So. Stuff happens. Into each life a little stress will come, some more than others. I just got off the phone with an old friend of mine, who has bipolar like I do, and she has been hospitalized twice since April because of rapid cycling. New meds aren’t really helping, so she’s dealing as best she can.
Stuff happens. It’s what we do with the stuff that either helps us or hurts us more.
One of my (for I have a few) favorite slogans in the program is Easy Does It. When something stressful happens in my life, when something goes way wrong, I have one of two responses.
Curl up like a fetal ball on the couch and watch mindless TV, or go all in. I’m absolutely sure I hold all the best cards, they will carry me through whatever decisions I have to make—if they aren’t the best cards, I’ll make them the best cards. I’ll turn them upside down, or sideways or backwards . . . somehow those cards will fit the problem facing me.
They’re the cards I’ve been dealt, and dammit I’m going to make them work if it kills me. I’m not going to ask for help, I’m not going to stop to think, not me.
Any of this sound familiar? Do you ever try to force solutions when the easiest thing to do is to step back and take a breath first?
I know not to trust my first instincts, so to go into any situation blindly, guns blazing, is going to turn out badly. I’ve learned that the hard way. It’s not been pretty. There have been casualties. I could tell you, but then I’d have to shoot you.
Now I know that, yes, I have to press pause when I get bad news. I have to talk it through with people I trust. I have to let myself feel any strong feelings I have first–get them out–before I head into the stressful situation. Maybe I’ll even knit a little bit, or take Lucy for a walk. I’ll definitely pray. God will hear about my fears and my feelings.
What about you when stuff happens?
Is this not a beautiful picture? I couldn’t resist it when I saw it. If I could get my heart started every morning on a cup full of sparkles instead of caffeine, I’d be all over it. That is SO pretty to me.
It made me think about what I need to fill myself with every day. Like, how does what I read, watch on TV, and look at on the internet affect me? How does who I talk to on the phone or in person affect my mood? How does what I write about or not write about make me feel? If I don’t spend time in knitting do I feel that loss of my center?
What about meetings? Sometimes who I sit with at a meeting affects my ability to share more . . . not freely, necessarily, but – without stumbling over my words? I get very nervous, and if I don’t know at least half the people at the table pretty well I get very skittish, like a cat.
But wait–let me back up a second here. My super sponsor and I were talking about books and what we read, and she said that if she reads horror, like Stephen King and stuff like that, it affects her too much in a negative way. Now, I can read Stephen King-like stuff all the livelong day and it does not put me in a negative mood. But let me read some self-help book that tells me I’m doing something wrong – and I’m in a pissy mood the rest of the day.
So the only self-help I need in my life at this point is Al-Anon related material. That’s what I can fill my cup with.
I used to be able to watch the different Law and Order spin-offs all the time. Now I can only watch the main one and Criminal Intent (okay, okay, because I have a thing for Vincent D’Onofrio, happy now? ) He’s married. So I have to admire from afar. I still watch The Waltons on The Hallmark Channel, and I once watched a whole 24-hour marathon of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. If you remember that, I’m your friend for life. Too much violence isn’t a good thing to fill my cup up with. Humor is great.
My mom thinks I’m too open on here, and on FB. Psh. It’s my blog. And —okay, I’ll be more careful on FB. I don’t exactly have to say where I’m going, or where I am. I still think she worries too much. I guess that’s what Moms do. It’s one of the many ways they offer their love up.
And I’m babbling. What positive ways do you have to fill your cup on a daily basis?
Met with my boss at the Book Nook. We went over some procedures, that I hadn’t known and apparently a few others hadn’t known either. She gave me a bag of yarn. I was so touched. It reminded me of my love for knitting, and made me want to go ahead and begin my Einstein Coat project. People can be so wonderful. I’m amazingly touched.
It took me a while to get to the place where I could even write today. I had to remind myself of my main destressor: knitting. After I’d knitted for a a good hour and still felt unequivocal and persistent self-pity, I searched the Kindle for something in my Daily Reads category that might kick me out of this gloom and doom.
While this is not a book review, I do want to note Amy Spencer’s Bright Side Up: 100 Ways to Be Happier Right Now, since I’ll be drawing from that for the rest of this post. When I read the chapter “At least you’re not . . .” that’s when light dawned, and a better, healthier perspective appeared before me.
Last night, I found myself screaming over a passed-out, drunken nephew on my sofa. Not my proudest moment. Also wrenched my back trying to help him “wake up” and get in the car so I could take him home with his mother.
This afternoon, after Aleve, a hot soak in the tub, some time knitting, and a shot in the arm from Amy, I wish there were do-overs. But there aren’t. He’s home now, sober. I’m here, feeling better.
