Sunday, September 27, 2015

Comming Up For Some Air...But Still No Air

Well, needless to say...wait, if it's needless to say then why say it?

I'm going to ramble on with a few things.  For people who are interested in where I'm at, read on.  The rest of you who don't know me will probably not care.  It's one of those types of posts where I'm not writing anything thought provoking.  This is more of a journal entry.  So, with that being said...

When I set out to blog many, many, years ago, it was a way for me to find myself, figure out who I was and discover, if not rediscover, what was truly important to me.  It was a place to find my truth, my voice, and to express it in a place where I wouldn't feel censored for speaking it.

Obviously, over the years I had many ups and downs, most of which I never documented on this blog.  And for the most part, I've pushed passed a lot of the religious bullshit that shaped much of my insecurity and self loathing.  And now here I am, with little to say about most of that and when I do have something to say, I have little desire to express it all that much on here.  In fact, I much prefer to voice it with my own voice, face to face, one on one, with people in person.

When I first started my YouTube vlog, I thought there would be times where I would voice what I needed to say on there, but even then I didn't feel strongly enough about it to sit down and make the video.  But when times came where I had the thought to say something, and I felt strong about it, even  motivated and ready to put it out there, but a few days later the strong feelings would pass and I no longer had any interest in it.  And then there were even several times where I actually started work on the video, even recorded many things, and then, never did anything with them.   And with all that, I've found that I've been losing my inspiration for not just vlogging but other many things. 

One of the things driving this is the realization that I don't want to start arguments with people on YouTube.  A discussion, perhaps, but even then I'm not really wanting to spend the time going back and fourth in comments.  But what I usually end up getting is nothing but a few trolls posting some bullshit comment that does nothing to add value to anyone's lives.  Of all the places where some of the worst trolling happens, it's YouTube and I certainly don't want to deal with the level of bullying that goes on there.   Even though I'm a very tiny slice of that one billion plus member community,  where the majority of which are passive users, it's the tiny, narcissistic, trollish group that gets to me.

Every once in a while I'll get a notification on a comment I made on someone's video several years ago. Someone replying directly to me with a sarcastic, trollish, ad hominem.  The best I can do is just flag the comment and delete the notification.  So far, I've only needed to block a few people when they persist.  I don't ever wish to engage with people like that.  I actually feel like smacking them up side the head, but that's not practical or even possible.  In reality, I wish I didn't have to even deal with them in the first place.   For some reason, of all the social media I deal with, YouTube has some of the worst people in the world on it.

Another reason is the fact that I've screwed up the audio on several of the videos I took which made them almost useless, and that alone has killed much of my motivation for doing any more with them.  I had done a whole bunch of video for Gay Pride in DC, talking to people in the Mormons for Equality parade contingent, and interviewing an old friend from college who was there marching with them.  Only to get home and realize that the audio track was completely unusable.  Ugh!! That really sucked the life out the entire project.

Still, other reasons is because this is challenging work, and I don't have the support from any of my friends which just makes it all that more challenging.  And it's not that they just don't help, often they get in the way and even try to sabotage my efforts.  Either by doing and saying things that compromise the usefulness of the video or by just not being supportive in what I want to do when I need help doing it.

I need better friends.

I really feel like I'm entirely on my own here, and quite frankly, I don't live in an area of the country where the local community has much of a collaborative spirit anyway.   I have wondered about what it was that made this place so frustrating to live, and why everything I've tried to accomplish at work was a constant uphill battle with other egos just to do a simple task. That is, when they aren't actively working to create a crisis in order to jump in to save the day for extra pats on their backs.

Well, after 10 years, and several years talking with my therapist, I finally put my finger on it.  Up until the mid 50's-60's, this place was entirely isolated from the rest of the country.  And much of it still is isolated to this day.  The locals, in order to survive, completely relied on themselves.  They only saw others as a tools to get what they wanted.  And once they were set they didn't care what others needed.  You would think that such a place would drive a more collaborative environment but that's just not the case.  Outsiders were even treated worse and only as a possible source of money.  And even to this day, outsiders are still treated this way.  Sure, visit and spend your money but you are not welcome to stay.  I've lived here 10 years and I've found no friendship with the locals.  The only people I'm friends with out here are also outsiders like myself.

To make my point, I mentioned to one of friends here, one who had been living here for 20 years, and I asked him if they have any friends who are true locals.  They thought for a moment and realized that all of their friends, every single one of them, were not originally from the area.  Then I asked him to take note of all the people in the high level, high profile, management positions at work, many of them who were younger and less experienced and hired within the last 5 years.  Every singe one of them were locals.  Born and bred here.  What was wrong with this picture?   I've felt for a long time that I was really in a dead end position here, and there is no doubt now that it's true. 

