Spawning Day Musings & New Paths

15 01 2021

Weather: Normal winter stuffs- Cold temps, wet conditions…a little too much gray for me, though.

So I celebrated my 54th trip around the sun this week, which was both harrowing and underwhelming at the same time. Next year will be a telling year, because the middle of the decade always turns out to be a significant year for me. This time? Well, I was dealing with some brand new health shenanigans (Oh hello, Menopause! Nice of you to show up ALL AT ONCE!) plus associated sleep issues and anxiety. FUN! 👍

I did the usual things I do on my birthday: Take an annual selfie which shows the accumulation of silver hairs and facial lines, check my “If you were born on this day” horoscope, and check my social media to respond to any well wishes that might have come in. The festive tinsel was minimal and surprisingly few lines considering the previous year, but the wear and tear shows elsewhere. The eyes are weary, the shoulders a little slumped, the smile a little brittle. It leaks out after a while.

I’m looking so forward to Wednesday this week, Inauguration Day. It seems like a lot of us have been holding our breath after last week’s asshole/sedition coup attempt. So many people look at the incident and seem shocked that it happened. I’m trying to figure out what they didn’t see the last few decades that a lot of us observed warily, that if you feed people resentment and lies and point fingers at the “others” who have caused all their problems. Accountability, responsibility and empathy have all been decimated, crushed under the wheels of self-righteous narcissistic butt-hurt, fueled by people with agendas that had little to do with helping anyone but themselves. Were there legitimate grievances? Of course. But the solutions provided were band-aids and didn’t require anyone to actually put some personal skin in the game. It’s time for some serious self- analysis. We are all a bit complicit in this. I know I haven’t done as much as I could to contribute to fixing some things. Not everything is out of our control, and the things that are, we can still help ease some of the problems a bit. Community is important and I think we’ve all kinda lost sight of that a bit.

The political issues aside, January so far has been actually not bad for me and the fam. We have managed to find ways to save money, and have a had a few small windfalls here and there that have taken a bit of the financial worries off our shoulders. The general overall sense has been one of wary optimism. I’ll take the small victories when they come.

Birthdays have a way of focusing on fresh starts, and coming to terms with the advance of time. I don’t fret getting older, but I do fret about losing time to get some things accomplished. And I worry that I’m not doing enough to get my health sorted. This year is no different, although I have already started working on a new path of sorts. The often described definition of Insanity is continuing to try the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Time to get off the hamster wheel and try things a new way. I’ve already changed up my daily routine and I’m slotting time for my project work in a way that is more structured than before.

Minimalism is playing a big part in my changes as well. Less about just getting rid of stuff, I’m throwing some Marie Kondo at it and deciding whether it serves a purpose before dispensing with it. Nostalgia is not a reason to keep things, nor is “it might be useful later”. I’ve been a notorious pack rat and collector for years. I literally just dumped 7 binders of collected fandom articles and photos that I’d carted around for decades. Felt a huge weight lift as I carted it all off to recycling. I still have the memories and a lot of it is available digitally. No loss there.

I’m also trying to change how much of a hermit I’ve become. It’s amazing how just stepping outside for a few moments, or taking a walk, clears my head and removes a lot of the cobwebs. If I find I’ve been sitting staring at my laptop or phone for too long, I ask myself, How is this helping you? What exactly is this time serving? And then I go do something else. It’s amazing how much better I feel afterwards.

All in all , I’m not weighing this new year down with lofty expectations. I’m more or less trying to change tactics and plans, and see if it actually helps me progress. If I’m doing better next week, than I am this week, I’ll consider that progress and probably a good positive change. More sleep, better food choices, more movement, more hydration, and stress reduction seems to be the best route for better health this year. So would that be my resolution list for now? Maybe. But I find as I get older, a positive mindset and not stressing over every little thing has a bigger impact on my productivity and my health than anything else. The only goals I need to meet is being alive and reasonably content. That seems like an easy enough bar to surmount.

Take a breath and treat yourself with some gentle respect. You’ll get a lot farther and you’ll be a lot happier.

New Year Musings 2021

1 01 2021

Weather: ❄❄Murky, overcast and cold. Smells like snow soon. ❄❄

Usually at this time of year, I’m concocting clever threads to weave what looks like a coherent structure for the next year, something to build a sturdy foundation under. This year hasn’t really been given to any sort of constructive thinking, unfortunately.

Most of my thought processes have been at the “Survive, and hope for the least amount of pain” level. Hard to have a forward looking ideas or any sort of structure to your planning when you’re just trying to get through. But the past week, my brain decided to do me a solid and slip back into positive mode and supplying me with enough serotonin to actually see a way forward that didn’t end in a fiery train crash.

