Where do we begin? Where do we end? What does it all matter? As I sit in my warm, comfy office with a full stomach and no real problems to complain about, I wonder about the state of our journey. What is important and how do we communicate that to others, or do we? Are we lost multi-tasking so that we can't focus on one thing for more than a few seconds? Lately, I've begun to see that the flooding of thoughts that enter my mind crowds out any meaningful discourse I might have with myself, not to mention my interaction with others, and impedes fulfillment of tasks that need (or at least I thought they were a necessity) to be completed. I need to sort out what is going on - this unrest. This unsettling thought that perhaps it's all for naught....

Many of you have shared with me that you, too, feel this dark cloud of gloominess. Indeed it is the mid of winter. Rain, dark clouds, and the absence of sunshine for more than a few minutes might explain part of our discomfort. Another reason (as if we ever need a reason to be anxious and/or depressed - it comes quite naturally to a lot of us) might be the social media flooding of negativity. Avoiding that is not as difficult as I anticipated. I learned a few new to me FB tricks - hide post, unfollow...easy enough to do.

I'm reading as much as I am able, trying to balance my emotions. Trying to understand and trying to be more productive. I've done those self talk conversations.

What works for you? Is your mind your friend or foe? We are all seeking validation. Growing up, I was always uplifted by my dear mother. She thought I was amazing. She constantly praised me, as did her mother, my Oma. Then I met many a naysayer. If I cooked a great meal, they would say, "It's ok. It's just food." It can be in others' repertoire and family background to point out frailties and faults. Doing good? That's what we are supposed to do. Why praise someone? A paradigm shift, for sure, was due me. I needed to figure out how to validate myself. I did so by trying to be the best in my field. Always struggling to do my best....

When is it enough? Or is it ever for some of us? I have no easy answers today. I have many questions. . . .
Image result for questionsWhat are your questions? Do you have any answers?

Politics and Kids - STOP Scaring our Children!

The other day I had a conversation with a young child. She was drawing a bright and sunny landscape. When I asked  her how she was feeling, she said she was scared. Not what I expected from what she drew. I asked her to tell me more, and she replied, "The world is so sad and gloomy." Really? "Yeah, my mom and dad say the world is going to end soon and I'm so scared."

Turns out the parents had been Trump bashing and the child's world imploded with fear and uncertainty. Children should NOT be part of those adult conversations. This type of exposure makes children feel unsafe and becomes part of the thread of trauma that will haunt them for the rest of their lives, if, indeed they live a long life. Even adults have become sodden with tension, anxiety, and depression about the state of affairs of the world. This is on both sides - liberals and conservatives. And it must be stopped! Common sense needs to make its arrival on the scene immediately!

Common sense used to be more evident in our lives in the past. Yes, people griped about the leaders, no matter what their political affiliation. Something went wrong in their lives and folks blamed the government. Makes me kind of smile. I remember the hate and venom spewed towards Ronald Reagan, but today, one would think he was a minor god. Yes, I was a teen when I heard these things, but, as a small child, my world only consisted of my home, my neighborhood, church, and school. I wasn't made afraid until high school, when I, too, thought the world might end during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Being afraid became part of my psyche as we practiced nuclear war drills in my school - sitting under a desk was certainly not going to save any of us and I knew it. I prayed for a bomb shelter in my back yard....

Fast forward to the 2016 election and many of us will remember this as a pivotal time when, as adults, we were afraid. Afraid to speak. Afraid to say what we felt. Afraid we would be labeled something perverse. Afraid of being afraid. How did I diminish my fear?

  • I deleted as many political posts on my Facebook age.
  • I stayed away from Twitter.
  • I didn't even go on Instagram.
  • I dropped out of groups where grown women used negative & punitive political language at small, intimate dinners and mocked other women not of their political persuasion.
  • I stopped reading the newspaper.
  • I stopped listening to the news.
  • I let folks know I did not want to hear any of it.
Image result for bright and sunny landscapeAnd, so now am I feeling better? You betcha. If the world is gonna end soon, I will go happily. My life is filled with good things. I am helping immigrant children learn English. I am helping them understand concepts they thought were indecipherable. I am slowly adding back friends I shunned for a while, and I am filling my life with positivity. Don't knock it. It works for me. I wish it would work for many others. Life is simply too short to spend it in a shroud of negativity. 

