Under Pressure

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It’s an astoundingly gorgeous day today. I wish I could have appreciated it sooner. I’m fortunate that my desk is beside a window so I can see the glory of the day outside.

But I did not want to wake up.

My bed comforter is a little too warm. Even though I sleep with minimal pajamas as a result (interpret as you will), I always wake up covered in sweat, my scalp damp.

And yet, I did not want to wake up.

I felt overwhelmed by the gravity of sleep more so than usual, as I have fought it my whole life. I had to get my son to school though, and myself to work, so I rose and readied myself and him for our Wednesday.

“Is it Ballet day?” he asked, as he does every Wednesday. He is not enrolled in his school’s ballet class, but he’s hyper aware of the schedule so he always asks, confirming the day.

“Yep, buddy, it sure is.”

“And tomorrow is Thursday, Spanish [class] day?”

“Yes. You’re right, tomorrow is Thursday, Spanish day.”

As all small children need and like, the boy loves predictability and organization. He also is currently fascinated by calendars, maps and globes, and counting the months of the years or letters of the alphabet by 2s. “Mommy, is it, February, April, June, August, October, December?” Seriously, what 3 year old thinks like this?

My childhood schedule was predictable. Aside from whenever dance class day happened to be, and sporadic trips to visit aunts and uncles and cousins in the area, my life was: school during the week, dinner around the same time, homework, chores on Saturday mornings after cartoons, along with some playtime, and church on Sundays.

Now we decide last minute that we’re going to Helen for the weekend, or we make advance plans to go to Helen for the weekend, but the departure varies. It means sometimes we take our son out of preschool on Fridays. It also means he knows two places as home, two bedrooms as his, two sets of toys, two sets of what routine is. It’s like he lives in a divorced household, only his family is in tact.

I’ve often worried what impact this is going to have on him long term. The pediatrician didn’t seem concerned when I asked her. I think I am the only one bothered by it, and extend my concern to his well being. I know my sister and her family will take long weekend trips to weddings, etc., and another family I know seems to always be going somewhere on school breaks and weekends.

Between work, weekends back and forth, and my illness, as I described before, I get so tired. So easily. There’s so much pressure to keep going going going all the time.

But, I know I need stability in schedule to heal. I need routine in order to heal. I need a schedule.

But it bores me, I think. I get restless. Did I have TOO much stability growing up? What am I rebelling against? Other needs controlling my life? What is this pressure? Am I manufacturing it? I recently took a career test that says I like change for the sake of change. Weird. I never would have guessed that I’d show that through a test.

The introvert side of me LOVES when my calendar is free of meetings. The extrovert side of the house is thrilled when I have a lot of meetings. But, I get really tired prepping for meetings. Under pressure. I am often so happy when a meeting ends and I am free. Pressure released.

My running schedule is sporadic, based on when I can go. I had to stop my run yesterday because my hip hurt. My time was suffering as I gingerly traipsed unevenly along. After 30 minutes I stopped, afraid that I’d risk further injury if I kept going. So today is a rest day, even though I’d rather have run a lot yesterday and still be going running today. Because running relieves that pressure.

I keep craving solitude, too, more than usual. I feel so cranky when this need hits at night. It’s not like I live alone, after all. I think this need arises when I react to the pressure of the demands of the coming day. I shut down.

The grass is greener on the other side, y’all, and it calls to me daily. The clock is ticking and there’s so much I want to go do. I want to escape. But at the same time, I want (need?) stillness and tranquility. I guess this is the push and pull of the manic/depressive cycle? Under pressure.

Part of me wishes there were a Presbyterian version of a nunnery. I could elect to go into that kind of service and devote my time using my talents to helping others. It would be my job to go out and serve these ways, but also part of life to live in solitude on purpose. Someone else would set the schedule.

Or I could figure out a way to do that in my life so I could be generally happier.

The things I love to do most, however, don’t really align with a schedule. Artistic inspiration cannot be forced. I guess that’s where discipline comes in, so that when artistic inspiration hits, the underpinning support is there. That’s how running has been. The more I run, the better prepared I am for challenges like speeding up and running tougher terrain.

So, I guess all this is to say what I seek is balance. Every time I try to schedule and goal set, though, I tend to overdo it. I set myself up for exhaustion. My therapist has talked a ton about mindfulness, and I am glad I have a session planned for tomorrow so I can bring it up. I need new tools in order to do this.

