I Was Actually Joyous

Nights are the hardest. You’re trapped alone with your thoughts in gloomy darkness. I sometimes think my mind gets a perverse kick out of making me relive my most deplorable moments as I lay there helplessly in bed. And when I’m tired and anxious, these thoughts gnaw away at my soul. I can feel the anguish build. Eventually, I fall into a restless sleep and wake up exhausted. Nights are the hardest.

I cracked a tooth the day before going on a week-long vacation. I was popping pain pills all day and found a generic painkiller with a sleep additive for the nights. For the first time in a long time I was sleeping soundly and sleeping the whole night through. It could have been the quiet farmhouse we were staying in, but I tend to think it was the sleep additive.

I woke up on the 5th day, toothache and all, and I felt fabulous. I was actually joyous. I couldn’t wait to go explore. Nothing bothered me. My demons were blocked out. The negative part of my mind tried to regain a foothold, but to no avail. I was actually joyous.

Is sleep the answer? Is it that simple? Or did my toothache refocus my thoughts. Or did getting away from my usual surroundings reset my thought patterns?

I don’t know. But I did learn that anxiety can be diminished. Even if it’s temporary, I’ll take it. The reprieve was fabulous. The knowledge that I can feel better under the right circumstances is freeing and fills me with hope.

I got a root canal and I’m not taking the chemical sleep aid anymore, but I am becoming more aware of my sleep patterns. I have discovered Valerian root, L-Theanine, and other natural supplements that can calm my nerves and hopefully help me sleep like I did in the farmhouse.

I’ll keep you posted.

Sweet dreams.

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A Question of Selfishness

I realized I was going down a dark hole after I spent days obsessing over a stupid question I had blurted out at an inopportune moment. I was sure I had brought shame upon myself and my family. I was certain I’d ruined lives and changed the course of history. While lost in this bizarre mental oblivion, I suddenly remembered that the next day was a loved one’s birthday. Gulp.

At some point in my life I had convinced myself that I must serve a penance for doing or saying stupid things. I needed to berate myself, even knowing I was steeping my brain in the cortisol this punishment releases. I couldn’t allow myself to enjoy food, entertainment, sleep, virtually anything, until I had sufficiently beaten myself up. I thought this self-flagellation would somehow “fix” things.

I can only speculate that this act of martyring myself was supposed to prove I possess a loving, caring nature. But, in reality, it is just plain selfish. Not to mention, bad for my hippocampus.

While I waste precious time fretting, the people I care about are left hanging and abandoned. Their birthdays forgotten. I’m not doing them any good by obsessing over my mistakes. Mistakes, I might add, that most people didn’t even notice. Nobody disowned me. Nobody marked their calendars with a frowny-face. No one demanded I lose sleep over it. It was all me.

I managed to salvage the birthday, and this near-miss ended up giving me a gift. I finally realized I needed to get out of my head. It was time to think about others. To really think about others.

Let it go. Live in the moment. Breathe. I used to think those were lame platitudes that promote selfishness. Now I realize they are actually words to live by.

Now excuse me while I plan the next birthday party.

A Question of Selfishness

I realized I was going down a dark hole after I spent days obsessing over a stupid question I had blurted out at an inopportune moment. I was sure I had brought shame to myself and my family. I was certain I’d ruined lives and changed the course of history. While lost in this bizarre mental oblivion, I suddenly realized that the next day was a loved one’s birthday. Gulp.

At some point in life, I convinced myself that I must serve a penance for doing or saying stupid things. I must berate myself, even as I steep my brain in the cortisol this punishment releases. I couldn’t allow myself to enjoy food, entertainment, sleep, virtually anything, until I had sufficiently beaten myself up. I thought this self-flagellation would somehow “fix” things.

I can only guess that this act of martyring myself was supposed to prove I possess a loving, caring nature. But, in reality, it is just plain selfish. Not to mention, bad for my hippocampus.

While I waste precious time fretting, the people I care about are left hanging and abandoned. I’m not doing them any good by obsessing over my mistakes. Mistakes, I might add, that most people didn’t even notice. Nobody marked their calendars. No one demanded I lose sleep over it. It was all me.

I managed to salvage the birthday, and this near miss ended up giving me a gift. I finally realized I needed to get out of my head. It was time to think about others. To really think about others.

Let it go. Live in the moment. Breathe. I used to think those were lame platitudes that promote selfishness. Now I realize they are actually words to live by.

Now excuse me while I plan the next birthday party.

Accentuate the Positive

It lies in wait. I can feel it at the edge of my consciousness beckoning to get in. It’s dark and insidious. It has no mercy.

My only recourse against it is to ignore it, but my self-doubt won’t let me. I try humming my favorite song. I think about new story lines. Sometimes I even yell, “NO!”

These meager attempts at stopping it are futile. My inner voice has turned on me. It has become the enemy. For some reason it has decided that I deserve to be berated.

My job is to chance its mind. My mind.

I have to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. It’s that simple. What’s not simple is the implementation.

Some of the best advice I’ve read is to ask yourself, “Is this fretting and berating yourself doing any good? Will it change anything?”

The answer is, of course, NO! So common sense tells us that a more productive stance is to let go of past mistakes, forget embarrassing moments, laugh off stupid utterances, don’t dwell, and just live in the moment.

