Wednesday, March 30, 2016

CALL ME SENTIMENTAL

Nobody likes a sentimental old fool.  Nor a young one, either, really. Sentimentality is typically scorned, ridiculed, and to be avoided at all cost.  It's just not cool.  Irony is cool.  I love irony.  Even so....

Imagine my lifelong struggle to hide the significantly wide vein of sentimentality that flows through my heart and spills in a waterfall of tears when my attempts to sandbag it into submission fail.  People squirm.  Or treat me like a pitiful child.  Or laugh.

I can armchair analyze that they are merely uncomfortable acknowledging their own tender hearts and this causes in them the knee-jerk need to ridicule in another what they don't like in themselves.  (That's called acting out of Shadow -- thank you, Carl Jung.)  I frankly think they should do their personal work around this and grow some self-acceptance and compassion, but that's not my call to make.  I just have to deal with how to express my own authentic heart and respond to the reactions I get without judgement or shame.  A tall order.

My first memory of this particular ridicule was in 7th grade.  I adored Mr. Carter, my Language Arts and Social Studies teacher.  He was kind, but firm; encouraging and funny; sensitive and tough.  He  drew me out of a shell of shyness such that I felt more confident just walking into his classroom every day. I worked hard in his class, learned a lot, and developed a life-long love of the subjects he taught -- literature, writing, history, and geography.   I sat in the front row and hung on his every word.  At the end of the year, he stood up at the beginning of one class to announce he wouldn't be back the following school year.  He was leaving our Junior High.  I was shocked.  Tears welled in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks falling onto my desk.  Before long, as he continued to talk, I was sobbing.  Then I heard the snickers, the whispers behind me, the chuckles.   Mr. Carter looked over my head and in no uncertain terms reprimanded those who were giggling and making crying noises and motions (fists rubbing eyes) and told them that being sentimental was nothing to be ashamed of; that it befitted a person who has a big heart.  I will always remember his defense of my reaction, but over the years my sentimentality has not been easier to bear.

I cry easily and mostly when I am touched to the core of my heart by a kindness, by gratitude, by appreciation, love, success, accomplishment, a Hallmark card.  Really, I am so easily manipulated by sentimentality that even when I know it's happening I am in full weep mode before I can tell myself they are just trying to get me to buy a new car.  I can be ambushed by movies, YouTube videos, literary passages, personally written kind words on a greeting card, inspirational speeches, Obama winning the Presidency (twice), treasured memories, weddings and funerals (life passages of any kind, really), hymns and carols, old toys, and photo albums....they all get me going.  It's a constant challenge.

I think my family has mostly come to terms with my teariness.  But I still try to hold it way back since I don't know for sure what the response will be in any given situation.

When Son-Two graduated from high school (10 years ago already!), some extended family came to town to share in the festivities.  They also came to see my mother, who had recently moved to an Assisted Living facility with increasing struggles with dementia.  As we all gathered 'round the dining room table, and joined hands to take turns saying what we are thankful for, as is our tradition,  I was overcome with gratitude for our being together -- such a rare occasion.  I found myself weeping as I tried to express my thanks for their making the trip to join in our family celebration and to support Mom in a difficult time.  One family member, uncomfortable with my tears, said -- "Oh, now we all have to cry-baby our way around the table!"  I was stunned, even as I understood the outburst from this person.  But I immediately squelched the tears and the feelings, building a little fort around my heart in that moment to stay safe from further ridicule.  I became the little 7th grader again, which is how I feel every time my heart swells and tears come in public.

Once a week my family gathers for Family Dinner doing the hand-holding thing.   To a person one common thread is gratitude for family gathered together.  I hear them all say it and feel thankful that this is a value shared.  But when I sit and look around at my little family: a husband I've know since he was 17, two grown sons, a daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, I am so filled with love, with gratitude, with so much I want to say to each one about what they mean to me -- all the memories I have of the silly, sublime, and even challenging times we've borne together, that I can barely speak or the floodgates would open wide.  So I just smile and say "I'm so incredibly thankful for all of you and for us being here together."  My voice cracks a little bit, but I contain the depth of feeling that courses through me, not wanting to scare the children or mess up my make up or cause others to look down in embarrassment for me.

I guess that's why occasionally I have to write about it when I'm home alone and can let the tears fall with every word.  My heart holds more love for my family, for my friends, for my many blessings, for my very life, than I can ever express.  But I know.  And I think Mr. Carter knew too.

At least, that's the (blurry) view from here....©


Sunday, March 27, 2016

EASTER MUSINGS

Stiff petticoats and white patent leather shoes.  Starched hats and tiny flower-festoons purses.  Hidden Easter baskets and hollow chocolate bunnies.  Peeps.  Ham, with jello salad.  My dad in a suit -- a rare occasion -- for the annual Easter trip to the Methodist church.  Sunday School.  Easter Lilies.  Alleluia!  Sunshine.

These images have been floating through my mind all day as I have spent the past several hours of Easter Sunday alone at home.  Oh, I'm not feeling sad or morose.  My family will be here later for an indoor egg hunt on this gloomy and rainy Easter Sunday.  We will all sit down to a salmon and asparagus dinner.  There will be plenty of chocolate.

