Category Archives: emotional health

Past Perfect

When I was a young mother I was already thinking of the time when I would be a grandmother.  I imagined giving those future babies things that my own babies had used, and so I saved certain items for that purpose.

Then I did become a grandmother and took out the items I had saved only to find that I could not part with them yet.

The receiving blankets looked too shabby and worn to give as a gift.  But I still loved them.  The sweaters still looked so beautiful that I didn’t want them to get lost in the mountain of gifts that many babies today receive.  And…. I still loved them for what they meant to me.

Those baby days will always be uniquely dear to me because of how rare it has been that life has felt good and right.  My little pile of baby things is concrete evidence of that truth.

See how easy it would be to slide into compulsive hoarding?

I am however greatly improved since my 2013 breakdown.  Now I often have enough energy and imagination that I can dig into the corners of my house and make reasonable decisions about what to keep, what to give away, and what to throw away.

A couple weeks ago I chose to work on the top shelf of my linen closet where I store some inherited quilts and the little pile of baby things.  My fresh eye still saw how shabby the blankets look.  But my fresh mind got the idea that I could remake them and then keep them for my great-grandchildren or donate them.

It’s a messy thing to unravel old crochet work!  It’s very linty!  The yarn is not so good either but still usable.

I found that I had to concentrate on every step of the project because the yarn kind of sticks to itself.  Unraveling is tricky, rolling it back up is tricky, and re-crocheting it is tricky.  I had to take breaks and let the world back into my brain again.

By the time I got a new little blanket made I realized that the project was acting as an exercise in meditation.  My hands, the yarn, and the crocheting all helped me focus on the moment and let the rest of the world fall away for awhile.

Last night I started my third such project and it still helps me focus my mind in the same way meditation does.  I think I’m on to something here.

Such a weird little way into healing.  But it’s working so I’m going to keep going.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under anxiety, art therapy, emotional health, family, grief, growth, healing, history, meditation, motherhood, progress, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized

Cranky

Holiday season is finally over with!  Yay!!

For us, it started with a dead boiler on an 11-degree-day the night before Thanksgiving.  It was a very old boiler that had given very little trouble over the years, so it was probably overdue for replacement.

Somehow, though, I had let myself hope that it would kindly last until the next owners of this house could replace it.  I let myself think that it would be the one expensive part of this house that we would NOT have to pay for.  Wrong!!!

Oh well.  The new furnace is tiny and cute and works like a dream, aaaaand since we had just paid off one loan, the finances were kind of seamless.  We merely exchanged one recipient of our money for another.  Nothing really changed as far as the day-to-day operation of this household.

Once December hit, however, my depression ramped up.  Again with the hopes–I thought maybe I was so sleepy because of the stress of the boiler incident.  December days are darker and I was busier with extra chores and grandchildren.  But the day after Christmas I suddenly perked up and was able to stay awake all day long with no naps.  My spirit was lighter and my motivation came back.  So, yeah, depression was the culprit for my symptoms.

Christmas hasn’t really been my thing for many decades.  But I feel like I have to participate and so I suppress the annoyance and resentment and voila! you have a perfect recipe for depression.  That’s good to know, right?

On the healing side of things:  for New Year’s Day we ate lunch out and then went to a state park because I wanted to see the rushing river water there.

The river and its waterfall did not disappoint.  It was a gorgeous sight.  I recorded a few short videos and took a handful of pictures so I could remember, though my phone cannot do it justice.

There is something about a crashing waterfall with its veiled figures of mist rising up and away that calls me.  I just like to watch.  I have no interest in white water rafting or otherwise actually getting in there.  It’s just beautiful to see.  It soothes me.

Now we come to today.  It is the first day of being back to the normal routine.  It feels a little heavy.  Now I have no real distractions to prevent me from doing the things I’ve been thinking about for weeks.  Yet I’m still wandering around aimlessly and having to force myself to pick something to work on.

It is so easy to fall into anxiety with this life I have chosen.  Old habits of worry, high standards, what-will-people-think-itis–all firmly ingrained in my brain.  I still have to remember not to do any of that and that it is okay to just be my natural self.  I still have to remember who my natural self is because it doesn’t actually feel natural all the time.

I just feel cranky.  I think maybe it’s like that crankiness you feel when you’re getting better from a cold or the flu.  Maybe crankiness can be a sign of improving mental and emotional health as well.

Cranky or not though, 2018 is done with, and I’m ready for 2019 and whatever it brings.

2 Comments

Filed under anxiety, blogging, depression, emotional health, growth, healing, human nature, journey, motivation, pressure, progress, self-care, self-respect, stress, Uncategorized, wellness

My Way Back Machine

I spent several hours today transcribing my old journals.  Most of them are written in bound composition notebooks and they take up about a foot and a half on a closet shelf.

