Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'm in Love!

I am in love -- that uncontrollable, undeniable, can't concentrate, obsessed, just-want-to-be-with-them, always-thinking-of-them kind of love.

And *sh* don't tell, but I'm not talking about my husband. 

(Okay, kind of.)

I'm talking about people.  People of all shapes and sizes.  All personality types.  All colors.  All walks of life.  The more, the better.

And I know that the phrase "in love" is generally used to describe romantic love but, with the English language being so imprecise, I've got to use what I've got.  And saying that I love people just doesn't cut it.  It's not powerful enough.

I am in awe of them.  I want to bask in their presence.  I want to soak up whatever it is that's emanating from their souls.

I don't get star-struck in the traditional sense.  I have no desire to meet famous people just because they are famous.  But there are people who come into my life, people who sometimes don't even know I'm watching them, that floor me.

And there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why I admire them.  Sometimes they have been through hard times and come out stronger and better.  Sometimes they are in the middle of hard times and are willing to show their pain.  And sometimes they make a comment that exhibits a depth of character that I didn't know was there.

Sometimes it's their mind.  They talk about things on a different level and invite me to come along.  They challenge me to be more; and I want to.

Sometimes it's in their voice.  They speak with tenderness and a reverence that reminds me that I am from a higher place.  That there are angels with me.

Sometimes it's their smile.  It's not just a beautiful smile.  It's warm and inviting.  It's like hot chocolate.  Some people have a hot chocolate smile that they share with those they meet in this cold winter world.

Sometimes it's in their handshake, as they look deep into your eyes and their eyes say that you are wonderful.  They've seen your soul and wholeheartedly approve.

Sometimes it's in their hug.  A hug that gives and receives at the same time.  It makes you feel powerful.  It makes you feel humble.  It makes you feel you are more than before.

And sometimes it's in watching how they interact with others.  It's amazing what you can learn about a person just by watching them.

Those who inspire me the most, who give the most to me, are those whose souls are open.  They are secure in themselves spirit and body and want to share and grow together.  And they aren't frightened if I openly love and admire them.

They are everywhere.  People who have seemed so two-dimensional for years suddenly blossom into three dimensions and beyond.  Flowers that radiate unimaginable colors.  Colors that warm and soothe and welcome.

Maybe they always were and I just didn't see it before.  Or maybe it just took a while for them to find their wings and soar.

And you're probably one of them.  Today, may you blossom and soar!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Killer Snowmen

I know.  It's about dang time for me to cheer up.  The last thing anyone needs in January is depressing blogs.  I think this will help.

*****
So a while back I was driving through our neighborhood right after a big snowstorm.  There's one corner that needs to be taken slowly on a good day because visibility is limited as you come around.  After a snowstorm, I was being extra careful.  There was lots of snow on the road and I knew it was the time of day that kids would be out.  I went slowly, trying not to take out any innocents.  As I came around the corner, what did I see?  A herd of killer snowmen charging across the road!  They were carrying broomsticks and long branches and shovels.  And they seemed bent on revenge.

Okay, not really.  But in my mind that's what I saw.  Just out of the blue -- killer snowmen.  I blame Calvin and Hobbes for this.  And I thank that precocious young boy, Calvin, for his inspiration.  I got a good laugh out of it.  And I get it again everytime I come around that corner in the snow.

Few things are more enjoyable to me than something completely random.  Something that makes no sense or is totally unbelievable.

And I think that's part of the reason that I enjoy teenagers so much.  If anyone can be random, it's teenagers.  Little kids do it accidentally.  Big kids do it on purpose -- and do it well. 

The other day I ran into a neighborhood teenager who started talking to me in what seemed like mid-thought about something that made no sense, and was meant to.  I responded with more nonsense as if it made total sense.  A moment enjoyed by both.

Sometimes there's a story behind something and all I get is the random part.  Like when my daughter said, "Stick that in your off switch."

Other times it's just something strange that occurs to someone.  And they are kind enough to share it.

I'm going to confess something.  I love Monty Python's Holy Grail.  I know it is irreverant and stupid.  And I know that it has deep political meaning.  But I love it because so much in it is so random.  The coconuts?  C'mon, how can you not love the coconuts?  And the guardian at the bridge?  And the black knight?  And so many others.  So much joy in one little movie.

I offer you a few thoughts to ponder, in honor of my friend's wonderfully random dad:
*Do you walk to school or pack a lunch?
*Do you sleep alone or with the window open?
*What's the difference between a duck?  One of its feet are both the same.

And to you I say, "Ni!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Depression

Warning:  kind of heavy psychological topic.

I have wanted to write about depression for a long time.  Long before I had a blog.  But it's a very difficult thing to do for many reasons.  When I feel good, it's tough to remember exactly what I felt like when I was depressed.  When I am depressed, I can't write.  Or my thoughts are so dark that I don't dare write about them.  Plus, people don't really want to hear about it.  People want blogs to be upbeat, happy, funny, whatever.  Not depressing.

