Online Farm Shop is Open Again

Sign in a window that says "yes, we are open"
We are Open

It took me a while, but I got the on-line version of this shop open again! For now, there are two categories of items, Creative Projects and Farm Equipment and Supplies. I’ll add more categories and items as I go along. Yes, Christmas is next week. I have a lot of original things for people that are hard to shop for. I bet they never knew they wanted or needed a dowel center!!!

Right, the on-line shop is up before Christmas. Unless you stop by before Christmas and pick the item up that you ordered, I cannot guarantee it will get there before the holiday!

I am learning to be patient about the rest. We will get there!

I will also add consistent (what?) shop hours. Note, I am not physically well consistently, but I do have family help and 20+-years of accumulated items (many redundant because various locations) to sell. I am working on 1-2 days a week for about 4-hours. I am thinking Monday, Wednesday for sure and then either Saturday or Sunday. I’ll let you know.

This is super chatty and not at all a marketing type blog. I am wicked tired after figuring out the quirks and issues with the WooCommerce system. Headache is real. Let me know if you find quirks with this site. I am learning how to do this with a brain that isn’t always 100%.

Thanks!

December Updates

When you are a small business with many enterprises and few employees there are a lot of things that you want to do, but the time it takes to learn something new had always been unobtainable. Hiring people to make a website or do content management was 50:50 and often made more work for me.

What happens when you hit a brick wall physically and mentally? You have a lot of time on your hands to focus on healing and to learn new things. Only learning is different now. 

I scrubbed the website last spring and put up the blog to share the healing journey with friends. I didn’t think a lot of people would read it. I wanted to explore how I wanted to do things. What was I going to do now? 

I have a few pages to publish and will be adding information about:

  • Community Market – Devine Vine is closed and I have this awesome space at 10 Rocky Hill Rd in Hadley to share. If you are a farmer, creative, NGO, and want vending space… keep a look out for the Community Market page.
  • Farm Shop – I have a lot of extra farm and food processing and selling supplies that I just don’t need. You can purchase on-line and pick it up at the shop.
  • eNewsletter and Paid Content – I am changing this over from MailChimp to ConvertKit. I have to admit, that is a super intuitive and dynamic app. I’ll explain the paid stuff in the next blog post.
 

Two Steps Back to Take One Step Forward

foot prints in gray sand

I had a difficult August. I think in my mind, I thought that once I started to take the meds for Q-fever that things were going to keep getting better. When I had setbacks (July 4th and then during that super-hot spell last month), my infectious disease Dr and I thought it was more of a reaction to heat. When it happened again during moderate weather and for longer, anxiety took over.

It is hard when you have medical issues not to be negative. I wrote, deleted and wrote, posted and deleted a few posts here because I was all over emotionally, mostly in a negative spiral because there were no patterns, it was out of my control, and I did not have hope that this was getting better. We all go there. It doesn’t help anything. How did I get out?

I could not write [well]. I isolated myself again. Therapy was not super helpful because I went back to this winter where my brain was in overwhelm and I quite literally could not think. Every task took a long time to do. I had to write a lot of notes. I forgot to return calls or texts again.

I was also super aware of the thin line between a trauma dump and sharing my healing journey. The point of this blog was to share, help someone with ideas or to find a common journey, have that space to share my life’s work. I needed time to find tools to help me navigate the physical and mental set back. I needed time to organize how to share everything in a way that is helpful for me and for anyone that stumbles onto this blog.

Here are a few of things I learned:

  • Setbacks happen and it *is* out of your control.
  • Note in a daily journal the who, what, where, when, and if you know why of this set-back. Detail the physical reactions first. Then the “inside voice” narratives that you are telling yourself.
  • I have this “Daily Reminders” list of things I can do to help when I am in certain brain spaces (Overthink–> Write, Confused/Anxious–> Walk, etc). The thing is that when I am in this fatigue state, those activities are not available to me. I am trying other things as a plan B.
  • You may have daily “self-care” routines that every app and Dr variety recommends you do, but when you are in an Overwhelm brainspace, self-care or anything fluffy or extra-work regarding your “self” is not going to happen. Have a AM and a PM To-Do list of the bare minimum daily needs that have to happen. Things like “brush teeth, brush hair, change underwear, drink glass of water, eat something resembling food…” Be realistic about it.
  • Have a “I am feeling a little better but am not quite there” daily list of things to do. Make it so you have to cross it off, not write it in. Be ok when it is not 100% of the list, just try to add one more thing a day.
  • If you push being ok too soon, it will either take longer to be ok again or you will go back to square one. You don’t want that any more than you want to be in this state of fatigue.