Take out your art supplies and draw that bright and sunny landscape and, then, better yet, live in that world. It's your choice.

Bad words hurt...but do they have to?

Maybe we should rethink our position....

I'm not so sure this is a good thing to post and preach. When I was much younger, folks seemed to have thicker skins. We were taught, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but bad words cannot hurt you." Operative word CANNOT
The pendulum has swung to the extreme opposite of that childhood jingle. Now, everyone can be hurt by anything. As an educator and a therapist, I see young folks weakened by what I believe is our overcompensation. Now everything hurts us. If you look past me, I think you think I am invisible. If you say, "Hey, girl," I may sue you 'cause today I don't feel like a girl. Don't smirk. Don't think this isn't happening. I'm a practitioner studying somatic healing and I believe I've come upon a remedy for a lot of ills in our society. 
Mind you, I am not saying all the ills; however, we can teach ourselves and our children that we cannot ever control what others say and do. We can pass laws, put alleged criminals in jail, and chastise them, but we still cannot control their actions and words. I remember something called a police state. I remember something called 1984. I remember fearing governments that controlled the populace's words and deeds. Are we getting close to that today? 
Of course, we should teach manners and polite behaviors. It is even nice when we do so in the arena of a church. But even non-churchgoers can teach kindness, patience, and love. We just have to rid ourselves of this control issue.
So what is holding us back? Fear. Ugly fear. Anger. Intense anger. Selfishness. It's me, baby, just me! Do as I say or I will crush you. Feel familiar? Do you recognize some of your family and/or friends or the media and their perceived intentions of control? We can't control them either, but we surely can control how we REACT to this reverse bullying. It is time to swing that pendulum back to common sense. 
I remember once (I should be ashamed for admitting this) kicking my sweet little cocker spaniel because she dared to growl and try to bite me. As a young and impulsive little girl, I thought to hit her first before she dealt the first blow. I didn't hit hard and she looked at me in surprise, but a few minutes later, we were cuddling again in the metal swing for two in my back yard. She had unconditional love for me and didn't let my brief moment of anger change how she felt. Some may claim things are different now. They do not have to be different. 
We need to forgive, if only to assuage our souls of our pain. Once we forgive, the blame and punishment is up to someone or something else. We don't own that pain. It is gone. Forgiveness does not mean that the perpetrator has done nothing wrong. It just means it will not ruin our lives. Period. I am talking about every day occurrences, not major crimes and extreme bullying. If we don't wake up, fellow world members, we will find ourselves in a new kind of hell - one that we did not foresee (well, some of us have). 
The lesson for me is to be a good role model, teach others kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness, and to love those who do not know what they do. Whatever you do today, be sure to incorporate forgiveness and love into your life. You won't regret it. Maybe, just maybe, your aches and pains will also begin to dissipate. You never know until you try.

MASABI: Hyperventilating - not a pretty thing!

MASABI: Hyperventilating - not a pretty thing!: As a licensed professional counselor intern, I attend two sessions of therapy a month - one in a group and another individual, plus I am str...

Hyperventilating - not a pretty thing!

As a licensed professional counselor intern, I attend two sessions of therapy a month - one in a group and another individual, plus I am strongly urged to have personal therapy. It makes sense - listening to other folks talk about their problems increases our empathy factor to the point that we sometimes are triggered to our past traumas or stressors. How we handle those is called self care.

After a few weeks of changes, my spiritual, mental, and physical health began to deteriorate. I began that old cycle of hyperventilating, and, if you have never experienced it, you won't understand. It is a feeling that begins with having or feeling as if you have to yawn. But  you can't. Pressure builds up in your chest and you try to yawn. You need to get that feeling to stop. I imagine it's like someone who cannot stop hiccuping. It begins to wear you down. Negative thoughts and events start to crowd out the previously balanced you. If the cycle does not stop, who knows what might happen?