Although 2020 has been a wicked bad year on all counts, there have been good things here and there. I have no doubts that 2021 will limp into the house tomorrow and be in a healing mode for the full year. I fully expect things to slowly calm down and certain people grudgingly start getting back to normal day to day things, now that political crap is finally done. (And it is done. Don’t let the melodramatic flailing by certain parties convince you otherwise.) The economy will recover, but it will be slow, and much slower that most people would wish it. My hope is that the powers that be will be open to changing the structure of things to make them more resilient, but I have my doubts. ::slaps inner critic:: KNOCK IT OFF! We’re being HOPEFUL DAMMIT!

For myself, I am doing a whole perspective shift for 2021. I’m gonna be turning 54 in January, and approaching mid-decade is always a big shift for me. This year I’m going to pare my goals back to things that will move me in a new direction. I’ve been spinning my wheels for too long, trying to keep re-igniting the fire under old projects and it’s time to take a different approach. We’ve really let things slide on the studio front, partly due to various health interventions (Had my thumb joint reconstructed back in September and it’s finally just now getting back to being usable. ) Plus some family things have intervened. But the motivation and ideas are finally coming back so I’m jumping on that horse and riding it until I can’t anymore. Also taking a better view towards my health, both mental and physical.

I tend to navel gaze way too much. Having a background in the medical field (that didn’t result in a professional position) can be a spanner in the works sometimes. I have a bad tendency to fall down the rabbithole of self-diagnosis, although I stop short of being a hypochondriac. I don’t buy into symptoms that aren’t there and won’t cling to the worse case scenario. I also will listen to my doctor’s because they are awesome and have not steered me wrong once. But too much information can be just as burdensome as ignoring a problem. Mental health can take a hit from that as well, because the worries can settle in, but so can the exhaustion of dealing with daily illness. Positive mindset is not a cure for what ails you, but it can eliminate some of the dead end paths that an overactive mind can go down.

Physical improvement takes focus, so mental acrobatics need to be minimized. Spiritual health needs tending as well. The three are integrated and dependent so it’s important you keep them in their lanes and on track. Anxiety does not play well with that idea, so it’s important to keep my brain occupied with tasks and projects that I enjoy, so it doesn’t decide to find something to occupy itself. The quarantine hasn’t been good for keeping busy, especially when a lot of what I need to keep busy requires leaving the house. Also, worry is like kerosene on the anxiety fire, and there’s been a bit much on that front. (Granted some of it has been things out of my control, and some of it shouldn’t have occupied as much of my headspace as it did.)

If the brain is gonna keep percolating along on creative endeavors, I’ll need to get the bod to a healthier place as well. An active brain in a sluggish, unhealthy body is not a great combo to get you to the finish line. I’ve already made some changes to my eating habits (more home cooking, less ordering in; smaller portions, meal tracking, more water, less soda). Now I need to get this creaky form moving. How am I going to out run the zombies in the impending apocalypse in this shape? Food for thought indeed!

Anyway I look at it, it’s time for some profound necessary changes, and not the kind that I can faff around talking about anymore. Noble intentions are not very useful without any action being taken.

2021 has the potential to go whatever way we decide to put our efforts in. I’m choosing to just start moving forward, taking whatever obstacle that come, blowing them up with C4, and continuing moving. Done trying to tiptoe around things to keep everyone comfortable. I’m going to get my life back on track, and I hope that by paring back the things that are weighing me down will make the trip a little less exhausting.

Here’s to the new year! Point your sails into the wind and just keep sailing, brace for storms, and hope for sunny days with gentle winds. You’ll get to your destination if you just keep focused.

End of Year Musings 2020

29 12 2020

Weather: SNOW! and WIND! and possibly some rain in there too! Midwest winter in full effect!

Time for my traditional look back and speculation for the next year. Although I’m kind of loathe to rehash all the trials and tribulations from 2020. Been a bit of misery marathon as it is.

Maybe a better tact would be to go over some of the things I learned this year. Some good, some bad, and some were a bit of a surprise.

The bad experiences this were mostly covered by Covid related stuff, so everyone went through that and there’s no point rehashing those complaints. On the personal level, dealing with Mom’s breast cancer and my occasional bouts with panic disorder and hand surgery took a bit of the wind out of my sails this year, and added to my crown of grey hair. (Which I dealt with through a liberal application of bleach and bright colors-did pink and blue this year!)