At least I’m not living with zombies, after having been abducted. I heard one was sited in our neighborhood the other night. At least I’m not so poor I can’t even pay attention (sometimes). At least I’m not boring or unlovable. At least I’m not shoveling snow off the driveway. At least I’m not dog-less, without my Lucy.
And, with Amy, I had to recognize how blessed I really am. Sure, I hurt my back. But today, my head doesn’t hurt, my hands and feet are both functioning perfectly fine, my legs get me around without any trouble. And the Aleve really helped.
Maybe there aren’t do-overs in life. But I can always learn from what happens in my life and do better next time. Next time I can stop and take three deep breaths. I can walk away. Pray the Serenity prayer. Count to 100. Smile. It’s hard to scream when you’re smiling.
Oh, life is a good thing.
My family physician – also board-certified in psychiatry – and I go back a ways. I checked with the receptionist, and their computer only goes back as far as 1995, but it was a return appointment, so we’re figuring at least 1994.
That’s a long time to know someone. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, because I used to be a lot sicker than I am now. As I sit here, and I know I’m in for a wait, sometimes as long as three hours, I think of the progress that’s been made. Today, I come to Dr. Sack’s office with a bag of tricks to engage me. There’s a knitting project, two books I need to finish reading for possible review, and of course an old-fashioned notebook and pen to write this blog post for later transfer to computer when I get home. Plus my smart phone so I can stay in touch with FB friends and all of that. God forbid I should lose touch with the world for a minute.
When I first began coming here, through the wayback machine, I was much angrier and impatient. I was in the throes of borderline personality disorder”, which – if you click on the term it will take you to a great website that describes and explains the symptoms and characteristics.
I remember feeling rage and paranoia that other patients had been called back into rooms before I had. Numerous times I’d storm the poor receptionist’s desk. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting? My appointment was at such-and-so, and here it is two hours later! I demand to be seen!” Like it had never occurred to me the other patients waiting in the room had been waiting just as long if not longer. Bless their hearts, they took that vitriol, and gave back nothing but calm, clear, kindness.
Part of the problem, I realized much too late, was my panicky feelings at being jam-packed in a waiting room filled with sick people. I wasn’t physically ill, I was mentally ill, and didn’t want to add strep throat to the mix if I could help it. Also, I did not know then that I was dealing with claustrophobia, which has still not left me today.
There is a theory bandied about that people can “age out” of borderline personality disorder, and I think that is what has happened with me. Then too, with the advent of cell phones, when the waiting room is packed, the receptionist is kind enough to take down my cell number and call me when it’s time for me to come back into a patient room. And, like I said at the outset, I bring things to engage myself and to keep myself busy.
It’s nowhere near perfect, but I’m a work in progress.
Okay, so it’s not really magic. I mean, I don’t believe in magic. But I don’t know how else to explain the Ruffle Scarf Pattern, and I’m . . . actually, I’m enchanted by it.
I’ve always been, like addicted to patterns. When I get upset or stressed out, I count things in my mind. People don’t know it or see it; but I’m counting things – tiles, the number of people in the room, etc. Or I’ll repeat the serenity prayer a certain number of times in my head, then just the acceptance part. Over and over. I think maybe I have a touch of OCD. hehe
At least with knitting, that obsessive nature has a productive end to it. But the Ruffle Scarf – it’s such a simple pattern: Cast on 20 stitches, knit 20 stitches, knit 8, turn, knit 8 into the back of the 8 you just knitted, knit 6, turn, knit 6 into the 6 you just knitted, knit 4, turn, knit 4 into the 4 you just knitted. That’s it! Then you start again and continue until the end of the skein of yarn or your fingers fall off, whichever comes first. .
But the beauty of it is when the scarf begins to ruffle. It doesn’t happen for a while. You have to be patient, which I’m not good at. I’ve made a few of them, given them out as gifts, and made one for myself. I knit them at meetings, because they don’t take a lot of concentration, and I can still listen to the other members at the Al-Anon tables and watch as what looks like nothing starts to turn into a magical spiral before my very eyes and fingers!
It’s magic! I know, I said I didn’t believe in it, but how else can you explain it? lol
Same thing happens to us, doesn’t it? We start out pretty rough . . . ahem, some of us still are . . . and over time we become something God can use.
