Bullet Journal Weekly and Daily Logs: October 2016

For the month of October, I’ve stuck with a “Dutch door” type of weekly and daily layout. I have absolutely loved these spreads. In my review for September’s bujo spreads, I had noticed I needed my goals needed to be seen more often for me to keep up with them. I started the Dutch door system for that, with a quick weekly view at the top and pages for the daily logs.

Five columns with a list of dates, goals, tasks, and a calendar for October and a table for habits.

This type of layout needs a lot of planning, and a little bit of prior knowledge for how you use your layouts. I know that I can fit 2 or 3 days onto one sheet for my daily logs, but it can vary. So for my Dutch door layouts, I added in an energy tracker table for each day.

I’ve been interested in seeing what points of the day I feel more energised or sluggish, and how my energy is affected after and between meals. In a way, it’s self-care: I’m seeing if there are any patterns in my eating, sleeping, and energy/fatigue. My uncle was diagnosed last year with Type 1 diabetes, my family has lots of cardiovascular diseases, my half-sister has celiac disease, and many of my immediate family have mental health problems. I figure, in my 20s, I should keep an eye on my body and how it reacts to anything and everything. This type of tracking benefits the most from long-term tracking. I’m happy to report I’ve been doing it for the past month and have a baseline to work with!

A planner with multiple, cut, half-pages being turned and a row of columns across the top of the page.

I’ve done a bit of different structures for a time codex. I omitted it, or used it horizontally, or placed it vertically. I’m still not sure which is the best. I am very, very fond of the vertical layout (which I’ve been using for October 24 – 30) since I make my lists horizontally and can line up the task near the hour I want to do it. But I also like having it horizontally to line up with the table for my energy tracking.

A planner with multiple, cut, half-pages being turned and a row of columns across the top of the page.

I haven’t shown my weekly spread for this week (October 24 – 30), but it uses the vertical time codex, and it definitely works the best for me.

I haven’t been using categories for my lists—at least, not explicitly. I’ve been batching items together and leaving spaces between small lists, and I’ve liked that so far. It feels more spontaneous than putting headers with lists below.

For November, I’ll definitely be using the Dutch door layout again. Having the weekly view for the entire week, from day-to-day, has been such a huge help. I need more detail than what can be seen on a weekly spread on 2 pages. Daily logs are definitely still the backbone of my bullet journal, but the weekly layout—even being that small strip—keeps me aware of what’s coming up. And the habit tracker? The best.

Writing Wednesday: Phrase Prompts

A close-up photograph with a pen and faded ink on a notebook.

Today is another prompt post. I didn’t have a specific form in mind when I wrote these phrases—you can use them for any of your writing. Feel free to mix them around, change them, or use them verbatim.

  1. The sea met the sunrise, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
  2. Yesterday, at the corner of Brook and Augustus, the stop sign fell over.
  3. My grandmother, lying on her death bed, says to me, “In my 88 years, I’ve never seen a shooting star.”
  4. She called her on Monday and left a voicemail—she hasn’t listened to her message yet, and it’s already Saturday.
  5. Wind breathes through the thick trees, rustling them against an overcast sky.
  6. After he returned with the groceries, his daughter double-checked the list and squinted at her wife.
  7. They met in the ship, shared a smile, and made arrangements for dinner just as the bell started to knell.
  8. The margin between reality and unreality broke under the weight of their exhale.
  9. I rose in a cloud of warm, weak smoke once the demon summoned me.
  10. I stand at the bus stop and the preteen boy beside me asks, “When do you think this rain will stop?”
  11. In the dead of night, the witch climbed through my window and I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.
  12. Portrien approached me with an arrow through his feathery wing.
  13. A man in her forties jealously glared at me while he walked toward the train station.

Add some if you have any, or combine them, or do whatever! Happy writing, everyone.

 

Thoughts On Zombies

Moody photograph of tombstones at dusk.

It has come to my attention recently that I have another fear. I’m not very original in my fears, but hey, whatever—I’m not a special snowflake.

I’m scared of

  • Being in deep bodies of natural water, like oceans and lakes—I can’t go swimming in them, but I can be in boats on top of them.
  • The dark—when it’s a dark that produces shadows.
  • Tornadoes—they’re just… so quick to form, do so much damage, and screw off within 20 minutes. The ultimate fuckboy of natural disasters.
  • Decomposition—this is the one I found out about this month.

