In the Laugh Because Otherwise You’d Cry Category

I saw an image yesterday that made complete sense to me as being a symbol of how I deal with tasks and problems in my life.

I’m particularly terrible — but getting better at!! — prioritization.

So let’s say there’s something terribly stressful going on. If I could just DEAL with it, it might very well go away. But, I allow myself to see something else that can be done more easily, and so I go on the path of least resistance, thinking I could relieve some stress by knocking something else off of my to-do list.

It doesn’t really work, though. My stress doesn’t actually dissipate despite lessening the burden with the item of less importance crossed off the list. My coping mechanism is a joke in that case.

Anyway, here’s the image. This is so me.

Me dealing with my life problems

“Yep, that’s a tornado. Yep, it’s an issue. But, dang it, I’ve GOT to mow the lawn, so I am going to do that instead so I’ll feel better about addressing something that I’ve been needing to deal with!”

 

 

 

Making Mean Faces

The other day, I was picking up a prescription from the pharmacy counter at Publix.

I’ve always thought of prescriptions as a rather personal thing. You know the pharmacist has a lot of power with all the information they have in their database. They know why you may be taking the drugs they’re issuing you. It seems most folks uphold the modicum of privacy when it comes to transactions at the pharmacy counter, leaving a respectful distance (albeit framed by impatience!) between themselves and whomever is waiting ahead.

I was mid-transaction. I’d signed for my prescription and was about to get the goods and pay, when a man around 50 years old basically sidled up NEXT TO ME. My defense mechanisms sounded the alarms. I had a grocery basket on the counter in front of me for my drugs to go in after I’d paid for them as I still had some shopping to do. The encroacher put his basket on the counter NEXT TO MINE. The hell? All of this silently went down and I shot the dude a nasty look to tell him to step away, but he wouldn’t even look at me. He instead gazed at the pharmacist. I paid, being sure to cover his view of my card PIN, and shot him one final withering glance that told him where he and his drugs could go, and I walked away. Creep.

Why do I write about this? Because I have never been one to make mean faces at people to show my disdain for them. I never would have done that in the past. I might even get to the point where I could vocalize my displeasure to future encroachers to not stand so close to me. (“Don’t stand, don’t stand so, don’t stand so close to me.”)

Seriously. Dude. Back the F off.

This means I am changing! This is ultimately a good thing, I think. I hope.

It’s kind of fun, expressing myself with my real emotions rather than spending energy covering them. In the past, I would have tried to rationalize the man’s behavior rather than instantly concluding his behavior was inappropriate and doing something to let him know it. I would have told myself to calm down, that maybe he has some sort of social disorder or mental disorder. I’d try to find some way to forgive him for this lack of respect. This time, though, I didn’t process all of that and instead shot him a mean look. It would have been ideal if he had seen the mean look, but at least I did it. I let the world know I felt.

Feeding Myself: Dance

For Christmas I received a gift card for 4 classes at a local dance studio. I’ve been aching to attend a formal dance class for well over 2 years, and I finally went last night. Prompted by avoiding the massive dose of pollen outside, I ditched my plan to go for a run and instead went to a dance class. I’d wanted to do one with more movement, but I was able to go into a stretch class instead. I love stretching, so I was happy to go; I’ll go again soon to a movement class.

Ever the worrier about new places and things, I got there early and told the front desk attendant, I’m new. She kindly helped me out, gave me a quick tour, etc. The studio is really nice! It has a very swanky locker room area, 4 studios, and a good assortment of classes. It doesn’t have Zumba, but it does have Cardio Salsa, which I watched the tail end of as I waited for my class to begin. Will definitely be trying that one!

Stretch class was challenging, but all my stretching on my own paid off. There were only a few times I felt weak, but my abs and back are so much stronger than they’ve ever been in my life, and I felt like I was properly flexible, too. It was a challenge, but not over my head. I can only get better.

It was a little hard to see my physique in the mirror, though. Although I’ve been running, my midsection and thighs and upper arms looked enormous compared to most women in the room. There was a clearly professional ballerina behind me who was tiny tiny tiny, and the lady next to me was tiny tiny tiny and the instructor was tiny, too. I decided to turn my mind to my strength and not my looks. I even smiled, as I remembered how wonderful it felt to be in a real studio and letting my mind go to follow the instructions. I also had to laugh at the obscene amount of sweating I was doing under the very warm light right over me. I also kept spotting hairs from my head all over the floor. I was awkward in these ways, but again, I felt strong. Capable. And I didn’t want it to end. The hour flew by and it was time to go.

