…witchy as she was, to leave us on the dark of the moon.
I had a feeling yesterday, given that I woke up with a terrible case of the shakes, that it wasn’t going to be long, and I was right. Sookie spent the morning in bed, fairly relaxed, in and out of sleep while I worked and puttered and checked on her every fifteen minutes or so, but at some point she came into the studio to lay down at my feet like she always does and while I was having coffee with Renee, she tried to stand up and couldn’t. It was a pretty quick decline from there.
Kimi was here with me as I held my SookieLove in my arms and murmured sweet nothings to her about what a sweet girl she was and how she could let go now – that I’d be okay. When she got through the passage she looked so peaceful, and so angelic – like she was lit up from within. I knew when she left *exactly* where she went and to whom – a story for another day, another place – and that knowledge was a gift.
My sweet, goodest girl. <3
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening giving her one last groom and nail trim, and it was a really sweet way to honour her passing. I know not everyone has it in them to do that kind of thing at the loss of a pet, but having been through it with Sasha, I knew that it would help bring me some closure if I didn’t rush myself to let her go out of sight right away.
I gave the furbabes some time to investigate her shrouded little body so they wouldn’t have to wonder too hard where she’d gone. Sybil is, well, a cat so she’s pretty unphased by it all but Salem is a wreck. I’m going to be spending a lot of time with her over the next few days, reassuring her that all is well and we’re going to be ok.
I know a lot of you loved Sookie through the screen – through photos and stories about her – and that was felt yesterday as you held space for me on the socials. Thank you so much.
I’m going to take today very slowly and gently. It feels appropriate to strip the bed and make the space a little less “there seems to have been a struggle” and a little more like a sanctuary, but I am going to listen to my body (which is still shaking, bless it – it hasn’t yet gotten the “there is no velociraptor around the corner” message, apparently) and not push it at all.
This loss is just – oof. Her love was unconditional and pure and perfect. She has been an anchor for me for 15 years now.
Thankfully, there are other anchors and I’ll be leaning on them like the dickens in the days to come.
Picture of Salem trying to lick my face off for tax.
TW – Pet Loss
My Sookie is taking her last long walk home and I’m sitting with her while she does it. Today, she’s very quiet, in and out of sleep, no signs of distress, but no interest in anything, either. Her sister, Salem, has been curling up *near* her but not *on top* of her like she usually does (jealous little thing). Sybil has been visiting now and then to touch noses. It’s been very sweet to watch.
I love this wee thing so much, y’all, but we’re ready for this. As soon as she shows signs of pain or distress, I’ll make the call, but I’m hoping she slips away peacefully and easily. She’s given me fifteen years of her very best service as my chief of staff and reason for getting out of bed. I will miss her so much when she takes her leave of me, but I know it’s time. <3
Kimi is going to come sit with us for a bit today and say her goodbyes. It will take as long as it takes and she’ll let me know if she wants help with her passage over. So far, that’s a no.
I am emotionally at peace but my body is acting like there is a velociraptor somewhere just out of sight and it’s about to eat me, so that’s fun. All the shaking. Please pass the wine.
I lost Sasha in 2018, so I know she’s waiting for her. <3
An actual picture of me as a journal artist. :D
I began my healing journey in earnest in a journal, free writing my heart out every day. That eventually shifted so that I poured my heart out every day in an *on line* journal, though I still kept a written journal on and off throughout the years. Then, I started writing poetry. Then, I got a wicked case of writer’s block and I found art journaling. Somewhere over the course of the last few years, I’ve lost touch with art journaling as my primary mode of self-expression. I’ve shifted to “mixed media artist”, and that, my loves, has not served me well. It *could* serve me well *if* it were secondary to art journaling, but over the last several years, it’s been front and centre. I even stopped working in a journal just in case someone saw a painting they liked and wanted to buy it.
As soon as I started thinking about that, my whole practice changed. I stopped painting about my life and started painting more universal themes. I started censoring what I include in my paintings. I shifted focus to painting only in response to certain inputs – new moon, full moon. My practice stopped being therapeutic and became stressful. It was still fun, don’t get me wrong, but I was way less inclined to do it because I wasn’t engaging it the way my soul yearned to engage it.
