Mental Health

The Thing You Do, But Can’t

windup_alarm_clockYou know that feeling when the alarm goes off at whatever-dark-thirty, you reach over to turn it off, and every muscle in your body protests? Or maybe it’s your throat which feels like it turned into sandpaper overnight. Or your voice has dropped an octave and breathing feels like how Darth Vader sounds. Sometimes you’ve simply run out of oomph and the fumes you were running on have disappeared. You know that feeling.

Yup, that one.

Most days you just power through whatever aches your body normally carries. The constant twinge in your back, or the arthritic beginnings in your fingers, maybe a sore ankle from a decades old break or sprain, the hip that grinds away at your energy, a shoulder strain that needs surgery which you’re resisting; these are simply daily companions you’ve grown accustomed to, right?

You go through your ritual of stretching, steaming the aches awake in the shower, taking some over the counter mostly-placebo. And of course, mentally, whether you know it or not, you give yourself the pep talk, the “people are counting on me” speech, the everything-will-go-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket if I’m not there reminder.

Then you go, and you do. Whatever. It. Takes.

You get through it. You do it.

But some mornings, life throws on a few extra weights, like a cold, or the flu, or simply utter exhaustion from doing The Thing You Do day in and day out without ever really regrouping.

The Thing You Do: running a business, being the mom, school or college, caring giving to a loved one, training,  employment, volunteering, being the dad, driving the kids, getting to an appointment, attending an event, the endless list. It’s probably not just The Thing singular, it’s probably plural. In fact, it’s rare if it’s one Thing.

Somedays you gotta call it done before you ever get out of bed. But you can’t. Because you’re the only parent. You’re the only caregiver. You’re the ONE everyone counts on.

So you drag yourself to the shower, drag yourself through the pain, take a little more over the counter whatever might help and chase it down with extra caffeine and hope your can get through until it’s okay to call it bedtime.

If you have a back up person to call, now is the time to call them. If you can call in sick, this would be the day for that. If you don’t have any backup then you power on unending Netflix streaming for the littles and leave cereal and sippy cups out on the table and attempt to sleep on the couch or floor between requests for every little thing. It’s a sad picture of you with kleenex stuffed up your nostrils and the mangy robe wrapped around your aching, worn down, sleep-deprived body.

Now is a great time for prayer. And tears. Tears are good and cleansing and cathartic. Crying while praying can help a lot. Or it can make your nose clog up even more and maybe give you a bad headache to add to the other crud you’re dealing with.  And then you might end up feeling mad at God for not healing you instantly and maybe even blame him for feeling worse. Don’t do that part. That is not helpful.

If someone asks the unanswerable question: “Is there anything I can do to help?” don’t you dare answer with that wimpy, ridiculous reply: “Oh, I’m fine. I can handle this myself.”

That’s just nonsense.

Tell them, “Yes, as a matter of fact there is something you can do to help!!”

Pick something. Anything.

  • Wash, dry and fold a load of laundry? Yes, please.
  • Bring over a steaming pot of some delicious soup? Absolutely.
  • Chocolate? Of course.
  • Vacuum the floors? Amen.
  • Wash up the dishes? Bless you for your offer to help me.
  • Do a grocery run for a few basics? Wonderful.
  • Babysit the kids for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep? What a saint.
  • Take out the garbage? Hallelujah!
  • Stay with this person while I take a time out? Glorious.

I’m sure you could add other things you wish a lovely house elf or sparkly fairy or magical unicorn would swoop in and take care of.

Guess what?

Other human beings are the real elves, fairies and unicorns of our lives.

We should all have a list like that already made up for the inevitable day that LIFE hits the fan and the blowback is too much to handle. In fact, we could have each to-do item written on a card, like an emergency contact, and ask the semi-committed volunteer to select a card. Then you’re not even really asking but merely fulfilling their wish to be helpful. Is that an amazing plan, or what?

Not that I’d do that. Ever.

I hate asking for or needing help. I just want to be an independent island nation, completely self-sufficient and proud. Letting people help me makes me feel like a loser.

Right? Isn’t that why we say, “I’m fine, I don’t need anything,” even though we’re hanging on by our fingernails to the last frayed end of the rope with the wick of the candle burnt all the way through from both ends to the middle? (pick your metaphor)

But I’m not a loser if I need help. I’m just a human. And so are you.

Don’t you sometimes offer to help someone if they need something and they answer with that silly “Oh, I’m fine” nonsense? Don’t you wish they’d actually let you help? You don’t think they’re a loser, do you? Nope.

Alrightythen.

800px-bed_in_seattle_hotel

Photo by Liz Lawley.