I can’t wait to go back. I’ve needed this.

Really Listening

Lean in, says my heart.

I have something to tell you.

Your feelings? They are telling you something. Listen to them.

Those places you described as starvation areas in your life? Feed them. Feed them well and regularly. Hear them cry to you to be fed. Feed them and you in turn will feed yourself.

It doesn’t make you crazy or less-than to wish to spend your time doing what feeds you. How will you ever become who you are meant to be otherwise?

This need to come alive and grow in a new direction? You are ready. Your hard work is paying off. Use your privilege of being alive and use your powers for good. Fear not.

Listen to the Mustn’ts by Shel Silverstein

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be

Being Assertive

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“For no one can fill/ those of your needs/ that you won’t let show.” – Lean On Me by Bill Withers

I’ve always been a humble sort of person. Someone told me in the last year that I’m the least pretentious person he’d ever met. Another friend said I’m so easy going that if someone couldn’t get along with me, then the problem was definitely with the other person.

It’s true that I don’t carry ulterior motives, try not to over-bill myself, and what you see is what you get.

Usually.

Sometimes, however, when you’re this kind of person, others sometimes walk all over you. And because you’re laid back and go-with-the flow, you don’t get out of shape about it.

And when you’re this kind of person already and you get depressed or anxious, you think you *deserve* to get walked all over.

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Until you get fed up.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I will go to bat for anyone else any day and never for myself. I see solutions to other people’s problems so clearly and know how to help them. Or at least advocate for them.

I’ve been working for months on telling others how I feel even if it scares me. There are still plenty of things I can’t say out loud even though I think they are true. I told a friend the other day that some of his behavior was scary to me. At the risk of losing a friend and of course questioning whether I had done the right thing, I did it anyway. That was probably the biggest example of me building the muscles I need to build in order to be more assertive like I’d like to be.

I have two minor, silly examples from the last 24 hours when I have been assertive.

  1. Last night at dinner, I placed an order exactly as the restaurant had told us in the past to order it. It’s a barbecue place, and even though I don’t eat meat, they have a salad I like, and it comes with two hard boiled eggs.  My son loves hard boiled eggs, too, so we started ordering an extra side of eggs for him. Last night, I ordered the salad (which comes with eggs, as you now know), and a side of hard boiled eggs for my son. My salad came out, with eggs on it, and the server said, there are your eggs. I was a little baffled and she flitted away before I could ask her if my son’s eggs were coming. Another server happened by, and I asked if she could confirm if the salad was supposed to come with eggs or if I happened to always get eggs when I’ve ordered it in the past, just in case, you know, they make it without eggs now. She said it comes with eggs (as I thought), so I told her I’d order a side of eggs. She looked pained and unsure that I was being truthful. The other server came by a few minutes later, set down the eggs in a little bowl, and said condescendingly huffy, “you were supposed to pay for them, but here are your eggs. Enjoy,” and walked away scowling. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, and I very badly wanted to assure them this was how I had placed my order, but they were busy and frankly I didn’t want to talk to either server again. But, I am glad I stood up for what I wanted, for what I ordered. In the past, I hadn’t. It wasn’t the first time they didn’t understand what I was ordering. I did decide to kill with kindness by cleaning up the table to make it very easy for them to clear: silverware together, trash gathered, wiped up crumbs, etc.
  2. I got a haircut a few weeks ago. It looked pretty when I left the salon, because, duh, it always looks amazing when you leave the salon. I had told the lady who cut my hair that I typically didn’t have time to blow dry it and that I needed a cut that would dry okay. Fast forward to pretty much every day since the first wash after my haircut. I don’t like it. It looks dippy and I don’t feel pretty. I want something else. Counter to what I would have done in the past, which was settle for the haircut and just deal with it, or go to an entirely different salon (avoidance), I called the salon owner and simply told her I had very patiently tried to get used to it, but that I hadn’t been able to really love this haircut. She can see me tomorrow! And I even asked if she’s going to charge me, and she said, of course not! Phew. So glad I asked.

Again, these are tiny examples but they signify progress I have made in being more assertive about the things I want.

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Thanks for reading.