But it's not like it was.  And that's OK.  I just feel in a nostalgic mood since this Easter couldn't be more different than those of my childhood.

Today, all the men in my family were up before dawn to get to the mountain pass ski resort by 8:00 a.m. for our 6 year-old Angel's first snowboard lesson.  It is a special "kids day" with free gear and lessons all day long and a snow-bank egg hunt to boot!  She was at first hesitant, then excited, and I just saw a video of her on Facebook looking like a pro gliding down a gentle hill of snow with ski lifts in the background making me wonder if we might have another snowboard fanatic in the making.  (Hub would be so thrilled!)

My childhood Easter was not spent on any ski slope.   In my childhood in Northern Illinois, it was a day for my family and my aunt's family to gather at one home or another (my mother, in our small city, and her sister, in a tiny country town, traded off hosting holidays), having a meal and entertaining myself while the grown ups talked.  My older brother and boy cousin were 10 years older than I and both ignored me completely.  My younger brother 4 years younger was around, but not interested in dolls or coloring or fingering the fabrics my mom and aunt and grandma seemed to delight in sharing around, with patterns they planned to sew.  I was pretty much on my own.

I was a quiet girl, content with hanging on the fringes of adult conversation, playing games, dressing dolls, creating a rich inner fantasy life of stories and songs.  I imagine Easter was a day for all of that for me.  And really, that's a bit what I've been up to today.  Quietly planning my dinner menu, preparing food, setting the table, meditating, reading, sending a few emails, reading, writing this blog post....

Just waiting for my beautiful family to come through the door with tales of adventures and two little girls eager to find baskets of gifts and eggs.  Their memories of grandma's house will be different from mine.  But I hope they will recall them as fondly.

At least, that's the view from here....©




Friday, March 25, 2016

AN APPLE A DAY

Technology.  Love it or hate it?  I mostly love it.  Although I do want it to operate like my refrigerator.... like an appliance that I take for granted and works fine without much input from me.  Cold?  Good.  Not?  Call someone to fix it.

But I find my "tech devices" want a lot more from me than just opening the door and grabbing an apple.

Speaking of Apple.... I am a devotee.   I bought the very first publicly available Apple 128 in 1984.  As a student at the University of Washington (the year I finally graduated from college at age 33 -- topic for another blog post),  I got a special student discount, but it was still amazingly expensive given that I figured I was buying a fancy typewriter.  But I was psyched.  I loved that computer.  LOVED IT!  I was involve in some local political action issues then and it was in constant use producing issue statements, press releases, meeting agendas, flyers, and meeting minutes.

At some point, though, as a computer became an everyday part of our lives, we decided we needed more "memory" and got another, more powerful Apple.   When it was time to replace that one,  we went to the dark side and started buying PCs mostly because they were more affordable.  But the constant crashes and fatal error messages and need for firewalls and virus protection software was such a pain in the behind!  Plus, even though they are the local darlings and I wanted to be loyal (I AM proud to live in Gates-land), certain glitches with Microsoft software started to be more hassle than help.

Ten years ago, back to Apple we went and have never looked back.  A year ago we bought a new desktop, a laptop (my constant companion), an iPad and two iPhones.  But here's my beef with all of it:  I can't just "open the door and help myself".  It seems I require constant training and with each upgrade I have something new I have to learn (and undo the previous learning.)

So, a year ago when we upgraded everything, we signed up for the One-On-One training we knew we'd need with all our new tech gear.  Then one thing and another prevented us from actually using the lessons and somewhere in the year we were allotted to use them, Apple discontinued the whole One-On-One program!  When we finally wanted to troubleshoot some frustrating issues we were having we had to do a "walk in" appointment with the Apple Genius corps.

Have you been to an Apple store?  Our local outlet is relatively small, but still sleek and modern and full of display models to play with  along with the hordes of people who seem to want to do just that no matter the day of the week or time of day.  It's always jamming crowded and LOUD.  Can't they do something with the acoustics in those stores?  Because here's the thing I notice.  The stores are not generally full of millennials who seem to have some cyber-brain-power that allows them to intuitively just know how to make these devices work.  No.  The stores are full of people with gray hair and bewildered expressions on their faces.  They are gathered round big square tables in the middle of the room trying to hear and follow instructions at a "group lesson" on some tech topic while music plays, people jostle to try out a Macbook Air, lines form to ask a question at the Genius Bar....it's a madhouse.

But we braved it on Tuesday afternoon and got the help we needed on how to set up our iCloud accounts (again!), this time not co-mingling them so that all of Hub's calendar information ended up on my computer and all of my internet searches ended up in his search history (thankfully I have never searched for old boyfriends or porn!)  We also wanted to learn to use the password protection Keychain thing that will keep our account passwords encrypted and not easily guessed by the bad guys.  We listened as an Apple guy (about our age!!!  Shocking!!!) walked us through it all, a little condescendingly, which just galls Hub, since he is sort of an Alpha Male and not used to this treatment which just felt familiar to me as a woman, but I digress...  We left happy and ready to leave our frustrations behind and finally get these things to work as we wanted them to.  Then we got home.