But I am going to try today, on my way out of a depression.  Maybe I can do it justice.

I have been diagnosed with chronic major depression, among other things.  I am not talking about having a bad day or a bad week.  I am not talking about being depressed about failing at school or breaking up with someone.  I am talking about a kind of darkness that comes from nowhere and pins your soul to the floor and won't let you up.  Crying uncle doesn't help.  Turning purple doesn't help.  You can die several times over and still not find pity in the eyes that stare you down.  Depression has no soul.  So it takes yours.

J.K. Rowling has said that the dementors in her stories are a representation of the depression she suffered.  When I heard that, I thought it was an apt symbol.  They are soul suckers.  Everything gets dark.  You feel like you'll never be happy again.  You crumble to the ground and can do almost nothing to defend yourself.

You may be surprised to know that depression can be comfortable.  I can wrap up in it like a warm blanket, unwilling to let it go.  Think of all the movies that show someone falling asleep in the snow.  They will die if they don't move, but they don't care.  The people around them are worried, but they don't care.  They just want to curl up and sleep.  "Leave me alone and let me sleep."  It's like that.

It's very difficult to care about anyone or anything else.  The darkness is so strong.

Why would I shower?  I'm so tired and it's so much work.  I'm not going anywhere.  Just leave me alone and let me sleep.

Why would I eat?  I'm not hungry and nothing sounds good and it's so much work.  Leave me alone.

Why would I get together with friends?  I'm so tired and irritable.  I'd be no fun to be around and it's so much work.  Leave me alone.

And it's impossible to describe the exhaustion to the point that you can understand if you haven't felt it.  Imagine wearing a big, heavy wool coat that is soaking wet.  And going three days without sleep.  Now try to get anything done.  Try to function.  And try to explain to the people around you that you are dying even though they don't see it.  It's like that.

Sometimes you wish someone would notice and try to make it better.  Then they do and it's so much worse.  Everyone who hasn't experienced it thinks they know how to make it go away.  They will tell you things that just make you stare at them with incredulation.  The things they are telling you are impossible for you to do.  It's like they are asking you to fly.  It seems that impossible.

And you know you are making people around you worry.  You know you are hurting relationships.  And it just makes you feel worse.  You are bleeding to death and yet you are supposed to worry about them?

It doesn't feel like there will be a tomorrow.  And if there is, you know it will be miserable like today.  Why put forth any effort?

And if you haven't had it, you don't get it.  I don't care how much you've studied it or observed it or lived with someone who struggles.  If you haven't had it, you don't get it.  It's like never having been pregnant and telling a new mother that you know what she went through.  You've never felt a living being moving inside you, knowing that their entire future is up to you.  You've never had your body taken over by a process that is so mundane and so miraculous at the same time.  You've never suffered the pain of childbirth.  You don't know.  It's like that.

And while none of the options I've tried have been able to make this go away permanantly, it lets up.  And I've learned a lot.  I'm not giving up.  I have hope.  At least today I do.

I am not looking for pity or understanding.  This is a meager attempt on my part to teach about something I know.  While I can.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unspeakable

Confused
Sad
Depleted
Longing
Tired
Hurt
Pondering
Empty
Evasive
Unsettled
Tender
Introspective
Disengaged
Dark
Yearning
Hollow
Disquiet
Lost

Wanting and waiting.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's Not You; It's Me.

How many times, in how many movies or tv shows, have I heard this?  It must be hundreds.  It's the ultimate break up cliche'.  It seems to be the universal easy way out, true or not.  In fact, it's usually understood by the audience to be completely false.

(I heard a more honest interpretation of this recently on Farscape.  "It's not you; it's me.  I don't like you."  Nice.)

It's about letting the person down easy, so as not to make them feel bad about themselves.  A way to deliver bad news in a good way.  Theoretically.

In a similar vein, we often hear or say the phrase "It's nothing personal."  Somehow we think that by saying this, what we say won't be hurtful.  But it is always coupled with something that could be hurtful.  And we usually assume the phrase to be a lie.  It's understood that "It's nothing personal" means I'm going to tell you something I don't like about you.

And if verbal communication weren't confusing enough, let's add in non-verbal language.  I know men want to believe this doesn't exist, but we women often hear it much louder than what you're saying.  You know, "actions speak louder than words."  And we do take those actions personally.

I postulate that we do so far more often than we should. 

Consider a recent visit to our marriage therapist:
Me:  When he continually blows off commitments that he's made to me, I feel like I don't matter to him.
Therapist:  Can I get you to consider that may not really be what it means?

Now, I don't think I shouted back the colorful expletive that I was thinking, but I can't be sure.  Temporary insanity is often a part of couples therapy for me.  Suffice it to say, my emotional response was  "Um . . . NO!"