I’m staying put this weekend. Not going to Helen. I need a break and we’re going to be there all of February with events for Fasching (Germany’s equivalent to Mardi Gras/Carnival Season). I’m trying to take a break from drinking, as I swear it’s a Pavlovian response to being up there. I am not supposed to drink on my meds, too. This is yet another area where I need discipline.

Part of attempting balance is to turn to the things I’m good at and enjoy, but in a non-exhausting way. My therapist has told me I need to ask for the things I need.

Here’s what I need, simply put:

To dance.

To sing.

To run.

To read.

To stretch.

To create artwork.

To help others.

To go to church, for the ritual and community.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Oooooh, weee! What Up With That?

In case you haven’t become acquainted with it, here’s the blog title reference:

What Up With That?

What I’m referencing, by thinking about “What Up With That?” personally, is an examination met with surprise with where I see my interests taking me as well as NOT taking me. I don’t know if I am suddenly clear-minded or crazy, but it seems to me that a lot of stuff is suddenly making a lot of sense to me.

I think it’s because I’ve been given a lot of time to think the last few weeks and my Lenten Observation Routine (a.k.a. LOR) forces me to spend time with my own thoughts in a structured way, as a opposed to idle thoughts that led to nowhere but frustration as has happened time and time again in the past.

Here are some of my thoughts, in no particular order:

1. I really don’t miss my singing group. I miss the people. I miss the music. But the two together? No. Don’t miss driving to rehearsal. Don’t miss being frustrated at rehearsal. Don’t miss being pissed off at people who weren’t pulling their weight. Don’t miss feeling like I was letting everyone down when I wasn’t feeling like doing things I thought I should be doing as a leader of the group. Ultimately, I believe I have really made up my mind. As much as I would have laughed at the idea of quitting a year ago when I first got an inkling I was actually unhappy, I feel so much better not prioritizing my life around it.

2. Just because you free up some time in your life, doesn’t mean your life is suddenly empty. Shoot — I am still busy! But it’s great because I can now pour my energy into activities that actually interest me. I have experienced the strengthening of friendship with two neighbors in the matter of weeks simply by being around to go on a walk with them! I’ve gotten more in touch with my neighborhood because I was able to go to the neighborhood meeting last week.

3. Even though I feel like I haven’t lost any weight, I feel better now that I am walking, drinking so much water, and sticking with a plan. Even though my overall plan is just to do this LOR for 47 days, I have a tendency to add things as it makes sense. I have started recording beside my LOR chart each day a tiny list of events that happened that day as well as my overall mood. I’ve thought about journaling my food intake, too. I have put myself under a microscope, so to speak!

4. Even spiritually, I have put myself under a microscope. I love reading the daily lectionary. It’s really cool to see how my mood and issues weighing on my mind shape how I read the Bible. I can honestly say this because the Psalms repeat really frequently, and even though I know I read that self-same Psalm last week, I am looking at it totally differently this week. Also, I feel this structure is episodic – I am following just a portion of a book of a Bible each day, so it’s like watching three shows and picking up where I left off yesterday. This is a great, manageable, interesting chunk of my faith each day to digest. I feel I am really living my faith, walking closer to God.

5. Along with fringe benefits like becoming closer to my friends in my ‘hood and feeling healthier, I feel better able to tackle some matters at hand. I got my dog to stop going nutso on walks when he encountered other dogs. But now, I don’t think he likes walks, so I have to figure that one out next. I feel that having this problem is interesting rather than frustrating. I don’t feel down on myself about it like I would have in the past.

6. I am better able to act on things that draw my attention. I’ve found a new voice teacher who sounds amazing. I’ve applied for an internal position at work. I’m considering dropping more activities to possibly change careers if I am hired for this other position at work. I’m excited about other possibilities for me at work as well as some other locations. But I have faith that God will guide me to the correct action. For some reason, one job possibility my mother-in-law sent me did not strike me as interesting, when a year ago I would have already submitted my resume.

7. Also in the feeling better category: aside from getting up to pee at night because I am drinking a gallon or more of water each day, I am sleeping better. I feel refreshed. I don’t really feel as though I need caffeine when I get to work, so I usually serve myself some coffee to enjoy the flavor, and then I rarely finish it. Also, I am disinclined to drink as many alcoholic beverages. It’s difficult for me to drink an entire glass of wine at dinner on weekend night, whereas in the past, I would have had at least two. It’s as though (and is probably the case) my body feels caffeine and alcohol are toxins.