One of the things I like about New Year’s Day is we’re encouraged to start anew – do a complete reset.

So I’m giving the ‘reset’ plan my all. Goodbye gnarly, cruel, belittling thoughts. You’ve been given your notice. I’m going to like me for me. I’m going to eliminate the negative.

I’m going to accentuate the positive.

Happy New Year!!

Encouragement

It doesn’t take much.

A kind word. A supportive nod. A friendly smile.

It really doesn’t take much.

Unless you’re made of steel and have confidence streaming from every pore, you might need a boost every once in awhile. A glimmer of hope. Encouragement.

Maybe you’re feeling like a failure. Maybe nobody has noticed, let alone commented on, the children’s book you wrote and are so proud of.

Maybe you’re feeling unwanted. Maybe nobody asks for your opinion or even calls just to chat.

Maybe you’re feeling like a poser. Those paintings you worked so hard on are sitting in the basement collecting dust.

Maybe you just want to curl up under your quilt and watch Netflix all day. Maybe nobody would notice your absence.

Then somebody smiles warmly at you in the grocery store. Then a coworker tells you they liked something you wrote for work. Then someone stops to look at your painting at the outdoor art market and says, “Beautiful.”

Lo and behold, the next morning you start a new painting or sit down to write the next installment in your book series. But most of all, you can’t wait to go out into the world to spread your own warm smiles.

It doesn’t take much.

Is There a Right Reason to Write?

Maybe it’s because I’m a little hard of hearing or maybe it’s because I’m not as quick witted as I wish I was or maybe it’s because I’m an introvert. Whatever the reason, I’ve always preferred the written word over the spoken word.

When I’m upset about a local occurrence, I write a Letter to the Editor. When I’m feeling imaginative, I write children’s stories. When I want to touch base with a friend, I text. When I’m feeling anxious about my meager contributions to the world, I blog.

So it was with some amusement that I listened to a good friend of mine explain why he would not write a blog about classic motorcycles. I have been trying to convince him he should because he knows A LOT about old motorcycles and loves to write (or so he claims) – a match made in Blog Heaven.

“I don’t need notoriety. I don’t need accolades. I don’t need money thrown at me,” he stated firmly.

Right. Like that’s exactly what happens when you post a blog. Snort.

I started blogging after I went through some very stressful, self-induced anxiety stupors – complete with racing heart, sleepless nights, pacing, sweating, preoccupation, and general malaise. These stupors were brought on by my saying and doing some really stupid things. I turned to the internet for comfort, hoping to find stories and advice from people who had experienced the same thing. Misery loves company, after all.

Nada. Zilch. Zero.

I had googled “stupidest thing you’ve ever done” and got cute stories about forgetting names or getting in the wrong car. Ha! There were also a series of humble brags about jumping off of tall things and facing off with bad guys. Wow!

I felt adrift.

Was I the only loser out there? Was I the only person who did outrageously stupid things then spent weeks flogging themselves over them?

I was dejected and demoralized. But, instead of continuing to berate myself, I decided to try to make something good come from it. I would blog my stories of stupidity so people like me would have some company. A little Schadenfreude therapy, if you will.

I thought my good friend would do his motorcycle blog for the same reasons – except for the stupidity and Schadenfreude and ‘misery loves company’ parts. I thought he would want to share what he knows for the betterment of humanity. Nope.

So who’s better adjusted? The person who doesn’t feel the need to share their knowledge because they don’t need approval from others or the one who writes to fill a need to feel worthwhile by getting approval from others?

Apples v oranges or the crux of the human conundrum?

The Dangers of Being ‘Event Oriented’

When I was a child, my mom, step-father, and I would take long car trips to visit relatives.

My step-father was all about making time, so stops were infrequent. Sight-seeing was unheard of, and the few stops for eating and bathroom breaks were fast and furious. It was awful.

Fast forward to my adulthood. For our family trips, I planned stops at every tourist trap, scenic overview, and wide spot in the road I could find. I wanted the trip to be about the journey not just the destination.

If only I could translate that concept to my day-to-day life.

I find myself singularly focused on events. Be it a family reunion, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas, or even a doctor’s appointment. I plan everything around that one event at the expense of my every day life.

I wake up thinking about the event. I plan my activities around the event. I hurry through meals, grocery store trips, errands, all so I can get back to focusing on the event.

The event could be months away, but it is still my priority. Everything is purchased, planned, obsessed over, and singled out to make this event a success.

The pressure becomes enormous.

The day of the event arrives and I’m busy fretting and fussing. All must be perfect.

Inevitably, something is forgotten, goes contrary to plan, or is just a dud. Stuff happens.

I crumble. All is lost. I have failed. I ruminate over ‘what could have been’ for weeks.

Here I am, fifty-something, and I’m just now realizing that I’m missing out on the journey by fixating on the destination. A destination that I balloon into an unrealistic and over-the-top fulfiller of joy and satisfaction.

I’ve been rushing through my life to get to these special occasions, only to watch them fall flat under the pressure I’ve piled on them.

The next occasion I experience is going to be as low-key and as spontaneous as possible. No more micro-managing and no more unrealistic expectations of grandeur.

Let the journey begin.