The good experiences were more wrapped up in the new things I tried and the ending of some of the bad things. I learned to crochet, though I’m still trying to get better at it. I got my sewing machine up and running again, mostly to make masks, but I’ve started doing a bunch of other things like making pillows, mending clothes and working on projects for our website. Felt good to be somewhat productive. Lately, find that making things and getting back into a creative mindset is helping me on a mental and even a spiritual level. I need to add in some more physical activity to round out my health initiatives. Mom finishing having her surgery and now seeing the end of the hard part of the cancer treatment has been a relief. getting the pain relieved in my left hand through reconstructive surgery was difficult and I’m still getting back to 100% usage, but I’m so happy to be pain free there.

The surprising things were more like revelations, like the sudden realization that I really could part with things that I hadn’t understood were weighing me down. Yes, there were physical things, like binders of fan stuff that I’ve been lugging around for a few decades now and just don’t mean as much. I feel so much lighter when I can actually get things out of the house, whether it be clothing, books or furniture that is outdated and not seeing much use. The more things I can detach from, the easier it gets. Ridding myself of burdensome thoughts and habits is a bit trickier, but with repetition that too becomes easier. I’ve started finding it easier to avoid self-defeating thinking. Bad habits are harder, because you have to stop them for at least a month before the ingrained behavior can finally be quashed.

My anxiety flared up a few times, but that was to be expected considering all that was going on this year, between deadly virus, idiot science deniers, and an election that has been an ongoing garbage fire, thanks to our broken system and temper tantrums from the top. (Thank goodness that will be done in a few weeks.) But even with sharp sticks poking at the bear now and then, I was mostly able to get it under control.

Physically, I’m still disappointed how much progress has slipped. Not having a gym to go to has definitely hindered me, but that’s an excuse that really doesn’t wash. There was walking that didn’t get done and kettlebells that never got dusted off and a thousand other little things that would have helped. Not to mention the eating habits that really got out of hand due mostly to laziness and….well yeah, laziness mostly. Not thrilled that it has resulted in my blood pressure and weight getting back into not great territory. I’m working on both things, but the backwards momentum has been galling.

Some things that have come back and made me happy have been a re-immersion in my witchy stuff, which gave me some focus that was badly needed. Also, the last few weeks, we cut our cable and have been doing a lot less mindless tv scrolling. Since the election has been over, I’ve cut way back on my online doom-scrolling, which has helped my mental health immensely. I’ll probably only be doing internet research for creative and witch adjacent things next year. It’s time to get my focus back on things in my control, and not expend so much needed energy on anger and constant refreshing of my feed. I need to get back to creating more content, not just mindlessly consuming it. There’s a metric tonne of inspiring things to see and take in, and only a fraction of it is online. I expect to be venturing out a lot more once the husbeast and I get vaccinated and the virus is on the wane.

Until then, I think the healthiest way to look back on 2020 is to see it as something I survived, and a lesson in the harsh reality that people’s worst tendencies will come out in a crisis, as much as I want to believe we’d all behave with more empathy and compassion. Still, I’m not cynical and I can still hope that next year will be a good year. We might just have to work at it.

Winter Solstice and New Beginnings

22 12 2020

Weather: Cold but smells like snow. We’ll be getting a combo of rain and snow over the next few days. Winter is HERE!

So the Solstice is once again upon us, heralding the return to the light, with the days finally starting to lengthen again. Shortest day, longest night, and all sorts of neat astronomical events occurring concurrently: A conjunction of Saturn & Jupiter (granted a visual illusion, but still amazing) and the Ursid Meteor shower occur today.

The conjunction is especially auspicious, if you are into that sort of thing (and I am!). It’s a once in 20 year occurrence, although the visibility won’t happen for us for another 60 years. (Of course we’re cloudy here today, because OF COURSE WE ARE! 🤷‍♀️)

I figured today is as good a time to do a perspective shift, to acknowledge the start of a new era with a fresh slate. Looking back at the previous 20 years, so much has occurred and I have changed radically since I was 33. I got married, lost my dad, survived a brain hemorrhage, lost more relatives, passed through several jobs, moved to a different state, gained and lost friendships and developed a creative output that is as voluminous as it is varied. All bases covered on the scale from tragic to joyous, and poor to comfortable back to struggling again.

It’s been a rollercoaster, but I can honestly say with near 100% confidence that I’m not the person I was 20 years ago. Who is, really? Life happens. Granted, for me personally, I think I’ve had an excessive number of “Life Experience” lessons in this past stretch. Not worse than everyone, mind you, but whew! It’s been a lot.