8. This is almost 100% a happy post. I am happy I am not perfect, that I have stuff to keep working on. This was my mission when I set out on this blog — to live lightly and laugh often, right? I feel like my current practices have me honoring that so much better than my old ways.

This is just two weeks in on the LOR. I totally realize that I am a creature of habit and that once Lent is over, I’ll possibly lapse and be bored with this routine I’ve established. I do miss HGTV very much, but I also feel I’ve gained so much by having time to do things and I know that these healthy practices will continue to pay off big time.

In renovation news, our new tile guy started today! Hooray!!! Yipeee!!!!

Yeah, he rocks. What I thought would take him several days he did in one day. He’s not done, but he is what my boss would call “kickin’ butt and takin’ names.”

Last time we checked in with the progress of the bathroom, we were here:

Bathroom how the old tile guy left it

Within the last 10 hours (this morning through now), we are now here:

AH-mazing progress!!

Here’s another shot:

So pretty!!!!

And, look, he was able to get this done, too!

Shower floor and curb - DONE

This is astonishing progress. Josef kept me posted all day with updates about what the new tile guy had accomplished. He sent me pics, too, and each one made my heart a little fluttery and lighter. What an amazing feeling to see the finish line edging closer and closer, and so rapidly! What a blessing this guy can work so quickly. He was certainly worth the wait, and I think he’s worth his weight in gold, so far!

I’ll keep ya posted when he’s grouted and done more.

Not all who are lost wander

Turning the oft-quoted Tolkien phrase on its head, I know I feel lost at the moment and yet I cannot wander to find direction at the moment.

And, although when Jesus preached the parable about our inability to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) to demonstrate that you cannot serve both God and money, I feel as though my life is currently spent serving many masters. And, it’s true, I feel that I am despising things that I should love, but I don’t have time to dwell in any of them long enough at the moment to not feel irritated when I am tugged along by the hour of the day to turn my attention and energy to the next task at hand.

I was invited to be part of a group that meets with our new pastor. We meet with her on Tuesday mornings from 6:30-7:30 to discuss the lectionary text of the upcoming week’s sermon, and this past Tuesday (oh, only yesterday? Feels like three days ago!), we discussed Psalm 119:9-16 and Matthew 6:19-21 (just before the two masters part in verse 24). Both passages, although contextually different, describe treasures, and described how we are to behave when we realize our treasure is in the heart of God.

Heart = core.

One of the attendees to the “Text Talk” who also happens to be one of the more grounded young people I’ve ever met, made the point that it’s hard to find treasure in God when a person doesn’t know what their core is. This is a paraphrase, and I fully admit she may have had another point altogether, but it hit me that I am not sure what my core is and am not sure that I ever have.

I do not feel awesome about feeling this way.

Also in the context of this Text Talk the participants were to offer by way of introduction how long we’ve attended our church and what we spend most of our day doing. I happened to go last, and I felt like I didn’t have much to offer beyond “I juggle a lot of projects. And roles of responsibility.”

I know I would get bored if I only did the same thing day in and day out. A new work colleague, reflecting on her role at work, said one of the reasons she left her old job was because she had grown bored. But now she’s in a high impact and fast-paced environment. I made that kind of job transition once before, when I went from working as an administrative assistant at a church to a human resources assistant at a local for-profit college. Night and day stress levels, not much more pay, and I was ready to quit only two months later. I last six more months. I was unemployed for three months until I was hired for my current position. My current position was quickly augmented by other roles and responsibilities. Some of which I love, some of which I do out of obligation. I am serving too many masters now.

I am not sure who the master within me is at the moment. I know my vision is blurred by all the opportunities. I am disoriented by the time and mental commitments I will have to make to further my career. My heart aches as I consider putting off my desire to start a family. As I said, I feel lost, but I am not actively wandering to find my way right now. I have too many masters demanding my attention.

My prayer tonight is for God to grant me some patience in dealing with myself. I feel like I haven’t done a good enough job in my many roles at present. I feel my work is sloppy at times, and am due any criticism I receive. I feel like I have made regrettable mistakes at work, but not out of any ill-will but because I didn’t have a good grip on the situation to know there was an issue in time. By the time I get home, I am confronted by a messy house I am too tired to clean. I am still sad about the death of Josef’s grandfather. I feel like I have been a bad friend to several good friends lately because I haven’t had a moment to let them know I’ve been too busy. I haven’t slept well in weeks, so I am short on patience. I feel like I can’t possibly take on more commitment than I already have.