If you hit that wall. If you can’t do another freaking day of The Thing without a break, a rest, a respite, a me-day, a mental health break, then dang it, ask for help from wherever you need to. Call in, step away, turn off the phone, text, email, voice in your head. Take a day for you, to heal, to rest, to be.

 

I give you permission. The universe gives you permission. Actually, you don’t really  need permission. Just take care of yourself and let others help take care of you, even if it’s just you venting to them about the weight on your shoulders and in your heart.

Do it.

Just skip doing The Thing You Do for one day. Just rest.

Best wishes from a fellow human who occasionally needs people and rest just like  you.

Now I’m off to do The Thing I Do until the day I can’t.

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Categories: Being Human, Mental Health, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Back in the Saddle, Again

June 14, 2016 Tuesday  ~ A month after my bike crash.

I woke up to a debate in my head.

I was tired and so I thought maybe I could justify not going out on my bike because of that. But I knew I’d feel better psychologically and physically if I rode. I tried to tell myself I’d exercise somehow at home. A bike ride sounded scary, potentially dangerous. My face remembers hitting the sidewalk; my head remembers the pain that lasted several weeks. My whole body remembers feeling out of control and suddenly, inexplicably, thrown to the ground.

I somehow have to push past all of that and make myself get out of bed, dress in my biking clothes, put my necessities in my pockets, fill a water bottle, tie on my shoes. I remember to leave the bedroom door open so if I have to call Lynn he’ll hear the phone ring. I put on my helmet, tighten up my chin strap a bit, since I remember the helmet coming off after hitting the sidewalk, or at least it seems like it did. I set my phone to track my ride distance and speed. I roll the bike out of the garage; push the button to close the garage. I adjust the pedals; I walk to the end of the driveway with the bike in hand. I look both ways down the street.

Bicyclehelmet_da_060713

Not my helmet.

And then I’m riding. Every push on the pedals feels awkward, I can’t get comfortable on the seat, and my grip is too tight on the handlebars. My knees remind me that they took a hit and aren’t quite fully recovered. I’m on high alert for any tiny obstacle, extra careful on turns. I’m tired already after only half a mile. I remember that the first mile is just to loosen up. I try to relax and start to get a rhythm.

I turn the bike south, the sun already too warm on my left; I push through and start to find I’ve settled in to the seat. I start to remember the exhilaration of moving under my own power, although I’m certainly not riding at any speed to remark about. If a runner came by they’d probably pass me.

I told myself I would only ride four miles and not cross any major streets. And yet, I find myself at a major arterial road and wait, probably longer than I need to, for traffic to clear. Then I ride past my own personal boundary line. A half mile later I turn and ride back to the same road, take my time, cross back, negotiate a curb and ride north an entire mile. At that point I’m sensing the bike react to every nuance of the terrain beneath me. I lift myself off the saddle to negotiate a large bump in the path. The bike manages through some rocky terrain as I turn south again. My hands squeeze the handlebars too hard and go numb. I shake the feeling back into each one, hesitant to let go even briefly. I regret this unpaved section, with its unpredictability and slippery sand and varied rock, but I remember that I’ve ridden this path dozens and dozens of times without incident at a much higher speed.

I turn, I negotiate another sidewalk to cement, and then cement to sidewalk and I don’t slam to the ground. I finally remember to breathe, although I’m sure I’ve been unconsciously breathing the whole time. I roll into the driveway, hop off the bike; punch in the garage code, back my bike into its parking spot.

I remove my helmet. I look at my phone and the app tells me I rode four and three quarter miles. Not much, not far, twenty-five percent of what I was doing with frequency only a month or so ago.

I report in to my cousin with a text.

Her response heartens me, makes me feel like a champion.

I did it.

I can do it again.

There’s no guarantee that a fall or crash or some craziness won’t happen again. In fact, it’s probably inevitable. But I’m more mindful now, less cavalier. I know there’s a lot I don’t know about the sport that only experience will teach me.

I know I can’t give it up. It’s one of the major things that keep my mind alert and my depression-prone psyche on an even keel.

