Thinking Ink Press selected to be in the IBPA’s Innovative Voices for 2023 🎊

I’m so excited to report that my small press was selected to be one of five publishers for this year’s Independent Book Publishers Association’s Innovative Voices Program, supporting publishers from marginalized communities.

Thinking Ink Press primarily publishes books relating to disability, writing inspiration and advice, and diverse speculative fiction. We’re currently working on an anthology called The Neurodiversiverse, a collection of short stories, poetry, and art on the theme of neurodivergent people encountering aliens (and having an advantage).

This is the first year the IBPA is offering this program, which was created to recognize the contributions that independent publishers from marginalized groups are making to their respective communities, and help increase the resources available to them.

I’m so excited that this program is going to help us take our publishing to the next level and help this book and our other amazing books be more successful and help or inspire more people.

You can read more about us, the program, and the other four innovative publishers selected for this honor here:

🛸 The Neurodiversiverse Anthology Call for Submissions

My co-editor Anthony Francis and I are so excited to announce we’re looking for stories, poetry, and art for The Neurodiversiverse Anthology, which will explore how neurodivergent folks might have an advantage in dealing with aliens. From the call for submissions:

Submission Deadline: December 31st, 2023⁠

Submit your stories at

The universe is filled with aliens—creatures with different histories, cultures, and even biologies—who may seem strange to us. But our world is filled with a diversity of people, many of whom find each other strange. One particular group finds the rest of humanity especially strange: neurodivergent people.⁠

Would neurodivergent folks find themselves at an advantage in dealing with aliens?⁠

Let’s find out.⁠

We’re looking for short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and black-and-white line art that showcase and respect neurodivergent experiences. We’re explicitly inviting #OwnVoices and people from other marginalized backgrounds to submit stories. You can find out all the details at

You may or may not be aware that I’m neurodivergent myself, but I am, and I’m passionate about normalizing neurodivergent brains. I’m so excited to be part of this great project, and to be working with a fabulous co-editor and wonderful publishing team at Thinking Ink Press.

Send us your stories! We can’t wait to read them. 💖

Submit your stories at

P.S. I totally meant to post this about a week ago, when I published the call for subs on the Thinking Ink Press webpage, but my ADHD brain dropped the ball, so here we are. Good thing you have most of four whole months until the submission deadline! 😅

Have Fun (and Be More Productive)

I just watched this TED talk, “Why having fun is the secret to a healthier life” by Catherine Price. I think you should watch it, too. But in case you don’t have time, you should know that she redefines fun as having three factors: playfulness, connection, and flow.

I think a lot of what makes work (and school) so hard for many of us, and particularly draining for me as a neurodivergent person, is the idea that we need to “get it right”. We need to already know the right answers, we need to never risk getting corrected by one of our peers.

We’re taught this in school when we’re graded on tests with no opportunity to demonstrate that we’re still learning and getting better. Our ability to get into a good college, or get a good job, is dependent on whether we get good grades. And when we’re neurodivergent, and often miss “obvious” things that all the other kids noticed, we learn, deeply, that we’re often wrong for reasons we can’t anticipate but should have.

But as adults, needing to “get it right” is antithetical to collaboration, and it’s stressful.

When I was a manager, one of my goals was to make team meetings fun. It wasn’t a conscious goal, and I hadn’t watched this talk yet, but if I was going to waste my team’s time for half an hour plus, I wanted them to feel like the time had value. It might be value in the form of team building, growth of skills, or collaboration & brainstorming. But it always started with team building, which we accomplished by having fun together.

Especially once COVID hit, and we were all just little boxes on the screen and couldn’t just run into each other on the way to getting coffee, we would start our meetings with “ice breaker” questions. One question I remember best was to share our favorite children’s books — everyone had their favorites, and we loved hearing about them whether they were familiar or not.

I’m more creative, more energized, and have more capacity when I’m having fun. And I’m smaller, less innovative, and more tired when I’m trying to be perfect.

What do you do to bring play, connection, and flow to your work or personal life?