Anyway, back to the crap.  I suppose I could be more positive, after all I've been doing some fun things this past year, what with Dragon Con in Atlanta and the Maryland Renaissance Fair.  (All activities that I have to travel many hours to attend.)  But much of it has gotten a bit overshadowed by the stress of not having a car.  The  engine died on mine and I don't have the cash-flow for a new car.  It's going to take a huge chunk of my savings to get it fixed.  I have to essentially buy a used car.  But in this case I'm buying a used car to get the engine out of it and put it in mine.  Thereby  keeping my old car for the price of a used one and I don't inherit any of the issues that come with the used car.  Sort of.

What made the whole issue so much more frustrating was that it happened pretty much the week I was to leave for Dragon Con.  I couldn't even get a rental, The rental places were all out of cars.  This place is rural and I have to use a car to get anywhere.  There is little to no public transportation out here.   I drive a minimum of 45 miles one way just to visit my doctor or buy groceries.  Not having reliable vehicles is a death sentence to one's well being out here. And in the last two years I've had to deal with a government shut down which caused me to lose two weeks of pay, then not getting any cost of living raise because my company wanted to invest it into buying out two other companies rather than support it's employees, and then a sudden influx of unexpected expenses such as hitting a deer, and later losing an engine, and a new threat for another government shutdown, I've been feeling the terror of being forever stuck with little hope of relief.   And getting a job elsewhere has not been successful in the decade I've been trying.  Every few months I look into it and I field a few calls but in the end it all dries up rather quickly.

And then more feelings of isolation come from this weekend being Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.  I'm seeing my friends talk about it and post their pictures and I'm feeling especially left out.  I should stay off social media because, yes, it does make me fell like I'm missing out.   My 2011 trip to Folsom Street fair was an awesome and very memorable time of my life and it's something I wish could be a regular thing. And it burns me up that it's so far away and so inaccessible to me now.

God damn, as much as I've been getting really comfortable and complacent living out here, with a new and nice house and a rather lenient although frustrating job, I've been feeling more and more isolated from what I really want in my life.  People who are on the same page as me.  And for all the things I want in my life, this place has to be the furthest from all of it that one could possibly imagine.

As one, rather wise, life-coach tried to implore to me, "Are you ready to give up something good for something great?"  And I've been thinking about that for a few years now.  And I'm getting there.  I'm starting to find my courage.  And as my relationship with my boyfriend has grown immensely in the last year, I'm starting to see that I do have support in that relationship.  The trouble is, it's a long distance one.  5 hours drive between us.  It's time to close that gap somehow. 
In closing, I took this just before complete eclipse and before clouds rolled in.
It's not great but not bad for a simple snapshot camera.
The Super Blood Moon of 2015. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Anxiety Rooted in Self-consciousness

Hello, blog.  It's been a while.  Many things have happened, many changes, and many things still the same.

I've found a huge level of happiness over the years since coming out of the closet, leaving the LDS church, and essentially taking control over my own life.  I feel like I've grown up a lot, especially in the past year.  I started and ended one of the worst relationships I've ever experienced (I don't think I'll ever write about it so don't ask or wait for it), I moved to another state, bought a house, and started asserting myself at work more (I'm still working at the same place I've been for the past 10 years), which is something that I should have been more diligent at before, but there were reasons I never asserted myself and it was hard to confront it, and I'm still trying to confront it.

What I'm getting at is Social Anxiety.

It has been the biggest thing I've struggled with, and at times has turned what would otherwise be fun and rewarding experiences into complete terror.  And to the extent that I've been able to gain a level of self-awareness of it, it still eludes me in many ways. Although, I've come to realize that it has been rooted in and played a huge role in all the areas of my life where I seem to constantly fail.  (Even in this blog.)

For so many years I've been extremely self-conscious about my appearance, hobbies, interests, they way I talk, what I say, you name it.  No matter what it was, I would find a way to feel like I was being harshly judged for it, and that fear of judgement, and subsequent rejection was devastating to me. I could only find value in myself only if others valued me.  And, of course, that value from others was always fleeting.  I would end up just turning it all back on people and reject them before they had the chance to reject me.  I found solace in being alone.  Unfortunately, that solace became a prison over time, especially once I started to find myself.  I realized that even though I was an introvert, I was still very much in need of socialization, even with people I don't even know.  In other words, I'm not a strong introvert.  In the Meyers-Briggs evaluation of personality, I'm just a hair to the right of the midpoint between Extroversion and Introversion. And just for the sake of completion, my Meyers-Briggs personality type is INFP, which explains a whole lot of why I have trouble in other areas, but I digress.