I have always had an aversion to zombies. A few years ago when I first watched ParaNorman, an excellent stop-motion animated PG film, I needed a few minutes to get used to the zombies. Whenever I saw my brother playing Call of Duty with zombies, I avoided looking at the screen. The Walking Dead? I will never, ever watch it in any capacity. Horror movies are always a no-go, but zombie horror movies—even horror-comedy ones!—are always a never-go. I can’t play zombie-themed video games, no matter how good they are.

I’m okay with vampires and ghosts—I actually enjoy them very much—so I knew the “undead” weren’t really the issue. It was the body horror and gore of zombies that unsettled me, but why? Why the bodily aspect?

Because body decomposition freaks me out.

I was recently thinking about mortality and death, as one does when they have severe depression and they’ve recently visited their brother’s grave. And I kept thinking: I’m okay with people dying. Death itself doesn’t bother me so much. It’s natural. It’s what happens. But why can’t I handle zombies?

I started delving a bit more once I realised what made me the most sad about my brother’s death and my pet rabbit’s eventual death in the future. The fact that their corporeal selves won’t simply disappear.

A corpse doesn’t float off into the afterlife. It doesn’t turn into pyreflies like it does in Final Fantasy. It takes its time. The finalisation of death takes time, and it’s just so gross. So, so gross and depressing.

I don’t want to rhapsodise about the body (oh goodness, did I just make a subconscious allusion to a poet I hate?) or go on a tangent about mortality. I’m just getting into the freaky Halloween spirit by reminding everyone about the rot of life. How life takes its time in dying, because the body has had so much time to live.

I suppose it’s a balance. We take an average of 9 months to grow. It’s only fair that nature can reclaim us in some span of time.

A Typical Switch Day

A photograph of a cluster of light switches and wires.

The Day Before

The day before can be anything—my gender expression and gender identity can be literally anything. It doesn’t matter and I have no inkling of who I’ll be in the morning. I go to sleep restlessly or peacefully, not really thinking about what to wear the next day or how I want to be addressed. The night before is filled with me changing my pyjamas and trying to find what’s comfortable.

The Morning Of

On a good Switch day, I’m very certain of what gender I am. I pick an outfit with conviction and I feel nice in it. But when I see myself wearing it, no matter how calm I am, I get the feeling that this feeling will be short-lived. I’m not going to wear those clothes for the whole day. I’m going to switch at some point. I’ll be myself the whole day, but there’s a connection to all aspects of my gender.

I have yet to have a bad Switch day. I think that’s because all my bad days are dissociated, intensely dysmorphic days—and a Switch day is none of those. (As such, this post will talk only of a good day.) My Boy and Girl days can be good or bad, of course, but any badness or goodness can have even a small link back to my gender and body. Switch days? Switch days are something rare and wonderful.

Interactions

Before the Switch, and depending on which gender I settled on, the interactions are okay. I’ll be misgendered, that’s for sure, but it won’t bother me as much. The temporal aspect of my gender is very present—and soothing. I think, It’s okay that a stranger used those pronouns. It’s still part of my existence.

My Switch days remind me that even if someone doesn’t see both of my genders, and the spectrum between them, and instead only sees one gender—it isn’t as bad as it could be. What they see is still a part of me. Sure, it may not be the same as them acknowledging that it’s only a portion of my gender identity. But it’s better than what it could be—constant misgendering of my entire existence. I’m always a little jolted when my gender expression is read in one specific binary way, but it doesn’t set me off on a Switch day. I’m a floaty, fluid, free wave-particle in life.

The Night Of

The Switch can happen at multiple points of the day. I could go back and forth between boy and girl, or settle in between for a spell. The Switch(es) can be in the morning, the afternoon, or evening. But when I go to sleep, the discomfort sets in again. Like the night before, pyjamas are… difficult. I can’t sleep in a binder. I can’t wear certain clothes to sleep easily in.

After trying to go to bed, it isn’t uncommon to find me awake for hours simply changing my pyjamas and adjusting the pillows. Something isn’t right. Today’s effervescence will disappear. There’s an exhaustion from the changes and the freedom I felt. No matter how much I enjoy the Switch days, I can’t cling on to them. They’re too much of a high for me to maintain.