Inputs

Ever want to cover your ears and go, “la-la-la-la-la?”
My senses get overwhelmed all the time lately. There are too many things competing for my attention.
Some attention grabbers are external: take for instance a moment last fall. My son won’t sit still, my phone is ringing, the waitress wants to take the order, and we’re at dinner with new friends as I’ve discovered I’ve lost my brand new credit card that I had just used to pay for parking. Okay, deep breath. This situation all worked out and I somehow kept my cool and even laughed through it. The phone call was my bank letting me know someone had found my card and had called them to report it. Dinner turned out fun and ended with ice cream. My son was a holy terror but somehow managed to eat his dinner and we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant. And we made new friends.
If you’re like me, the attention grabbers that reside inside my head are the real stressors. I can’t diffuse them with as much ease as I did at the restaurant. On the outside, I have it all together, but inside it’s like being inside a movie theater and all the walls have come down between each theater and all the movies are playing at once. Loudly, with lots of vibrant colors to draw attention.
It doesn’t really matter what makes up the inside inputs, but it does matter how I control them.
I get overloaded more easily these days, trying to attend to all the things I need to do, need to remember, need to address, or want my attention. I compulsively, I admit, check email far more often than is healthy, and I treat it like I am the phone operator trying to connect all the calls coming in.
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Look how easy and glamorous I make this look!
At work, especially, I treat email like I am on a game show and I must reply quickly and exactly right or I can’t progress. The problem is, I was in the middle of answering another question when I stopped to check my email. I ran a report to answer the first question and checked email as I waited for the report to run. Then a colleague approaches and asks a question, which I try to answer on the spot, because I already know from experience I will never do if I keep interrupting myself. Which I will and do.
Same thing happens when I am home alone (home with family is a whole OTHER story). I start some laundry and then feel smug in how productive I’m being. Then I feel a rush of energy and decide to make something to eat. I look through the items on hand and realize I am going to have to either get creative or go to the store. That makes me feel tired so I end up grabbing an apple instead and sit at the table, chewing away as I look at my phone, meaning to reply to an email or RSVP to an invitation. Instead, I see new emails and posts on Facebook and Instagram, read articles, watch videos, and basically follow a rabbit hole far past the end of the apple.
I realize the washer is done so I get up to transfer the clothes to the dryer. Oh, there are clothes in the dryer, except they are all wrinkly, so I run the dryer for a while to fluff them up. I notice the trash is full, but I don’t take it out. “Later,” I promise it, as if it’s longing for its destiny to land in the dumpster, a thought that makes me laugh out loud. I register that the dishes need to be done, but I will wait on those until after I eat, so I can do them all at once. I may eventually turn on the tv, completely forgetting the laundry, a meal, emails, the trash, the dishes, and lots of other things. If I turn on the tv and lie down, it’s over: I’m taking a nap.
I’d make a terrible phone operator.
Putting A Call Through
A telephone operator putting through a call at a switchboard circa 1930. (Photo by Keystone View/FPG/Getty Images)

How do you deal with too many inputs in your day-to-day life without getting overwhelmed?

Thanks for reading.

Funk

I’m not really doing Lent this year.

My colleague and I were talking about Lent yesterday and he asked what I gave up this year. I told him nothing. And that I had thought about what I haven’t had and just saying that’s what I had given up. I thought I hadn’t had wine, but then I remembered, oh yeah, I have had wine since Lent started. Dang it. The wine was good, though.

I got a hair cut on Tuesday. I took a great run on Monday. My day got away from me yesterday and I wasn’t able to run. I’ve been sleeping okay, after I take something to help me sleep. But the kid still likes to wake up super early.

Self care exercise, hair cut, and sleep aren’t cutting it. I’ve been in a funk since late last week. Energy way down. I feel like sadness is emanating from my pores. Maybe I need to change my meds.

Being in a funk to me feels like being stuck in mud and not sure what to do about it. It feels helpless. I’m starting to feel like I am cycling through the downer part of my bipolar cycle. Or maybe I’m in the descent to it. I have some ideas of how to feel better immediately, but those ideas are things that aren’t necessarily good for me and would probably lead to the manic side of my bipolar cycle.

I’d like to get off this ride and just be normal. For now, you’ll find me doing this, I guess. I need to go find a wall to rest my undersized plump elbows on:

The_wall

Tell me a joke? Make me laugh? Please? Leave me a comment in any case. They don’t show up until I approve them, so if you don’t want me to publish it, I won’t.

Thanks for reading.

Feelings

I chatted with someone this past weekend who said he “wasn’t into feelings.” After some questioning, I understood his comment to mean he is uncomfortable or annoyed by people who are over-sharers of their emotions and feelings. That’s understandable, but for a while I was beginning to wonder how self centered he was!