Nobody Cares about Software Testing (and what to do about it)

When I was a Software Quality Engineer, I can’t tell you how often I’d explain what testing we [were doing / had done / would do], and all around me people’s eyes would glaze over. Developers, PMs, EMs, etc. — people who I knew were invested in the quality of our product, and yet they weren’t interested in the details of our testing.1To be fair, my eyes usually glazed over for a lot of their updates, too. I could write a whole other version of this post about how nobody cares about code, either. ;)

Being the scientific person that I am, I tried a variety of approaches to get them more engaged. I explained it in different ways, both more abstract and more targeted. I tried smaller audiences or bigger audiences, I tried written documents and discussions during meetings. Some worked better than others (and some day I’d love to tell you all about what I learned about communicating with my peers!), but I never achieved my goal: consistently getting people to care about testing.

For a while, I thought it was a problem — I’m passionate about testing and I find it endlessly interesting to anticipate what kinds of things our users will do to make it break or what will happen when millions of users all use the feature at the same time. (What happens when hundreds of millions of desktop clients all try to ping home to our servers to check for updates at the same time? Best bet: our servers fall over!) I’ve always had a few coworkers who were just as geeky as I am about testing, and we enjoyed digging into the details together. So the other people, who weren’t interested, there must be something wrong with them, right? They must not care as much about testing as I do, right?

But the more I looked at the evidence, the more I realized they shouldn’t care about testing…and neither should I!

You shouldn’t care about testing

When we talk about testing, often we talk about which test cases we have or haven’t run and whether they passed or failed. But this isn’t useful information without a much broader context.

One time, I asked a PM to review the tests I had planned for a feature. He skimmed them, but it was a big long list of scenarios with both too much detail and not enough detail. He couldn’t give meaningful feedback about whether they were the right tests, because he couldn’t quickly tell whether they covered all the risky parts of the feature. Because of how brains work, figuring out if there are gaps in testing from a list of more than about 6 tests is virtually impossible.2I developed a strategy for how to get feedback about gaps in testing without asking them to have their eyes glaze over staring at a long list of test cases, which I call reviewing testing variables (catchy, right?). I’ll write a post about that sometime.

Another example was when we would report status for massive, cross-functional software projects, summarized for our directors and VPs. The status report would include a table somehow summarizing testing, but it was a challenge to figure out what to say that was brief & meaningful. QEs might write, “100% of testing complete”, but that wouldn’t tell you whether they passed or failed, or how much testing we’ll have to re-run after blocking bugs are fixed. We could show a graph of the bug find/fix trend, and that might tell you that the trend is we’re finding fewer and fewer bugs, so probably quality is improving … or it might just indicate that all the QEs were pulled off the project, so no testing is being done and the feature is still a hell-scape for users.

You should care about impact

Any discussion of testing needs to be in the context of what users are truly likely to do, and about which parts of the software system are fragile (likely to fail in a spectacular way), vs which parts are robust (likely to be resilient or failures are easy to recover from).

Back to that original scenario, when I was in a meeting full of my coworkers who I knew cared deeply about quality. What I did instead was this: I started talking about the impact of the testing. “We found this serious blocking bug, and fixing it will push back our next release date by a week.” Or, “We tested across all browsers, and have confidence that we can ship to all of our customers on time.”

When I framed it in terms of impact, everyone paid attention. They’d ask cogent questions, like for more details about the bug, or whether we have confidence there aren’t other bugs like it. They’d start brainstorming ways to cut features or cut work in order to still hit the original date. They engaged with the state of quality… because I framed it in a way that mattered to them.

This meant I had to do my homework about the impact of my test results before reporting on the testing! I had to review the bugs with the responsible triage-ers (PM, lead dev, etc.), to make sure we knew, quickly, which ones were blockers and which weren’t, and determine whether fixing the blockers would be easy or hard. Then, when we got to the meeting, I could report on the impact.

