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Helping or enabling

1 Jul

11:22 am

I used to think that I knew the difference between helping a person and enabling them–until I was no longer on the receiving end. As someone who drank alcoholically for years, I never had to wonder if I was helping someone or enabling that person. It was their problem, and they had to figure out how to help me without enabling my ill behavior.

These days, I am the one having to decide between helping and enabling during every phone call I make to both parents. I can say, almost without doubt, that both my parents, by choice, are living with untreated mental health disorders that negatively affect their family members.

It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

And there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

What is this called? Transgenerational something–issues, addiction, trauma? I can clearly see my own workaholism in my dad’s behavior; I can clearly see my neurotic thinking and tendency to catastrophize in my mom’s behavior. Yet, both my parents either don’t see it in themselves or choose to not see it. I chose to see it, and I chose to try to fix it, within myself. It’s a work in progress, but I decided that I could no longer live in denial–that was eight years ago.

Let me give a few “for instances”: I recently found out that my dad and his second wife are divorcing; she served him papers, and he seems to be in this state of “I don’t know why on Earth she would want to divorce me” haze that is just, well, utter bullshit. He knows; the problem is, on our calls, he denies knowing and spins a tale of what he believes has happened (versus the reality, which I know, because my step-mom and brother have seen or heard different versions from him, and they’ve told me about those). The question is, do I listen and not say anything, or do I confront him on his denial? I have tried a version of the latter, but he is deep in his denial so it doesn’t work. Yet, allowing him to go on without being questioned just reinforces this behavior–enabling him to keep it up without facing any kind of consequences.

The last time I talked to my mom, she was complaining about her health issues, about she was feeling overwhelmed and alone. I feel bad for her, but, after decades of telling her what she knows she should do, she’s chosen to not expand her social circle to include even one friend! She chooses to obsess about her health issues instead of letting them go/be; I get that it’s hard, and she has a lot of problems. However, no matter how “bad” you’ve got it, at some point, you have to choose to stop the mental looping and try something else–maybe, meditation, or yoga, or staying on medications consistently, or believing that these medications will help (there is power in placebo; she knows this, as a former nurse). Now, I could tell her, again, that she should do this, that, and the other; she can say, yes, I know I should do that, and then, she can not do it–or, I can just listen and then hang up, not really telling her how I feel because it doesn’t seem to change her behavior, which is in essence, a form of enabling as well!

Why do I feel guilty–and somehow responsible–that my parents, both of them well into their 70s, are very seemingly stuck and unhappy? And, even more guilty that I have decided to give up on helping both of them, wishing their choices were different but not trying to engage anymore in a discussion about any of it? What if it does not end well for my dad, who is soon going to discover just how much of the physical, daily burden my step-mom carried? Should I feel like it was my fault, that I didn’t help him enough by literally screaming the truth, as I know it, into his ear? Same with my mom: should I just let her be, grasping but unwilling, or should I continue to force the issue of personal responsibility for one’s own happiness?

I have chosen, after all these years of getting sober–it was a lot of work to extricate myself from these learned behavioral patterns, some of which really affected me and “caused” my drinking problem–to just let it go. Let. It. Go. I can’t care that much about their problems; I can’t keep trying to “reason” with them when they don’t want to change, essentially.

Is this what it feels like to try to help an addict or alcoholic who is not ready to get sober yet? Maybe…

This is community, not social media

13 Jun

12:44 pm

Hey, all. SO, I have been offline for a few days–it was my birthday yesterday, and it was one of those semi-perfect days that just unfold because you don’t make a bunch of plans and/or don’t put that much pressure on having the “perfect” day. ANYWAY, I ended up going on Facebook for the first time in literally 60 days, and what did I find?

The short answer is, not much! I only got three birthday messages, which might be because at some point, I hid my birthday from my profile (I don’t remember doing that, but apparently I did). I would normally have been bummed about that, because half the fun of Facebook was counting how many happy birthdays or messages you got from your “friends” on your day. I wasn’t bummed, though; I was just sort of like, eh. Aside from that, I really did not miss anything–maybe one event that I would have liked to have gone to, and maybe one or two things that I would have seen if I had been going on regularly these past two months.

What I didn’t miss was the overwhelming amount of not only useless and irrelevant information, but the inability to normally interact with “people” on the platform (normally, as in, what humans have been used to doing and what we are wired to do, which is thoughtfully and intentionally engage in a a social exchange, not a lobbing of comment here, sentiment there).

What I got in return was this realization that I was taking Facebook WAY too seriously–seeing how I never posted regularly, I can’t really imagine (and don’t want to) what it’s like for people who post everything, all the time. For me, it doesn’t mean that much after having been off for 60 days; when I’m on the ‘book, though, it’s like, that, inside there, becomes my world, the platform takes root in me and just sort of owns my mind, forcing me to seek validation from it.