But when they come around, I’m content. I’m more content being able to flow from one to the other or settle between—moreso than settling into one and putting the other on the backburner. Even if one of my genders wants to be a star that day, and another wants to sit back and watch, they work better when they’re together. When I can be truly bigender.

More On My Gender Identity

Bigender Basics

A Typical Boy Day

A Typical Girl Day

Writing Wednesday: “An Electrifying Feel”

A photograph of a misty cityscape.

A ray of light glitters on the skyscraper
and blinds me on my way down the stairs,
past the sleeping neighbours in my apartment building—
past the doorman—a woman—who nods to me silently,
acknowledging the headphones and wry smile
glittering on my face.

A thick mist blinds taxi drivers for a few blocks,
white and grey on the concrete world,
and sits and rests from its time in the sky
gathering droplets to cover this city on some night
or some day or afternoon
when the cluster of moisture ascends back home.
My walk down the street fills me with tension
but no fear. The haze around me is a repeat
of the moments my eyes and ears opened this morning
to the honking and faded taxi cab on the curb.

My clunky, comfortable boots smack the concrete,
like kneading it for baking, like turning the molecules
from liquid and paste to elastic crumb.
Dirt lines the sidewalk, dry as sand, and sifts under my heels.
these combat boots are not for battle–just for fashion,
and the pounding menace to delight every step
on my way to an okay job that keeps my mind off
who made all these molecules and why.

My cousin waves quickly at me through the bakery window
down the street from my open-concept office
her face and hands covered in almond flour.
She and her celiac disease founded “G-F-Delish”
and though the wheat dominating the world does not hurt me,
her cakes and pies and cookies are divine. I return her wave
and cross the gratefully empty intersection, Work looming
high above, the sky reflecting in the windows.

The office has a single floor in this building
like all the other businesses above and below us.
My job title boasts Senior Information Technician
on my business cards and resume,
but amongst the simple network setup, the modem, the router,
the dongles on desktops without wireless adaptors,
I am the Data Analyst and Bookkeeper for
this beloved startup, in the heart of a beloved city.
At my desk, my computer, my software,
I alter, needlessly, the lines and borders
above and below the numerical statistics on my screen.

The founder works a second job, building this new company
on the side. She is kind and assertive. She hired me on conditions,
not demands or requirements or experience,
out of the pity and knowledge that I couldn’t make rent.
A year into the job and we have grown,
and our finances improved, with the charts in this program,
the numbers from my keyboard, and the co-workers
quietly sipping coffee or tea or water at their desks.
These women around me, with their myriad shoes,
blazers and cardigans, humble their prowess,
and continually build us up—build the business—
build the world.

We are small, like bacteria in the gut regulating acidity,
and we are mighty enough for ourselves,
for the paychecks and satisfaction;
for the clients and customers here and around;
for the clattering of keyboards;
for the joy of production.

Bullet Journal for Mental and Chronic Illness

I’ve been using my bullet journal as a way of managing and being more aware of my mental illness. If I had a chronic physical illness, I’d be doing some similar things to see if there are trends and to overall manage it.

Currently, I’m looking at the mood aspect of my mental illness. In my monthly tracker—which you can see in my October 2016 monthly spreads—I’m looking at the following:

  • Overall “quality” of the day, with a legend
  • Binge-eating
  • Self-harm or thoughts of self-harm (including suicide idealisation)
  • Self-care
    • Washing face in the morning and evening
    • Brushing teeth in the morning and evening
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Exercise

On the daily pages this month, I’ve been looking at my energy levels throughout the day. I use a bar graph with the time on the X/horizontal axis, and a 0 – 5 scale for the energy on the Y/vertical axis. Here’s the long-form description of those numbers:

  • 0 = asleep
  • 1 = very low energy; sluggish; desire to lie down or sleep
  • 2 = low energy; begrudgingly doing things; not very aware of surroundings; habitual tasks
  • 3 = normal energy; doing things; not really leaning toward laziness or excitement
  • 4 = good energy; feeling a bit peppy and not feeling tired in the slightest
  • 5 = high energy; I’m hyper and excited and playful

I also have a weekly tracker that repeats some of the self-care aspects. I’m very bad at taking care of myself, so having the boxes to fill in give me some motivation outside of “I need to take care of myself.”