And what should we have put in those executive status summaries? We settled on stoplight colors! Green meant everything was on track from a testing perspective. Yellow meant there were concerns but we had a plan to mitigate them. Red meant something was bad that might impact the schedule and we don’t have a solution yet. 3For accessibility, I recommend using unique shapes as well as colors. E.g. green heart, yellow warning sign, red x. (I meant to include example emoji, but my website won’t show them today. Once a QA Engineer, always a QA Engineer?) We’d give a brief description of what that meant, and a link to a longer document in case you wanted to see the details like what tests were run, where they’d be embedded alongside what the risks are and what quality metrics we’re watching.

Does this resonate for you, or do you have a different experience? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.


  • 1
    To be fair, my eyes usually glazed over for a lot of their updates, too. I could write a whole other version of this post about how nobody cares about code, either. ;)
  • 2
    I developed a strategy for how to get feedback about gaps in testing without asking them to have their eyes glaze over staring at a long list of test cases, which I call reviewing testing variables (catchy, right?). I’ll write a post about that sometime.
  • 3
    For accessibility, I recommend using unique shapes as well as colors. E.g. green heart, yellow warning sign, red x. (I meant to include example emoji, but my website won’t show them today. Once a QA Engineer, always a QA Engineer?)

My Post-Corporate Life — What I’ve Been Up To

If you haven’t heard, I left my job at Dropbox at the end of April! In my 7+ years there, I got to work on Dropbox Business, Dropbox Photos, desktop syncing, the mobile app, and so many more things. I was a Quality Engineer and a QA Manager, and I learned so much about risk, leadership, and brutally prioritizing quality efforts. I got to collaborate with more lovely, thoughtful, humble people than I can count. I’m grateful for all I learned, for everyone who mentored me, and for everyone I collaborated with. We did great things together.

I left because of burnout, and I’m focusing on resting and recovering for a while before I start putting energy into what’s next. You won’t be surprised that, in the meantime, I’ve been spending time on a wide variety of things… (because I still have more interests than hours in the day :).

The cover of Your Writing Matters: 34 Quick Essays to Get Unstuck and Stay Inspired, by creativity expert Keiko O'Leary. "A beautifully written meditation on the writer's life," says Julie A. Fast, bestselling author.

I’m reading a ton. Lots of queer romance, because they make really lovely rest-your-brain books, some books about feminist Judaism, because I don’t have as much connection to my heritage as I’d like, and of course I’ve spent a lot of time reading (and re-reading) the book I’m publishing: Your Writing Matters: 34 Quick Essays to Get Unstuck and Stay Inspired, by creativity expert (and dear friend) Keiko O’Leary. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me about it, it’s available for preorder now and is coming out on August 9!

I’m moving my body a lot. (I don’t really like saying “exercise”, because that makes it sound harder than it is.) Daily walks around the neighborhood and weekly longer hikes up and down the San Francisco Peninsula. I actually just live in paradise, and I’m finally making time to visit all the gorgeous parks throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. I also have a new Hatha yoga class that’s a three minute drive from my home that’s in the middle of nowhere, with a lovely instructor. I’m working to build up my stamina and strength for longer 10+ mile hikes again.

I’m making the most of my unstructured schedule to re-learn how to prioritize my day around what interests me and what my body needs and what interests me, instead of relying on dates and obligations and other people’s schedules. It’s been hard not to just create my own obligations and schedules, but I’m trying to unlearn the idea that my value comes from productivity, and instead focusing on the value of admiring nature, petting the cat, and truly resting. And, when I’m inspired, creating something!

On the creating front, I’ve been knitting up a storm. I’m in the middle of two shawls now, and I just finished a beaded rainbow gradient shawl. It’s ridiculously gorgeous.

I’m also writing more (… this very blog post, for example!), and I’m starting to remember that when I have the thought, “I should write about X!” I actually have time to write about it right now, and whatever I was going to do next can probably wait.

I went on retreat at the end of June, as I do a couple of times each year. I got to spend time with my soul and with dear friends who are also on the path of self-knowledge and healing. (If you’re interested in a 10.5 day retreat next March, I’d love to talk to you about the Heart Conference!)