Changes are always stressful. Even small ones. Especially large ones. Like worrying about my spouse who was being tested for cancer. For me, thinking I had symptoms of endometrial cancer. All were false fears, yet real at the same time. Changes in my office location. Changes in work environment (teacher going back to school). Changes in administration at the school. Changes in my work day. Changes in availability of children and grandchildren to visit. Changes in church attendance. You get the idea. Then, wham, one criticism from someone blows up your entire psyche. You are suddenly spiraling.

Image result for hyperventilationIs there a way to get off this roller coaster short of taking anxiety pills and sleeping? A vacation? This week I began to manage my spiral by doing a lot of self talk. Let me tell you, a lot. Mostly it didn't work as well as I had hoped, but it opened the door to a possible improvement. Getting a massage was definitely helpful- moving all that stress from my muscles and ligaments. Resting and reading a relaxing book after my two clients today. Deep breathing and listening to restful music rounded out the evening, so here I am awake at 1:10 am after sleeping for two hours doing something that also helps me destress - writing. More deep breathing and I am almost ready to return to bed.

So how can I possibly be a good therapist if I have sometimes difficulty managing my own stress level? That's exactly why! I know what it feels like. My clients are not alone. They know I have my ups and downs. Thankfully, not when I am with them. I am there to listen and focus on them alone. But they also know they are not alone.

One piece of advice I have never been able to use is breathing into a bag. Maybe it feels silly. Maybe I didn't do it correctly. For whatever reason, it doesn't work for me. But it might for you. Try it! Remember, we are all susceptible to mental unwellness. Even if that is not a word, I like the way it shows that we are usually well, but sometimes we are unwell, and if, for a moment, some of this rhetoric has resonated with you and rescues you from any type of anxiety attack, then it is worth if for me to do some sharing. Here's hoping you find your personal ways to self-care so that your anxieties will be far and few between the harmony most of us hope for in traversing this universe as living humans.

The Struggle is Real!

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Yes, this popped up on my Facebook page as I vacillated between hyperventilating about a project that is darned near impossible for me to figure out and the desire to just go back to bed and sleep, dream, and forget about life! Well, "this" was a cute cartoon and I copied it and now, for the life of me, cannot find where it originated from, so I cannot save it as an image and when I post it here, it's goes my technologically-impaired day! Can you relate?

So why is it appearing appropriately placed right now? Patience. I didn't cry. Didn't throw anything and didn't go get a Xanax. Just inhaled deeply, waited a few moments and tried another approach. Voila! Success.

That is how today has been. The reality in my head is certainly NOT the reality in my world. In my head, I am thinking about lesson plans, the schedule for Tuesday (did I print it out and where in the world did I put it?), and if I should go to a movie when all my friends are either on vacation, too busy, or not interested to go with me. The real deal is that I am alone today. By myself. Enjoying all the windows opened up for fresh air (hubby loves AC and always has it on 74, cold and unforgiving). I can read anything I want and we have innumerable supplies of books both electronically and paper. It's a beautiful sunshiny day. I have enough food and drink. I am satiated. So why am I so disquieted? Why can I not just enjoy the moment and be content?

My clients will smirk when they read this. Yeah, out of the mouth of a therapist. "I am anxious." I have lived a life of anxiety/depression stemming partly from secondary trauma. Reading the book, Waking the Tiger: Healing Through Trauma is almost too difficult for me. I read a few pages and begin to sing (in my head, mind you) choruses of "Hallelujah"...enjoy Pentatonix's take on the song:

So I listen to the music loudly. No one is here to tell me to turn it down. Not even my neighbors will venture over to tell me what to do. Deep breath again. Swaying to the music. Putting on my fitbit that is now fully charged. Hey, 67 steps today and I've been up since 6 am. Wonder how many steps I really have today? Probably way less than 1,000. I have allowed my mind to wander and have forgotten to move - this is what happens when I do not move my body. Anxiety and depression move in quickly, so quickly, in fact, that I don't even realize it until I start ruminating and repeating scenarios of despair in my head. Yes, it is time to stop that.

Stand up. Start swinging to the tunes of Pentatonix. Maybe sing the lyrics with them. Think positive thoughts. Smile, even though I may not really be in the mood. More deep breaths. The struggle is real. It really is.