As a person who struggles with identifying how I feel, labeling my emotions correctly, and then sharing my emotions with others, I was reacting to this guy by thinking, “wow, is he only talking to me about this because he knows me well enough to know that I don’t talk about my feelings all the time?”

This wasn’t a heart to heart by the way. He was merely making conversation.

I can’t stop thinking about it, though, as this is so central to the work I’m doing in my life now.

If you search for images on emotions or feelings, you’ll find A LOT of images.

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Wouldn’t it be funny if I printed this out and started pointing to the face of how I am feeling when I talk to someone? I’m afraid even if I did that, no matter what I say in conversation, I’d still point to “Happy” unless I am either mirroring their emotions or trying to prove a point, usually through a joke.

I find other people’s feelings to be fascinating. Especially when I see someone who is willing and able to exhibit strong emotions.

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I’m also a seeker of the best word or phrase when deciding on expression. This chart is a great example of what I may go through, when I feel a certain way and I try to muddle through the nuance of how to describe it.

650_feelings-wheel-color

I think it’s a really good chart! I may print it out and see if it helps me pinpoint my emotions more readily.

I noticed that I keep using the terms feelings and emotions interchangeably. That’s not exactly correct, but I do have trouble with identifying both. Emotion describes how your body is reacting to a stimulus, and a feeling describes how your mind interprets that emotion. And, I have to add, your thoughts are the rationalizing of what to do and behavior is what you do eventually with the thoughts and feelings. Hence, the wise advice of thinking before you act.

My issues stem from questioning my emotions and the feelings they evoke. My default is to think WAY too much, question myself WAY too much, before I act (or not act). I squash my feelings so I often deny myself from letting my emotions evolve into feelings. I play it safe because my whole life has been a series of good results (mostly) when I kept my feelings to myself and bad results (mostly) when I reacted to something. In other words, I have been a lot less likely to make a fool of myself or hurt others if I keep my stronger, truer emotions to myself. I have been a cool, collected person. I deny myself so much eventual happiness this way — maybe?? — which is of course severely frustrating.

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Thank God for running. And meds. And therapy.

Thanks for reading.

When I Want to Run Away, I Look at the Pretty Ocean Pictures

It would be so nice to go stare at the ocean right now. My heart is crying for it. Heal me, Ocean, I want to say to it. Tumble me like a rough stone and make me smooth. Let me form a seat in the sand and let the waves form a back-and-forth blanket over me. Let my tears join the sea.

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I know the water is heavy and the sand can rip away my skin. I know there are creatures in the ocean that would just as soon eat me for dinner.

But that almighty weighty crash and stinging salt breeze whipping through my hair would do wonders for me now.

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It’s an ineffable primordial feeling to respond to the sea, a feeling I carry from my earliest memories. My son surely has a similar set of feelings imprinted.

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I especially love the wildness of a summer storm on the sea. While I wouldn’t care to be there for a hurricane, there is a thrill to seeing Mother Nature doin’ her thang.

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And then, this magical thing happens:

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The whole place is simply that: magical. Food for the soul.

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Ahhhhh.

Summer can’t get here quickly enough.

My Weekend of Sobriety #2

My first weekend of sobriety went pretty well, but I was nervous about my second weekend because I’d be going back to Helen. Practically everyone in Helen drinks, plus we were going to a party with friends who’d all be drinking.

We had our son with us, making it a family weekend.

The boys had gone up Thursday night, giving me a night by myself. Alas, it went by way too quickly. I got there Friday late afternoon fully expecting the tug of alcohol.

Fortunately, it wasn’t so bad.

Friday night was very relaxing. After little man went to bed, Josef and I watched a Jim Gaffigan special, and neither one of us made it to the end as we were tired from the week.

On Saturday, I ran 10 miles in 1:35. That’s a 9:26/min average pace. This was one of the best runs I’ve ever had. I could have kept running but I had told Josef that I would only be gone for an hour and a half max.

At the end of the run, I was in the middle of town. There was a scavenger hunt going on that was related to the party that night, where someone would be awarded a prize for getting all the answers and visiting all the businesses on the game sheet. I chatted with our friends who were trying to get folks to sign up to play the game, and I took a game sheet and took it back to the house. Later, our little family went on a walk and looked for the answers to the scavenger hunt from the game sheet.