So stay tuned for more about what I’m publishing (and I may put out a call for submissions…), what I think about quality, and whatever else is top of mind.

And, to all my past coworkers: I miss you and I’d love to hear how you’re doing. Seriously, let’s chat.

My Jaw Troubles

I don’t think I ever posted here about my jaw issues, which means that when I have surgery, either it will come out of the blue, or you’ll never hear anything about it unless you know me on social media. I’m gonna add this one to the “things I’ve been ashamed of about myself” column, even though it’s entirely structural and there’s no logic to being ashamed about it.

So, my lower jaw has always been a bit off, since I was very little and couldn’t eat an artichoke like normal people by gripping it between my teeth. My teeth didn’t meet, it just slid through. By the time I was sixteen, I still hadn’t noticed that it was structurally wrong, but I knew my lower jaw was weird, and I thought it made me unattractive. (I was sixteen, of course I was gorgeous. Not sexy, but attractive? Sure. Who knew.) So my parents took me off to an orthodontist, who took all kinds of scans and made molds of my jaws, and sent me off to a couple of surgeons to talk about what was going on.

What was going on was (and still is) that my condyles (the vertical part of the lower jaw that connects into the jaw joint) didn’t grow correctly, so they’re about half as tall as they should be. Because of that, my jaws don’t meet right, and my upper face didn’t grow correctly either, because not having a joint operating correctly impacts things around it.

So we saw those two surgeons, and one suggested we could do double jaw surgery (i.e. cut my upper teeth apart from my skull and move them to a new position — such a wtf moment), while the other suggested we could replace both joints with teflon-coated metal parts (omg wtf). I nope-nope-noped all the way out of there, and left it to be a mildly anxiety-inducing thing that I would forget as hard as possible.

And to be honest, I did forget about it. Sure, my teeth didn’t meet, and I wasn’t a huge fan of my reflection (but who is?), but it wasn’t causing me problems (that I was aware of) and I couldn’t fathom taking a ton of time off for a surgeon to take my face apart. They told me at 16 it wouldn’t matter if I waited 6 years, so, like any sensible procrastinator, I waited 20.

As it turns out, I didn’t think it was causing me problems because I’d never known anything else, so how would I even know? I didn’t have pain, and I learned how to use my tongue and upper teeth to scrape artichokes.

As it turns out, my lower jaw (mandible) sitting back like it does means there’s extra mouth-stuff sitting further back in my head than it should, so my airway is crowded and is half as big as it should be. To compensate, I hold my head forward, which is terrible for my cervical spine, but gives me more airflow. It also causes sleep apnea at night, and we think it may be causing my vagus nerve to be pinched, causing my heart to beat too fast sometimes, my digestion to be not-great, and my anxiety to be higher than it otherwise would be.

In my mid-30s I finally came to terms with the fact that I hated my appearance. I realized how sad I felt about it, how unreasonable the hatred was, and how attractive I really was. Structural things are just structural. I came to terms with the fact that I would always look like myself and no one else, and that that would be OK.

That was when I was willing to go talk to a surgeon again about having the surgery. Once I stopped hating my face, I could bear to think about changing it. (I know it sounds backwards, but there it is.)

My new surgeon recommends the joint replacement, in addition to moving my upper jaw (maxilla) and my chin. In other words, the parts I was most scared of at 16, I should do them all. We think that double-jaw surgery would correct the functioning, but that not only are the condyles too short, the joint heads are undersized. Correcting the functioning would just put extra pressure on the joints and make them more likely to fail, which they haven’t actually done yet. (Also, my osteopath is pretty convinced that the cartilage discs that should be in the joints are dislocated and have been since I was 6 or younger. Wheeee.) So we should replace the joints and have just one surgery. (Plus the surgeries to replace the joints, which have a limited lifespan of hopefully as much as 30 years. So once at 65, and if I’m lucky they won’t need to be replaced at 95.)