The first time I started in the Al-Anon program, which is several years ago now, my sponsor instructed me to keep a gratitude list. I was told to write down at least three things each day I was grateful for. At first, since I was in a pretty rocky spot, they were fairly simple things: 1. Have two arms. 2. Have two legs. 3. They work. My sponsor at the time didn’t get in my face about it. She was patient, and pretty soon the lists changed. They grew as I grew in the program and let go of some of my baggage. Lori is no longer in my life for reasons beyond my control, but her memory still lingers now and then. I’m grateful. I left the program when I lost her as a sponsor and did not return until about a year and a half ago and now have an even better sponsor. God is good.
“For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson– That just about says it all, doesn’t it? You know, I read somewhere that even when it’s cloudy the sun is still out. That’s why if you are going to the beach or you are highly sensitive to the sun, you still have to put on SPF in case of a burn.
You have to understand and grasp at the outset that I am an optimist by nature. I will always see the glass half full, even if it’s cyanide. On my darkest days, I have hope for the future. It’s the only thing that keeps my going. I wasn’t born with it; God gave it to me, just like He gave me my faith, and for that I will always be indebted.
My family brings me great joy, and we almost lost one of ours to lymphoma not long ago. Our dear Jimmy, my older brother who taught me all the lyrics to every Beatles song ever written had to have two series of chemo and radiation. He still has to go back every six months for check-ups, because cancer can be persevering. He was over to the house yesterday, and he made me laugh, as usual. His sense of humor and mine are sometimes exactly in sync, and when that happens it’s magical.
Laughter is something else that always belongs here when speaking of gratitude. The other day I borrowed a CD of The Best of Bill Cosby: he had Old Weird Harold, Fat Albert, and all the antics he got up to in Philadelphia. I listened to it in my car on a long ride. I was laughing so hard, that for a minute I worried people might stare at me. Then I didn’t care, and howled anyway.
My mother, 85 this year, continues to amaze me. My only hope is that I will look like her, but mostly that I will have her wisdom and self-assurance when I am her age. She is teaching me that what everyone else thinks of me is none of my business.
Lucy, the early-to-rise schnorkie, has been my first in-the-flesh experience in unconditional love. All I can do is care for her the best I know how. Feed her, play with her, take her out, make sure she has a warm place to sleep. It doesn’t seem enough for all that she gives me.
My friends on FaceBook, too many to mention here, get me through great and difficult times. They know who they are. My knitting group, whom I shall see tomorrow, is fun and funny and wise beyond words. Last but not least, Dori, my Al-Anon sponsor, who listens to my messes and tries to help me make sense of them. She, too, is wise beyond her years, and someone I would like to be when/if I grow up.
It’s a great day, people! Don’t just sit inside all day. What one thing can you do for someone you’re grateful for? (Preferably still alive) It can be as simple as a hug. Hugs are wonderful, touching things.
Didn’t end up going to the meeting last night. Listened to my inner self, my chronic fatigued, bipolar self, and – more importantly – the H.A.L.T theory. Never let myself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Well, as I wrote yesterday, I was pretty wiped out. I needed a break. Today I’m going to an afternoon meeting and tonight an open talk (my first one in a very long time, so I’m excited!).
Last night was a time for knitting. Recently I splurged and bought a set of Harmony wood needles, along with the cables (and a tightener for them, otherwise they may come off during work at an alarming time!) from http://wwww.knitpiks.com. If it’s weird to be in love with knitting needles then I’m officially off the charts strange.
Everything about knitting turns me on. From the feel of the yarn as it slides through my fingers, to the soft click-click of the needles as I knit and purl (no frogging allowed here, that’s for another post), to all the beautiful colors, to seeing the product grow and knowing I – I did that!
When I’m too fatigued, I can’t do it, because I know I’ll make mistakes even in the simplest of patterns. But when I’m just a little tired and feeling sad because – like last night – I missed a favorite meeting, it soothes me and quiets my spirit. As a little girl, if someone I played with said something upsetting to me or something didn’t go my way, I would run in the house and bang something out on the piano really quickly, which usually made me feel better. Sadly, I don’t play the piano anymore.
But – knitting. Sigh. It does that and even more. If I was confident enough, I would teach others how to knit. I even get plot bunnies for writing while I knit, and that I consider a side benefit! Sometimes when I’m writing and get frustrated with how it’s going I’ll work out the snarls (no pun intended) with a good knitting project. The cobwebs get cleared out in my head and I’m ready to get back to work.
If I’m making something for someone else, like the baby blanket I’m currently making for little Eleanor Grace, I pray while I’m making it. I pray for her future, I pray that God will keep her safe in the palm of His hand.
I’ll try to remember to post pics of my knitting as I go, but I often get distracted by other things, like my lovely Lucy. Which reminds me, I want to make her a dog sweater.
There. How many other knitters did I speak to, or how many did I make want to knit? Who knows, some people swear they can teach knitting over the phone.