Anyway, last night, I almost immediately found myself scrolling mindlessly again, not really all that interested in the posts, feeling actually more disconnected from people. I liked finding things out, but I didn’t like it enough–or more than I like/love–how clear and calm and FREE I feel when I’m not participating on this platform. It really just reinforced my desire to keep actually living, with intent; reaching out in person; finding out the news from actual people, local news sources, second-hand from my circles of in-real-life friends who are spending hours a day scrolling, mindlessly. I mean, the point here is that, I was mindless in my scrolling, and it was like, I wasn’t even able to engage with my so-called friends (which is maybe the point of social media, is that, you get to do and say whatever you want, in a relative vacuum). It was an exercise in frustration and disappointment.

I do miss “On this day/Memories,” but I have my photos and journal to remind me of my past life/lives, right? I actually miss my groups, but I can always go on every few months to catch up on those. I did miss a few events–someone’s going-away party; a business down here closing–but, eh, in the grand scheme of things, it’s SO worth the sense of clarity in not knowing everything about people in exchange for missing a few parties or events.

I have started blogging more in the past two months, have reconnected with this community, and truly get something out of blogging and reading/commenting on others’ blogs. It is a real exchange, a true sense of community–nourishing and stimulating rather than draining and boring! I am glad to be blogging more as it’s given me a comparison as to how one can connect and build community virtually, in ways that can actually work (for me, anyway). Social media dos not work, and I believe that it’s partly due to the lack of true exchange, a lack of anything but short sound bites (from you) and insincere replies (from others), insincere because no one is all that invested in you, in-real-life, unless you are actually friends (at which point, ya don’t really use Facebook to sustain your friendship, you call and/or hang out!).

Anyhoo, I had a good birthday: we actually went to a restaurant, where the tables were six feet apart, parties were limited to six people, and the servers has to wear masks. I mean, I felt fine, not in any way scared or paranoid. We have only had about 75 positive test cases in our area, which could be because there just haven’t been that many people tested rather than we just didn’t have the community spread that other places had. I will say that my family (living in multiple different US states) are really, truly scared. And, I don’t envy the sense of fear and paranoia that’s sort of infected the mainland alongside the coronavirus. I cannot comment on if that fear has been stoked, but I can say that people here are, in general, used to natural disasters like hurricanes (and the ensuing make-the-best-of-the-chaos-and-keep-living mentality that comes with these events) and therefore, I think, more community-oriented (what’s mine is yours, and vice versa; there were no land-grabbing wars around toilet paper here when the shortage arrived). That being said, it’s just going to take a while for things to go back to normal, but, they will; they very much will, whether we are ready for it or not.

Happy Saturday, all–may it be peace-full…

Insomnia is a mental illness

8 Jun

11:40 am

And, actually, it IS! According to Medscape:

The DSM-5 defines insomnia as dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality, associated with one (or more) of the following symptoms: Difficulty initiating sleep. Difficulty maintaining sleep, characterized by frequent awakenings or problems returning to sleep after awakenings. Early-morning awakening with inability to return to sleep.

What I mean, however, is that insomnia causes mental illness (and that is part of its definition, too, in the DSM). For me, personally, that means anxiety, depression, and relatively speaking, “suicidal” thinking (i.e., what’s the point, everything sucks). I had one of my nights the night before last, and it took almost the entire day for me to rebound, to feel like myself again–to come out of the depths and to be able to think positively.

Honestly, it feels WAY too much like a night of blackout drinking and the next-day hangover from blackout drinking: you’re in and out of sleep, you’re having nightmares, you’re angry–oh, boy, does insomnia make me irrationally angry–and you’re delusional. It truly is horrifying, doubly so because it is like a replay of one of the MILLIONS of blackout-drunk/next-day hangovers I’ve had over the course of my drinking career (which gratefully ended when I started this blog eight years ago). It really does feel like I’m hungover the next day, too: intense anxiety, forcing myself to get out of bed, depression, this sense of darkness around my world and goals, the inability to think clearly, the list goes on and on.

Usually, I experience nights of insomnia caused by perimenopause–sometimes, I can’t fall asleep because I am burning up or otherwise wired wide awake; usually, I wake up after three or four hours sleep and can’t fall back to sleep. This time, however, it was because my stomach was cramping all night long (I have been toying with going on the keto diet; however, I am definitely crossing eggroll-in-a-bowl off my list of things that I can eat–LOL). I had some crazy nightmares, too: one was, the brother who wrote me off (after a bad blackout verbal assault!) was attacked by Trump supporters; the other was, our house, with floor-to ceiling windows looking out onto the ocean, was being flooded by HUGE waves that we could see come crashing down on our roof…and inside was a friend who ghosted me in 2017 (she just stopped emailing and texting, after 11 years of friendship, and I have never learned why). God, it was a dark night!