And what I learned is that the teflon-coated joints that early surgeon recommended were found to be really terrible, the teflon flakes off in your head and causes all kinds of problems. So it’s just as well we didn’t do either of the surgeries when I was 16.

So, I’m going to have that surgery hopefully in the next few months. It takes 3 months to design and make the prosthetic joints, and we need to get the insurance company to approve the surgery (again! we got preliminary approval over a year ago before I got braces on), but even with COVID-19, we should be able to get it scheduled.

The recovery is going to be long, with my jaws wired shut, then physical therapy because, as my orofacial myofunctional therapist put it, they’re moving all the furniture around and your tongue won’t know where the sofa is! I’ll be off of work for weeks, and the swelling and numbness may not be completely gone for a year. But I should have even better range of motion than I have now, much better airflow, and my spine should learn to be happier.

I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. If I were more shit-together, I’d have photos of my jaws, or a diagram of what jaws look like, or something. You can google it, though.

Verbing Weirds Words

Verbing Weirds Language

A friend of mine shared a link to a Merriam-Webster usage note about how the definition of “literally” includes “figuratively”, and how outraged people are about it. Another friend shared an angry emoji on the topic — lots of outrage!

And friends, I understand the frustration. I, too, am a literalist by inclination. “Literally” means “literally”, how can you possibly interpret anything figurative there?

But I do accept it, because I like how smoothly our brains stretch to accept new meanings.

Did you know that the word “bead” came from “benediction”? Christians would “count their beads” when they said the rosary. All your jewelry comes down to a religious term.

And that “glamour” is a mutated version of “grammar”, because the written word was magical to some set of illiterate English-speakers hundreds of years ago.

How about that “awful” used to have the same meaning as “awesome”? (It seems obvious once you point it out.)

Here are some of my favorite new words:

“Wat”, which means “what” but in a particularly disgusted tone of voice.

“Because X”, as in “the power went out because PG&E”, which assumes you understand all the reasons why PG&E would cause power outages, and creates camaraderie. (For more on this, I highly recommend the book Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch, which is narrated by the author in the audio edition.)

While I’m at it, I recommend the podcast Lexicon Valley hosted by John McWhorter, as well as many of his lectures on the Great Courses and his books. He talks about all kinds of weird language quirks, including why sounds change, why grammar changes, and how Black English is an entirely consistent and regular dialect of English, and not just mistakes.

And by the way, “nice” started out meaning “foolish”, so if you insist on words staying exactly the same for all time, then I think you’re nice.

Being OK with Not Being OK

or Happiness Isn’t a Goal or a Destination

or When “Not Good Enough” Has to Be “Good Enough”

Author’s Note: I wrote this post in June 2020. I didn’t publish it because … well, either because it/I wasn’t good enough, or because I wrote it and got distracted before I finished, and then forgot all about it. So it’s a little outdated (I don’t get to claim I’m a “new” manager now that I’ve had the role for over a year), and I have a different perspective on shelter in place 9 months in than I did 3 months in, but I’ll post it anyway.

I suffer anxiety, ADHD, and chronic health issues. I am also a woman in a male-dominated field, in a time and place that idolizes Productivity as the pinnacle of value. I am valuable, even when I’m not productive. I am creative, curious, and engaged with the world. Sometimes, I’m anxiety-ridden, unmotivated, or miserable. Even then, I am valuable. I’m OK.

Since COVID-19 led most of America (& most of the world) to shelter in place, I’ve been at home. Not constantly; I get out for walks, errands, and the occasional doctor’s appointment. I even went for a socially-distanced walk with friends. You might think that I now have more time, that I can focus on home things, that I can be more focused on work. I don’t have kids and I don’t live alone, so I don’t even “have it that bad”.

Nevertheless, my productivity has been low. I get tired easily, and my anxiety leads to insomnia sometimes. My hormones are out of whack (“chronic health issues”), and I have ADHD. Put it all together and my emotions are all over the place, my energy is all over the place.