I am by nature someone who wants to keep bulling ahead. I am not sure if that is why I made it as long as I did in as much pain as I was in or as much overwhelm as I was in, but it almost killed me physically and mentally so don’t do that. You also need to work with health care varieties in this journey.

I would love to hear how people manage their physical and mental setbacks.

How the Fuck do You Meditate?

No, seriously. Help me out here.

tray of fruits and coffee near powered on laptop on brown table
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Today was a hard therapy session. My mind was deeply in that blank space where I have no thoughts, feelings, and I cannot concentrate on any one thing. Listening was hard. I was there, sweating from the heat and humidity in my chair because it was rude to cancel and wallow in my disappointment that I avoided yet another human interaction because I did not know how to human. Not then.

He was kind and present. I pay him for that, but it was done with kindness. He was trying. It was a shift from previous sessions where I took notes on the week before and tried to tackle feelings, stumbling blocks, add to my toolbox of adaptive techniques, and share books or other things to help me understand.

I struggled to find a new book to listen to this week and am disappointed by my choice. I started to do creative activities again, mainly to work on concentration and to find a way to disassociate in a beautiful way. Straight lines are brutal when you have issues with your brain, but I worked through it. I keep repeating “art grows brain cells” to myself as I complete another section.

Today, he started with a meditation to help me ground myself. I go back to my session with “Luna” a previous therapist who also tried to help me learn how to meditate. Her office was in the basement of a church that was turned into community space and offices. Her soothing behind the tofu curtain voice tried to get me to feel my feet (in shoes), up my legs, thighs, breathing, gentle feel of breath out of my nose onto my moist upper lip… as she is talking, I think of soothing things I heard before. She told me to think about something in the past. She meant “happy” or “nice” I think, but I ignored that.

A “long time ago *he*” used gentle tones while my hands are tied back and I had given up fighting. I thought about the light pink paint from the tip of the paint roller that someone missed on the white ceiling rather than my body. I heard his voice reassuring me that I would enjoy this as a kind of background while I focused on levitating that pink paint smudge with my eyes.

Today, I can think about my feet for a moment and then my mind wanders. If I am moving, it is the new feeling every time I step that I can focus on. I also count my steps.  I am moving away, and I feel it. If I stay still and think about my feet, inner thighs, put my hand on my chest,… I lose that touch. When Luna was trying to sort out my thoughts and trying to reassure me that she was present and it was normal not to talk about things, I looked up and said, “no, let’s talk about it.” I proceeded to tell someone for the first time in a long time about that in one shot. Our session was up, I paid and left.

I realized that even though Luna was a therapist, she was human. What happened to me in that one memory was trauma and it is now a part of who I am. To retell that so directly and literally was also trauma, for both of us. I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Isn’t that why they call it ‘talk therapy?’ It is not that I didn’t think about her when I spoke. I took her literally and translated that to her being open to listen to that.

Today, do I talk about how I keep trying to meditate and cannot? Do I share this? Can I without an hour, a day, a week to process what happened in our conversation? I cannot hurt another person because of my empire of shit. I think about that paint smudge on the ceiling and her email telling me how it shook her, not his kind redirections. I keep silent.

After today’s session, I went back to thinking about what is soothing, gentle, kind, or safe about my body. What do I feel? The only touch I can think of that was deeply soothing was being held while I was falling asleep. The warmth on the back of my thighs and soft breath on the back of my neck. Being held is like an electric shock of warmth. If I wake up, all I had to do was feel that again and then move back to touch again and reassured, fall asleep. The power of that was almost addictive. I slept. I felt safe. That too was a false safe.

The only other warm safe feeling was hand milking goats or having a gentle conversation with one or a full body scritch for one of the young heifers or calves. Momma, Oona and Patience would also approach for this connection, and it was always when we both needed it. They reach in for touch as well and while I rest my head into their side, I hear their heartbeat and feel their breathing. I seem to pattern mine on them and there is reassurance in this warmth and touch. I lost that as well.

My dreams lately are them being upset because they are not with their companions. Goats have lifelong attachments to others, like humans do and they lied when they said I could see them again and tell them about the animals and their names, fears, treatments, and quirks.

I think it is hard to understand how animals can be a part of you. This connection is like an internal vibration. When it is missing in human connections, the loss of this connection is far more. It is so hard to articulate in any understandable language. They were a part of my physical vibration of life. A tangible intangible connection.  

The repeated shocks for the last 30+ years, have been gut wrenching. The knowledge that a simple touch that we all crave is beyond our control and often taken away so brutally. I sit with that a lot. I clearly have this strong will to live, but it is the isolating of me from those things that have always given me comfort was the ultimate plan.

