A Life Lesson for All Ages

Yesterday I struggled to see the good in my day. Everything was harder than normal, and I was feeling just plain gross and out of sorts. I was frustrated with my job and annoyed that I am not an expert at it yet. I missed my old job, but at the same time cursed it. I wanted to throw my uncooperative laptop out the window, and on the way to my doctor’s appointment I missed my exit. I was disappointed to find I hadn’t lost a pound despite eating a healthy diet and was reminded by the well-meaning doctor that my age was a contributing factor.

On the way home the contents of my purse spilled all over the floor of my car, and I was honked at several times for my distracted driving. I felt needy,  weepy, and isolated from my friends, whom I  haven’t gotten to see as much lately. I almost canceled a dinner because I didn’t think I was invited, but traffic was so bad I went any way. I’m glad I did, even though it felt a little awkward.

When a bad day is happening, I don’t always realize the reasons why I’m feeling out of sorts until it has passed. Today I am fairly certain most of it had to do with being tired and not knowing when to slow down and take it easy. Today I’m finding it a little easier to lighten up about things, probably because I’m not trying so hard.

Over the weekend I read a book to my grand-daughter called My No, No, No Day by Rebecca Patterson. After I finished reading, she looked up at me innocently and said, “Why was she having a bad day Mimi?”

My daughter, who was folding clothes on the bed was quick to remind the sleepy toddler of the bad day she’d had recently, after she missed her nap and threw several temper tantrums. What better way to let a small child know that bad days happen to everyone than by telling her a story.

Thank goodness there are books like this one and the popular kid’s book, Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, that provide valuable lessons to children about life’s ups and downs, and thank goodness for the reminder to me as well.

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What is Success and Where do I Find it?

I haven’t posted in a long time and I am not sure why. I could say I have been busy, but it is more than that. Busy is such a meaningless word. I have been filling up the hours in my days no more or less than usual.  I’ve been scurrying a long from activity to activity, while intentionally avoiding my blog.  The truth is,  sometimes it seems weird to share so openly about my life, and it makes me uncomfortable.   And yet when I don’t, it feels like there is something missing.  Maybe it is because my only true passion is writing, and blogging will probably be as close as I ever get to being a writer, even if it is for my own enjoyment.  It felt good to take a break, and now I am happy to be back.  Maybe writing again will help me deal with my latest identity crisis, as it seems to have done in the past.

Over all it has been a pretty good year, at least from the outside looking it.  I finally finished graduate school and started a new job.  I am in a loving relationship, and I just came back from a wonderful vacation.  Yet I have been feeling  an increasing malaise recently, and I am trying to come to terms with the reasons why.

The biggest reason I’m struggling is probably internal in nature, and revolves around the question of what defines success. I thought I knew what success meant to me, and now I am not so sure. I moved on from my old job this winter for several reasons, burn-out, frustrations about hitting a ceiling, and wanting a change after 20 years.  As a feminist, I believe that I ought to strive to achieve to my fullest potential and I’ve pushed myself accordingly.

Now I am learning that success doesn’t always equate with job title or salary.  Success is about being true to oneself and liking what one does. Neither of which I am experiencing right now. My new job doesn’t seem to fit my personality, despite my being good at it, and it is causing me a great deal of angst. I know I should give it time, but that’s hard to do when I dread going to work each day.  I miss what I did before, and wish I could have found a way to make it work and have some growth without throwing the baby out with the bath water, as they say. Sitting at a desk now looking at spreadsheets all day and going to meeting after meeting is wearing on me. I thought it was the angst of transitioning but it hasn’t gotten any better so I am starting to wonder.

Now I am holding my hands up to the sky, as if there are answers waiting to be captured as they fly towards me in a gust of wind.

I am going to give it some time to figure out what I want.  In the meantime, I will make sure to fill my days with the things I enjoy, like writing this blog.  I will take it one day at a time and try to remember the hardest lesson of all…

Retrieved fromhttps://www.facebook.com/WildWomanSisterhood/

I’ll keep you “posted” on how it is going.

The Gift

IMG_1009As 2015 comes to a close, I am tempted to compose my usual list of ways in which I can improve next year. The list is often based on my perceived shortcomings, all of which are ultimately based on my tendency towards being a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist has nothing to do with perfection and is really more about trying to make things fit into what I think they should be. In other words, it is all about trying to control everything around me.

So….this year I am going to give myself the gift that I often want from others. Whenever I think someone should be more thoughtful, considerate, caring, patient, loving, understanding, attentive, etc, etc., etc., I will remind myself that I don’t need to wait around for anyone to act that way towards me. I can give myself those gifts any time I want, unconditionally. I don’t need to wait for the perfect circumstances and I don’t need to wait for anyone’s permission.  I can remind myself that I am always at my best, even when I am making mistakes and learning from them.

I wish all of my loved ones, family members, acquaintances, fellow bloggers and friends, the gift of self-acceptance this year.