The times, they are a changin'

Image result for eclipseI never much liked the raspy tone of the 60's guy Bob Dylan, but his song "The Times They Are A-changin'" kind of stuck in my head today. Yes, times are a-changin'. As I sit at my desk facing the lush green trees and clear blue sky, swathed in sunlight, I feel a slight cool breeze wrapping around me. I marvel at the beauty of nature and feel blessed to have such a lovely view. I am in the moment and content, but, earlier, I made a comment that seemed to distress my spouse.

I commented how it seemed everyone had a party or gathering to attend during this highly-acclaimed event transpiring on Monday - the solar eclipse. We prepared, heeding the warnings on social media. We have supplied our larders with plenty of food and drink. Our cars are gassed up and we're ready. For what? We  invited his siblings to view the event with us, but all, since they, too, heeded the warnings, are afraid to abandon their abodes to enter the melee of tourists invading our spaces. So we plan to celebrate, enjoy, watch, view, or whatever you want to call this observation of the solar eclipse, experience it by ourselves.

What is it that makes me inwardly wanting or perhaps envious of those who are posting their amazing (according to them) plans of viewing this event? Learned men and women tell us that social media feeds on our disillusionment. It tells us that when we see whom we think is everybody having a wonderful, fun-laden time, then we are alone. Our lives are bereft. Something is missing.

Image result for the times they are achangin?trackid=sp-006Are we truly the lost? Or do we need to change? We can't change circumstances easily, nor can we force others to come help us celebrate. We can, however, and this applies to me at the present moment, we can change how we perceive our situation in life at this very moment. We can remain grateful for our health, for the fact that we have a steady income. For the fact that we can wake up and go wherever we wish. We can worship how we feel is important. We can nap or sit on the deck and read. We can stroll around the block or walk in place listening to Pandora's abundant array of music styles. We are blessed. Why is this not enough? My spouse likes it this way. I may, in some manner, wish to have a gathering, but it would merely exacerbate my anxiety level, so why is it not enough to just sit with him and enjoy him?

It is, my friend. It is. We just need to think it is. Simple. It is what it is. It is good. We are blessed. Life is good (a phrase often used by my friend, Martin). Yes, life IS good. Times may be a-changin', but we do not have to change our inner peace. We can maintain through the storm or through the eclipse or through anything. We are.
Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A Changin'

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Getting High!

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Oh, my, today I got high! I haven't been that high in years, perhaps decades. It was amazing. First I met my friend, Val, and her hubby at Mama's Russian Restaurant in Woodburn, and ate myself into a frenzy. Even had a Diet Coke! Great conversation, gifts of figs and zucchini from my friend and I returned the gesture with a gift of two of my little books.

Left them after an hour and a half and walked through the most amazing mall in Woodburn - the outlet mall, which was bathed in sunlight. The warmth permeated my very soul. People of all colors, all sizes, all genders, all ages, and all temperaments were walking. Some were smiling. Some were intent on finding that certain bargain.

My heart soared as I entered Chico's - a place until now where I could only look at the clothes, for they did not carry my size. Today I could, and did, purchase a few new things for school. How freeing to be out of the PLUS lady sizes - barely, mind you, but still out!

I walked through the Coach store and thought how nice it would be to purchase a purse for my daughter-in-laws, but then realized I really don't know their taste and would waste money purchasing something they would not like. As I left, a beautiful middle-aged woman thanked me for coming in and I said I wished I could have bought something. We got to talking and she said her millennial children are difficult to figure out...I handed her my card and told her she was not alone. We hugged. Perfect strangers. You are not alone.

Placing my items in the trunk of my car, I finished my stroll around the open shops, imbibing the positivity I saw. The beautiful flowers. The shrubs. The cleanliness of the place. And I said a prayer for our country - I said a prayer for you - I hope that malls will forever remain and that people would have the liberty to walk through them, enjoying the world.

As I prepared to return to my car, I reveled in the fact that my fit bit showed I had walked over 3,500 steps, and I took a deep breath and gave thanks. Yes, that's a high I recommend to everyone. It was a good day to be sure. To be sure, I didn't even notice anyone on their phones. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day. A day high on life. Yes, I highly recommend it.