that bridge, but now I find myself in vast unknown territory.  I worry about alienating the friends I've made by going too far too quickly, since I basically don't have a good sense of boundaries, or how interest of various kinds might be taken.  I tend to go full-reverse, or into Ultra Professional Mode (tm) when faced with a situation I don't know how to handle (physical contact especially), when I really am very open and it's really the opposite.

I guess this is an admission of sorts, as much as anything, but I hope it's something more than that.  If I ever seem kinda distant or isolated, don't take that as a hint to stay away.  Hugs are better than distance, and questions are better than silence.

"Something my father said. He was old, very old at the time. I went into his room, and he was sitting alone in the dark, crying. So I asked him what was wrong, and he said, "My shoes are too tight, but it doesn't matter, because I have forgotten how to dance." I never understood what that meant until now. My shoes are too tight, and I have forgotten how to dance." - Londo Mulari, Babylon 5

I want to learn again.

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Zeta Syanthis

September 2017

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