My first reaction when I hear about participating in a scavenger hunt is something akin to hives. It stresses me out. It’s the last thing I’d ever sign up to do. My theory is that I did too many overwhelming educational ones as a child on field trips. I remember one in particular was very difficult. It was at Space Camp and our teachers had created this scavenger hunt where we had to work in groups, go through the museum to find answers to very vague clues, and the answers somehow lead to a final clue (made a sentence, maybe?). Ugh, it was so awful.

I’m happy to report that this past weekend’s scavenger hunt may have made me a little less apprehensive of future scavenger hunts. It was fun. We had a good time figuring out the answers, and we got most of them by the time we finished our walk.

We hired a sitter so we could go to the party as a date. The sitter was very sweet and we’ll ask her back. Her mother and older sister were at the party. Ah, the beauty of a small town, I suppose. Josef and I stopped by one of our usual bars and he had a beer while I enjoyed a Coke. Then we went up to the party where, again, he had beer and I had a (wait for it) Coke. A few people commented on my lack of drinking, but most did not notice. They were too busy having fun. Those who did notice and asked probably think I am pregnant. They will be disappointed, I imagine, when I don’t have a baby eventually.

The party was okay. There was an overly-friendly accordion player who was looking at me each time I happened looked his way. He cornered me at one point when he was taking a break, whereupon I learned he was fairly harmless and was not the best conversationalist. I got away politely and joined another conversation group.

The crowd there was generally 20+ years older than we were, plus I was pretty tired from my run, so we didn’t stay out as late as we thought we would. Josef walked me back so I could send the sitter home and he headed back out to the bar (literally a 3-5 minute walk from our house — I really should time it as it’s ridiculously close). I curled up on the couch and got through half an episode of Versailles before he came back. Then we watched more stand up, again not making it through the whole episode. It felt good to hang out together and laugh. It felt like the old days.

It was a mild and good weekend. I am a whole lot more prone to seeking out snacks now on weekend nights, so that’s not good. I’ve been researching how to snack and not gain weight.

I did some weight lifting last night. I’m not well acquainted with the machines in my little apartment gym, but I figured my way around some of the options and lifted to work out my quads, inner thighs, and shoulders. Safe to say I don’t really know what I am doing, but maybe I can find someone to train me. I love to do pliés as I hold weight in my hands. I can incorporate a number of stretches and lifts in this position. It has really helped my running. I need to work on my upper body more, though, as well as abs.

I continued with some stretches when I got back home, after I put our son to bed. Strangely, I am not all that sore today, even though what I lifted felt challenging last night. I guess I was being cautious without realizing it. Typical of me.

Tomorrow I will get to run again as tonight we have a meeting at the school. I’m hoping to go for distance again. I’m definitely seeing a performance improvement by not drinking, and I hope weight training will also help me with running.

I’m still holding on to some emotional junk, unhealthy obsessions, and am still faced with triggers that get me down sometimes, but for the most part, by putting in the work, I am feeling better on the whole.

I started a secret Facebook group (it’s not so secret any more, Susan!!) for moms dealing with mental health issues, and one of the members posted some things she wrote on her mirror to help herself. The approach of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) includes working to change your thoughts. It all rolls into the Thoughts – Feelings – Behavior Triangle:cbt-cycleChange your thoughts and you can change how you feel and what you do. Identify behaviors that make you feel a certain way, and recognize them so you can work on how you think about them.

If you know me at all, you may have heard me stop you if you have ever talked negatively about yourself in my presence. Even if you are only making a humorous self-deprecating statement, I will call it out and say, “hey now, no negative self-talk.” It’s because I am hyper aware of these types of thoughts now.

The mom in the Facebook group who shared some thoughts shared hers and then asked us to contribute ours. These are geared toward anxiety, but I can see these would be helpful for someone with depression, too.

Here are some, which I hope may be useful to you:

-Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life? (Yay, Bible)

-It may not be okay now, but it will be soon.

-It’s just a bad day, not a bad life.

-This is not then.

-Feel the fear, and do it anyway.

-Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.

– That thing you’re worrying about? It is not happening right now. Everyone is safe. You are safe. (This one is mine. I created and used it when I was having horrible fears present themselves to me right as I was trying to go to sleep.)

– Avoidance behavior reinforces anxiety. (YES. IT. DOES. Ugh, guilty.)

I’m working on getting clear-headed and clear-eyed so I can most effectively change my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. My feelings are my weakness right now because they don’t line up with my behaviors. It’s hard work and I am not going it alone. I think exercise is really saving right now, along with meds of course.

Thanks for reading.