The next day, yesterday, I gave myself what turned out to be a gift: I went to our local Humane Society and spent the morning walking dogs! It felt really good to get out of my head, outside myself, and just help others, even if those others were fur-balls! Later in the evening, I went alone to our closest beach and took a sunset soak. It gave me the chance to remember how many times volunteering my time, helping others, actually saved me from myself. Getting outside myself has been what has saved me more than once from depression, anxiety, and everything that comes with too much self-focus.

It’s Monday, and while the protests are still going on and the COVID is still going on, I have to get on with my life. Which means, rebooting my (professional) writing portfolio and starting to send out ye olde resume. I don’t necessarily believe I won’t get my job back, but…it’s good to consider the possibility that I won’t.

I am eight weeks Facebook-free today, and I feel pretty much great about that. I do miss my actual friends’ posts, and I know that I am missing out on some events and “in the know” activities; however, for the most part, I believe I am not missing anything and I feel better about myself, calmer about the pace and progress of my days. I keep thinking of a few friends especially, wondering how they’re doing; otherwise, most people are simply not on my radar in that way (and, I would venture that most of anyone’s friends on Facebook are not really their friends, per se, people whose lives they’re actually interested in keeping up with). Anyway, I will keep going with it; I might not deactivate as I said I would, but I’ll probably stay off for a while longer, at least. The benefits are just too good!

Our dog is hanging in there; it was a bit sad to walk such fiesty pups at the Humane yesterday and come home to our “old” girl, barely able to hobble around for a few minutes outside. On the bright side, she IS still able to get herself up and down, and she IS still able to walk outside to pee–all good, right? I have come to accept her aging, the process of her aging, a wee bit more with every passing day. It’s part of life; I just wish it wasn’t part of HER life–haha.

Blessings, all, for a good week. Stay strong (or not); either way, you got this.

About expectations

4 Jun

8:05 pm

The other day at the beach, I was thinking about depression, and how (my) expectations always seem to have some play in it. I want to preface this by saying, I am only talking about myself, and I know there is a difference between clinical depression and feeling down or low. That being said, I think there is a significant connection between unmet expectations and depression.

Admittedly, I would say that I tend toward depression. WHICH IS WHY, I believe, I tend to two-dimensionalize people. I mean, if I don’t embrace their fullness, they won’t be able to touch me, to let me down, to disappoint me. However, being let down–having my expectations not met–is a construct of my mind: if I did not create these expectations, there would be no letting down. I think we all naturally tend to expect things, from people, sure, but from general situations as well (which boils down to people). It’s just, a lot of the time, these expectations only create problems, usually for us and usually around our reactive thoughts and feelings! It’s ironic that even though expectations totally involve other people, most of the time, these other people have nothing to do with it!

Yes, there is ruminative thinking, which I do and which does get me down; black-and-white, this-or-that, catastrophic thinking does get me down. However, over the course of getting sober and recognizing these thinking patterns, I’ve learned how to better manage these looping thoughts.

On the other hand, creating expectations in my mind–thoughts that have been collected and put into present and future scenarios that will affect me, is how I’ll describe them–these are more difficult to recognize and ultimately, let go. For instance, I get pissed because a friend doesn’t behave the way I would have behaved, or wanted her to behave. That does not mean, however, that she should have behaved the way I expected or wanted her to behave! I would say that my expectations contribute more to feeling frustrated and walled in (depressed?) than ruminative thinking. And, I am trying to work on getting rid of my expectations–and getting rid of this belief that somehow, my expectations are naturally good, or moral, or healthy!

Anyway, it’s been a long week, with all the protests, the COVID, the Man in Orange. It’s hard, but I just try to absorb as much as I can tolerate, and then, compartmentalize it and/or let it go. I have to remind myself, I can have good days while also fully recognizing that the shit is hitting the fan on both sides!

On a different note, I am getting more and more used to not working, and feeling less and less confident in my desire (and ability) to work! I mean, I know that taking a forced break can lead to lethargy, but these days…let’s just say, the job boards are not lighting up.

Stay on track, let it go, and remember to look up at the moon.

(btw, how awesome was the SpaceX launch? something to be truly proud of, in the midst of all this destruction)

The deep end

28 May

1:03 pm

I don’t have much time today, so I’m going to dive right in (no pun intended!).

So, as everyone with depression, anxiety, and/or obsessive thought “disorders” knows–at least, intuitively if not consciously–our dark thoughts can intrude on us, control us, and pull us down. They float us toward the deep end, and if we are not careful, they pull us under to a dark, motionless place, a place that is hard to get out of, a place that controls us, a place that traps us. We feel trapped by–and within–our dark thoughts, which may be true (at least for the while that we’re under them, in the deep end).

