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.

Can we talk?

Maybe you're not feeling depressed, just down. You avoid the word depression because it connotes something very bad is wrong with you. If you are just down, you realize that is temporary; however, depression visits all of us once in a while....Recently, speaking with a group of women, we talked about false expectations and the resulting depression - a time of feeling down. A time of wanting to cry. An angst within our breasts that creates a profound sadness may be part of this feeling. We can't make someone love us. We can't change how people are. We sometimes can't take our own physical pain away. We can't make our children visit or call us more. All we can actually change is how we perceive things.

I have never had a lot of pain. Never. I can distinctly remember three huge times of  pain and they were fleeting moments, but this week I have had pain for the third week in my leg. It radiates up and down and sometimes is in the knee, but other times it is in my thigh. I started to get very depressed. I started to be anxious and diagnosed myself with far worse maladies than the doctor did. And then my husband told me...."I've had pain for every moment of the day for the past ten years." Unbelievable. He never complains about it. I had only known because he had told me once a few years ago. I couldn't believe anyone could remain happy through pain. Yes, my pain will probably subside in a few weeks. A torn meniscus is not a big thing in the great design of my life, but it almost overtook me with angst and fear.

We tend to become depressed when someone doesn't love us the way we want. We feel we need others to fill our hearts with the type of love we want. When that doesn't happen, we become depressed. Perhaps we have lost someone we loved. How can we fill that hole with something other than depression?

It is okay to be depressed for a while. It is NOT okay to be depressed all the time. We can have moments of relief from the heaviness of depression. How is that done? If your depression is so bad you are contemplating hurting  yourself or others, call 911 and see a doctor.

If your depression is short-lived and you can still enjoy others' company or reading a book or having a glass of wine, you will be fine. Here are some things to do when the shroud of depression threatens to envelop you:

1. Talk with a friend. Call or chat online with someone who will just listen and validate your thoughts - not someone who will say SNAP out of it. That kind of advice merely serves to worsen your depression.

2. Redirect your thoughts. It's okay to feel sad, but give yourself a break. Watch a funny movie. Read a good joke. Laugh at something.

3. Take deep breaths and say loving things to yourself. We call that self talk. Talk to yourself in a positive fashion. Beware that if you start doing this out loud there will be those who question your sanity a bit....

4. Pray or meditate. Research has shown that those who have some spiritual convictions tend to sail through life on an easier wave.

5. Do something you love - paint, draw, color, sing a song, join a band, write a book or blog! Do something fun for you.

6. Exercise - walk a labyrinth. Go up and down the stairs. Park your car as far as you can at the grocery store.

JUST DO SOMETHING other than keep the depression inside, fed by your angst and loneliness! You do not have to be alone!

 January 12th, Thursday at 6:15 pm

Our small tribe will meet to create a new moral support group for women
Reed Opera House B-1 
Salem, OR
Spaces very limited
$30 per person per session

MUST be registered to attend!

And, yes, sometimes depression needs to be taken care of by a physician who can prescribe medications that help you. Sometimes depression is chemical and  you can't change that by simply ignoring it!

Happy New Year

The other day someone asked me if I was going to make goals or New Year's Resolutions. I replied I was not going to do so. In the past I have made them and broken them. So my new approach is that I want to make each day the best I am able to make it. I will live in the present. I will not dwell too far in the future nor shall I linger in the past. Today is all we have. We are not promised any future....we do not know what is coming. But we can enjoy the time we do have. As I sit here waiting for my husband to go to a holiday party, I am enjoying a soft drink and the fact that all my children are gainfully employed and seemingly quite happy. I take a deep breath as I thank the stars above for my sister who wants to spend two weeks each year with us during the holiday season. I treasure the little adventures we take and the friends we take with us. Life is good and I am happy. What more could I ask for?

Artwork by the talented Maxine Addington, who can teach YOU how to paint as well!
I have a warm house. I have food. I have love. I am thankful for all that I do have. When small irritants come my way, I remind myself that those are first world problems. I really have nothing to complain about. Life is good, as my friend Martin says. Yes, life is good! Enjoy the year. Enjoy the day. Treasure each moment you receive - your gift is the present!

Peace to you all and Happy New Year!

Peace During the Holidays

More and more clients complain about stress and anxiety during the holiday season. As we are in the midst of the fall/winter holiday season, we are deluged with suggestions on how to make our holidays pleasant, warm, and memorable. Buy this or buy that and you will be happy. Go to this concert and your life will be changed! The list is endless - buy, buy, buy. Bigger, better, and instantaneous happiness is a mantra threading its way through media. Relax. It's time to reflect.

 As I look around my desk, I see a carpet stained by decades of use, but soon to be replaced by new carpet. I look at the freshly-painted walls and smile. The color pleases me. My office is my sanctuary where I can sit and fill in words to stories yet to come. It's been a year since we decided to improve our home. The changes are slow, but permanent for us.

