A Sunday Ramble

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I’ve been feeling a little better.

Do you ever see that New York Times column, “My Sunday Routine”? I’ve only read it once or twice, but it made me feel like I should really have a better Sunday routine. Like, I make a quiche and have brunch with my friends, and hang out with my extended family all afternoon.

(Never mind that I don’t have extended family that ever hangs out together.)

Things that are going well

I’ve started a bullet journal! When in doubt, get hyper organized, right? It does feel good to make lists and mark them off, which is why I’ve been so enamored with Habitica the last few years. I like that I can put everything in my bujo, though. So far, calendar, daily to-do lists with events highlighted, blog ideas and topics (which makes it sound like I’m organized about blogging, here or elsewhere, and I’m not; I’d just like to be!), podcasts to follow/prioritize, stuff my mother asks for, food combinations I’m enjoying, the cable stitch pattern I’m using to make a scarf, and dog training progress.

I feel like I’ve only just begun. Now that I’ve started, I’m wondering why everyone doesn’t do this? Of course, now everyone IS doing it. But why aren’t we taught this in school? It’s so nice to have everything indexed and within reach.

I don’t know. Maybe this is the honeymoon phase. Maybe I’ll only love it for a few weeks. But I am still using Habitica, so I think it can all come together.

Food combinations that have been pleasant surprises

*Mango salsa and cottage cheese on sprouted grain
*Sliced banana dipped in ground flaxseed
*Greek yogurt with berries and 2 tbsp walnuts

I know, these aren’t earth-shattering. But I sometimes overlook the simple combinations that make food interesting in favor of complicated recipes. Mental note: it doesn’t have to be so hard.

Podcasts

Poor Ira Glass. I’ve seriously had him on my mind so much since last week’s episode of This American Life.

In Act 4, he talked about losing his friend, Mary, who had been the last person he talked to every day, since he and his wife separated. A few things he said really hit me, and now that I think of it, probably contributed a lot to my circles of thoughts about mortality and loneliness.

Today, I listened to Wait Wait, and now I’m catching up on Radiolab, which is pretty heavy. CRISPR was about the heady speed of gene editing. Now I’m listening to a two-parter on police shootings, and wondering if I should take a break to listen to that Nerdette episode on sex, or the Freakonomics episode literally titled, “Why is my life so hard?”

There are too many podcasts to keep up with! This is why it has a whole page in my bullet journal. 🙂

Is there ever really a cure for depression?

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I read an article the other day about how a girl cured her depression, after not having much luck with therapy and medication. It was a lot of good advice, along the lines of make yourself do things, let go of unhelpful friends and make new ones, and learn to replace negative thought patterns with positive ones. (That latter is cognitive behavioral therapy, in essence, so apparently therapy did help her?)

It’s the “pick yourself up” cure for depression, and she’s not completely wrong. Those actions can go a long way toward fighting depression, or to simply make it through until it passes on its own.

I could have written much of that piece myself in my 20s and early 30s. Mine would have, of course, included a lot of yoga, exercise and meditation, because those were activities I found very healing and helped me move through some difficult times. I had bouts of moderate to severe depression that I was convinced I had pulled myself out of through sheer effort.

And, naively, I thought everyone should be able to do the same. I thought I would always be able to do the same.

But at some point, no matter what I did, the depression wasn’t lifting. It wasn’t getting better, no matter how much I exercised or took vitamin D or meditated. There were no affirmations that made me feel like I could improve. Meditation usually made me just more aware of how miserable I was.

Long story short, I got treated for depression, for the first time in my life, with medication, and I felt like I’d nevdepression-sitting-silhouette-cliparter felt before. I was really interested in life, in trying new things. Even if there had been times I hadn’t been moderately depressed or worse, I realized I had probably been mildly depressed for the majority of my adult life. I was a diligent worker and resilient. I knew how to work toward goals. I even fell in love during that time, but before I had meds, I had never experienced this sense of openness and willingness to be completely alive and engaged – even with activities I really enjoyed.

That lasted for a short while, and then I thought I was cured for good.

Now I think depression, for me, is something I will have to deal with more as a chronic disease that can go into remission, but is always there, waiting to return. I’ve been having more symptoms of depression recently, and while it hasn’t gotten as bad as it was before, it’s been a struggle to keep up with my daily activities. I haven’t played the guitar in weeks, and that had been something I only recently wrote about as a fun daily activity.

And yes, I am doing all those things that help: talking to my friends, taking positive action, exercising. And it really  is helping, but I have to stay vigilant. And if it continues to get worse, I’ll be having a chat with my psychologist sooner than planned.

For those of you who have dealt with depression, was it a one-time cure for you, or did it go into “remission,” and you have to continually work to maintain your equilibrium?

Learning an instrument with @YousicianApp

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I’ve been learning to play the guitar since late December, using an app called Yousician. It plays a bit like a video game, so it often reminds me of Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero, but for learning an actual instrument. J

 

It really is a fun way to learn. The songs are well suited to each level, and some of them are so catchy I’ll be humming them long after I’ve stopped practicing. There are levels, too, and is there anything better than getting a certificate saying you’ve reached a new level?

 

There’s a built-in goal of 60 daily stars, which you earn for doing well on songs. When I’m learning a new skill, it can be slow going. There are songs I know I’m good at, though, and can rack up stars quickly. I think this feature really keeps me going, because I know I have always accomplished something, even on days I might not feel like I’ve made a lot of progress. It helps me stay in the process-oriented goal (of practicing a certain amount each day) than the outcome-oriented goal (I want to be a good guitar player!). This goes a long way to keeping me from getting discouraged.

 

 

I’m a little frustrated.