Other Ways to Manage Your Illness

Your illness is unique to you. You could be suffering from multiple illnesses and need something more intense. Like the post mentioned later, something could show up and you need to figure out what triggers the pain or fatigue or migraines. Here are a few more suggestions of what to include in your bullet journal for your health. Something here might be relevant to your situation!

  • Fill a page with affirmations.
  • Fill a page of self-care ideas and activities.
  • Write journal entries before and after appointments with doctors, therapists, etc.
  • Create a calendar to show your appointments, or when you need to schedule them in the future.
  • Log eating habits, such as when and what you eat. You can also track blood sugar levels and your feelings of energy.
  • Track medication to make sure you’re taking them all at the right times; or, to see what happens if you miss a dose so you aren’t thrown for a complete loop if you do.
  • Track symptoms and their intensity, like headaches, migraines, fatigue, pain (generalised or localised), anxiety, other moods. Like my energy levels, these might be easier to track on an hourly rate, or if you create a table to note the start and end times of certain-intensity symptoms.
  • Track activites and their duration, such as commuting and driving, sitting, walking, standing, or more vigorous activities.
  • Track quantity and quality of your sleep, as well as when you wake up and fall asleep.
  • Track sunrise and sunset times, the hours of daylight, and your energy (for seasonal affective disorder, or to check into your circadian rhythm).

These are just a few ideas for what you can consider in your bullet journal. One of the posts that inspired me was from Ruth at Delightful Planner. She started using the bullet journal after suffering intense back pain. She used the bujo to track the pain, various activities, and medications. Her post is incredibly thorough and was an eye-opening for how I could become more aware of my own health.

Hopefully this helps inspire you!

Your mental health and your physical health are important, and there are so many ways you can manage it. Use this information for your own direction, to help doctors with diagnoses and management plans, or to create more awareness in your mind and body. You’re worth the effort.

Social Media Break

A person holding various pieces of technology featuring photographs of the background landscape.

I’m taking a break from social media. If you follow me on social media, I posted about this earlier the week.

My posts for the rest of October are pre-written (including this post), and I won’t be responding to comments on the blog.

I’ve noticed myself becoming quite habitual with my social media involvement. And it isn’t a good thing. On Tuesday morning, I woke up, checked the time, and immediately went to check social media. I removed the apps the night before, so I didn’t open anything. But that was my first reaction: check Twitter, check Instagram, check Snapchat. I’m exhausted by it.

I love social media, but only when I choose to include it, and not when it’s a ritual I use to start, end, and punctuate my days.

For the rest of October, I’ll be focusing on my health—physical and mental—as well as my novel. When I get near the end of a project, I feel much less motivated. I’m 15,000 – 20,000 words away from finishing, so I can’t let social media become a distraction or a means for procrastination. I can’t let myself get lazy and self-destructive. It’s happened too many times before.

Since I’m going to continue writing, I’ll be over on myWriteClub occasionally participating in sprints. Feel free to add me—or join the beta!—if you want to write with me. I’m still not sure if I’ll do Nanowrimo. I want to have THE PILGRIMAGE drafted before November so I can edit it during November. But I think I might do a fast-draft novel? We’ll see—you can add me as a buddy if you’re participating.

Anyway. I won’t be on Twitter and all that. The earliest I’ll be tweeting and snapping and instagramming again would be November 1—but I’ll take as long a break as I need to. The latest I’ll be back is December, that’s for sure. (There’s a Twitter pitch party I’m aiming to participate in.)

*salutes*

Thanks for respecting this. I’m sure there are oodles of you tempted to take a break like this—do it if you think it’ll help!

Writing Wednesday: Flash Fiction – “Rumourmongers”

A photograph of a row of same-coloured bicycles in a bike rack.

Rumourmongers

The group of teenagers who loitered near the bicycle racks after school always chewed gum. They would pass around a few packets—all different flavours, some new and some classic—as soon as the bell released them from the prisonous building nearby. I would have to be quiet and polite to them if I wanted to retrieve my bicycle easily. They weren’t violent to me, or any other student. They were beautiful and some were pale and some were dark and all of them knew everybody. That was their threat: they had connections. In comparison, the lowly bicycle owners had none. All of them had last-year’s-model luxury car from mommy or daddy to get to and from the high school.