I’m also a new manager. I switched roles last October, and while my EQ is high, my planning skills are not amazing, and my management skills are in their infancy. My hope was that this year I’d be busy learning & practicing those new skills I don’t have yet. And yes, I’m doing some of that. But let’s be clear: I’m drained. I’m not what I’d call “productive”. Some weeks I work a full work-week. I rarely work overtime. (This is on average. On a given day, I may work longer or shorter. But per week, not so much.) I just don’t have it to give. Since SIP started, I’ve dropped projects, winged** conversations that maybe should’ve been prepared, and held less structure and accountability than I’d like for my team.

There was one particular week when I told them, this week I’m not a good enough manager. One of my reports, a very senior person who I trust and rely on as a key member of my team, told me, “I’m glad you said that. I’m not either.” I even told my boss. He just nodded and said, “yeah, I’m not supporting you enough either”.

My whole life, my shame about “not being good enough” or “not doing it right” has been immense. That week, not only was I not good enough, but everyone understood. Everyone wasn’t good enough that week. And my boss and I, by letting our reports know, made it OK for them to not be OK. We normalized “not good enough” as the new “good enough”.

How do I know that “not good enough” is still “good enough”? Because my contributions that week were better than no contributions. No one was emotionally or physically harmed by my inaction. I prioritized what to spend my energy on, and I didn’t collapse into the shame of “woe is me I never do anything right”. And I took stock of everything else I was doing that wasn’t “productive”. I was managing my health, my ADHD, and my anxiety. I was fostering healthy relationships with my partner, my friends, and my coworkers. When I was tired, I was tired. You can’t be not tired when you’re tired.

I didn’t do all the pro tips for managing anxiety, ADHD, or chronic health. I didn’t make myself go to bed on time. I didn’t meditate often enough. I didn’t drink enough water or floss my teeth. I didn’t even go for walks most days. All of my inaction led to worse symptoms, it’s a fact. And still, I am valuable, I am worthy, I am lovable. Of course I should get paid for my work (and I am), but my value isn’t in how I behave when I’m struggling the hardest. My value is in how I interact with people, in my unique perspective, and in my creativity.

Even in the worst of my anxiety, in the worst of my de-motivation, I’m still a valuable, lovable person. I don’t need to be fixed (although I would love to be), I just need to be OK with not being OK.

Unpublished Post – March 24, 2015


This is a stream-of-consciousness post I wrote in 2015. I was too ashamed to post it at the time, because I was ashamed of my overwhelm, of “not being OK”, not knowing myself well enough, not having an operating manual, and of not being Good Enough, both in my daily life and in what I write down.

Why not just leave it in the junk heap? I’ve spent the past five years undoing and repairing that shame, being willing to be seen as flawed and chaotic. So here: see me as chaotic, curious, and yearning for more, and see how I’m not ashamed.

But also because, it’s got my tone of voice, with all my rambling and self-deprecating, self-observant humor. If you don’t like my tone of voice, go listen to someone else talk.

Might it make a better post if I already had the answers to what was going on in my life? Maybe. But if you’re figuring out who you are, how you work, and why you feel like a chaotic mess in a world of orderly normals… you’re not alone. I promise.

Today I am tired and overwhelmed.  I’m emotional.  And it took me so long to find a computer that would turn on, and then log in, that I don’t remember how the rest of this thought went.

I’ve been running between projects, and then running to catch up on sleep.  (FYI, that doesn’t work.)

I can’t find the pair of knitting needles that are the right size for my new sock yarn.

I have lots of my stuff still packed in boxes stacked around my house.  I feel like I have no time to unpack the boxes.

At work, I have to have conversations with people, and right now people are draining.