Today, I asked for more answers and more tools. How do I fight back? I never knew how and keeping silent or avoiding the attacks only made everyone stronger as I was slowly dying. “I am here for you.” “I am present.” Am I supposed to hand you the sword? I thought I was supposed to learn to stand on my own. Ok. Figure this out myself. Thank you though, I apologize if I was dismissive. I just…

 I turned on some soft jazz with rain on this café jazz youtube channel. My daughter and I liked to work from coffee shops and jazz and a cloudy rainy day suited my foggy mind. I miss her an awful lot. I looked at some abstract art online. I searched for that feeling that you cannot talk about using words. Art is always a way for me to find that feeling I cannot write about. Music too, but art more.

I wrote down on a piece of paper “Fucking figure out how to meditate.” How the hell does someone meditate when that flips me into disassociation or a growing anxiety because I cannot feel or concentrate now? I think about that memory of causing trauma just by telling my story and how someone reacted to my experience.

I think a lot about how I just jumped into things and figured it out. The more complicated the more likely I would jump right in. I think about how I freeze when a simple task is challenging. I don’t warp into systems thinking anymore. Literally, that door is locked now. It was my superpower. I am terrified of not being able to figure things out. I am terrified of this brain fog and lack of concentration or ability to think. I cannot rattle off pedigrees and transfers of ownership, progeny, and coefficients of relationship like I used to. I just know the blue milk crate and the black USB labeled Kerry is my Kerry archive.

I finished a cup of coffee. I wrote this. I will take a hot and then a cold shower and get back to mundane work involving files and spreadsheets. Just keep trying? I would love ideas because aside from walking, doing routine livestock chores or driving, I don’t know how to replicate this in a sedentary way. I know it will not get any of my superpowers back, but everyone keeps telling me it is a tool that I can add to the toolkit to help my body and mind heal. I just do not know how to do it.

Take Your Shoes Off

person wearing blue denim jeans standing on green grass
Photo by Anna Guerrero on Pexels.com

As children, the instant they told us school was over for the summer, the shoes came off. If we had to go to church or to one of those places that say “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” we wore sandles. Rarely did socks and sneakers or those fancy church shoes with those horrid tights come on. They felt so tight and confining.

In the beginning of the summer, I remember learning how to walk on the pavement or across tough ground for the first time every year. The sharp feel of every stone or imperfection or prickly vegetation would eventually be dulled as my soles toughened. The blackened soles of my feet and no tan lines from straps of my sandles were a badge that I was of the pack of feral kids in our neighborhood. I was proud of that.

My favorite feeling was soft blue grass before it grew crispy with the heat. I loved the mud seeping through the toes as we explored ponds, streams and puddles. Walking on the hot pavement was a test of how tough your feet are, but sometimes we needed sandles to get to our friend’s house.

As I grew older, I would go barefoot in the fields picking sweetcorn, pumpkins, beans, tossing hay or whatever the farmers needed us to do. The cool feeling of the earth first thing in the morning was so different from the hot dry soil when we would finish for the day. The cement was cool in the packing sheds while we packed sweetcorn into cabbage crates “60-ears to the crate, can’t you count?”.

I came back to the place I grew up to give my daughter a safe landing while her father and I went through the divorce process. I knew the schools were better and I could get some help from my mom and my daughter’s [paternal] grandfather. My daughter never liked anything on her feet, even in the coldest depths of winter. She would kick clogs on and off without socks or wear flipflops, but she did not share the same feral summers we did with a ton of barefoot kids exploring the neighborhood.

I forgot about the thought of going barefoot or the feeling of the ground as I walked until this spring. I was talking about my anxiety with a colleague of mine and how hard it was to count or try the breathing exercises my therapist suggested with this cognitive stuff. As we compared notes on my chronic Q-fever and her long-term battle with Lyme. She said, “Take your shoes off. Feel the dirt. Walk in the grass. It really helped me.” The simplicity of that statement stopped me.

I had all of those childhood memories flood me as I drove home. Of course, this could work. It was one of my most enjoyable early memories of my body and it is the one thing nobody hurt. Besides, I have all of these fun soaps and salts my daughter and I collected. I can use them to pamper myself. Isn’t that the self-care thing the books and memes keep telling me I should do?

When I got home, I took my shoes off. I am not anywhere near as hardy as I was as a child. I focus on the wood floors, the ceramic floors, the cement on the porch, the crispy bluegrass, the cooler and softer crabgrass, the asphalt (in the shade) along the walkway. I am mindful of ticks now. We didn’t have to bother with them as kids. There are things to do for them though.