Now, facing a 20 year stretch ahead that ends with me at 73 years old, I felt a bit of pressure. I mean, this next stretch will be weighed down with accelerating limitations on things that are built in and unavoidable. I know that my mom and my in-laws may not be around at the end of it. I know that arthritis has already started in my joints, and though I can mitigate it somewhat, it’s not going away. There are other health issues that will have to be dealt with and that starts today if I don’t want them to be hanging around my neck at the end of this era. My nephews will be in their mid to late 20s. My husbeast will be in his 60s. These are all incontrovertible things and, although it’s hard, I accept them.

Things that are not carved in stone need to be addressed as well. Where do I see myself? What do I want to have accomplished by then? What things will I have moved away from, that I find necessary now? Some of these things need to be sorted. Some just need to unfold as time passes.

I’m finding that the deeper into my 50s I get, the less I feel the need to live up to others expectations (thank you, therapy!) and I also am feeling the growing urge to just have a quieter, less complicated life. Things happen, and there’s a lot out of your control, but it’s weird how scaling back on things, and obligations, can reduce those complications. The husbeast and I find we’re looking at our future in a house with a little more land (we have a postage stamp right now) and spending more time away from technology and the related stressors. My witchiness has been dialed up to 11 lately, and I’m finding that I’d rather have a garden than spend time doom-scrolling on Twitter. There is zen in the soil and sunshine I just can’t get online. I’m finding the need to be informed is starting to get well into the arena of FOMO instead, meaning that I’m doing way too much obsessing on minutia, rather than just getting the broad strokes and moving on.

I’ve also realized that, while considering a 20 year plan, I need to take the physical implications and the financial goals into consideration. At the end of 20 years, I will be at retirement age, and like a lot of my fellow GenXers, I’m nowhere near prepared for that. So time to get the old nose to grindstone and start making some concrete plans and set some goals that I can start knocking off the to-do list. The time for talk and self-pity is over. I literally have limited time to address both my health and my bank account. Taking into account my current shape on both fronts, I’m gonna need to do a form of Iron Man Marathon to get them back to where they should be. Not looking to be rich or shaped like a supermodel (I’m pocket-sized, it’s not an option anyway!). I just want to not be incapacitated with no safety net in my retiring years.

I see myself living like a weird hippie, with the husbeast, with a working art studio and self-supporting garden and summoning the storms to wield my energy….Okay, that last one may have been a self-reveal too far! 😏

Getting older isn’t scary anymore, but I want to make sure I put in as much effort as I can now to make my life as easy and comfortable as I can in my elder years.

Let’s get started!

The slow slide to the End of 2020

17 12 2020

Weather: Mostly cold, occasional snow, Almost Winter! ❄❄❄

So, 2020…finally we can see the end of this sewer-filled, garbage fire of a year.

I’m still trying to assess what happened, but like the aftermath of a shock or an accident, my brain is a little fuzzy on the details and not quite sure what just happened. I mean, every damn week felt like 10 years, and now it’s suddenly over?

Election nightmare, Covid disaster, personal health issues and family trauma have been happening concurrently, not to mention the increasingly concerning financial setbacks we’re all seeing. So what to make of it? And how do we look towards the next year with anything but the flinching caution of any trauma victim?

Having suffered from medical trauma related PTSD and anxiety for 6 years now, I know a good pending panic attack when I see one. However, it is far from inevitable and there are so many things we can look forward to that might mitigate some of the hesitant wariness we’re all experiencing.

First off, we can look forward to some relative relief from the constant barrage of the election campaigns. Sure, there are some unknowns going forward, but I for one think we have a steadier hand on the till for near future. I’ll take that over daily existential dread, chaos and petulance. Nuff said about that.

Secondly, and whether you believe in it or not, there’s a lot of natural energy floating around that is much more creative and innovative for the next year. Whether you decide to take advantage of it or not, the prospect of some smart and creative people rolling up their sleeves to tackle the crumbling systems here in the states makes me happy and hopeful. I hope that I can be one of them.

Third, I truly believe we can get the ship righted and get our economy stabilized, which will be good for everyone. The vaccines being rolled out will definitely slow the hemorrhaging of jobs and businesses , though I’m realistic enough to understand that it’s going to take effort and will to get things going again. We need to regain our sense of community and empathy, and I’m not sure how you teach that to people. They’ll either get it or they won’t.

It feels like this year really wore people down to the nub, between losing family members and jobs being scaled back, online learning and fighting anti-science, and political battles that seemed endless, I think we’re all really tired. SO so tired.