May you have safe travels and celebrations this evening.

See you in the New Year!

 

Remembering

IMG_2746Today I didn’t make it to work. After two months of taking care of my dad after his surgery, trying to keep up with work, classes, the holidays, and surviving a four-day audit that overlapped with the holidays, (went well – yay!),  I needed one day to wind down.

In the midst of all of these minor aggravations, the unthinkable happened. My friend lost her teenage son in a car crash the day after Christmas. She is one of the sweet, incredible women I have been meeting with for almost a decade now (we call ourselves the Sisters of the Sofa – SOS), having come together through our journey to deal with our anxiety and depression. Our stories are similar yet all slightly different and we are all on paths of spirituality and seeking. These are the ladies whom I might not see for an entire year and yet still know they are always rooting for me and will be there if I need anything. These are the women whom I know will be praying for me, even though I may not be the most spiritual of the group and don’t always turn to prayer myself.

Many times we have sat in our tight knit circle sharing our stories, often about our children. When my daughter was in the hospital after her suicide attempt, these women were there for me, and one even watched her cat for a few weeks until she was able to care for him again. When our children have gone through hard times, we have provided each other with the comfort and support needed to go on. Our tears have been interspersed with laughter, and whenever any of us have had an episode of panic or depression, we know there will be someone there who understands.

My whole being aches for my friend right now.  As my SOS are in the process of preparing for the visitation and services that are coming up, we will do our best to support our wounded sister.  We will be there with our plates of food, tear-stained faces, hugs, and heavy hearts, and leave the rest up to God.

Coping with College Stress

I am enjoying my classes this semester and managing pretty well despite the increased workload on top of working full-time. I am excited that there is an end in sight, and I should be able to finish my master’s program by mid-August.

As hard as it has been, in some ways being an adult learner has its advantages, because I have a different perspective from this vantage point. I have made it through enough of life’s challenges such as balancing family and work, as well as some significant losses, to be able to fully appreciate this opportunity to continue to learn and grow.

Unlike my younger counterparts in college, I don’t have to deal with the same kinds of pressures they face.  Being away from home for the first time, navigating relationships, trying to live up to academic and athletic expectations, and making decisions about alcohol, drugs, and sexual activities can be quite daunting for these young adults at times.

Being a  young student can be an exciting and wonderful experience, and it can also be the source of a lot of additional stress, leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. It is so important for young people to know they have a place to turn when they experience emotional difficulties.

Finding the path – Where can college students go for help?

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Active Minds is a wonderful organization that is making its presence known on college campuses in order to provide support to students who are struggling with a mental health issue. They are working hard to diminish the stigma associated with mental health issues by hosting campus-wide mental health awareness events and helping students to navigate where to find help when they need it.

I applaude their efforts and wish there would have been something like that when I was an 18-year-old attempting to go to college for the first time. I could have used someone to help me find resources to deal with my anxiety and eating disorder during their early phases.

I don’t have any regrets now but I am a firm believer that the earlier one receives help for any type of mental illness, the better the outcome and less negative impact it will have on that person’s life.

Active Minds supports the goal to make it as easy to access mental health care as it is to access care for physical illnesses, by eliminating the obstacles like stigma and lack of resources that prevent people from seeking help.

Decisions, Decisions

1 a DecisionsWe don’t make our decisions;

Our decisions make us.

A. Jones

How many times have you been in a situation where you were trying to make an important decision and the more you thought about it, the harder it was to decide? This is particularly true for people with any type of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or any other illness that impacts one’s thought processes. Making a tough decision can actually trigger a significant exacerbation in symptoms unless there is a strategy in place to deal with the stress.

What I have learned over the years is to change the way I  think about those decisions. I have come to believe that while there may very well be a better answer for me, there really is no right or wrong answer. That doesn’t mean I am not going to make my list of pros and cons, and consider the possible outcomes. It just means that when it comes time to make that decision, I can relax, knowing there will be valuable lessons to learn no matter where I end up, and I can always choose another path if that one doesn’t work out.

Along the way I have discovered that my ego is often my biggest obstacle, leading me to believe there is a perfect outcome waiting for me, if only I  discover the right way to go.

It is not so much about the big decisions in life, but about all of the little choices I make each day, to stay present in this very moment, because ultimately that is what leads to my peace of mind.

Life doesn’t begin somewhere off in the distance, contingent upon the perfect scenario, it begins right here, right now, no matter which path I decide to take.

“Wear your ego like a loose-fitting garment.”

― Gautama Buddha

I’m a day late, but today’s post is for Silver Threading’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday.

Enjoy!

Mother, Mother, Don’t Lock Me Out

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Mother, mother

Don’t lock me out,

Please throw away

your lock and key.

Let me step into your dressing room

and marvel in its mystery.

Let me rummage through your closet

until I find the part of you

that was stolen in the night by demons.

Don’t leave me standing on the porch

Begging to come in and sleep.