I stayed behind after classes ended. I wanted to ask the teacher about the trigonometry quiz he had handed back before the bell. I had barely passed, and though he didn’t leave any remark about seeing him, I wanted to do better. The semester had barely begun and I was off on the wrong foot. He was gruff and short—in tone and stature—and gave me a double-sided worksheet to bring to him tomorrow. I thanked him, left the room, and glanced from the hallway to the confusing shapes on the page while I walked to my locker.

The Rumourmongers stood around the bicycles when I exited the school. Only a few of the bicycles were unclaimed, likely the band players who had practise. I approached the group with my head down, eyes up.

“Excuse me,” I muttered. My backpack hung onto my body by one strap, one shoulder, and a boy a year below me grabbed the dangling strap.

“You’re later today,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

The general rule was to give them as little information about yourself as you could. You answered questions honestly, but sparsely.

“Get into trouble?”

I reached for the lock wrapped around the frame of my bicycle. “No,” I said.

A girl behind me snickered. She said, “I bet he was doing the opposite—being a brown-noser.”

I fumbled and put the first two digits into the lock. The boy tugged on my strap again and I lost my grip on the meal and plastic, sweat beading on my palms.

He yanked me to face him. “What class did you come from?” he asked.

“Trig.”

“You any good?”

“Too early to tell.”

The silence among them startled me. They had paused in their gum-chewing, allexchanging glances, trying to assess my response. They knew I was guarding myself. They knew there was something I refused to tell—out of pride or shame, that’s what they were trying to figure out. Both were dangerous. They would shatter my pride, if I were proud, and extend my shame, if I were ashamed. Were they in need of a tutor? Would they want to use me? Or were they the best in their math classes?

I knelt by the wheels again and put in the last two digits, hastily pulling the lock out of the metal bar keeping the bicycles ensnared. I clicked the lock back around my bicycle, swung a leg over the frame, and edged it out from between the bars.

“Have a safe ride,” the girl said.

Were they up to mischief now? Were they vandalising? Was the slandering no longer satisfying? For the three years I had known them—and they, me—we could leave our belongings with them, but never our lives or secrets. Did I now have a reason to suspect the integrity of my bicycle? There were no other racks on the property, nowhere safe if they were screwing with our wheels.

They stared at me as I bumbled off the sidewalk and across the parking lot. I paused, waiting to cross the street, and peered over my shoulder to watch them. They were huddled together and talking.

“Fuck,” I said. I crossed the street and sped home. There was no point wondering what news they would say about me. I’d find out by first period tomorrow.

Therapy Diary: Dissociation

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

My dissociation manifests in a few different ways and feelings, and I can compare it with a bunch of metaphors. But it all boils down to a single feeling—of rather, lack of feeling.

My dissociation means I’m not part of reality. I’m not fully in the world I’m interacting in. My body is doing one thing, but my consciousness is distanced.

Sometimes my dissociation is heavy and sometimes it’s light. I’ve described it as half of my existence floating behind me like a helium balloon; or half of my existence being dragged like a suitcase with a broken wheel.

You’d think that being dissociated is easy to notice. But I only notice the way it feels—the heaviness or lightness or distance or closeness—once I know I’m dissociated.

So the disconnect is something that shows up as irritation or lethargy. It’s only after a bit of wondering, “Why am I reacting like this?” that it dawns on me: “Oh… I’m not all here.”

And then what? What do I do once I realise my consciousness isn’t within me?

I try meditating for a few minutes. I try doing a vinyasa or two. I try lighting a scented candle. I try taking a warm shower or a cold shower. I try reading a book. I try playing a video game.

But none of those are fool-proof, sure-fire ways to reassociate with the world. They’re only baby steps.

It’s almost impossible to eliminate the dissociation the day it happens, or even the day after. Sometimes it lasts for a few days. I’ll power through it, but there are days I just can’t. I need to sleep and let myself succumb to another reality (the surreal of dreams).

My therapist told me that it takes time to feel safe enough to “come back” after being dissociated. So I don’t push progress or obligation on it.