I’m going back to basics. I need a journaling practice to support my healing journey. I need a place where I paint without caring about anyone’s gaze but my own. I need to paint from my guts as well as my heart. I need to paint my reality as well as my wishes.
And so, I’m going back to Book Of Days (how very Mercury Retrograde of me). Back to an art journal (simpler this time – a basic sketch book, though you will have the option to bind your own and a tutorial in that is offered). Back to the near daily habit of touching in with a bit of colour, symbolism, words. WORDS. Back to JOURNALING in my art journal.
When I made this decision and started to plan how I’d do it, what iteration I would like for it to take, I had a few revelations:
I don’t want to identify as a “mixed media artist”. Too much pressure. I want to identify as a JOURNAL ARTIST. I want art journaling to be my focus – especially the self-soothing, healing modality, “meeting myself on the page” part.
Realizing that I’d “lost my way”, or “gone off course” has been such a relief, y’all, because now I can course correct.
Anyway, if you miss *art journaling*, I welcome you to join me.
There are friends who will witness you in your deepest darks (crying in a towel with wine stained lips or whatever your deepest darks look like) and love you and never betray your trust, and then there are “friends” who will witness you in your deepest darks and use it to try and ruin you as soon as you don’t deliver what you never consented to deliver in the first place and I’m here to tell you that the person who tries to ruin you will test your trust that the one who loves you exists, but listen to me, darling human.
The one who loves you exists.
Keep that bar up. Hold the line.
We’ve got this. I love you. Keep going.
I had this amazing exchange with Staci Jordon Shelton the other day that culminated in this gem: “…gaslighting ourselves in the name of “compassion” is a no.” – Staci Jordan Shelton
I have done this my entire life up until very recently. Twenty twenty was the beginning of the end of that for me because the pandemic and all that came with it for us globally and for me personally sent me spiralling into a severe case of burnout. Before *waves at all of that* I had the capacity to ruminate on why a person might behave the way they’re behaving, suss out whatever wound they were lashing out from, figure out how to accommodate that wound so that they wouldn’t lash out at me anymore, and forgive them. After *waves at all of that* I found myself at and even over capacity. Volatile, some might say. I had no boundaries before. Suddenly I started getting some (because if I didn’t, I was literally gonna die), and I started saying things like “We don’t do that here” and “No unsolicited advice please” and “That’s gaslighting” and “No” and “I need less of that, and more of this please.”
At that point, I started losing people. And, listen. That shit hurt, but I’m a grown ass woman in therapy so I’ve come to know that we all have the right to decide who is a good fit for us. We all have the right to respond to a newly placed limit or boundary with “that’s not what I signed up for, bye.” We all have the right to respond to “this is what I need.” with “I haven’t got it to give.” We don’t owe anybody our friendship. We don’t have to like everybody. We don’t have to tolerate everybody. We don’t have to accommodate everybody.
We get to curate our lives so that they work for us, so that there’s *space* for us, and so that it gives us life force, and as soon as I started to really integrate that (some time around 2022, tbh), I started to realized that all of the above applies to me, too, and I stopped asking myself questions like “why is this person behaving this way?” and started asking myself questions like “do I have the capacity to deal with the way this person is behaving towards me?”
Here in 2023, the answer is almost always “no”. Because I’m *at capacity*. It is a kinder thing, I think, to just admit that and go where I am not pushed beyond my limits. I’ve done the whole “I can tolerate this because I know this person has xyz reasons for doing it” my whole life. I did it for the entirety of my marriage. I’ve done it for years in friendships in which I felt like I was “The Bank Of Effy”. I’ve done it for years in friendships in which the threat of abandonment was *constant*. I did it in friendships where I was being *lied* to. I erroneously believed that I had a spiritual imperative to be as tolerant as possible and to allow people to act out around me and ON me in the name of compassion and kindness, because listen. None of us are perfect. We all have flaws. We’re all going to fuck up. We all hurt each other. Right?
When you’re at capacity, you’re at capacity. When you’re out of life force because you’ve been giving it away to all comers without sourcing any for yourself, you’re out of life force. Mana bar empty. Zero spoons.
I’m at that place. I’ve been at that place for a while. And it’s time to stop gaslighting myself in the name of “compassion”, because it isn’t actually compassion. It’s people pleasing. It’s self-abandonment. It’s self-abuse.