For me, social anxiety is highly dependent on context and for the most part it's pretty much what I bring to the table in regards to my own personal beliefs about myself.  In talking with a boyfriend the other day, we discussed what it was that kept us both hiding in our little hobbit holes most of the time.  We talked about what it was like to be in crowds, why some crowds felt safe and energizing and why other felt draining and threatening.

I related my experiences going to Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA.  Four days of shoulder to shoulder crowds reaching as many people as 100,000 during the Saturday parade.  I feel fine for the most part, except in the elevators.  But going to Ocean City, MD in the summer time to walk the boardwalk, it's all I can muster to just get the walk over with and get the fuck out of there.  And then there are places like MAL where I have this cognitive-dissonance of feeling fine but also out of place.   What was the underling thinking in each situation?

Well, with Dragon Con I feel like we are all equals. We are all there to have fun and share in our appreciation of science fiction, fantasy and its associated pop culture.  It's a very liberal and progressive crowd for the most part, which invites creativity, acceptance and even celebrates our weirdness. And for the most part, even the ones who are rowdy and drunk the entire weekend are tolerable.

Ocean City, on the other hand is a place of very limited social diversity.  Mostly east coast working class vacationers, hetero-normative families, and often there are loud, obnoxious, young adults who binge on alcohol while cat calling from the balconies at the bikini clad girls on the boardwalk below.  Daily sexual harassment is the norm there. And the air is thick with tobacco smoke.  And as such, I judge these people harshly.  I feel as if I'm much better than they are and it disgusts me that they pollute places making them unsafe for women and gay people.

But then, events like MAL, and even in small ways, Folsom Street Fair and Gay Pride, the crowds can be a bit rowdy but they are friendly, and I feel safe.  They, after all are my people or at least friendly to my people and I know I'm one of them.  But, at the same time, and this is especially true at MAL, I feel like they are all much better than me and that I'm really not good enough to be there.  I'm not gay enough, or I'm not good looking enough or whatever I believe I don't measure up to.

The troubling thing about all this is that it's not rational to believe these things even when at times my beliefs have been validated by certain events.  The thing is, those times were because of outliers, they did not represent the group, and I know this.  But it's just so easy to cast aside the reality to reinforce the fears.  And those fears run deep, and they are strong and overwhelming.  And even though I can play logic games with those beliefs to talk myself out of them, it doesn't' always work.   And I feel like I'm not making any progress at all.   But really, I have made a bit of progress.  I've realized how I've been unknowingly contributing to the social anxiety which I wasn't aware of before.  I've learned a bit of nuance about my judgement of others and myself.  Also, medication helps, so there is that.

So, now, what's next?

I've started a new chapter in my life this year.  I'm putting myself out there a bit more than I ever have before.  I started vlogging on Youtube.  It's a way to confront my self-consciousnesses and social anxiety in a rather detached way.   I'm forced to confront myself when I do this.  I have to watch myself back while I edit the videos, I have to look at myself in a third person and know that the person I'm looking at is me, even though it doesn't feel like me.

This has been an interesting exercise to see where I have been self judging and self-censoring and where I continue to do so and what I've been doing to divert it and try to get people to focus on something else.  It's also interesting to see what ends up being the "something else" I try to use.  It's a strange thing to view myself in a detached semi-objective way.

I've been heavily editing and trying to polish my videos for the same reason I edit and try to polish my writing.  But, no matter what I do, the video shows a much rawer individual.  One prone to stammering, not talking in complete sentences and otherwise eviscerating all that is proper and eloquent grammar.  All of which are things I'm very self-conscious about.  Sometimes I'm sliding in and out of Utah/Maryland/New Zealand/North Carolinian accents.  Something that I had no idea I did until I started this vlogging project.  I'm finding it more interesting than disturbing now and I'm becoming more aware of how I'm perceived and in small ways, I'm starting to like the person I see in the video.

In all, it's been fun and frustrating at the same time.  Frustrating in that I have a very boring life with nothing to really vlog about and I'm constantly battling with technical problems such as sound problems and crappy white balance.  But its fun in that the editing process is creative yet very challenging like piecing together a puzzle.  I've always had an interest in filmmaking and this has re-sparked that interest, which I had long thought had died. 

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