I hope the holidays, scaled back and distanced, will at the minimum give people a chance to appreciate what they have, not what they’ve lost. It’s been a shit year, for everyone. We share this in common. Maybe that’s where we start to rebuild. That simple understanding that we’re all in this together. And maybe we can all together fix this and make it better. ::shrugs:: Maybe I’m a weird fluffy optimist, but I think if we take all our sadness and point that focus on what we can do instead of what we can’t, maybe, just maybe, things will start getting to a better place.

If nothing else, tell those you care about that you love them, regardless of blood or relationship. We’ve spent four years focused on what bad things are being done by the villains in our lives. Take a few days and celebrate the people who’ve been there for you. Who made you laugh. Who posted the dramatic kitten video, rather than another angry post about politics.

I’m gonna keep focusing on positive things for the new year, on all the things I’m gonna work on next year, and how I’m going to stop doom-scrolling for the foreseeable future. Sometimes you can be TOO aware of everything going on. (You are what you consume, after all)

Here’s to a much better year. Let’s make it a better year. ❤

Stepping away from the Cult of Busy

25 11 2020

Weather: Gloomy. Rainy. Gray. In other words- Midwestern Fall shifting into Winter. 🍁🍂❄🌨☃

Another perception shift came this week from reading my newest book acquisition: “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odell.

It’s a fantastic book about stepping away from the commercialization of Social Media and getting out of the Cult of Busy. She has a section that defines the difference between usefulness and worthiness that really struck me hard. Things we deem useful have potential to bring us rewards as defined by society: profit or fame or both. Things are therefore worthy if they are useful under those standards. But they’re not the same thing. Something can have worth without being useful in the societal definition.

Having been a writer and artist for a few decades now, I’ve come face to face with this discernment. When I tell people that I’m a full time artist, they look at me with a combination of curiosity and pity, usually followed by the inevitable question, “Yes, but what’s your REAL job?” Because it’s unfathomable that I might dedicate all my time, experience and resources to something that is not defined as “Useful” (i.e. a steady paycheck or a job with a perceived impressive title attached) or “worthy” (i.e. something that can’t in their eyes result in my being successful by their standards– either rich or famous).

The American drive for perceived success and its affiliated determined worth has denigrated a lot of fields and has also made it difficult for people to support working artists and writers in their pursuits. I know that growing up, I wanted to be a writer from a young age, but there was always the “pat on the head” and “That’s nice, but have a job to back it up”. I couldn’t pursue writing as a college degree, because “what kind of job will you be able to get with that?” was the constant refrain. I don’t begrudge the argument, because yes, you need to put food on the table as you crank out the wordcount. But if you curtail any routes to finesse your craft because the possible outcome is not a 5-6 figure paycheck right out the gate, you’re hamstringing the effort all together.

I’m a bad example, because I have a deep dive attitude towards any topic I find remotely interesting. Because I found lab work intriguing, and I was good at the math and science, I ended up deep into a pre-med program in college before realizing that I really didn’t have the commitment to be in the medical field. The science intrigued me, but I was in research mode, not practical mode. I could go that deep on music, movies, religion, etc. Didn’t mean I wanted to have a career in any of those fields. But embedded in my head was the caution not to pursue the one field I wanted to commit to- writing. Art came later, and I’ve pretty much kicked the “not useful” and “unworthy” labels to the curb, because I’ve managed to get fairly good at my art and make it profitable.

By society’s narrow standard, I can be considered productive, albeit I’m far from what people would define as successful. Still, I know how it feels to me to take something that is merely a mental construct that popped in my head one day and turn it into a concrete item in the world that I can sell or gift or show to others. That is a form of magic, when you think of it.

The Cult of Busy is a phrase that I’ve been kind of obsessed with lately. It is a term born out of the need to seem productive, so others will have a good opinion about your worth. If you’re not busy, you’re slacking or lazy, and therefore you are not of worth in this society. You don’t deserve praise or consideration, because something something bootstraps etc.

It’s such bullshit.

It’s why we’re spending countless hours at jobs we hate, trying to prove our worth for crumbs from our employer’s table, just so we can justify taking a day off once in a while. We don’t ask for more, lest we be deemed ungrateful, or worse, lazy. The fact that we’ve allowed others to dictate the narrative and make us dance to their little tune. When you take a moment to look at the upper ranks and how much they earn and, let’s be frank, how little they do to earn it, you will get resentful and angry. And it’s totally justified.