Maybe next time the pre-ride debate will be shorter. And the time after that, or two or three, maybe there won’t be a debate at all.

~~~~~~~

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”   ~Dale Carnegie

 

 

 

Categories: Biking, Mental Health, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Packing It In

When dreams repeat themselves over several nights, it makes me pay attention a little better than normal to those fleeting subconscious wanderings.

The past week I’ve dreamt multiple times about packing. I’m talking about stuffing things frantically into a duffle bag, or throwing things together haphazardly into a suitcase. One dream had me zipping shut all sorts of temporary containers to take with me somewhere and I needed to hurry it up, too. I never knew where I might be going, or what I should bring with me. The only commonality in all the dreams was a sort of desperation or panic to get it done quickly and don’t forget anything important.

I let these dreams haunt my daytimes a bit and didn’t like where my personal interpretations took me, so I thought I’d consult some dream imagery sources. Seems logical to gather some information, right?

The common thread in the different places that I researched said this about dreaming of repeatedly packing represents:

  • Uncertainty or chaotic changes in your life.
  • Your feelings about being weighed down by endless responsibilities or expectations.
  • The need to establish some kind of order in our lives
  • A need for greater organization in your waking life.
  • Feeling unprepared for the challenges that you are facing.
  • An unsuccessful attempt to deal with far too much in your waking life.
  • Something definitely overwhelms you at the moment.
  • You are juggling too many things and situations.
  • You are carrying too many burdens.
  • A warning to relax and let go.
  • Somebody is pushing you to take more responsibility;

That all sounded fairly accurate in describing how I’ve been feeling lately. I find that fascinating. How do my dreams know to go there?

Would you like a cup of irony to go with my dream interpretation?

At the beginning of the year I made a short note to myself that reads as follows:

  • Simplify.

If ever I wondered what I wanted out of the year 2016 it could be found on this tiny list. The key word here, in case you missed it: simplify.

IMG_5728One reason I stopped making resolutions years ago lies in the FACT that as soon as I set myself a goal the oppositional forces in the universe unite to make certain I do not achieve what I set out for myself.

What is that all about? And do I sound a little paranoid? Well, so be it. I probably am.

I’ve had some great inspirational moments of clarity in how I could simplify my life so it feels more focused, less scattered and crazy. And yet, those few moments have been overwhelmingly done in by a giant tsunami of requests, additional to-do list items, a change in responsibilities, an inability on my part to say no, and personal lack of organizational skills and lack of self-discipline.

Chaos. Responsibility. Expectations.

How do I pack all that into neat little containers? How do I corral the wild horses, tame the unruly strands of unfinished things to do?

I own and have read dozens of books of bringing order into chaos. I know the three bin method. I’ve spent days and weeks packing and unpacking an entire household countless, (okay, seventeen) times. You’d think by this time in my life I’d have my act together, I’d have reached some point of calm. Balance should have settled into my life.

Ha!

Apparently that isn’t how it works. At least it hasn’t for me, so far.

I’ve been reading a book that a friend recommended on organizing. I don’t think it’ll save my life or change it completely, but perhaps it’ll throw me a life-preserver.

Here’s part of what I think my dreams mean, according to the book of Kami.

What I really want to do is pack one small suitcase and disappear from all my responsibilities and to-do lists. I want to say, “NO!” to every request. Could I deliver myself to some unknown place where no one recognizes or notices me and just, I don’t know, sit and read, walk in the woods, sleep, ride my bike, bask in the sun? Could I find out what a life with no expectations from others feels like?

That’s about as likely as me winning a lottery, which I don’t play.

I’d probably get bored really quickly, no doubt.  I know running away isn’t a solution, but something extreme seems necessary to achieve some balance to the shoal of chaos that my life has shipwrecked on.

I think I need a nap now.

~~~~~

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~ Confucius

 

Categories: dreams, Mental Health, Priorities, Sanity, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

In Search Of: Missing Groove

A friend of mine recently mentioned “getting her groove on.” That led to an interesting discussion about what that meant, which led to Googling a random movie neither of us have seen, which led to a comment by me that I thought my groove might be moldering in the washing machine.

You know that mildew smell right? Ew.

Have you ever mopped up spilled milk with a towel and then let the towel sit for 24 hours or so? Or spilled a whole gallon of milk in the car in the summertime; oy, that’ll put you off driving for a while.

Mildewing groove. Gross!

Groovy crop circle. Not my missing groove though. Photo by Cropoilbrush (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Groovy crop circle. Not my missing groove though. Photo by Cropoilbrush (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

So what IS a groove and how do you get it back? And in my case, how do I get rid of that smell?

Here’s a mashup of what a few of the online dictionaries said about it: “Hippie term: Taken from music, but relating it to life, social situations, and nature. Generally feeling good , in tune and in the rhythm of nature. Enjoying life. An established habit. Enjoying oneself.”

According to that definition, my groove, and my friend’s groove, have both definitely gone missing. Me in tune? Nope, I’m way off-key. In rhythm with nature? I wish.

And just so you know, Diet Coke does little to alleviate the void left by missing grooveness. Although, ice cream can briefly mimic having a groove, but once the bowl empties, that feeling dissipates quickly.

When I ride my bike pre-sunrise I feel “in the groove.” But that sensation slips away sometime before noon. Sad, I know.

Maybe music would help. Cranking those tunes (<— click it, you’ll thank me) during the day could ramp up the groove meter. A little disco never hurt anyone, right? (Don’t answer that.)