I don’t know how to explain this any better than with the recent example of the dark place(s) that my picking up trash alone took me; or, talking to both my parents with (relatively) untreated mental health disorders (I have yet to blog about this, but will one day soon). Regarding the former, I just felt pissed off, but almost irrationally so. I mean, yes, there is trash on the side of the road and it sucks that people throw it down, but that does not mean that I necessarily need to get angry about it, think bad things about EVERYONE who lives here, believe that I am defeated and there is no reason to ever go outside again. I don’t need these thoughts, and I don’t need to allow myself to be trapped in this deep end. I can permit myself to let go of, or forget, these thoughts–they are not “real” in the sense that, they are not truth; they are not necessary to think, or to hold onto, in order to find truth in my daily life or to live truthfully.

Same goes for the thoughts I find myself having, uncontrollably, when I talk to either of my parents on the phone. I listen to them, I hear their thought patterns, and I wonder why they have constructed such dark–paranoid, angry, anxious–world views. I think to myself, what you believe, dear parents, how you live your lives, are these really your idea of truth? Yet, I struggle to justify their thoughts and behavior, to try and overlay them on what I would consider a more general construct of reality–most people are not obsessively thinking about doing ONE thing and not doing it for months, years, decades at a time (mom); most people are not setting up businesses on a whim, trying to borrow money against a negative bank balance (dad). I fail to see their realities fitting within the lines of this general construct (which, I admit, is simply based on interacting with many other, different people over the years).

In truth (I believe), I am trying to reason with what is unreasonable–and, that takes my mind to a dark place, a place where thoughts have no doors, no windows, no outlets.

This is a place, I have come to believe, where I do not need to be.

I used to think that I had to think all these thoughts; that these thoughts were supposed to hold court, keep me thinking them until I figured “it” out. I have come to realize that I am either creating an “it” that does not exist (everyone here is a litterbug) or trying to make common sense out of others’ affected or deluded thinking. I do not have to do either! Moreover, I shouldn’t! Not unless I myself can tolerate drowning in the deep end, coming up for air once in a while to glimpse my lighter reality (consciously constructed to be so, over the course of years of getting sober and practicing avoiding the behavioral pitfalls of my own obsessive and/or deluded thinking).

Maybe this post is just crazy-sounding, but honestly, I am beginning to think that all thought might just be a by-product of evolution gone wrong (haha).

I will, one day, write a post about my parents’ mental health; but, I have come to understand that I don’t really know shit (I do know that having a “normal” conversation with either of them is really hard; then again, what is “normal”?). Plus, I never want to talk about other people’s mental health without their express permission and input. Too often, people talk about these things as if they know; mental health “problems” are intricate expressions of the human experience, which comes in infinite forms. Who am I to judge, to talk about someone’s “reality”, especially considering my background and difficulty finding footing in a version of a livable reality of my own?

Anyway, it’s time to go out for a jog since the rain stopped. SO glad we got some rain here, it was getting pretty darn dry!

Our dog is hanging in there; she seems to have had a slight recovery. She can go on walks now, with the help of a sling for her hind end/legs–and most importantly, she WANTS to! I’ve been seeing the puppy in her come out once in a while, which is sweet; she tries to get up and drink water on her own more often than a few weeks ago; and, she regularly wants to go and lay in her spots outside (she loves being outside, always has). I dote on her a LOT, but, I figure, she needs it and um, I need it!

Facebook-free for six weeks and counting. Admittedly, I have kept messenger on my iPad (I do want to receive messages, if people choose to chat via that app versus phone text); and the other day (well, a few times), I clicked on a few Facebook stories and…got sucked in and got annoyed within a matter of a minute or less. SO, for me, it’s better to just stay off it; for reasons that are probably my issue, I just dislike the FOMO and I dislike the feelings that come from FOMO–I am off Facebook because MY mind and heart are much more at peace if I just don’t connect with my “friends” on that platform. I am still considering deactivating after two months, so we’ll see…

Exercise is my medicine

19 May

4:41 pm

Or, maybe I should say, putting my body into motion, out of doors!  (of course, I am talking about outdoors in a warm climate; yeah, I used to suit up and go jogging in the snow…in my early 20s, when I was too broke to afford a gym/didn’t know any better–haha)

Long story short, I have been thinking about thinking lately–well, a lot; obsessed with it, actually.  Is it called, metacognition?  I think that might be an actual area of study, and I am FAR from being in a place of that much understanding when it comes to what I think and why I hold onto my thoughts.  I have been tempted for many, many months to stop writing altogether, including in my journal–I wonder, is focusing on bringing the chatter, the negativity, the maybe-meaningless observations to life in the form of words and sentences only serving to perpetuate a state of stagnation, of wallowing, of confusion?

Most of my life, and especially as someone who likes to write (or, let’s face it, a writer; I can’t not write, and sometimes I think that is 100% compulsion, not desire); I have put value on both my thoughts and analyzing my thoughts–as if they were important, or held some key to the meaning of life, or at least the meaning of MY life.  After getting sober and writing about the process, which, admittedly involved a LOT of thinking and thoughts (haha); then moving into more longer-term sobriety, where the thinking and thoughts have become more like incessant chatter and less like answers to the problems of the universe–I don’t really know where thinking and thoughts fit into my overall picture of mental health anymore.