As I go along on a hike, I am slowly starting to remember the feeling of walking on paths and old logging roads barefoot. I am proud of my dirty ankles and toes once again. I enjoy the cool shapes of the rocks and the sharp edges of the stones on the beach. It is grounding and when I am most overwhelmed, I try to use this as a moment to remember what it felt like to be safe and ok.

Take your shoes off. You will be glad you did.

Finding My Voice (about fucking time)

View of Pioneer Valley from Summit House looking north.

I find myself starting and deleting a lot of these posts. It is hardest to write when I have this cognitive blur. I am not always sure what started it and am tracking a lot of my physical and mental changes to see if I can find patterns to any of this. I do notice that sometimes when I am like this, I can change to doing something creative rather than use words. Other times, I get more and more irritated, and it amplifies other symptoms.

I caught myself going back through posts again. I was looking for mistakes. That promise [to me] to let it go and build on those mistakes is hardest. Once upon a time there were consequences for mistakes or behaviors that others saw as wrong. I have this ingrained need to please, so this would devastate me far more to be called out for it than the actual mistake warranted.

Someone I confided in remembered that and also my deep need to do the right thing. I have always been naive about humans and have a hard time noticing ill intent. I am not stupid; how do I open myself to people who are masters of manipulation? Why is my default to enter into relationships that are purely transactional, or they are flat out narcissists?

More than 10-years of coordinated bullying by this one woman and her flying monkeys (the lead of which is rather loud and persistent) have done their work. It is so deeply ingrained in me that eventually I stopped doing things because I was afraid to move forward. I was criticized there too. Criticism then turned into slander and a coordinated attempt to discredit everything I did. I tried to walk away from everything a number of times, but I was never allowed to. It eventually became a sick game of theirs.

In thinking this week about what my source of cognitive blur and anxiety could be and this immovable block to write, create, read, explore or do, I realized there were four underlying layers of thought that I was trying to process.

  • Closing up my daughter’s room because it has been a year and we need to use it as a guest room at the request of other members of the family.
  • Being encouraged to write, create and share. This in part means standing up to people. I never do. I honestly do not know how.
  • Needing to meet financial obligations to people who invested in me and believed in me. The idea of letting anyone down is deeply painful and I am working on actively sorting this out and communicating better. This also means holding people on the other end accountable. That has been my biggest challenge, standing up to people on my behalf. I can do for projects and other people really really well. It is for me or for something I deeply care about that I have this challenge.
  • I am going through an immense amount of paperwork, photos, things and the memories are flooding me with an intensity that I have not had before. I was told that some of this is grief. I am honestly feeling things, sometimes for the first time and the good with the bad makes this confusing because if they were good memories, is this grief? Of course, it is, but it is confusing to sort out what I am feeling physically and how to categorize them sometimes. It is hard to tell people who don’t go through trauma what that feels like.

I am finally starting to organize a plan of action so to speak. Grad school was supposed to be a period of reflection (that was a bull shit bait and switch btw). I have a lot of resources that people can use. I will make some of them available for free. Some will be for sale. I will also come up with a coffee hour a couple of times a week for people who need help with projects. It will not be for people who want to talk about personal things I write about. Not now.

I feel like this post is becoming declarative like my work plans (a fancy word for to-do lists). Basically, I see how this is going to take shape and I feel more at ease saying it here. My anxiety is there, but in therapy this week, your man came up with this idea of scheduling an appointment for these moments to process things. It is an interesting way to manage my “Overwhelm.”

My mom said that to get through raising the four of us alone, her divorce and working more than full time, she “compartmentalized” things. She visualized putting things in a box and onto a shelf and reminding herself that she cannot focus on those things on the shelf now, something else needs attention. For someone who is probably neurodiverse, this is a profound idea but worth trying to adapt to my brain somehow.

Fair enough.

Elizabeth Ferriera mentioned good and bad disassociation in the Becoming Well podcast about cPTSD as a helpful tool. I mean, it is a coping mechanism to help trauma folks survive. I get it, I do it. The idea of taking ownership of it for good speaks to me. It is like when I was a kid before the trauma and learned to stop my nightmares and change how the narrative played out. I remember also playing good memories or thoughts over and over again, like listening to a favorite song to short clip on repeat.

I guess this is what grounding is and boy did that take me years to finally realize it. I just want to get to the point where I can do that again. It took me a week this time to finally muddle out what I am feeling, process actionable items to sort my shit and really start to do it.