Has YOUR groove wandered off?

Possibly that lack of groove finds its roots in one or more of the following:

  • Fifth month of relentless heat, with who knows how many more weeks still to endure. (Think cabin fever, but with heat in place of snow.)
  • Consistently running short on sleep
  • Little time spent in recreational reading
  • A deficit of fun
  • Not having something to look forward to
  • Missing family members or friends
  • Lack of a consistent schedule
  • Spreading myself too thin
  • Overcommitment
  • Too much time lost in my own circular thoughts
  • Worry, about lots of things that I have little or no control over
  • Lack of concrete goals
  • Not enough laughter in a day or week
  • Internalizing other people’s stress
  • Lack of balance between work and recreation
  • A disorganized desk, room, house, garage, car, life.
  • The ever-present money worries
  • A plague of pumpkin spice everything, everywhere!

Not a drastic, life altering list of anti-grooveness there, but just enough of a handful of them to make things smell a bit moldy and feel off-kilter.

A336,_The_Wave_at_twilight,_Paria_Canyon-Vermilion_Cliffs_Wilderness,_Arizona,_USA,_2011

Pretty groovy, but not the one I’m missing. (photo © Brian W. Schaller / License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Your list for a missing groove certainly reads different from mine. Maybe you’re a caregiver with little respite, or a worn-out mom of toddlers, or a school teacher (bless your soul). Any one of those things right there can throw a person off track and leave them dazed and drained and with no groove.

Your list might include a hormone imbalance, or chronic pain, or living in a stress-filled situation. Maybe you’re completely clueless about why your groove got up and went. It happens.

How you find your groove might feel nearly impossible with time and energy constraints beyond your control.

Small and simple things like adding a bit of outdoor time, or hitting the gym, or a class or club you attend once a month might be completely out of reach. As would a regularly scheduled babysitter. Even making plans for something cool in your future which could light the fire under your groove and get it boiling could feel pointless. Even sneaking in a nap occasionally to revitalize your dormant groove could seem like a pipe dream.

Small moves, tiny changes, bits of brightness. Sometimes that’s where I often find my groove. Easy to overlook, and yet powerfully energizing, even if only briefly. Hearing a bird song as your walk in to work, catching a glimpse of blue sky through the window, noticing the flavor or texture of the food you’re eating,    breathing out a short amen to the sweetness of the pillow beneath your head as your finally, blessedly get to go to bed.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s more to that off-putting smell of mildew. Maybe some big repairs wait in the wings. A remodel, a mold removal service, a new roof. Meds, therapy, counseling, intervention, multiple steps, moving on or moving out, or simply hanging in there until forever or whenever. Heaven forbid that your groove goes that bad.  I know it can. Prayers for you, my friend.

A Cat Story

My cat was much scruffier looking than this beauty.

My cat was much scruffier looking than this beauty.

I adopted a stray tom cat when I was a teenager. Named him Tom. (I know!) He’d disappear for weeks and then show up battered, bloodied, matted, patches of fur missing, limping, open wounds. I’d clean him up, do my best to comb out his fur. He’d spend hours on my bed in a patch of sunlight, purring, healing, content to just be. And then a month or two later, he’d wander away again. After several years of his comings and goings he just never returned from one of his wild adventures.

I worry that my groove resembles scruffy Tom. One day it might wander off and not come back. I hope that’s not true. Not for me. Not for you.

I’m not really looking for a new groove like that animated emperor. I just want my old, comfortable one back. Sure it’s a little frayed and ratty looking, but it fits nicely and does the job when it sticks around. It likes to hum along to that Simon and Garfunkel tune “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” (Y’know, “Feeling Groovy.”)  Do you think there’s much chance I’ll find it? I sure hope so.

I’m posting a mental wanted poster: “Missing: One Groove.”

If you need me, I’ll be out searching.

 

Categories: Being Human, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments
 
 

Growing Fruits and Nuts: Wreckage and Heartache

Just before leaving a friend’s house recently someone picked up a book from the coffee table and read the title aloud: “Growing Fruits and Nuts.”

Since I’m a gardener I naturally replied, “Sounds like a book about raising children.”

Pa dum shush.

Thank you, thank you.

Wreckage. Photo by FEMA.

Wreckage. Photo by FEMA.

Not long after that little laugh, I talked with a different friend. I knew this already, but sometimes reality drops a big loud steel I-beam nearby so that you sit up and take notice.

I realized that some people’s children and some people’s relatives really are nuts. Fruitier than a fruit cake. And meaner than a junk yard dog.

Bonkers, out of their minds, bizarre, weird, wired wrong, whacked.