Anyway, today, I drafted a long post, discovered that much of it sounded, well, insane, and was like, GAH, I need to walk away from this.  I suited up in my running gear and went out into nature.  And I swear, all the chatter stopped.  And, it was glorious.  This is why I run, walk, or swim, or do yoga–always in constant motion, it seems.  It just soothes my mind; quiets it.  I mean, as I was gliding along, I just looked around at the trees, the hillside with different patterns of shadows and sunlight coating the asphalt, the multicolored homes of different angles, shapes, and sizes–I looked around and asked myself, so, are you thinking anything when you look around at nature, when you feel the sun on your shoulders?  Yes, but no.  I am thinking, but it’s more of a one-tone feeling of peace, of rightness, or nothing-good-or-bad-it-just-is.  I don’t judge the world around me, and most importantly, it doesn’t judge me (or, I don’t believe it does).  It is not thinking toward me, and I am not thinking toward it.  I just feel this uplifted feeling, and it is simply positive.  Not necessary to think anything; just necessary to be, which is easy out there, in the natural world.

There is something about being around other people that is incessant chatter-provoking.  I would say, being in the natural world, generally, is thought-provoking (the good kind of thinking; the big thoughts that help you solve a problem or see something more clearly).

I just love exercise; I always feel better, less thought-full, literally.  And, rejuvenated, especially if I’ve exercised outdoors.  I guess I can say that exercise is my medicine; my anti-chatter “pill.”  And, these days, I am beginning to wonder if MOST, if not all, of my thinking is chatter…  Which begs the question, what does a writer write about if most of what she thinks she considers useless chatter?

On the dog front, our girl is plugging away, better than she was a few weeks ago when her left hind leg gave out.  It seems to have gotten less lame–she can walk on it now, but not that far.  Good news is, she can go on walks, usually only one per day, if that.  Bad is that, even though her left hind seems better than non-functional, both her hind legs are very weak; I have to use the harness for most of the walk these days to help her stand, walk, and um, pee and poop (let’s face it, she poops sitting down almost all the time now).  Her mental faculties are there, and she is still fierce and funny; it’s just…I can’t forget that her time is short.

And, I am still off the ‘book (Facebook), five weeks as of yesterday.  While I don’t necessarily miss anyone’s updates, or the noise; I am starting to feel a bit…isolated, or out of it.  So…that’s that; I’ll probably go on soon, but it’s nice to be in my bubble a little bit longer to continue to collect myself (so that I can go back out there, into the external world, and give of myself while also stay centered and sane).

Staying on track

13 May

3:21 pm

Like (probably) a lot (or at least some) of us, I am starting to feel the pressure of time to myself.  I am grateful for people who are working the front lines of this pandemic; and sometimes, I feel sort of guilty that I have free time that I could, if I wanted, use to do something to improve things.  But, I’ve only been furloughed for five weeks, and I am just trying to enjoy my free time…for now.

Speaking of time, I have a lot of “now that I have time, I should do this”-type of projects that have been on my radar for years; and, partly because these are pulling me in different directions, and partly because I am struggling to stay focused these days, I am starting to feel mentally overwhelmed.  How do I spend my time?  I know this not-working thing is not going to last–and, it’s a good opportunity to start planning for the future, in case I don’t get my job back in July–am I spending my free time well?

Out of necessity, I try to maintain a sense of structure to my days, which is a habit of having worked for myself for almost a decade.  What I’ve been practicing over the past eight years of working remotely–as in, alone all day, just me and my to-do list and my work–is staying on track.  What does that mean?  To me, it means, focusing only on what needs to be done, no matter how “small” it seems.

Getting what needs to be done, done, is easier if I make a to-do list.  It is especially important now, during this very freeform pandemic, where, if you’re not working or you’re working from home and not used to it, it SEEMS like you have no structure and all the time in the world–which can cause you to go crazy with panic, unable to focus on anything; before you know it, the day has passed, you’ve done laundry and snacked way too much, and, you are beating yourself up…giving you more anxiety.  And, if you’re someone like me, who has issues with control and perfectionism and anxiety and depression–well, it can start to feel VERY overwhelming when you want to get 15 things done, have gotten nothing done, and, should probably have expected to get only one or two things done in the first place!

I am here to tell you, staying on track is not a mandate to “get shit done.”  It’s more, for me anyway, stay focused and in the moment by getting only what needs to be done, done.  If you do the most important things today, what more can you ask for?  Honestly, some days, I don’t get anything done…but, I manage to journal and feel grateful (for, well, my sobriety, my “family” here, and then, my health).  On the days when my mind starts to wander to, let’s say, my long-form writing project(s), which take commitment that I may or may not have, EVER; or my passion projects/areas of career focus, which I’ve been neglecting for a long time (due to one, having had to prioritize earning a living and two, just being tired or burnt or lazy or just evolving away from said passions); when my head goes to the edge of the cliff and looks down and sees a huge, gaping hole of canyon needing to be filled with water…?  Well, I stay on track.  I take myself out of my head, stop thinking about all those other things I “should” or “need” to do, and focus on the task at hand.