It’s not about rich versus poor, though economic inequality does figure in. (And no I’m not suggesting paying everyone EQUALLY, I’m suggesting paying everyone FAIRLY as in, commensurate with their EFFORT, not their job title.) This is more about having a class situation where the entire structure is predicated on one level dictating the definitions of worth, usefulness and what constitutes an acceptable level of comfort for others. The problem is, we’ve accepted their definitions and have let ourselves be limited by them. It’s quashed creativity and innovation, making people think that those lines of thought are not beneficial to the status quo and reinforcing it by putting their livelihoods on the hook to accept that belief.

I hope that in the very near future, and I see signs of it showing up in the younger generation, that this narrative will start crumbling and we can start forging a new one, based on allowing people to pursue their endeavors with wholehearted commitment and support. Hobbies fall away quickly, but they allow us to test what our real level of commitment is to a field of interest. Not every one of us is going to be a creative, but the ones who have the ability, commitment, and resources available to pursue them can have just as big an impact on our society going forward as those in business and economics. And those who choose to pursue hands on work, should be lauded as much as those who sit at a computer all day. Work is defined by the effort put in, not the false narrative of wealth or prestige of title.

So…guess I had a lot of thoughts about this, huh?

Two steps forward, One step back

24 11 2020

Weather: Warm then cold. Then rainy. Then snowy. Kinda reflecting the chaos all around right now.

This week has been interesting in the Chinese Curse sense, (“May you live in interesting times”). Health issues aside, there has been chaos on the news front, and not just here in the States.

I find it interesting how the fringiest of elements in this country are starting to push their narrative to the point that even the people who have “gone along to get along” are kind of like, yeah, I think I’m out now.

I’ve pulled away from the news for the most part because I don’t see the point in participating in anxiety olympics with every “Breaking News” moment. I still have my moments of following live blogging of court sessions, because I’m a legal nerd. (And nothing is more satisfying than watching the numerous and creative slapdowns the judges have been delivering to the frivolous lawsuits landing in the various state courts.)

There’s a mixed relief with the election being kinda done now. I know things are still fraught and there’s a lot to be done, but at least some things are finally….well, FINAL. To steal a quote from someone on the Twitters, “A boring and competent administration is kind of exciting.” Exactly.

To step away from politics for the moment, I realized a few days ago that I had been in a state of low level anxiety, basically holding my breath, since February. The slow release from its grasp made it abundantly clear that I definitely needed to turn an inner eye on my health, not just mental, but physical. That kind of long term stress goes a long way to explain all the up till now inexplicable random body foo I’ve been dealing with on the daily.

Having to increase meds for my blood pressure should have been a big red flag. The back and forth in the title for this blog is alluding to that, seeing that I’ve been feeling better, yet I’m having to add more guardrails up. I came to a rather abrupt perspective shift yesterday that I needed to stop wallowing in the news that my health had taken a down turn, accept it was a problem and address it. The minute I adjusted that attitude, I felt better. It took energy away from focusing on the situation and shifted it to the solution.

I am beginning to make a significant shift: mentally, physically and spiritually. And I believe that the journey will only bring be joy in the end, or at least contentment, which is honestly just another softer form of joy.

Hacking Anxiety

19 11 2020

Weather: Windy, oh so WINDY! and rollercoaster temps. We hit the mid 60s today! 😳 But we’re back to normal temps soon. Winter will be here soon.

So I’ve been battling with a combo of anxiety, gastritis and peri-menopause symptoms lately. Not a great menu of things to be wading through at the same time.

I’ve been taking steps to combat all three, involving less online time, better eating choices and more sleep, the usual suspects to start with.

This morning , I found myself skimming through my Pinterest, which tends to be inoffensive since the algorithms keep it to suggestions of what I already like and look for, thus less anxiety inducing things. I came across a image that had a bit of advice on it, and one line stuck with me, “Your brain seeks safety, not happiness”. It has more to do with brain structure and chemistry than the usual mindfulness take. And it struck me how that plays into how my body physically responds to stress. I know it’s my brain reacting to my being overwhelmed as being a sign of danger, then the amygdala getting involved, followed by a dump of adrenaline and cortisol into my system which finally triggers the heart racing, blood pressure spikes and fight/flight response. Stupid brain. 🧠🤛 I mean, I understand that the brain is merely responding on a visceral level to the data it’s receiving, and it might only interpret it at a basic survival level.

Still. Stupid Brain. Grumble.

Ironically, as I was going through my email this afternoon, I saw a newsletter show up that had several articles linked inside that were dealing with topics I had just been discussing. One in particular I found helpful, since it was dealing with how to circumnavigate the chemistry in my brain that had been de-railing me:
15 Creative Ways to Stop Overthinking Things

It gave some very helpful tips on how to break out of the anxiety spiral I sometimes find myself stuck in. As a result, I’m also planning on adding more getting outside, even if it’s just to stand on my back deck and breath in the fresh air. I’ve found that just that minimal time helps knock some of the stress boulders off my shoulders.