We all get to decide how we wish to be treated. We all get to decide what our limits are. I had to learn what mine were, and as I learned, I had to move the bar, which meant some people lost access to me. And, look. I get that this shit hurts. I do. But I don’t owe anyone access to me unless they came out of my body, and even then, there are limits.
It would be FANTASTIC if we could all walk around with a QR code somewhere on our person that a new friend/acquaintance could scan that listed our limits, but unfortunately, that’s not a thing. Instead, we have to engage with people and actually *bump up against* each other’s limits in order to figure out what those limits are. And in some cases, a person doesn’t even know that they have a particular limit until that limit has been tested. And some testing of limits calls for what I call “rupture and repair”, which means you say “nope” and the other person says “ope, sorry”, and you work together to figure out how to be in each other’s lives in a way that best serves you both. But some testing of limits calls for a yeet. Some things can’t be come back from, and you, and only you get to decide what those things are.
I have soft limits and hard limits.
For example, I can be friends with an MLM marketer even though I hate MLMs with a passion. As long as the person doing the MLM knows that I am *not to be sold to* and respects that, we’re cool.
I can be friends with an anti-theist as long as they don’t sneer at my witchy woo woo.
I can love someone who has a substance abuse disorder but I have hard limits around people being belligerently drunk around me.
I can hang out with and even enjoy people who’ve done nothing to examine their unconscious content, but I will be wary of their projections, and if I get caught in the crossfire, I’ll quietly take my leave.
I have hard limits that are there to protect my already traumatized ass from further traumatization. These include:
People who have an unearned sense of entitlement to my time, energy, attention, presence.
Sarcasm. I love being roasted by my friends, and I *live* for good banter, but as soon as sarcasm or “biting wit” is used *in anger*, I’m out.
Passive aggression. That shit causes me so much cognitive dissonance that I go into fawn, and nope. If you make me go into fawn, you’re not for me.
Racism, misogyny, trans- and homophobia, xenophobia, othering.
Abusive behaviour of any kind – at me or around me – yelling, name calling, gaslighting, cold shouldering, triangulation. Again, if you’re triggering a trauma response in me, it’s a hard no.
Ambivalence. I get trauma bonded to “come here go away” humans.
People who use threats of abandonment as a way to try to manipulate a change in my behaviour or as a ploy for attention. If you tell me you’re going to end our relationship, boom. The relationship is over. There is no coming back from that for me. Hard. No.
All of the above are very much a part of being human and it doesn’t make you a bad person if you’ve engaged in those ways, especially if you’ve caught yourself and course corrected, but they’re a hard limit for me *because* they are unsafe for me. They create trauma responses in me, and sometimes even trauma bonds in me. I am over here trying not to be a cautionary tale about the suicide rate in those with C-PTSD. I’m trying to save my own life, here. So this is serious business. I have to be super careful about who gets access to me.
And, okay, some of the people that engage in the above *are* bad people, but most aren’t and I know that. Most are just wounded in ways that are incompatible with my wounds. We will *not be good for each other*. Sparing each other this kind of bad chemistry is a *kindness*.
It’s a kindness to walk away from me if you find me too much.
It’s a kindness when I walk away from you if you’re shredding my nervous system.
Sometimes, kindness looks like leaving.
I’ll leave it at that.
Picture for tax.
There are some things I’ve learned over the last three years or so that are just now feeling “integrated”, like they’re trickling down from my brainmeats down into the place where deep knowing resides.
One of them is that a lot of how I’ve been managing my life (and business) is reactive and not responsive. I have no plan. I do everything by the seat of my pants (and the skin of my teeth). I am in a constant state of “putting out fires”. I keep myself too busy to think. I have always been instantly available to anyone who needed me any time of day. If someone I care about is in any kind of trouble, I’m there – with money, time, space – whatever is needed.
And for the most part, I ask for nothing.
There was a time when I wouldn’t even let my friends pay their share for lunch.
This, my loves, was a trauma response.
I used to pride myself on being a “low maintenance friend”. I would wait until something was an absolute emergency before I’d even *think* about reaching out. I’ve done the same with regards to my health. I’ve done the same with regards to any of my bodily needs. I’ve always waited until I’m sick with hunger before I eat. I don’t recognize that I’m thirsty until I’m *gasping* for water. I used to stay up until I was practically passing out. I never scheduled vacations or any kind of time off. If an email came in at 11 p.m., I’d answer it. I’d be in bed, y’all. I’d be watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I’d be getting ready for sleep. But I’d answer that email.