These days, I don’t have a lot that I have to do–but, I have a lot of pre-projects; like, I am only just sort of thinking about a lot of things, and while I want to put them into project form, I can’t.  I mean, I am struggling with what to write about next, and how much time to further devote to this blog.  I am thinking about what to do next, as in, returning to a few passion areas of my life that I haven’t revisited since 2014–and, at the same time, feeling a sense of guilt, of dread over how much time I’ve been away from these things, that I let them go in the first place.  Why?  Can I catch up?  Do I want to?  What does it all mean?  And, then, of course, I’ll need to log some time looking into them to figure out where they might fit into my future, in a real sense (a job?  a volunteer assignment?  just read books about these things?).

On a different note, our dog took a turn for the worse last Friday.  One of her back legs gave out, and she can barely stand on her own anymore, let alone walk.  She keeps trying, though, and can still get up and down and go for short, stumbling jaunts; she even went on a walk yesterday, which overjoyed me!  Of course, we have to use a sling to help her hold herself up, which is awkward and kind of trips her up more than her lameness.  We wonder if she has “doggie ALS,” since she is part German Shepherd (that’s one of the breeds that is more genetically predisposed to a degenerative muscle disorder in dogs similar to some cases of ALS).  I think it could just be a break, maybe a joint that’s finally given out–she has a very bony protrusion on this leg around her knee area, and a part of me hopes that if we took her to the vet and got it set or whatever…?  Sigh.  Even if they could fix it, the rest of her spine and limbs will just keep getting worse.  So, we are at a new normal again.  We’re just taking it day by day.

And, of course, an update on Facebook:  it’s been a whole 30 days since I’ve been on Facebook!  Woo hoo!  Actually, I logged in for the first time in four weeks on Monday, with the sole intention of deactivating my account…but I just couldn’t do it.  I did end up starting to scroll/troll (is there a difference anymore these days?), and quickly realized that I needed to get off before I got swept back in.  It was a “slip,” let’s say; however, I had to log in to (try to) deactivate my account.  I’ll try again to extricate myself in another month, if I manage to not log in for 30 more days (which I intend to do)…

You are what you think, or not think

2 May

12:11 pm

I just got done listening to the NPR hourly news broadcast, and it was nothing but reports on death and destruction.

The Morning Edition show is all about coronavirus, each story having its unique, terrible angle.

When I troll through my Apple news feed, the stories bring to life, literally, death, destruction, and in general, a sense of anxiety toward the people, places, and things in this world.

When I go on this blog, I write (and read) posts about life, drinking, sobriety–the underlying constant being struggle, rumination, darkness (albeit, a darkness-turned-light).  I mean, there is this thing called a pandemic, and there is this thing called human nature, the human experience–none of it is easy!  And, there IS light in sobriety (which has been born of dark days, for all of us).  However, I (we?) tend to usually write about the struggle to out-think addiction and mental health disorders so that I (we?) can see and feel and breathe in that light.  One day.

I am just tired of it all, in the best way possible, I guess.  I have spent eight years writing about the darkness–the ruminative thinking that perpetuates the darkness.  WHAT IF…I stopped breeding more darkness by simply stopping the thinking, stopping the writing about it all?  By focusing more on the forest not the trees, on things that are not enveloped in the dark shadows of ego-centric thinking, the twists and turns that bind and trap my mind?

I know this to be true:  while daily journaling helps me process my reality and stay sane (100% true, which is why I can’t quit it), I wonder if I am just giving shape and form to dark thoughts and thought patterns–unnecessarily and to my detriment?  In other words, I am not sure if journaling is healthy–or, if it just makes me more pensive; at the very least, if it just brings to light smoldering pre-thoughts that should really just die there, in the rustling, restless dirt patch of my neurotic mind.

Is writing about it making it worse?  Or, should I continue on, living the whole “the unexamined life is not worth living” thing?

I’d like to somehow move on from this process, but to give it up?  I am not sure how I’d function, for real, without my daily journaling (and, I guess this includes blogging here).  I have been longing for some time for an emptier mind–maybe like a white-walled room, or a beach with no movement on the water–emptier than one that has been purposefully splashed with stark, contrasting colors or toed up to make the water murky with sand.

I don’t know; I have been wondering for years, is this writing about it all the time making it better or worse, and I have to conclude:  only I can make that call, decide to carry on or cancel the show.  And, I have to trust my judgment–and ignore the fear of missing out, or of being forgotten–instead of relying on anyone else’s say in the matter.  No one is going to tell me what to do, so, I have to go with my gut (my gut always comes running back to writing it all down, though).