Call me naïve, call me altruistic, but don’t call me Shirley. (The name’s Kami.)

I’ve never understood families that refuse to speak to each other. Or who treat each other with disrespect. Or spouses who keep living in the same house but clearly should not still be married. I can’t figure out how someone can treat a parent with indifference or ingratitude. Abuse of children? Almost unforgivable.

I really really really don’t get meanness. I especially don’t grasp manipulative, cruel, self-centered behavior when it’s aimed like an assault weapon at a direct blood relative.

Psychological abuse at the hands of family seems crueler than any form of physical abuse. But I could be wrong.

Can someone explain this to me? I am confused and mystified.

And my heart tightens up and twists itself into knots for anyone who feels they are stuck living this way.

I’ve tried to laugh it off, but it isn’t working. I don’t think it’s really a joking matter. Do you?

***

Here are a few sources that I researched trying to find some understanding or a way to help:

Band Back Together

Who Are They? Abusive Men and Women

Parental Abuse 

Invisible Victims 

Five Steps to Free Yourself

Tornado aftermath. Not unlike psychological abuse and the damage it does. Photo by John LeGear at TimComm.com with permission via Creative Commons license.

Tornado aftermath, much like psychological abuse and the damage it does. Photo by John LeGear at TimComm.com with permission via Creative Commons license.

Categories: Family, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments
 
 

Getting Healthy in all the Right Places

Doctor’s waiting rooms seem ripe with all sorts of possible bad outcomes. Don’t you agree?

I always wish I had my own bottle of hand sanitizer after simply opening the door to go in.

There’s those pens, the ones with flowers taped to them so no one takes one. Who’s going to walk off with a bacteria laden pen from a doctor’s office? Not me! Even minus the fake flower. Not to mention the clip boards. I’ll bet no one has ever swiped a disinfectant wipe across one of those boards o’ infection. The arms on the chairs? Ew. Potential illness abounds.

Let’s not even get started on the magazines from 1990 something, or last year, or even last month. Petri dish some of those pages and see what you come up with!

Brrrr.

Brrrr.

Last month I availed myself of the attentions of a new doctor, an internal medicine specialist. Nice guy. He looks like he’s about the same age as one of my son-in-laws, who happens to be a med student.  Putting my health in the hands of someone so young seems like kind of a scary thought, but then he seems up on the latest studies, schools of thought in Europe versus here in the States. And he takes his time with me. No sense that he’s in a big rush to get to the next patient.

Bonus points for this: he only treats grown ups. Grown ups have complicated, twisty knotted up weirdness in the physical health area. I’d suggest an internist if you fall into that category. So far, I like the guy.

So this young internist writes out a series of tests that he says I need. Labs, scopes, prods, pokes, whatever the heck you’re supposed to do on a regular basis that I (cough) rarely do. So I’ve spent the past month or so doing all that fun stuff. At one of the funner procedures, NOT the one I wrote about, I got put in a little dressing room, put on a gown which would become completely useless in no time, and took a seat next to some nice, crisp, newish magazines. I was told to wait. Or maybe I was supposed to say, “Ready or not, here I come,” when I was decent. I don’t remember.

Anyway, I had a minute to read one of the magazines called “Experience Life.” I laughed when I read the title. Like I need a magazine at my age (relatively young-ish) to tell me anything about experiencing life. I found the idea rather humorous. But, surprisingly this one article caught my attention. In fact, it riveted me to my seat and made me forget my half-nakedness. That’s pretty impressive power.

"Healing Spaces" the book

“Healing Spaces” the book

The title of the article is “Healing Spaces”. In fact you can CLICK HERE to read what I read, only online. It’s written by Esther Sternberg, MD, who excepted it from a book she wrote called Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being. I checked it out from the library and can’t wait to read it.

Basically, these ideas took hold when someone noticed that patients who could see trees through their window while they were in recovery left the hospital a full day earlier than those without a natural view. This prompted a variety of studies which have come up with some fascinating conclusions about things that help improve the healing process. Conclusions I happen to support wholeheartedly, based on personal experience.

Don’t you love it when research backs up what you already know? Makes me feel kind of brilliant. Ha!

So what sort of things has this research concluded help us to heal faster? I’m glad you asked. These things right here:

  • Quiet places
  • A place in the sun
  • The presence of loved ones
  • Places that smell good
  • Walking paths and labyrinths
  • Places of belief
The Riparian on a rare rainy day.

The Riparian on a rare rainy day.

All those things already top my list of priorities. My sanity requires regular quiet mornings and my wandering walks. The Riparian Preserve where I walk fills up some awesome smells that change with the seasons and the weather. Living in the desert Southwest I get lots of glorious sunny days.