The journals have been bothering me for awhile now.  What if something happens to me and whoever settles my affairs reads them and is hurt by some of my words?  I have especially worried about any family members that I may have been venting about.  I wouldn’t want venting to be the last thing I ever “said” about a loved one.

Since there was nothing else to do today, I decided now was the perfect time to start the journal transcription project.

I began with journal entries from 1998–twenty years ago!  I was 37 years old.  That is the year my oldest son graduated high school and my youngest was in sixth grade.  I worked at a job I mostly loved for a boss I mostly had issues with.

I expected to be rather annoyed by my previous self.  But it has turned out that I’m not all that different as a person from who I was in those days.

Serious depression was beginning to rear its ugly head by then.  Encounters with people that I now recognize as having some issues with narcissism began to be a problem for me.  My lack of firm boundaries is readily apparent.  It turns out my awakening began earlier than I realized.  All these years I saw that time period as a time of many failures.  But in fact, I was figuring things out and doing my best with less than ideal circumstances.

I’m working backwards for now, so I ended my day with an entry from Fall of 1997.  My youngest was beginning to have issues with his peers in school and I decided that is a topic better saved for the morning light.  Now I know that his social woes turned out to be temporary, but in the moment it was heart-breaking not knowing how things would go.

It seems that I had forgotten more than day-to-day events.  I think I forgot for awhile who I am.  I lost my way for reasons of mental health, some betrayals, and a few really hard losses.  I expect this project will help me to heal my wounds and dust off my true and unique character which I have been pushing down for far too long.

I thought I was transcribing my journals to spare the feelings of others.  But it turns out I will be taking good care of myself at the same time.

4 Comments

Filed under art therapy, boundaries, depression, emotional health, family, getting along, growth, healing, history, journey, progress, self-care, self-respect, stress, Uncategorized, wellness

Spreading My Wings

Last Friday we went to our local arts organization to check out an exhibit that I am participating in.  The theme is Disturbed, which I thought was right up my alley, and I had submitted a black and white photograph of a moth on a window screen.

Surprisingly enough, I won Guest Judge’s Favorite–first place among about a dozen and a half other artworks.

This is only the second time I have submitted artwork of mine and it felt like a great accomplishment just getting it framed and submitted.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to do it this time as I was feeling frazzled and pressured by other things going on in my life.  But step by step I eventually got my act together and brought the picture in on the very last day they were accepting submissions.

Of course I ended up missing the opening reception for the show as I would’ve had to go alone and I didn’t want to do that.

I wonder what my reaction would have been if I’d been mingling in the crowd all by my lonesome when the ribbon was awarded?  Whatever total shock looks like, I guess!!!

As it was, I received an email with the good news and spent the next week savoring my accomplishment and telling only my husband.  It was like a little reward to every so often remind myself:  Someone liked my photograph better than all the others in the show!  How about that?  I don’t have to apologize for doing well.  I don’t have to explain what the picture meant.  Somebody liked it enough to hang a ribbon on it.  Somebody who doesn’t even know me thought it was really cool.

My photograph will be shown in the current exhibit until December and then move onto to another facility for others to see for a few more months after that.  By the time I get it back, there will have been a couple more exhibits for me to submit my work to.

This recognition was not necessary for me to keep going, but it did give me a little boost.  It makes me feel like I’m on the right path for now.  Actually, this feels like a new path for the first time in my life.

Which feels like a good reason to hope again.

6 Comments

Filed under anxiety, art therapy, emotional health, growth, healing, journey, motivation, progress, self-respect, social phobia, Uncategorized

My Aunt Louise

Aunt Louise is the oldest of four sisters.  In her day, she was very beautiful with a beaming smile.  She was also quite awkward in many ways.  As an example, when she graduated high school, her fiance still had a year to go, so she kept going to school and audited classes so she’d have something to do while she waited for him to graduate.  She didn’t feel free and excited and have all these girlfriends to do things with.  She waited for her fiance to graduate high school.

The following year, they did indeed get married.

In the wedding photo she looks quite happy.  He looks kind of bashful.  The article in the paper is typical for 1949 with descriptions of what everyone wore and the several bridal showers she was given, including one given by the office girls of the place she worked.

Her life afterwards turned out to be very, very difficult and sad:  dysfunctional marriage, death of a three-year-old daughter, poverty, divorce, more poverty, then a good husband who died years ago, abusive relationship in her later years, and finally death of another daughter from brain cancer.

I would read the wedding article sometimes and wonder where it all went wrong….

Aunt Louise is due to turn 90 this coming January and my mother recently remarked that she has been quite talkative the last few times they were together.  Louise has said surprising things such as:  the reason she never worked after getting married was because not one person had liked her at the job she had.  She knew it the very first day she walked in the door.  They hated her at first sight.