Last night I was reading about Highly Sensitive People, which I’d heard about years ago, but never really read about.  I can’t tell if it describes me or not… I don’t think of myself as being sensitive to noise, or particularly aware of what will make another person more comfortable.  But if my mom is highly sensitive (which she is), it’s quite possible that my point of reference is not, in fact, normal.  :)

I can tell you that nearly every week, I have some emotional disruption to my life, and it makes it hard for me to do my day job, or to be useful at home, or … well, it can impact anything or everything.  Sometimes I can point to something concrete and say, yeah that’s a totally reasonable reason to be having trouble this week.  When we moved back into our house, we had a lot of really late nights and early mornings, and packing my stuff is disruptive.  Totally valid.  But there’s always *something*.  This weekend I went on retreat, so I was up late and up early, and didn’t have a restful weekend.  Go figure that come Monday/Tuesday, I’m exhausted and dysfunctional.  But I’m also miserable, uncomfortable in my body, and I wish I could stay home and knit.  (But I can’t even find the knitting needles.)

So last night, I didn’t read the written-for-the-lay-person book called “The Highly Sensitive Person”, I read the first third of a clinical psychology paper about HSPs written by the same author.  This was helpful, actually, because she’s talking about Jung’s definition of “sensitive” (vs. “introverted”, which she says is different), and I’ve firmly fallen into the Jungian camp, so it’s nice to have this concept cross-referenced with a theory I respect.  And according to Jung, most, if not all, people with neuroses are highly sensitive, which means that a disproportionate percentage of the people who go to therapists are likely to be sensitive.  On the positive side, I don’t seem to be neurotic, I just have issues.

But it’s funny, because I don’t think of myself as being particularly emotional.  I think I’m always surprised when I have strong emotions.  I like it when I’m just going along all neutral, it’s simple and predictable.

This doesn’t feel like an essay worth posting on the internet, and I don’t have time to sort it into something more coherent.

COVID-19 spreads mental health awareness

Recently I had a week where I told my coworkers, “I’m having a really hard week, I’m doing the bare minimum. Let me know if you need something from me and I’ll try to prioritize it.” I showed up to critical meetings, rescheduled non-critical ones, and made sure all of my 1-1s with my reports had enough buffer that I could focus on them. I did what was absolutely necessary, and postponed anything ambitious or innovative.

I wouldn’t have told my coworkers any of that 10 years ago. I’d have taken days off (“not feeling well”) or pushed myself to do work that would’ve come out badly. I would’ve agonized over it.

But this year, everyone I work with is struggling. People who usually have the best mental health are grappling with anxiety and depression. People with kids are being run ragged trying to watch them and do work. People who live alone are lonely. And those of us who already have mental health challenges still have mental health challenges. If we had coping mechanisms before, we’re leaning on them extra hard. And we’re sharing those tips with our neurotypical friends.

I’ve told people I have a therapist. I’ve told people the things I do to manage my anxiety. “Our brains lie, don’t believe them.” “Look for evidence that the anxiety is wrong, not only for evidence that it’s right.” I’ve told people the things I do to manage my depression. “Treat it like a cold: drink tea, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, and get plenty of rest. It will pass.” (My depression always passes. I know not everyone’s does.)

I’ve made myself a resource for people to talk about how they’re struggling, without judgment or the need to change it. Emotions are more like the weather than like truth. They don’t need to be fixed, any more than the rain needs to be fixed. They need to be experienced, and responded to appropriately. Don’t leave the house without a rain jacket, don’t act like your anxiety isn’t there. But you wouldn’t take the rain as an indication that something is wrong, so don’t take your anxiety as an indication that something is wrong. Maybe it’s just anxiety.

But also, anxiety brings wisdom. Are there things I should be doing differently? Great, let’s write down what they are and do something about them. But I can’t just do them differently while the anxiety has me in its grip — the anxious parts of me don’t have those skills. Writing them down is like putting on the rain coat.

I’ve appreciated feeling more normal this year, as more people have had brain demons like mine. I’m not weird, this year. This year, I’m more prepared than most, because I already have coping techniques.

I’m also really struggling. This year has been relentless, and I’m daydreaming of a month in a cottage by the ocean or a lake, where I have no responsibilities and can just float from one restful thing to another. Reading. Eating good food. Staring at the water. Going for a hike. Having a quiet chat with whoever I’m with. Not having to remember which coping mechanisms worked well last time.

I’m ready for a new year.