The baking I love to do makes my home smell heavenly and right now the air is thick with the smell of citrus blossoms. Some of my most cherished moments each week I spend in sacred places. And, I know I feel better and happier when I spend regular time with family and friends.

Based on where I spend my time and this book, I ought to be one of the healthiest people around.

According to my doctor and all those tests, I’m in great health, with a couple of things I need to work on. (Aren’t we all a work in progress, or egress?) I’m pretty sure that the time I spend in all these places keeps me in better health than I deserve. Mentally, I’m certainly saner than I’d be without such places in my life.

So breath deeply, wander some, soak up some rays, enjoy family and friend time, hang out somewhere sacred and luxuriate in a bit of quiet. Your body and your brain will thank you.

~~~~~

“Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact that there is healing.”  ~ Linda Hogan

Categories: Mental Health, Nature, physical health | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

A List to Remind Me That the Sun Shines

Aspens. My favorites.

Aspens. My favorites.

MSH reminds me when I start ranting about something and threaten to write about it on my blog, that I always intended for this project to lean toward the positive and optimistic.

Then I remind him that I’m also “keeping it real” which might not always come across as roses and sunshine.

Keeping It Real

How real do I feel comfortable with here on the blog? How real am I comfy with in person? All last month I’ve debated this with myself. And I didn’t write much during that debate. Lost my groove, I guess.

A path of shadow and sunlight.

A path of shadow and sunlight.

I felt braver a couple of years ago. Bolder. Speaking my mind came easier. Opening up about my life happened naturally and with less reserve.

This past year, in many ways, I’ve caved in on myself. I’ve tucked in the frayed edges. I keep the strained or raveled seams covered. I’ve inched toward a more hermit-like life. I used to do that during the month of January every year. I saw it as a naturally occurring regrouping and recovery from the two or three-month holiday season.

My January recovery session during the past year stretched into eleven other months. Maybe longer.

An online friend of mine wrote a (somewhat annoying) glowing top ten account of his past year for the following reason:

“Things can get difficult, and you never know when I might need to remind myself that these things happened, and how and what I felt like when they did.” ~ Brad McBride

Good reason to write up a top ten, you gotta admit. Even if it annoys semi-irritable people like me.

I’ve just survived a year (2014) where I needed to remind myself of happier times to get myself through the day or the week.

I’ve also just been through a year (2014, yes, same year) with some amazingly wondrous good things happening. I mean A-MAZ-ING! Happiness like nothing I’ve ever known.

Talk about a paradox.

I’ve felt lost and found, abandoned and loved, forlorn and supported, ready to give up and anticipating greatness, numb and electrified. At times hope eluded me and then there it shone like a stunning sunrise nearly blinding me.

So what would be my top ten good things for 2014?

  1. My oldest daughter’s new baby girl
  2. The volunteer work I get to do
  3. Hanging out with my favorite teenager while driving her to and from tutoring
  4. Spending time with a certain three-year old
  5. Snuggling from a fun-loving one year old
  6. Almost the entire family together for a weekend in November
  7. A Christmas concert extraordinaire
  8. Summer sunrise walks
  9. My family reunion – time with Mom and Dad
  10. Sitting in a high mountain meadow for hours with MSH

See, my life’s filled with wonder and joy. I just forget sometimes. The difficulties can cast such deep long shadows that block out the sunlight in such a way it almost feels like night. I just need to step out of the shade and let the sun warm me from time to time.

Am I Right? Or am I Write?

This blog has been a source of light for me as well. It’s like a conversation I have with myself to sort through things and make sense of the world. So I add a number eleven to my list.

11. This writing thing.

So I’ll keep things real. The good, the ugly, the stunning, the what-the-heck. Life as I see it written down right here just for me.

If you want to follow along, you’re welcome to join me. Just don’t make too much noise. It is morning, after all.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Hope, Mental Health, Sanity, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happiness Cheerleaders

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful for my very cool, very chill, big brother. His example of cheerfulness and optimism blows me away. I wish you could all meet him.  en joy not endureMy siblings and I have a running online discussion going. It started out as a handy way to keep tabs on Dad and Mom since Mom’s last hospitalization. It’s evolved into a kind of self-help group as well a way for keeping in touch with each other.

I know we’ve never communicated as well as we have this past year or so. We even include spouses in the discussions, so we get multiple points of view on things. It’s always supportive, educational and often funny. Yeah, we even disagree from time to time. And that’s okay, too. It’s real.

Not long ago, in answer to one of the sibs concerns, my oldest brother responded in a surprising rapid-fire response of images.

These very images, in fact, every image on this page today:

 

That’s only a few of them. Here’s some more:

Those showed up on the messenger feed bam, bam, bam, like he already had them right there ready to shoot out at any threatening negatives. Pretty impressive.

His wife, the most cheerful, energetic person I’ve ever met, chimed in on the discussion with this, “Just so you all know we have these gems and more posted ALL over our house!!!” I’d love to see the rest of them. I suppose I’m overdue for a visit.

talk about joys

This one had the biggest impact on me.

“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.” ~ Rita Schiano

Isn’t that mostly what you encounter when you watch, read or listen to the news? All these problems to be faced, figured out and fixed. It’s part of why I had to step away from so much input from the news media.