My prayer also tonight is to feel centered enough to convince myself that I do know who I am. I might not be spot-on centered, but I surely know myself! I may not have an awesome career by my own standards, but I am in love with the place where I work and the people I work with there. I get to use my singing talent through my a cappella group.  I feel great when I make others’ lives easier or better. I think I need to rely on knowing what I do know about myself and know that other people are not there for me to compare myself to and see myself falling so short.

Okay, I promise a lighter post next go ’round, but I needed to get all that off my chest. Thanks for reading. I’ll be okay.

The real picture emerges

Yes, here’s another update on the painting. Seems to be going well! I know that I am creating it, but as I paint, I experience something that has always baffled me about anything I have created: it all seems preordained to be the way it comes out. I remember writing essays in English class, where I had this image flash in my mind about what my essay would look like long before I actually wrote it. I am the same way with art work. Even though I feel like I am actively making decisions about things as I paint along, it feels hard for me to take credit for each decision that winds up on the canvas. It just seems like it was supposed to look that way, that each decision was a good one. In this way of thinking, I know I am thinking passively about my artwork, which maybe doesn’t give myself enough credit, but I feel like this is more true than any other way of describing it. Maybe it’s because I can’t explain why I make things the way that I do. It just comes out looking the way it does, which usually looks good, and I am always pleasantly surprised that it actually looks good.

I’m pretty pleased with the progress. There are still some areas that I am trying to figure out, but the village looks really fun and somewhat plausible in its 2-D-ness.

As my painting develops, I am also reflecting on the areas in my life that I am trying to figure out. In anticipation of good things happening, I am also dealing with some areas that lack clarity.  It’s not so much unhappiness, but more so not knowing how certain things are going to work out, as well as self-identifying some areas for personal growth. While I could be content with my life, there are just certain areas nagging at me for attention — some more loudly and more actively than others.

Maybe working through this painting will add some clarity for me in these areas of my own life’s picture, but if not, at least I’ll have a painting done that I have been needing to finish for a long time now!

“… He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” – Phillipians 1:6

(Though I don’t generally like quoting one line of scripture to suit my needs because it runs the risk of decontextualizing its source, this is a mantra of sorts from a song I learned growing up at church. It comforts me today.)

say a little prayer for you

Until my cold passes, I am taking it easy on the runs I am taking. A week ago I ran 40 minutes and could have easily kept going. I love thinking about everything when I run or creating interesting mantras for myself to focus on. Sometimes I think about my a cappella songs or songs I would like to compose.
Last night before I went to sleep I formed a neat plan for today’s run: I was going to pray for people and things on my mind while I ran. I devoted laps or half-laps to a number of folks and issues, and even though I could only maintain my running for 25 minutes due to not being able to breathe so well yet, it was really great.
I got the idea from my friend who ran a marathon a year and a half ago. She had raised money for her race for the Lymphoma Leukemia society through team in training. Octave had a gig this past Saturday for some folks who were also training to run in a marathon and raising money for the same group. I was so excited that we had the opportunity to be part of the event!
The weather today was gorgeous. It got up to the mid-70s and was sunny and clear. What a blessing after the last few months of cold drudgery. It’s supposed to be in the 60s at least for the rest of the week, and the lows in the 40s, not 20s. Fingers crossed that it will stay in this much more Atlanta-like pattern!
I have started some plants from seed. We tried that last year but it was a disaster because I think we bit off more than we could chew. This year, I am starting off and plan to stay small with my efforts. And because we’ll be gone for a month again when we go to Europe, I didn’t want to invest a bunch of time, money, and aspirations into something when I know I will eventually have to neglect it when we’re gone. So, I started onions, beets, and onions from seed because I can possibly grow and harvest before we go, and then I still have some time after we get back to start again with another round. I would like to grow tomatoes, spaghetti squash, and the round one items again if round one is successful! 🙂 I am also starting some flowers from seed for all my containers. My parents gave me a book on container gardening for my birthday, so I am thinking that I can manage that a lot better than an entire yard. Now if I could come up with a way to keep the back yard from becoming overrun with viney weeds!