I mean, the other night I was having a bit of an anxiety attack, dealing with the usual symptoms- mild nausea, elevated heartbeat, feelings of dread- and the Husbeast asked for some help getting the trash and recycling out. Instead of sitting and just giving into the spiral, I got up and helped carry things out to our bins, past our garage. The night was cool, but not cold. The stars were out. It was dark and quiet. And by the time I walked back in the house, I realized my shoulders were no longer tight and my chest had loosened up. It was kinda magical in a sense.

Not saying that the outdoors is a replacement for meds or therapy if you need it, but I’m saying that stepping out of the house for a brief moment seems to at least disrupt the cycle of anxiety for me. It can be something entirely else for you. The key thing is breaking the spiral. It reasserts reality for a moment. It can be the difference between drowning in the chemistry or getting a toehold on solid ground.

I was in therapy for a year, dealing with long term anxiety and medical PTSD (stemming from my aneurysm a few years ago). I learned excellent coping skills. But sometimes a new stressor comes through or comes in multiples and even the best coping skills collapse. So it’s always a good thing to have additional tools behind emergency glass you can break if your frontline fails. Try other things, like breathing, visualizing and taking a walk. Find what works for you. I’m going to be focusing on reducing the stressors I can and figuring out how to handle the ones I can’t.

Be safe and healthy, friends.

Refocusing on joy

17 11 2020

Weather: First day with a high in the 30s! ❄🥶❄🥶❄ It’ll be back near 60 in two days, so weirdness still happens.

Decided to start using my time away from social media to get my personal path back in order. There’s a lot of repair work to do and some major infrastructure that needs to be built.

Related to the title for this piece, I saw a print ad for LEGO as I was leafing through my latest copy of Vanity Fair magazine (yes, kids. I still read print magazines!) The ad was primarily focused on, not surprisingly , selling LEGOs to adults, but they used the framework of utilizing play to reignite some self-healing through creativity and mindful focus.
Here’s an article fleshing out this philosophy:

It was really well done, and made me take a moment to reassess how I’ve been inuring myself against all the depression and anxiety that this year has brought, and how little I allowed myself to channel those emotions into a creative outlet. This is part of the reason that the pandemic and getting hand surgery have both contributed to the existential stress I’ve been feeling lately. Both have in their own way curtailed my ability to produce art in the way I was used to. However, this should not have been the case. I’ve managed to fall into the excuses oubliette and didn’t really make any attempt to get back out. I’m not sure at what point this year I just kind of gave up on things, but I seem to be reaping the…not rewards, but repercussions, at this point.

So last night, after some very helpful conversations with the Husbeast and with my Mum, who both gave me stellar advice on getting rid of the vessel I’d been storing all my stress in, I had a few epiphanies.

As Brian pointed out to me, when I’d started waxing ridiculous about this stone container I stored all my worries in, and how it was so hard to get the cracks spackled up once it started leaking, maybe I shouldn’t be trying to reseal it. It literally set me back on my heels to hear that. And he said it gently, so it kinda made me stop talking, and really think about what he’d said. He was right. Why was I trying to seal all this toxic shit back into the stone vat, only to have it leak again later? Let the shit out, deal with it and LET IT GO. Then blow up the vessel. Because I like blowing things up that don’t serve me anymore.

It’s a lot for me to not only realize that I’ve been my my own worst enemy, but that I’d forgotten all the coping skills I’d acquired through therapy. Annoying to realize that. But now that I have, it’s easy enough to pick them back up again and start righting the ship. I’m still working on my physical therapy for my hand and soon that will be done. Need to emerge from this stupid pandemic crucible with the rest of my faculties intact. That means admitting that the rest needs work and ACTUALLY DOING THE WORK. So tomorrow I think I’m gonna start a new routine, and see where that gets me. Adding in some yoga and meditation. Changing my diet. Getting more rest. and FINALLY getting back on the art horse. It’s well past time to do all of these things.

Amazing how just reading a little advertisement can sometimes, if timed well and framed effectively, can actually remind you what is really important. Thanks LEGO!

Realigning to the Inevitable Change

16 11 2020

Weather: Well, we finally have reached the Fall/ Winter interface, having gone from the 70s to 40s in one week. Windy, Chilly, occasional rain….and of course the early darkness sneaking up on us from Daylight Savings ending. This year has been weird, weather wise, but we’re ending relatively normal.