As part of this same conversation my brother also said, “I watch some news but counter it with at least 4X Disney or Pixar or Stupid People doing funny stuff.” He quotes animated movies all the time. “Put your hands up Maurice, it’s more fun that way!” I think that might count as his favorite, but I could be wrong.

water glass fullMy other favorite picture he posted looks like this:

I like the twist on the classic optimist versus pessimist question.

I personally tend to lean heavily toward a nearly-empty glass most of the time, which seems weird. If you knew me you’d be surprised to hear that. But Depression can do that to you.  So can hard times that follow seemingly one after another with little break in between.

I think it’s time to change that perspective.

Will a bunch of happy posters and memes, affirmations and positive thoughts cure depression. No, not likely. But, they could help. They’ve helped him through some really tough stuff. I suppose knowing how far he’s come to get where he is today makes me believe his take on things. Makes me want to try his angle out for a while and see where I end up.

After all, I’ve been working the gratitude thing for a while, (twenty years) but still find myself bogged down in some muck, unable to move forward or see light ahead some days. The negative gets the better of me from time to time and I have to work myself out of it.

Maybe I need to add to my arsenal. Maybe I simply need some direct, in my face, smile and wave reminders. Like small inanimate cheerleaders on the sidelines of my life. Go team!

I suppose this last one sums up what I’m thinking most accurately. I wonder if we, me specifically, expect life sometimes to present itself as happy. “Oh, look, happiness!” we’d say surprisingly as it skips towards us. I’m really sure that does NOT happen. There’s some decision making that goes on in the process of being happy.

happiness

Thanks, big brother, for your leadership, friendship and example. You rock!

So here goes. I’m making a conscious choice. I’m choosing happiness today. Call me Pollyanna. Call me Crazy. Call me Happy.

Categories: Happiness, Mental Health | Leave a comment

Whateverness

I skipped out on writing a Gratituesday post yesterday. Not that anyone would notice except me, really. It’s not like me. Even if I don’t write anything for a week I always, always, always post something I’m grateful for on Tuesdays. But nope. Not yesterday.

Part of me said to myself that Monday’s post about the “Twenties” could serve as my gratitude offering for the week. Part of me doesn’t want to think of things I’m grateful for lately.

Who could be uncheered by a sunrise like this?

Who could be uncheered by a sunrise like this?

Why would I do that? What is it about human nature that makes me want to wallow in whininess and self-pity rather than pay attention to the abundance surrounding me. Or maybe it isn’t human nature at all. Maybe it’s just my own personal nature, prone toward the negative. It’s an ongoing battle, most days holding my ground or even gaining some ground. Other days the foe pushes harder than my stamina and will power. Then I find myself mired in the old, all too familiar ground of smudged glasses, a fog in the air, stuck knee-deep in depression and meh.

Does it matter that I pushed through the tiredness and volunteered with MSH at a food bank for a few hours  yesterday? He thought it would do me good, give me some perspective. I’m sure it did somehow deep down. I tried, later, to compose a post about the experience, but found my heart had stayed closed off to the experience as well as any potential good I could have gained from it. Shelves got stocked, meals made available, families and individuals got served. Now my muscles ache and my back hurts. I should have felt a sense of satisfaction, of joy, but nope. Nada.

Veggies in my future?

Veggies in my future?

Does it matter that I dug out my seed collection and, in an act of extreme faith, even for a desert gardener, put seeds into the ground early in September? I try to envision radishes pushing up through the soil, imagine beets with their tiny red stems poking though, lettuces for future salads, carrots with their furry tops, pea vines winding up the wall. Do you think it will really happen? Or will I fail to keep the soil moist enough over the critical week or two of seedling spouting? Will the temperatures soar and bake the now saturated ground along with the tender shoots of my offering of faith?

Just after shaking off the pond water.

Just after shaking off the pond water.

Did today’s face to face encounter with a coyote stir something in me, make me feel more alive and lighter? As I said, “Oh, hello there!” and those gray eyes looked through me, judging, assessing, weighing the danger, did I wonder at such a confrontation? Perhaps, a bit.  And only minutes later, when the geese complained at the coyote’s invitation to breakfast, did anything stir in me as they flew overhead, the sunrise backlighting them just so? I took a photograph to share and smiled a little. That’s something. The whole day ought to have brightened at such an occurrence, my heart should have jumped and laughed out loud at the very least.

Maybe I’m behind on my sleep. Maybe I need to take vitamins, eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water. Maybe I need some hours lost inside a book, oblivious to my surroundings. Maybe it’s time for some extreme sanctuary, silent meditation or exceptional prayers. Maybe I need a few days camping, saturating myself in pine-scented oxygen and unfettered starlight. Maybe I think too much. Maybe I think about the wrong things. Maybe I need some serious chocolate. Who knows.

Looking for calmer waters.

I’m just trying to make sense of my life, and some days honestly, there’s very little sense in it at all.

In my decades long war with depression, I’ve learned to remind myself that what I’m feeling is temporary. That I won’t feel like this forever. Days will get better, laughter will come easier, I’ll feel like being around people soon enough. There’s no need to give up hope.

I declare today a mental health day for myself. I’ll be gentle with and generous to myself. I’ll rest and renew and find a toehold to push myself back up to solid ground. I’ll reread some of my gratitude journals. I’ll push harder on the heavy door that’s shut everything out and open up my heart to the possibilities around me.

