Making The Best Of Difficult Times

I’ve been so taken up with our unsettled world and what is happening in our own country that I’ve gone over the edge once again … waking with the dreads, a general malaise, and a burning need to break away from all that unsettles me. It’s also been raining here … a lot. I’ve sometimes wondered if the sun is still up there. When I lived in Vermont I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder from November until April. The way I’m feeling right now is very similar, but I think it has more to do with what is happening around me than the light. As an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), I easily pick up on the vibes out in the world and need to take action to get myself out of the dumps. It’s exhausting to allow myself to get so involved in things I cannot control.

So what do I do about it?

I meditate. I let myself cry if I need to. I turn off the radio and the tv and turn on Pandora to listen to classical guitar while I do my Egoscue exercises, or jazz it up with Dave Brubeck, David Sanborn and others when I need to add some energy to my day. I’m also a fan of Yo-Yo Ma, Frank Sinatra, and the likes of Ella Fitzgerald. For me music is a cure-all and a necessary part of my days.

I’m watching for signs of spring.  Since I have the smallest garden I’ve ever had, I’m thinking small and am beginning to plan a container garden mostly for herbs. I do have space for the helebores, irises, and peonies I dug up from my last home before we moved. My friend and garden helper, Maria, has been overwintering them for me and she will be coming soon to get them in the ground. I can’t wait!

Keeping my creative energy flowing is also important so last week I pulled out a beading project I had started a couple of years ago and then forgot about. It’s been sitting in a plastic storage bin since then and I’ve been anxious to get back to it, especially since it will take a good while to finish it in time for the fall. It’s a styrofome pumpkin that I am covering with tiny seed beads using Peyote Stitch. I started a collection of fruit and vegetables using this technique a while back. I find it quite relaxing. And the shifting and mixing of slightly different colored beads makes for imaginitive brain work.

I’ve also started setting aside one day a week and labeling it “MY DAY,” on my calendar. I do not plan anything ahead of time. It’s simply a day when I can do whatever I want to do rather than what I have to do. When I began writing my memoir, I did the same thing, but at that time the chosen day was reserved for writing and activities geared toward getting it published. It quickly turned into several days a week and then a rigorous work/writing schedule. This time around I’m using it just to get my creative juices flowing and I’m looking at getting a canvas set up and slapping paint on it sometime soon.

So while I’m still paying some attention to what’s happening out in the world, I’m happier, more relaxed and feeling more positive than I was just a few weeks ago. And I continue to remind myself that in order for change to happen, sometimes things have to get very ugly and depressing before we notice the light at the end of the tunnel. It is happening whether we realize it or not. It’s what life and being human is all about and I’m trying to make the best of it.  While I’m still paying attention to what is happening out there in the world, I’m spending more time in the present and worry less about changing what I can’t.

Cozy Sunday

Bill is away on an Irish music adventure somewhere out in the Caribbean even though he’s somewhat lame and has a wheel chair to help him get around the ship he’s on. I admire and encourage his hutzpah at age 78. He just keeps going like the Ever Ready bunny despite his aching knee. I do miss him and worry about him a bit, but we, like most couples, need some time to ourselves once in a while. And he’s having a wonderful time learning new tunes on his tin whistle.

I, on the otherhand, am here at home, enjoying some solitude. This is my first stay in our new home by myself with companions, Max, and Lilliput. I know Bill wants a turn at being here by himself so I’m going to have to hunt up an adventure for myself for sometime in the near future. But my first goal is to simply slow down and take life a bit easier than I have been.

Sunday was an especially cozy day for me. It started to snow at around 8 AM, then turned to sleet and freezing rain, then to plain old rain. What snow coated the ground melted away quickly and it seemed the daylong precipitation may have put a dent into our moderate drought situation.