In the end, this is one of those things that made me drink, made me drink alcoholically; it is, in a way, part of my addiction as much as it is part of who I am and who I have grown up to be.  I have always been overly thoughtful and more than a little self-conscious; it’s good for a writer, but bad for a human.  I guess the answer lies in understanding oneself and finding the balance…

Three weeks off Facebook coming up, and I swear, I do not miss it at all.  I SO do not miss keeping up with my “friends,” which makes me wonder a bit about myself, but mainly, gives me a huge sense of relief and solace that I could so easily just let the whole thing go…  I get my news elsewhere, and eh, I don’t think I necessarily need to reconnect with my professional groups, though, I know I will want to one day soon.  Till then, I am happy in my bubble of not knowing; I think it’s time to focus that energy on myself and my projects and goals (to finally start meditating?  haha).

Ironically, just a post as food for thought (or, shall I say, food for not-thought?)!

Two weeks off social media–do I really exist?

27 Apr

3:55 pm

Well, I’ve been off social media–Facebook specifically–for two whole weeks as of today.  And, I gotta say, I really don’t miss it, at all.  Like, I almost forgot about the entire affair until I ran into someone I knew last night (who I am not FB friends with) and thought, man, I should Facebook friend them.  And, then I thought, oh, wait, I’m NOT ON Facebook!  Haha.

No, for real, I don’t miss it.  Maybe I’ve just gotten lazy in these COVID times, but keeping up with my groups and news feed seems sort of futile–who cares if I miss something, right?  Of course, I am following the news on individual websites, and it’s hard to miss the mainstream news if you turn on your TV, ever.  However, I really couldn’t care less about what I may have missed when it comes to posts in my groups and by my friends.  I meet up with my friends here, of which there are a few–and, that has been totally enough.  I am not craving to know what they’re “doing” on Facebook; I feel like I am literally missing nothing.

That’s a relief!  I thought I would feel like I was missing out–and, frankly, it’s made me wonder about something that was in the back of my mind that this break from Facebook helped to precipitate:  is not sharing about your life on Facebook (or, in real life, too) the same as, not sharing your life?  And, is either necessary to live a good life, however one defines “good”?  Do I truly exist if I don’t share about my life on Facebook, or with anyone in the real world?

I have a roll of photos that only I have seen; I have tons of videos of our dog, but yet, NO ONE but me knows, really, of her life and times.  Is that fair to her, to have no one remember her because I didn’t share?  Am I depriving the world of something (my light, my perspective?) if I never share what I’m doing?  I mean, if I moved to an island and disconnected from everyone, how would my family and friends feel?  And, when I died on that island, would it have been a wasted existence since, except for me, no one else knew anything about it?

Two weeks ago, the thought of stopping sharing posts or photos of my life gave me a bad gut feeling–a feeling of fear, anxiety, dread; of, what will happen TO ME if I stop sharing about my life?  It’s mostly gone now, surprisingly; however, I am 45, an introvert, and sober (as in, I have had years of feeling sort of like, an explorer in the Arctic, totally clear-minded but alone as fuck), so I wonder how strong this fear is for young people, who grew up on social media, whose entire sense of self/personal reality are intertwined with “existing” on social media?

Is the hardest part of leaving Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram) not really a fear of missing out, but a fear of being forgotten, or, worse, never having existed?  Maybe.  Of course, we can share photos with people in real life, but, this aspect of the entire world being able to know us–a little piece of fame, maybe immortality–is appealing on such a base level.

Anyway, after two weeks, I definitely feel like the noise has stopped.  I am receding into a quiet, perhaps naive, bubble of my small, but real, world; and it’s calming.  I don’t feel overwhelmed by the bumbling thoughts and misperceived slights bouncing around in my head; I don’t feel overdone by the incessant headlines, most of which I can’t read (for lack of time and effort) and can’t do anything about anyway (stories about elephants being abused in Thailand, for instance!).  I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on my actual friends’ lives; we have gotten quickly caught up in person when we have seen each other.

In fact, if I was job searching, writing, or reading (most of which I am doing, but um, not doing all that much of, I have to admit), I would probably be getting a lot done with all the noise gone and focus back!

On another note, our beaches re-opened last week, and this has been a glorious development!  We’ve been a few times; yesterday was a perfect beach day, and it was the first Sunday Funday anyone has had in a long time–it was a good day.

Our dog is hanging in there; the vet told us that there wasn’t much more she could do, however, she thinks our girl still has time.  Every day is a good day with her; every morning is a great morning to see her sweet almond eyes staring up at me, or her skinny back legs running like a horse in her sleep…

We’re just waiting, like everyone, for normalcy to return; and, while I said that as an introvert, I love me some lockdown solitude–even I am longing for things to start their upward swing soon.  It’s getting a little too quiet in here!

Almost a week off social media…

19 Apr

4:26 pm

…and it’s better than good-ish!  I mean, I am starting to see how hugely beneficial this “break” from Facebook might actually be in terms of my relationships, including with myself.