~~~~~

Turns out today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Far too many people have weeks and months and yes, even years of lassitude, depression, stress, trauma, the weight of the world on their shoulders, and general inability to cope or find help. It turns out hope does exist. Please educate yourself so that you can help someone who needs a light shining in their dark hours. Or educate yourself so that you can see your way to a source of light and hope and healing. God bless.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Hope, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Sleep…the Best Meditation”

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”

 ~ Anthony Burgess ~

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for sleep.

Sometimes sleep eludes me. My body weary and eyes bleary, my brain an emotional maze of nonsense, and yet that gentle slide into oblivion simply refuses to happen.

At other times I just don’t manage to squeeze in enough sleep to fully rest my frazzled nerves and the frayed edges of ache and age.

In fact, I recently summed up my life since age twenty in four words:

I need more sleep.

Original art by Adolph Menzel - http://www.villa-grisebach.de/

Original art by Adolph Menzel – http://www.villa-grisebach.de/

Years, no decades, of my journal entries lay peppered with the phrase, “I’m so tired,” or “I’m so exhausted,” and, “If I could just get a nap.” What boring journals.

Some of that I lay at the feet of parenting babies and toddlers and teens. It’s a given, for parenting requires our all. But sadly, some of the constant fatigue I can lay at the feet of depression and its insidious energy sucking vortex of gloom and misery. No amount of sleep cures that kind of tired.

Lately, though, I’ve waged a daily battle against exhaustion –  emotional, spiritual and physical. When my head meets the pillow I feel such incredible gratitude to be horizontal, to be resting, to have sleep waiting to take me somewhere far away.

Exhausted Beyond All Reason

Last night I called it done at 7:45 p.m. Astounding! Normally it’s eleven or midnight.

No I didn’t drag myself around the house doing this and that. You know that wasted time of “getting ready for bed” that takes an eternity? Nope. I felt such lassitude I don’t really even remember pulling my pajamas over my head or pulling the chain on my bedside lamp. I do know the clock hadn’t yet rolled over to eight when I set my alarm and pulled the covers up around my chin.

photo 2.PNG

Every morning, except Sunday!

Six hours later, at two a.m. my body woke up. Not for any noise or nightmare. No. Six hours equals how much sleep I normally get and my body knows it, so it woke up. Calmly I reassured my brain and body that it could rest another three hours. Three more hours!!! Imagine a snooze button that does that!

I woke still groggy but rested and thrilled, yes thrilled, at having gotten so much sleep. The pace of my morning walk surprised me, less strolling and more actual forward momentum. Surprising what a little (fifty percent more) sleep will do for a person.

There’s a solution to that…

I know I should go to bed earlier. And I’ve literally been telling myself that every single day for years, “Tonight, I am going to bed early.” And nada. Nope. I get sidetracked, waylaid, pulled in, tricked by a series of just-one-more-things.

I wish sleep didn’t feel like such a luxury.

Naps fall in that decadence category, too, don’t they? And yet, twenty minutes with my eyes closed mid-afternoon can make the difference between a moody unproductive evening and a cheerful, pleasant one. That’s not decadence, that’s survival!

Everything seems more manageable after some decent sleep. Doesn’t it? Yes. Yes, it does.

This sums it up nicely:

“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” ~ John Steinbeck

Yes. Today I’m particularly grateful for sleep and its restorative, sanity-keeping, energizing, blissful escape. I’m guessing you are too.

~~~~~

The title of today’s post comes from a quote by the Dalai Lama, “Sleep is the best meditation.”

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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