Inside all day, except for a quick walk to the mailbox to get yesterday’s mail, it was warm and dry. I managed to relax for the first time in weeks … no place to go, nothing to do, even though I had a healthy to-do list. I wanted to simply be. I did manage to make a pot of bone broth in my Insta Pot, emptied the trash, did my physical therapy exercises, and a bit of yoga. I spent the rest of the time sipping hot tea, reading, journaling, watching the ice building up on the trees, and the goldfinches at the birdfeeder being chased away every now and then by one of the big fat squirrels that think they own the place. I guess they do. They were here before I came. I don’t mind an occassional visit and I do like to share what I have with whoever needs to fill their stomaches as I sit, warm and dry, on the other side of the glass.

Though we haven’t had a snowday so far this winter, maybe one will come along before spring makes its appearance. But with a bouquet of daffodils in the kitchen, it’s easy to imagine a freshening of green as warmer temperatures arrive. I don’t care what that old groundhog has to say, I’ve noticed the dried out grass is showing a hint of green this week.

Mindlessness versus Mindfulness

On my windowsill! Did you know that spring is only 37 days away?

Last week my acupuncturist, Jill, prescribed an interesting regimen for me. I’ve been seeing her for just about 20 years and she knows me well. I first went to her when I was suffering from hot flashes and other nasty things associated with menopause. I found that being stuck with needles to be extremely helpful. Bill, my husband, even noticed the difference.

Since then I’ve been seeing her every six weeks or so for maintenance and I can always tell the difference in how I feel walking into her office and then walking out. But when we began moving in earnest, I cancelled my October appointment and haven’t been back to see her until last week. Again the magic of the needles made a difference in how I was feeling and we set another date for two weeks from now. Until I’m sailing smoothly through my days once again, I’ll be seeing her every other week.

As most of you who have moved about a lot know, selling an old residence and buying a new one, along with the purging and packing, is not for the faint of heart. And though we’re doing well with our settling in, there is still stuff I need to do, like going through all my old files and redoing the whole system to make it simpler and easier. I will be hiring an expert organizer to help me get it moving but all of this is a slow process and it can be very frustrating especially when I can’t find what I want in the file cabinets. Or when I’m anxious to start a new project but am afraid to add complications to an already overloaded plate.

I’ve struggled with that since we moved in November and now it seems I can’t wait any longer to jump head-first into something new. Jill, noticing my exhaustion and my struggle with increasing pain in my shoulders, neck, and wrist, sometimes knows better than I do what I need. She suggested that I take time to rest and recover from pulling up stakes before I charge back into action. Others have been telling me the same thing, saying that they breathlessly watched me organize, and get the move under way in such a short period of time.

Do I listen? Some accuse me of selective hearing.

It wasn’t until the past week or two that I’ve noticed just how tired I am. But there are all those wonderful, creative ideas that are beginning to stream through my head. Though I’ve promised myself to take one-step-at-a-time, there is no stopping a passionate, overwhelmed artist who’s been seperated from her muse for far too long. So I stumble about not knowing where to begin. Do I get the files organized first and get the bills paid on time or take some time to rest before I just plow ahead into my next creative exploration?

Jill’s words are often as magical as the needles she sticks me with. She suggested that having a mind full of “want tos and have tos” is not serving me well at the moment.  She said, “You need to to take naps and stop thinking so hard. Throw mindfulness out the window for a while and be a bit mindless. Rest. Take time to just be.”

As I sit here writing this blog post, I realize what good advice that is. In all my doing, I’ve forgotten how to simply be in the world. I don’t need to be take part in the rat race. Hopefully I won’t be so tired tomorrow and my racing mind will slow its pace and relax.

Have you ever thought of allowing yourself to be mindless?

PAREIDOLIA

One of my favorite things to do on a warm, breezy summer day, is lie down in the grass and watch clouds pass overhead. I watch for those that remind me of animals. Sometimes a turtle, an elephant, or dragon. They change quickly as they move across the sky and it’s interesting how the things I see dissolve into something else or nothing at all.