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This blog (as a whole) has no point. But I’m kind of to the point of deleting it all and saying goodbye, or writing something. So I’m writing, something. 🙂

I teach Spinning as part of my corporate fitness job, and I’ve been in such a rut lately. But yesterday I went in kind of excited, revved up, trying every trick I had for mental preparation and visualization.

Class was okay… not great. And then, I ended up talking about politics. I was mentioning the opening number for the Academy Awards, and someone said she didn’t watch awards shows because they were too political.

First off, I hate when people say this. What they really mean is, Hollywood is full of liberals and they don’t want to hear what liberals are concerned about. While the world is falling all to hell, they want to stay in their isolated bubble and believe whatever Trump says is true.

I didn’t say all of that, though. I just said it wasn’t that political, other than some Trump jokes, and the Iranian director’s speech, which was just about not being divisive. And I don’t understand why people think that’s a controversial statement, especially when it’s far-right Christians who seem to think it’s a controversial statement.

Hypocrites.

And, I did say a lot of that. Which is inappropriate to say in the work environment, and killed the class mood. I killed my own mood for the rest of the day.

It’s a simple solution. Don’t talk about politics at work. And I can follow it, mostly. But I feel like this is how life is now. If you say, I’m worried about the direction our president is taking us.. If you say, Do you really believe all Muslims want to kill Christians? … That will get you mobbed by Trump thugs on Twitter. And heaven forbid we talk about our disagreements in a civil manner in real life.

The problem is, there is no way to bridge a gulf with people who don’t believe in actual facts. If you point to actual numbers and research, they say that’s liberal propaganda, then put up a nasty meme, call you a snowflake, and link to a YouTube video about how Obama bought missiles for ISIS. frustration

Then they call news that follows actual journalism guidelines “fake” news, as if they didn’t create a world that is only fake news.

I do believe, if this were a regional problem, it’s divisive enough now that it could lead to a Civil War. I’d personally like to put the boundaries of state between my fellow Americans and those nutjobs. But it’s not like that… It’s really come down to city versus rural.

And there’s nothing to be done for it. My best hope right now is that Trump will finally fail, and disappoint those who supported him. I know a few people have already regretted their vote. But for the most part, it’s clear that Trump followers are with him 100%, and there is nothing that will change their minds. If he shot his Chief of Staff in the head today, they’d say it was deserved.

Or that Obama did it.

Thick skin

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My life has felt upside down for a while.

Things changed so radically, but they didn’t change at all. I felt my family falling away from me in a more permanent way than I was prepared for. I felt un-moored.

And stability has returned now, of a nature. And that feels even stranger. Wasn’t everything supposed to change forever? I was prepared to grieve. I was grieving.

But it seems that was premature. I should be happy, right?

And so, I continue. I live my life. I do my job. My job is my sanity, as much as I would prefer to stay home and feel sorry for myself. My job gives me a purpose, and an identity; something that seems to be of value to others.

I’m learning to play guitar. It was painful at first, and I didn’t know if I could continue. But I’ve developed callouses, and my fingers have grown accustomed to the strange positions they must take to form a chord. I’ve learned to play partial chords, which qualifies as “good enough” for my mid-life hobby.

So life goes on, and I develop my mental callouses, and I grow accustomed to the strange forms life takes. It’s good enough.

A year

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It’s sort of depressing to have a long-term blog that you’re really bad at keeping up. I can look back and see, pretty easily, the things I’ve been really excited about over the years.

There have been a few writing phases. Times when I genuinely thought I would finish a novel, come what may. Last year, I was deep into daily writing, and talking about writing in such earnest ways.

I never finished the novel.

I was so excited about teaching Les Mills classes for a while! For years, that was what kept me moving forward. And in some ways that’s nice to think about, because it ultimately led to me having the best job I’ve ever had.

In other ways, it reminds me I used to love this stuff. I guess that’s the way with any hobby that becomes a job. I mean, it’s a job.

But now, all those instructors who talk about how “passionate” they are about what they do, just make me roll my eyes. When I think about how much energy I put into it back then (and yes, passion), I feel like it was kind of silly.

Hmm. I am probably looking at this the wrong way. A certain amount of obsession was really good for me. Maybe that’s the feeling I really miss. Being in love with the idea of something, with a sense of possibility and potential.

There’s not much I’m in love with right now. Unless you count Lin-Manuel Miranda, ha ha! (*dreamy teenager voice* “He’s so great…!”) I am learning to play the guitar. And I’m doing some interesting things in my work life.

But life just… goes on. It’s hard to feel inspired about much right now.

I’ve got this! (Some of it.)

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I’m trying to get my life together.  But I sometimes feel like I am not giving myself credit for all I am getting right. 

So,  here’s what I’m doing well on! Or at least better.  🙂

  • I am holding down a good job! I am able to do a good job even though I have a chronic illness and have to really talk myself into it most days. The job has good benefits and pays well enough to get my basic needs met on a part time schedule. 
  • I haven’t overdrawn my bank account in a while. 
  • I stopped biting my nails. When did that happen anyway? I tried to quit my whole life and it finally took. 
  • I’m not drinking,  for physical and mental health.   (And God have I wanted one this week.) 
  • I’m remembering to feed the dog and cats. I remember to take my medication daily. And to shower and eat and mostly keep up with basic household chores. 
  • I’m reading lots of good books. And writing an okay one. 
  • I keep a solid sleep schedule. I keep electronics away from my bed and sleep 7-8 hours a night. 
  • I’m still using Habitica.  So great! 
  • I keep my doctor appointments. 
  • I started seeing a therapist, who is helping me with my goal setting. 
  • I exercise regularly,  both as part of my job and for myself. 
  • I’m doing well without a car! I am mastering the bus system. 

Well,  that is a pretty good list! I feel like I could keep going, but I can always add to the brag list later.