At first, I felt a sense of relief; as in, ahhh, I don’t have to follow all the news/information; ahhh, I don’t have to “care” about this random person’s feelings or thing they did.  I felt like there was much less noise in my head, and that made way for more space to think about *my* life, this blog, my future employment prospects, i.e., what I want to be when I grow up (after lockdown ends and we all are supposed to go back to normal).

Then, I had a sense of clarity around relationships, accompanied by some sort of resentment and ultimately, mild disappointment.  As it turns out, some of my “friends” on social media are just that–friends only on Facebook.  In real life, I guess we don’t have that much to talk about, and frankly, we probably kind of annoy each other.  I just can’t anymore with passive-aggressive behavior, so I might just let them go–it’s probably for the better if I feel this good!

Past two days, I seem to have “remembered” that I have, um, really old, really good relationships with some people–cousins, old friends from growing up, my family–so, why the HECK have I been chasing the comings and goings of people I barely know?  It’s just crazy-making, and I see it now as such:  I mean, why not focus on your actual, tried-and-true relationships, the ones that have already given back and will continue to do so?  That’s what I’m going to focus on this week when I get bored or restless wondering where all my “friends” have gone–reach out to those friends that I have, to those that have already proven to be worthwhile, to be relevant (as in, we have a real history together).

On another note, my furlough is going well; I mean, I have a ton of things I want to do (read my last post), and have just started to get back into reading.  I am supposed to be reading 50 pages a day in this book (it’s over 1,000 pages long, and I just want to get it done!), but I’m already behind on that!  I love taking walks, and of course, I go running outside and do yoga (and sometimes lift weights) indoors.  I mean, life on an island is pretty glorious as far as “lockdown” goes; we’ve got space here, and no one is enforcing any strict orders (except for the beaches; they have been closed the past two weeks, supposedly reopening tomorrow).  We have all this beautiful outside world to explore, and I love it–more than ever, since now it’s truly empty of humanity and I get it all to myself!  (as an introvert, I am dreading when things open back up…and the pressure of having to socialize is put back on us)

On a different note, we woke up this morning to our sweet dog–a chow-shepherd mix–in what I have come to call an “osteoarthritic crisis.”  She’s had a few of these crises, which seem to come on at night, usually around dawn (um, thanks to perimenopause, I am up most of the night with her, to witness when all this takes place–haha).  She pants really, really hard, and kind of paces around, obviously in a lot of pain based on the way her limbs have stiffened even more than they usually have by the end of the day.

This morning, however, she was in a state that I have never seen:  not just panting, but panting SO VERY hard that her tongue was extended to breaking point and was almost purple; she was like, almost seizing/having a seizure, her legs and arms would not move her around no matter how hard she tried.  She finally got to one of her beds and eased herself down to a half-sitting/half-standing posture; and she kept panting, her body shaking with the force of her panting (I thought she was going to have a heart attack, I really did), for like, an hour.

We gave her her morning meds–gabapentin and rimadyl–and on top of that, some old pills that we never give her, save for when she’s in a lot of pain, both a tramadol (a pain reliever) and a trazadone (a sedative that the vet gave us for the flight down, which we never used).  Finally, after much panting, watering, and just sitting next to her with my hand on her side, she settled down, eased down onto the bed, and went to sleep.

I think it’s getting really close to time…  I mean, other dog owners would probably shame us for letting it go on this long–she started to limp badly almost 1.5 years ago–but, it is what it is.  I have never had a dog go through this, and most of the time, she is fine in her mind.  Lately, though, and especially this morning, which scared me, her body is just showing severe signs of “I can’t do this for much longer.”

At least I have time to spend with her now, not having to work.  Today was like a hangover day for her:  those days that were 100% wasted, sleeping off the sobering up, and then, waking up at 5 pm to realize that it was almost dusk, you still felt like shit, and you had just wasted another day (and night before; none of my nights of drinking were ever memorable, if remembered at all).  That’s a dark comparison, but one that I can’t help but make.

It’s almost sunset time here, which means, time to go onto the deck and watch the colors fade from the sky, sinking into the horizon until everything turns to ink, then black.  The stars will appear, first Venus, then the Big Dipper; then, the night will fill out as the evening plods on, and the black will become peppered with a spray of pinpoints of light.  I wonder, how many of those are stars and how many, satellites?  I can never tell which points of light are planets, and I can never pick out but a few constellations.  Every night, though, I go out onto the deck, and look up, and gaze in awe, and in gratitude–most nights, I am burning up and feeling awful along every inch of my skin, BUT, I can still muster gratitude…and hope.  I hope that our girl knows that she is up there, already, one star and many–she is my shining star, my Higher Power; she will light up my night sky forever.  I hope she knows that, or at least knows that mommy is thinking about her when she steps out into the night and looks up.

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