How strange.  I wouldn’t have guessed that she was hated at her job.  According to her wedding announcement she had worked there for two years and “the office girls” had even given her a wedding shower.

I had always thought she had two lives.  The one before marriage and the one afterwards.  Instead, those “two lives” were part of a familiar pattern.

Her life turned out like all the other women’s lives in this family.  A beginning seemingly full of promise and light, beauty and hope.  Smart, sensitive, active girls who end up as victims on some level wondering where it all went wrong.

I suspect the clues to the future were right there all along.  We just missed them in the quest to do the right thing, please the people around us, be good girls, and basically give away our power until there was no more to give.

There are more women’s stories in my family and I hope I can do them justice.

4 Comments

Filed under anxiety, decisions, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, enemies, family, first impressions, getting along, grief, history, human nature, journey, love, opinion, social phobia, Uncategorized, wellness, work

Afraid to do Things

When I was a little girl, my parents took me to a nearby art gallery, www.albrightknox.org, for a tour.  I remember coming home and NEEDING to make a painting.

My father gave me a piece of wood from his workshop and some house paint and a brush to use for my masterpiece.  And I still remember thinking that even just a plain, two-color abstract painting was really hard to do!!  At the gallery I had seen paintings that looked like nothing!  Just squares of one or two colors!  But I guess there was more to it than I thought.

I have been wanting to visit the gallery again for quite some time.  All that wonderful art less than an hour away from my house.  But something always comes up and I still haven’t gone.

Then a few days ago, when I was feeling restless for the millionth time, a thought came to me.

I could just go to the gallery by myself.  Technically, I have a lot of freedom since I don’t work.  I don’t have to go with somebody.  It would be during the day.  It would be safe.  I could go at my own pace, lingering if I want or racing through the place if I want.  I could eat in the gallery cafe and have museum-y food to choose from instead of Wendy’s or Burger King.  It’s easy to get directions ahead of time.  I have money for parking and admission.  Nothing is really stopping me.

Except that I get scared now when I think of doing things.  Before I could just force myself to do things even if it made me anxious.  Now, not so much.

Someone I grew up with in the old neighborhood flies to San Francisco every year all by herself and she thinks of it as her time to heal, re-charge, and be 100% herself.  And I envy her those trips.  I want that for myself.

I’m not used to thinking of doing something and then just doing it without first considering the millions of possibilities and needs of the whole rest of the world.  Without “awfulizing” the whole endeavor first.  Without remembering past failures.  Without remembering past triumphs and thinking, those days are long gone.  And while this sounds like a ponderous process, it actually is so natural and automatic for me that I can do it without even realizing what is happening.

Ah, sweet Clinical Depression and Chronic Anxiety, you are terrible companions and it is high time I break up with you.

The gallery is closed on Mondays so tomorrow is my first opportunity to take what I hope is the first of many such field trips.

I hope that it feels good to do this and to be there.

I really hope this idea means I am turning the next corner.

4 Comments

Filed under anxiety, art therapy, decision making, decisions, depression, emotional health, growth, healing, journey, motivation, planning, pressure, progress, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized

“Ripen into Your Authentic Self”

The phrase “ripen into your authentic self” was part of my horoscope from Rob Brezsny this morning and it was one of those aha things that I just love.

I’ve been having a little bit of trouble with a family situation lately.  We haven’t heard from our oldest son in over a year and it is bothersome.  Luckily with the internet I can keep faint tabs on him, but still.  This is the kind of situation that most parents dread and are confounded by.  I am no different.

Fortunately, I found a recent blog post he wrote–the sign of life I’ve been wanting.  The subject matter is one I am quite uncomfortable with personally.  However, it is not a surprising subject.  It is consistent with the kind of person he has always been.  Which makes his absence from our lives quite understandable.  He is being considerate of our feelings as well as being true to himself.

I was pleased to see that he is a fantastic writer.  And a person with integrity.  His interests are not interests I can share, but I can respect them.

I feel very proud of him.  But it is still strange and uncomfortable for me that I cannot just call him and say, awesome blog, tell me more.  I have to give him the kind of space that most parents would be uncomfortable with.  And I miss him.

It’s hard to know what to do with a relationship of this nature.

But the thing we have in common, and that all people have in common, is the desire and need to be our authentic selves.  And for many of us that takes a great deal of time.  Some people never accomplish authenticity.

I had to learn to get out of my own way to even begin ripening into my true and authentic self.  I think my son had to learn the same thing and over a year ago he made his move.

So here is to all of us finding our true, authentic selves and the peace that it can bring.

7 Comments

Filed under blogging, boundaries, emotional health, family, getting along, growth, healing, honesty, human nature, love, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized, wellness