I’m not alone in being a person who sees images and especially faces in inanimate objects. There are many of us  and it’s called Pareidolia. This capability has been with me since I was a child. My mother also saw these images and I suppose it could be that I learned it from her or it might have been passed down to me genetically. A new study in Japan found that those you see faces like the ones I see in the photo above are neurotic.

What? Me neurotic? Well, maybe. Aren’t most of us? If you look up the definition of neurosis you’ll find that it’s defined as “a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with reality.” So maybe it’s true that I am neurotic. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, after all. But thankfully I’m in recovery. I’ve slowed my pace and do a lot of self-care … taking naps, meditating, writing, walking, gardening, reading, and listening to music. My stress levels have greatly diminished and I’m feeling like a new woman.

Do you see the rabbit in this one?

But thankfully those creatures and faces I see in the tiles on my shower wall are still with me. I think of them as my “shower friends” and have always enjoyed seeing them. They remind me of cartoon characters and I see them as happy and funny.

I’ve always attributed this ability of mine to my creative bent and what helps to make me an artist. I’m a very visual person. Give me written directions on how to do something, and it will take me forever to figure it out. Show me how to do something, and I’m there with you, ready to go. That’s how I learned to knit, weave, spin sheep’s wool into yarn, paint, and cook delicious food, among other things.

So, neurotic or not, I’m glad for whatever causes me to be able to do this. How about you? Do you see faces or animals in inanimate objects? What do you see in photographs of the tiles I’ve included here?

Relearning How To Rest

Over the last few years whenever I’ve gone away to take a break, I’ve taken all kinds of work to do with me. Last week was no exception. Bill and I spent four nights in one of our favorite places listening to waves rushing the shore, watching Pelicans flying overhead and eating delicious seafood. I had my to-do list with me. I planned on getting ahead by writing a few blog posts in advance, and catch up on reading the blog posts of those I follow and haven’t had time to get to in a few weeks. There were also a host of things on my computer desktop that I needed to file away.

The first day went by and I didn’t get any of that done. The day was dark, with rain showers, and very humid. The famous Outer Banks Midgies, small, gross, flying insects, were everywhere. They don’t bite but they arrive on days when there is a land breeze. When the wind shifts to an ocean breeze they quickly find shelter elsewhere. I’m not one of those people who absolutely hates insects freaking out when I see a spider or stinkbug coming my way, but these guys really got to me. At one point there were so many of them on the screen doors to our deck, that they obstructed our view of the ocean. And they covered almost every square inch of the deck chairs. Really! I took a brief walk on the beach, did some reading, and slept. We went out to dinner and tucked ourselves in early.

It’s been a crazy few months at our house with Bill’s hugely successful production of Death of a Salesman, my unsuccessful attempt to clean out my studio, and figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I’d really been looking forward to getting away … no phones ringing, no meals to cook, no place to be. But I felt restless. I didn’t feel like doing anything, yet part of me wanted to be busy. I wasn’t interested in doing any of the things on my to-do list or doing much of anything else either. I read some more, watched some of the daily insanity on cable news, and slept.

On day two I was still restless. Over the last few years while I was engaged in getting my book ready for publication there was always something that had to be done, keeping me from spending time simply being. When I did take a nap, or sit in the garden and to simply enjoy the day, I felt guilty and overwhelmed by what was waiting to be done. Back to work I’d go.

Over the last year, especially, I’ve found myself longing for time to just be without a list of things I had to accomplish. And there I was last week at the beach, suddenly realizing that I was there to just BE … to REST … and to let the world take care of itself without my needing to help. I had forgotten how important it is to have days when I don’t have to do anything. And I’d forgotten how to do that.

In this strange world we’re living in we rush around hoping to get what we need to do done and living in angst over where this country of ours is going. For many of us self-care flies out the window and we forget that in order to help bring about the change we want to see in our world, we need to slow down and really, really rest. We can’t help bring about that change unless we take care of ourselves first. I’m taking time for that now. Are you?