Been offline a lot lately. The long Pandemic affected malaise has finally caught up with me after doom-scrolling for what seems like forever and letting far too much toxicity in, with the god-awful political environment, bad news in general and personal set backs, I finally hit the inevitable wall. Panic attacks, low level anxiety and all the sundry health issues associated with it descended like ghouls from the darkness.

I’m recovering from thumb joint (LRTI) surgery, so I’ve been unable to do a lot of the work I love for about 8 weeks now. I’m in the middle of hand therapy to get my flexibility and strength back. It’s been a tough recovery, although I’ll grudgingly admit , I’ve let everything else slide along with it. Haven’t moved much, which has led to the body reverting to pre- “gym with trainer” shape. Sadly, this has just made the arthritis I already had become worse. So that’s the “previously on” for what happened this week.

My mum has had a long fight with breast cancer and AFib. The treatment has taken twice as long due to different mini-setbacks. Then we found out this past week, post-masectomy that there was more cancer in her lymph nodes than expected, and the doctors are concerned it might have spread. So now she has to heal from surgery, then get possibly more chemo and then radiation. She’s miserable at this unexpected outcome, and it just triggered anxiety in me at the possibility of her recovery being compromised.

Also this week, we found out that our lovely kitty, Miss Fern, is not getting better. She has a soft tissue mass in her belly, that is also intertwined with her intestines. It’s slow growing, but this means we’re back in hospice mode with the kitty. This after losing Snoots to something similar early in the year. 😔

My blood pressure was spiking, and my doctor has added more meds (BP and Potassium) to get it under control. I was not happy at this development, then add in the panic attacks this week and my BP was heading into dangerous territory. A perfect storm that just completely de-railed me.

So it’s Monday and I’ve spent 5 days in a panic attack haze, wondering if my BP was going to kill me, and worried sick that was going to lose my mom and cat in the very near future. Social Media, with it’s histrionics and doom predictions and barrage of hot takes, put the final nail in the old Anxiety coffin, and I had to pull away from everything. Finances are looking sketchy so I am having to work on something more concrete that can bring in some additional revenue.

So yeah. November 2020. Finally cracked under the pressure.

One big silver lining is that Joe Biden won the election. Thank the gods. Hoping we have some stability again in the new year. I’m still an optimist, even if that optimism is a little battered, bruised and bloodied after 4 years of chaos and bullying from the top. I’m sad for where our country is and hopeful for where it might be able to go. It’s gonna be a tough slog, but at least I’m not worried about the people about to be in charge.

The Covid Vaccine news was also a bit of balm on the soul. The fact that Pfizer was able to produce a vaccine with 90%+, and Moderna came out at 94%+ in efficacy, made the whole Covid nightmare seem like it might just be close to ending. I know all the naysayers are going to weigh in with the usual “it’s not gonna work because anti-vaxxers, paranoiacs etc” But I have come to realize that the miserable Greek chorus will show up at any positive news lately. So tired of it.

After all I’ve written above, you’d think I’d throw in the towel and just let the spiral take me, but I’m done letting my stupid emotions control everything. My physical side needs addressing, and I’m doing that. If I have to adjust my meds, I’ll do it without complaint. If I need to change my habits, eating and moving more, etc, I’ll do it. Because after suffering from the results of someone who has made all the excuses in the world, and taken zero accountability for the resulting mess, left us crumbled, miserable and resentful at each other instead of at him, it’s time to stake a claim again for responsibility and accountability, even if it’s only in my own life and only things I can control. It’s a start.

I read a line recently that reminded me, “You are what you consume. Adjust accordingly.”
Simple and plain idea, reminding me it was time to stop filling all areas of my life with garbage and toxicity- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Not going to sit around taking in everyone else’s misery and making it my own, as though doing so will fix either of us. Time to get back to working on the source of the misery, not just reacting to it. There are far more decent, compassionate people in this world. We need to find them, and connect. Join forces to work on the problems. We have the numbers to stand against the naysayers and the people who would seek to gain power just to maintain the misery. No more.

So I will work for now on getting healthy, in mind, body and spirit. Then it’s back to the battle, however that looks. I can start by bringing more beauty into the world, and try to share only positive things. You can be aware of the negative, but you don’t need to spread it, and add to it.

Not sure what I ultimately hoped to accomplish with this post, but I needed to clarify, for myself at least, that the status quo is not longer tenable. If that is unacceptable to others, that is no longer my concern.

Time for a big change. Time for regain some control of my life and focus on getting my strength back. I’ve yielded that to others for too long.