But I've come to realize lately that it's not uncommon for me to feel hurt when someone does something that I should have known they would do.  It's in their nature.  It's who they are.  Maybe not forever.  Maybe they have the power to change.  But for now, it's who they are. 

I send an email to a friend.  He doesn't reply.  It was an important email.  I know he regularly reads his email.  He doesn't reply because I'm not important to him.  (See the natural flow of reasoning that makes total sense?)

In truth, this person is notoriously bad at responding to emails.  And when they are important he likes to think about them for a while before responding.  And although he has good intentions and always flags them for later response, follow through is nowhere near 100%.

It's not me.  It's him.

And frequently, people have thought that I was mad at them or there was some problem in our relationship because I didn't return their phone calls.  Not true.  I just stink at returning phone calls.  I hate the phone.  I hate calling people.  No matter who they are.  Returning phone calls -- not my thing.  It's me.  Not you.

So does learning this change my response to our therapist?  Does it get my husband off the hook?

*colorful expletive suppressed*

Um . . . no.  My awarenesses have their limits and husbands have their own set of rules.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Energy Vampires and Soul Suckers

Have you ever noticed that there are some people in life who are just draining?  Any interaction with them will leave you feeling depleted.  With some people it takes a long conversation full of their needs and ignoring yours before it hits.  With others, it's as soon as they enter the room.  As soon as you see them -- whoosh!  Energy drain.  It's almost like you can feel the life leaving your body.

Sometimes a person is truly in crisis.  They need to talk and if you can listen and give of yourself, they will get better.  It's a momentary crisis.  And they give back when it's you who are struggling.  They listen.  They give.  This doesn't seem to be so draining.  Partly because they refill you when you need it and partly because you are giving willingly.

But other people just take.  They corner you and utilize you.  They barrage you and then leave you in a crumpled heap.  You are glad it's over, but you know they'll be back.

Giving of yourself is charitable.  It's the Christlike thing to do.  I can hear the arguments.  And you're right; it is.  But what about the cost to you?

I think of Little Shop of Horrors.  Seymour tries to appease Audrey II with his own blood.  He soon discovers that he can't satisfy Audrey II's appetite.  And think of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal.  They drain the Gelflings to fill themselves.  In both cases, it is all about meeting their needs and they are indifferent to their food source.

Some people are like this.  They have a hunger that cannot be satiated.  You can give and give, and when you are lying dead on the floor they will move on to someone else because they are still hungry.

I don't know about you, but I am still trying to figure out how to protect myself from energy vampires and soul suckers.  I believe that it is an important skill to learn.  As sovereign beings, we are responsible to set our boundaries to protect ourselves.

And luckily, not everyone we interact with is a soul sucker.

There are others, people who give.  Sometimes it's a two-hour conversation with both of you crying.  Other times it's a smile from across the room when you really need it.  These people are soul healers.  These people are well fillers.

I want to be like them.  But I'm a beginner.  I still vacillate between the two.  Sometimes I drain.  Sometimes I give.

But someday I want to be like those rare gems who are true healers.  These people can fill you up even when they are in crisis.  They receive more by giving.  Somehow, they have learned to protect themselves and still give away as much as is needed.

These people are the angels who walk among us.  And most of them don't even realize it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Waste of Time

If I spend two hours playing a computer game, I get frustrated with myself.  I feel like I've wasted time. 
If my husband spends two hours playing a computer game, he considers it a good start to an evening.

So who's right?  What defines a waste of time?

I would suggest that it's possible that we are both right.

Now, my first thought is that if I don't have anything else to do then it's okay if I play on the computer.  Which implies that if I have other things to do, important things, it's not okay.

But what if I've been going and going like crazy getting things done and the computer game is restorative for me?  What if it fills my well so that I can go on?

I have a friend who is crazy busy.  He is so busy that he often barely sleeps.  He is very good at the things he does and is in high demand.  Someone always wants his time.  And he says that he is this busy because he likes it this way.  He does not watch tv.  He does not play games on the computer.  He rarely watches movies.  To him, those things are a waste of time. 

To me, being constantly busy is a waste of time if it means missing out on opportunities to just sit and think or visit with friends.

Is it possible that even when you are being productive and doing something for the greater good, you are wasting time?

And isn't it funny that the things you used to do that brought you much joy now seem like such a waste of time?  Or the other way around.  A time waster today can become a gift of sanity sometime in the future.

I'm going to be more careful about my judgmentality on this.  When someone is doing something I think is a waste of time, I'm going to think about it again.  I'm going to try to see the value in it.  I'm going to ask them what it is that they like about it.  And I'm going to be more forgiving with myself and try to see the value I'm getting when I waste time.  There is a reason I'm doing it; what am I getting out of it?