While writing in this room, I am happy and my mind is not flooded with thoughts that have the potential to disturb my mental balance. The holidays are much more complicated now than when my children were young. When I was the boss. When I knew what to do. As we grow older, our roles change, and sometimes we do not know how to fit gracefully into those new roles. Worse yet, some of us don't even know the rules and what our new role is to be. I'm constantly amazed at the folks who seem to have the perfect families - the perfect meals - the perfect home. I'm doing something now that I caution my clients about - comparison shopping.

Newly divorced or separated folks have an unknown path to tread during the holidays. Will they be alone? What does it all mean? Is love around the corner? Will they have enough money to survive, much less splurge on gifts and holidays treats?

Ah, back to the office thoughts....This redirection is a strategy one can use when things become too difficult or too negative.

Changing the dynamics in my office was easy. I found a color of paint I liked and found someone to apply it to the walls,. Simple. Family change not so easy. First of all, we don't get to choose who will be in our family. We are not sure about their colors. Will they or will we like it once they join the family? Is this a permanent change? We are not in charge of that. We can decide to control our thoughts, however. We can adopt a positive attitude, even when we feel we are in a sea of negativity. We must grab on to those positive vibes throughout the journey. No, it is not easy. It is much easier to get caught up in the trivial, the mean-spirited comments on social media, or lack thereof, and the heightened anxiety of the season.

So, what is a person to do during the holiday season?

1. Remember everyone is doing their best, no matter what you think. It is their best at the time. Be patient with the world.

2. Hold on to loving thoughts. Chase away the negative! The positives should outweigh the negatives in your mind.

3. Exercise. Doing so helps clear the mind and balance the soul. Just walking around the block helps.

4. Watch out what you eat. During the holidays, we must be vigilant about our nutrition intake. Make wise choices. You don't have to deny yourself any pie, but one piece as opposed to the entire pie makes better sense.

5. If you are religious, go to church. Pray. Watch a YouTube video of someone's preaching you like. Learn, learn, learn.

6. Be sure to get plenty of sleep. Research shows that those who get less than seven hours of sleep end up having a more difficult time dealing with every facet of life.

7. Volunteer to do something nice for someone. Help out at a soup kitchen. Make a few homeless bags to give to those far less fortunate than you. Babysit for a neighbor. Take a friend to lunch. Be proactive.

7. Remember this life is temporary. It will be over before you know it. Why not enjoy the trip while you are here? Invite those who please you to join your table this holiday season. It might even be a good idea to invite those who do not please you. It might be that your dose of  love and acceptance is exactly what they need.

Habits are Hard to Break

Everyone has habits. Some of of our habits are ones that help us lead a peaceful and positive life. Others interfere with those feelings. Folks can't seem to stop promising themselves they will start doing (insert new habit here or insert removing old habit) without understanding the process by which a habit is acquired or broken.
This graphic illustrates what needs to be done - something is repeatedly done. That means if you are really great about putting on a seat belt when you get into the car without really even thinking about it, you have a good habit of doing so, not to mention you are following the law, which helps to reinforce this habit.

What other habits have you formed from early childhood? Are there some habits you'd like to eradicate?

When you have a habit you'd like to get rid of, the first thing you need to do is examine the habit - how long has it been a habit and what steps  you need to take in order to rid yourself of that habit. For instance, I'm going out on a limb here, I need to lose weight for my health. Many of us do. So we say, "I'm going to lose two pounds by Friday." Great goal, but what happens when Friday comes and I've GAINED two pounds? I feel crummy, disappointed, and head for carbs and sugar, something I do when I am stressed. To make it even worse, my friend made the same goal, and she lost six pounds. I watched her weigh in because I didn't even believe her.

So it's more than stating a goal and going in blind. You gotta have a plan. I'm an easily-stressed kind of person, so when stressors invade my mind or body, I seek out food. Now I need to replace all those sugary, fluffy white carbs with something equally satisfying. That's where a roadblock appears. I don't particularly find cooking/baking enjoyable or easy and have very little time, so fast food beckons me when I feel the desire to eat. Now I have to look at another way to have those goodies that are actually good for me available.

Do you see the process? It's arduous, complicated at times, and, at best, might slightly ensure that your goal is met. Two pounds? I need to have low cal foods on hand. When I start feeling stress, I will take a short walk. I will drink a glass of water. I will say a prayer. I will do a lot of self talk. Then I will find one of those approved goodies to eat. That is, if I still am feeling this artificial hunger. It should work. I'll report back. (Oh, no, did I say that? Maybe that's part of my plan...being responsible to others.)

Take it from me. This is only one of the many habits I could break, but probably best for continued good health. Tackling this one habit will actually effect other habits as well. But it will take time. It will take focus. It will take determination. If I can do it, why can't you?