If you let me in, I promise not to haunt you.

Why did you lock me out so often?

What was it that you feared?

Was it me you feared,

or that part of yourself

you could not understand?

Should I resent you or thank you

For the time we could have spent together

But instead, spent apart?

By Amy Jones

For my A Day in the Life Series.

This poem was inspired by a recurring dream I have where I am back in the house in which I grew up. Last night I dreamed about my mom’s bedroom, which she always kept locked. Whenever I discovered it was unlocked, I would sneak in and look through all of her drawers and closets, trying on her clothes, make-up, jewelry, and perfumes. Occasionally I would smuggle a tube of lipstick or eyeshadow out in my pocket, but she always seemed to figure it out, only adding to the reasons she kept it locked.

With my own daughters, I have had a completely different approach, allowing them free access to anything in my closet or otherwise. They try to be careful about casually admiring something of mine, because I am likely to give it to them on the spot, even if I am wearing it. I guess that’s called over compensation.

Click here to see the previous post in my A Day in the Life Series.

Thoughts

1 snake 2“Sentient beings, self and others, enemies and dear ones–all are made by thoughts. It is like seeing a rope and mistaking it for a snake. When we think that the rope is a snake, we are scared, but once we see that we are looking at a rope, our fear dissipates. We have been deluded by our thoughts. Likewise, mentally fabricating self and others, we generate attachment and aversion.”- Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Here is my post for Silver Threading’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday.

Unfounded Fear of Mental Health Facilities

holly hamilton

“I’m not going to feel as safe,” Hamilton said, referring to her concern over the pending presence of psychiatric patients in the neighborhood.   (Photo: The Enquirer/Patrick Reddy)

I came across an article in the Enquirer this morning about a woman and other members of her community who are concerned about the dangers a new mental health facility will pose to their community. It will mainly be an outpatient facility but will also have an inpatient facility for people who are having a psychotic episode.

Wow, I don’t even know what to say about this! I wish I had the chance to sit down with her and talk to her about these misguided fears that are based on nothing more than old stereotypes. Chances are she is already living in close vicinity to a person or persons with mental illness, and she doesn’t even realize it. Why? Because people with mental illness carry no greater risk than any other person in her neighborhood.

I would also like to tell her that having a mental health facility nearby may actually be a welcomed addition for the people in her neighborhood who could benefit from their services.

Her other concerns about increased traffic, noise, decreased property value, and construction delays seem to me to be a smoke screen to justify her own personal fears. Would she complain that much if it were a family medicine practice being built? I seriously doubt it. Did she complain that much when it was a nursing home?

I live across the fence from a huge retirement home and dementia facility, and the associated sounds of the parking lot, garbage trucks, ambulances coming and going, and employees laughing as they walk out to their cars are merely background noise that pose no threat to me. Neither would a mental health facility.

I wonder how she would feel if people said she needed to get rid of her dogs, because they might pose a risk to the community……

Whenever I grow weary of blogging about mental illness, I see something like this and remember the reason I must continue to get the message out  there. Stop fearing what you don’t understand and have some compassion. People with psychotic episodes, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and other types of mood and brain disorders are not criminals. They, like anyone else, deserve to have adequate access to healthcare in their community. They deserve the same freedoms as everyone else.

There are Days

There are days when I seek the adventures in life

and nothing seems to stand between me and my dreams

There are days when I recoil from life’s demands

and the simplest task seems like a challenge

This is the way of it with me

There are days that are easy

and there are days that are hard

On the days that are hard I remember

how I conquered other such days

and on the days that are easy and joyful

I accept the gift with gratitude

Here is an excerpt from one of my previous posts about the lessons I learned from hiking the Grand Canyon. I remind myself of this lesson whenever I start to compare myself to others or feel like I should be doing something more or better in the moment.

Lesson #8 – One Person’s Failure is Another Person’s Victory: There are many options to seeing the Grand Canyon. Day trips, lookout points, challenging backpacking trips, alone or with tour groups. It was amazing to see the variety of people who were there – old, young, disabled, different sizes and shapes; all there to challenge and enhance their lives with this incredible experience; all moving at their own paces. I can’t imagine doing what some spoke of doing, going rim to rim to rim in one day, or being part of the long-distance running groups that skirted by us on the narrow paths, with sweat dripping down them. Other’s couldn’t imagine doing what we did, preferring to go instead to an overlook to see the views.

For those who have mental health issues, it is easy to allow comparisons to others make us feel like a failure. “Why can’t I do what they did?” “Why is this so hard for me?” The only person I can compare to is myself. Accepting setbacks as a part of recovery and moving forward from there is the key to recovery. One day we may be able to do things with ease that another day may seem impossible, and sometimes it is necessary to reset our goals, settling for the day trip in order to see the view, rather than the 3 day trip. It is easier to move forward when we accept this rather than comparing to those around us, who have their own set of circumstances and challenges that may be completely different.