“But you Look Fine”

"But you look Fine" meme

Boy does this meme relate to a lot of people. I am sharing it because it relates to me too. For a long-time I thought I was presenting a normal human and going through all of my texts, emails and loads of papers over the last 3-4 years I see the progressively declining health, both mental and physical. It is a lot to process.

I have become more of an introvert and have been ghosting people who mean a lot to me because I am not always sure how I will be and for how long. I will admit I am struggling and after seeing how bad it has been I am trying to not only process all of that, I am also trying to work on my physical and mental health. When I make a mistake and am an emotional hot mess, I see this now and am deeply embarrassed. I cannot bear to hurt people and it reinforces my desire to be alone.

It took about 6-weeks of doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine to see the first lifting of symptoms. When you improve, you have hope and being bullheaded, I try harder and more. The problem is that it makes me worse. There is no pattern and for someone obsessed with pattern and pushing myself mentally and physically this has been absolutely brutal. Add trauma responses to what Q-fever did with the added bonus of the fall in October I am surprised I am functional at all).

While I can be articulate, back of the house I have to reread what I wrote and take notes on verbal communications. To use a food safety saying, “If it isn’t written down, it did not happen.” I can go for a 2-3km hike and comment on plants and wildlife, but I take a lot of photos to remember what we saw and sometimes it takes 1-2 hours for me to have blurred vision, cannot stand when my eyes are closed, tinnitus, and overwhelming fatigue for a 20-minutes to 2-days. This varies and I can be fine or there is another mix of symptoms. I cannot predict anything.

I have had improvements monthly. Physical therapist called them benchmarks. I can turn the light off in my bedroom at night and not immediately lose my ability to stand. I can do my vestibular exercises and when I close my eyes, not fall over. I may just have blurred vision, but I am not a shaking mess when I leave.

The things that have helped are the medicines I am on and walking on hiking trails and logging roads alone doing my exercises. It is quiet, kind of dark because tree canopy, I can focus on bird sounds when my mind races and it calms me. The sound of the water (especially when rocky shore or a steam/brook going over stones) helps me focus on something other than my body or the racing thoughts.

I am starting to reach out to people. I am not doing it well, but I am learning and trying to be better about communicating where I am. I am also triggered a lot because I am physically overreacting to things – comments, a photo I just saw, making a mistake because of a physical or brain misfunction, an intense conversation, someone asking me to hold their emotions during a hard thing like I used to gladly, a demand for something out of my control, or grief.

One step at a time. I will get there.

Inside Voice

We all have a name for that internal dialog that either encourages us or says all of those negative things that we think about ourselves. It is more than the good or bad angel, more the internal editor or critic. I call mine my “Inside Voice.” I see this voice as pushy and sometimes mean. They are like that person that overtalks all of the time and thinks they are all knowing. It was me using a take on what we say to children when they are loud and chaotic, “Use your inside voice please.” Only, it is not polite, gentle or considerate at all.

I reread the blog last night when I could not sleep. I saw so many edits that did not come through before I posted them. Inside Voice was right on cue, “see, you are not a writer.” I ignored them and made mental notes to go back and edit in the morning.

“This looks like a kid wrote it.” I counter with an idea to include a crayon drawing then? Maybe a pretty drawing of a horse like the little kid in me that all of these self-help books talk about? Maybe it is pencil, trauma really started in my early teens and that is what I used then.

“You are a loser, aren’t you?” I start to sing quietly “you’re a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me.” It was just using a lyric to a song to deflect that blow.

“Seriously, you are too old to try something like this. Your brain is broken, you can’t do this.” Maybe you’re right bud, but the rule was that I was going to roll with the imperfections. I was getting annoyed at this self-criticism.

I then remember a moment I spent with a friend this weekend where I talked about trying to find actionable tasks I can do to counter some of these triggers, this anxiety and negative thoughts. I am supposed to say this to Inside Voice when it gets like this, what was it? Ah, right, “Can I shut the fuck up please?”

My humor and what I laugh at is not the same as other people, but it struck me where it needed to. It did not have the same effect when I said it. In the moment it made me smile when he came up with it. I had him record it in his eastern MA accent the next day and last night I played it back. I did it a few times. He does food regulatory stuff and has a more commanding tone. I smiled again. Inside Voice stopped criticizing me.

It was not my friend that was a savior. I entertained the idea of wanting a savior since I asked my now ex-husband to leave. It has taken the better part of 10-years and one hell of a shock to the system recently to realize it is a happy memory and a smile (or belly laugh) that stops that Inside Voice. It is not another person.

Fine, I did fix some of the glaring mistakes first thing this morning. I had to before I could even do my daily PT. Inside Voice was not critical though and I was able to move on from that.

Small steps.