And lately, I’ve been downshifting. Like so:
In my case “downshifting” looks like asking myself if I can actually be of service without self-harm. Can I really afford to help this person with this financial crisis? Can I actually spare the energy or time to show up as my best for this person? Should I schedule all of this work? Should I say yes to this collaborative? Should I answer this email at 11 p.m. at night (or when I’m in the middle of filming or dealing with something interpersonal)? Should I respond to this message right now, this instant when I am already emotionally exhausted?
It also looks like *not* pushing myself beyond my own limits when I am burned out or overwhelmed. It looks like *risking disappointing someone* in order to take care of myself.
And it is risky. Because disappointing people causes me an enormous amount of pain – more pain than is warranted, to be honest. It triggers my rejection sensitivity dysphoria and abandonment trauma. It makes me miserable.
I am human and I’ve been operating at an inhumane pace for over ten years now. Through loss and death and grief and sorrow and depression and anxiety and *actual abuse* and *actual abandonment* and actual personal disasters that *anyone* would find incredibly challenging to move through. And then there was a pandemic. And then there was Jan 6th. And then there was the Russian invasion. And now there are wildfires and floods here in my country threatening the people I love.
It’s been a lot. A lot a lot.
And I just kept on pushing through it all. Churning out (really good) content. Showing up. Saying yes.
When I got my membership at the pottery and I started going in *alone* with my phone turned off for those blissful three hours of doing nothing but exactly what I wanted to be doing, something shifted.
I started to hear myself think.
I would think things like “Effy, you forgot to eat today and now you’re hangry. Go get some foods.”
“Effy, you haven’t had any water in days. Coffee is not hydration. Go chug some water.”
“Effy, stop working in the nest. It’s bad for your mental health. Work in the studio *only*.”
“Effy, no more devices in the nest. Leave the phone in the studio at night. The bed should be for sleeping.”
“Effy, you’re being really hard on yourself about this thing you’re having trouble doing. Please be gentler with yourself.”
“Effy, you *can’t* keep pushing through right now. Please take a day off.”
“Effy, you haven’t seen the sun in days. Go sit out front with a book. Leave your phone in the studio.”
“Effy, love yourself as well as you love everybody else, please, before you have a nervous breakdown.”
And I’m listening.
And some people aren’t going to be okay with that, because my lack of boundaries and self-care served *them* well.
But MOST of my people are going to be delighted. They’re going to cheer me on. They’re going to send me messages reminding me that I *never* take time off and maybe I should schedule that in instead of waiting until there’s an emergency. They’re going to email me to tell me that they appreciate the way I’m modelling self-care right now. They’re going to *celebrate* my healing.
Because I matter to them.
And I love this for me. And that’s where I’m going to focus. That’s where my attention is going to go. Who applauds my downshifting because they *know* it’s good for me? Who respects my time and energy? Who encourages me to put myself high on my list of priorities?
Downshifting might mean that I am less available in terms of the QUANTITY of the content/time/attention you get from me, but I guarantee you that I will be more PRESENT, and there will be an exponential increase in the QUALITY of the content/time/attention you get from me.
I have been delivering from a place of emptiness, isolation and fear for a long, long time now. Since 2011, if I’m being honest.
I learned to serve because I believed I needed to do so in order to earn my right to exist and be treated humanely.
That is a trauma response, and its one I’m ready to downshift my way out of.
I want to serve because I love serving, not because I’m afraid of losing you/being harmed by you.
So that’s where we’re at on this fine Monday, July 24th, 2023. I am not going live today. I’m puttering around and letting my nervous system regulate after a weekend of worrying about a dear friend who ended up in the hospital. I’m going to get some sun on my skin if the weather cooperates. I’m going to shove a Reuben Wrap I make myself into my face hole. I’m going to listen to songs that make me happy and paint something just for me. I’m going to chug some water. I’m going to love myself as though I matter.
And that’s progress, so I’ll take it.
And you? Are you noticing yourself downshifting? Are you noticing that you have less to give because you’re tapped out? Are you giving yourself time and space to heal from the things that drained you and left you feeling empty and isolated?
Link pinkies with me. Let’s do this.