Because when something has value, can it really be a complete waste?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Peek Inside My Cave

I blog for myself.  I write because I need to write.  But I do so knowing that others will read it.  This has created somewhat of a dilemma for me.

Sometimes I have considered blogging about things that may bother others.  Things that may be a little too heavy psychologically.  I have avoided this in the past.  I do not want to make anyone uncomfortable.  But tonight I need to write truly for me.  And you may not even believe anything I tell you.

So.  This is a more serious warning than in the past.  I see this blog entry as serving no purpose for others except perhaps to help them understand me better.  If that is not your desire, skip it this time.

Also.  There may be "female" words used.  While I anticipate that they will be used scientifically, they are still uncomfortable to some.  If you can't handle them, skip it this time.

Now.  I have given you plenty of warning.  I begin.

Several years ago I was diagnosed with a condition known as PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder).  It's a condition recognized by the mental health field in the DSM IV (diagnostics manual).  It's estimated to affect about 5% of mentstruating women.  It's a severe form of PMS.  Although its cause is believed to be physical/bio-chemical, most of the repercussions are emotional/mental.  The closest thing I can compare it to that you might understand is being bipolar, but that's not what it is.  It's just kind of like that.  Being in flux.  Extreme ups and downs.

This is a condition that has gotten more severe for me over the years.  I have had PMS since my first period at age fourteen.  I have had episodes of depression and suicidality many times over the years, among other difficult and frustrating symptoms. 

What started out as a day or two of depression and irritability before my period has become 10 to 14 days of a multitude of symptoms, with little relief when menstruation starts.  My symptoms are not the same each month.  Some of the possibilities:  depression, suicidal ideation, anger, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, fatigue, food cravings, apathy, difficulty concentrating, bloating, sensitivity to touch.

During this time I become very sensitive to touch.  If you touch me, it hurts.  I become irritable.  I know that I have no reason to be angry with you, but that doesn't stop it.  I can not think clearly.  Making decisions and having conversations can be physically painful for me.  It's difficult to function at all and is very hard on relationships.

I know it doesn't make sense.  It doesn't make sense to me either.

And my willpower is almost non-existent during this time.  If I am going to eat an entire bag of potato chips, a whole coconut cream pie, and drink an entire two-liter bottle of Diet Coke by myself in a matter of hours, it will be during this time.  If I am going to swear up a storm, it will be at this time.  If I am going to be hurtful and not care, it will be during this time. 

I have tried many things to treat it.  Hormones.  Diet.  Exercise.  Therapy.  Spirituality.  Vitamins.  Anti-depressants.  Nothing seems to do the job.

And I do not believe that struggling with this gives me liberty to treat others however I feel like treating them.  But I have difficulty controlling it.

So during this time, I isolate myself as much as possible.  I call it being "in my cave."  I go to my room.  I don't return phone calls.  I don't answer the door.  I kind of just disappear from society for a week or two.  And if I have to be out, I try to keep my mouth shut to minimize the damage I can do.

But it does hurt.  It hurts my family.  It hurts my friends.  It hurts me.

If you can't find me, I'm probably in my cave.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pace Yourself

This is something we tell each other when we are doing something difficult, something draining.

I can remember saying it to my kids at their track meets when they were getting ready to run the 400 or 800 meter.  It's something others said to me in the past when I was running too many different directions at once and they could see it taking its toll on me.

I have spent my life trying to learn to pace myself.  And only recently have I learned that I am a sprinter, not a marathon runner.  Sprinting is in my nature.  Can a sprinter run a marathon?  Yes, but we do it differently.  We run until we can barely stand; we rest and recover.  And then we do it again.

Maybe that's not a healthy way to do it.  Maybe it's not the way a marathon is meant to be run.  And maybe, just maybe, my life is not a marathon.  Maybe my life is a series of sprints.

Either way, my nature fits my life.  The older I've gotten the more I can look back and see how past events prepared me for the future.  I was recently able to reconnect with someone who knew me when I was fourteen.  When he spoke of his memories of me from that time, he said that it seemed like I was always running.

And you know what?  He was right.  For the most part, I experience life as a series of sprints.  I am either running or standing still.  Now, while standing still I review and plan, but I don't act.  And this is how I have always lived my life.

And I am grateful.  Because it has prepared me for where I am now.

You see, I no longer experience a day -- or even a minute -- without pain and fatigue.  I am always tired and I always hurt.  Always.  A good day means a little less pain and not quite so tired.  A day when I can function and get a few things done.

So on those good days, I sprint.  I do all I can.  And when the good day passes I rest, review, and plan.  If I didn't know how to sprint, I don't know how I would get through this time.  I don't know how I would go on.

But because of the incredible preparation I've had, I can get through. 

And I am grateful for this awareness.  I am grateful that I can give myself permission to run my own race.