Error messages shot up on my screen every time I tried to open a website or use my email.  Hub couldn't access iTunes to update his apps because an old Apple ID kept insisting he put in a password that no one can recall because it was discontinued eons ago, but somehow Apple insisted it was current.  We spent all evening trying to troubleshoot our way out of the messes that were worse than before we went into the store.  We gave up.

The next afternoon we drove back to the even more crowded and chaotic Apple store and waited again for a Genius to help us.  I was hoping for a different Apple brain and we got one --much younger and geekier than the guy we'd had the previous day and I don't want to sound ageist or anything, but I was glad.  This kid actually had helped us on a previous visit and was smart, quick at diagnostics, saw immediately what had gone awry with Hub's issues, and walked me through a Keychain tutorial that was so easy to understand this time that even I could do it and my Macbook calmed down and went along with the program.

We figure with travel time, including two return trips in rush hour traffic and waiting for a Genius to help us, then finding we weren't really helped, then trying to troubleshoot on our own, then doing it all again the next day, we spent about 10 hours this week just getting our computers to do what they were supposed to do a year ago when they were first set up for us incorrectly.  We had lived with it far too long, I know, but I've come to believe computers are just not that easy and we can't expect  things to go smoothly.  Such defeatist thinking!

I think that attitude is born of being intimidated by a technology I don't understand, that is constantly changing, that I will NEVER understand, and with which I will NEVER keep up and seriously is just too damn complicated anyway.  I could add our "Smart" TVs, satellite dishes, WiFi routers, external DVD drives, Kindles, my car's stereo and navigation system, my new range/oven's computerized controls, etc. etc. etc. to the list of things I regularly use but realize I just barely understand how they work.  If something  goes awry (seemingly often), I am stuck; I do not know how to navigate the troubleshooting guides because they contain language and concepts about which I haven't a clue.  So I limp along only utilizing a fraction of the features I might have access to and all these devices seem like lazy slackers mocking my inability to get them to get off their lazy asses and get some real work done.

Here's my resolution.  I will swallow my pride and admit defeat.  I have been a rare user of "tech support", having found it to be amazingly intimidating in the past.  But the Apple Geniuses have convinced me that these issues for which we spent hours this week driving around with all our Apple gear in the trunk and enduing the chaos of the store could have been handled online or by phone where someone, somewhere could actually see our computer screen (this is maybe a little scary) and walk us through everything, even showing us where to point and click to move things along.  Tech support is going to be my new best friend!  And, I will NOT allow some kid in a cubicle to make me feel dumb when I ask how to sync iTunes on my iPhone.  I screw that up every single time!

My reading about brain plasticity tells me new brain cells are being formed all the time when we learn new skills.  Oh my!  I will be so incredibly smart very, very soon!

At least, that's the view from here....©

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

POLITICAL DISMAY

Well for god's sake.  I have already mentioned I'm depressed.  How am I going to get any better when every week Donald Trump racks up more delegates and his supporters punch out more protestors at his rallies -- while he urges the violence on?

I so love our country.  I do.  I am a proud Liberal Democrat Patriot.  I know there's a lot we can do better and a lot of mistakes have been made and some outright evil has been perpetrated on others by our government for selfish motives throughout history.   But in spite of it all, I have ALWAYS believed that we are for the most part a loving people of compassion and good-will and that our leaders, while they may disagree on various points, would band together to ensure that a dictator, tyrant, or fascist-leaning individual would never be able to take over.  Oops.

I have never been more dismayed and disillusioned about our political system and our country's future.  I have seen it coming:  The degradation of any civility in public discourse, where politicians behave no better than the worst talk show hosts and reality show contestants; where partisanship devolves into brute force refusal to compromise on anything for any reason, citizens be damned; where the person holding the office of President is ridiculed, maligned, and disrespected beyond the pale by those who cannot countenance that this man "somehow" became the leader of the free world.

Smarter people than I have written volumes about all of this and I'm just a personal essay blogger who writes for a teeny audience of mostly friends and family so I won't even try to explain why all of this has happened at this point in our nation's history.  I have some facts, some theories, some opinions.  So do you.  Suffice to say, this election season has taken on a scary surreal quality that has me scratching my head, waking worried in the middle of the night, and fearful for the future of my granddaughters.

They say the Republican Party is crumbling before our very eyes and I'm glad.  Not because I'm anti-Republican, but because I'm anti whatever and whoever these people are who call themselves Republicans but are something else entirely.  We have a strong and vociferous far right wing of that Party who really are an entity unto themselves  -- Tea Partiers, I guess, but that moniker almost seems quaint in these days of the identity-defying Donald Trump who has been a Democrat at times, who is wealthy and ostentatious, who has no moral compass, who is a textbook narcissist -- yet is supported by those of low to moderate means, of low education, of professed religious faith, and who (as a study shows as the consistent common denominator) adhere to an authoritarian perspective.  Anyway, this right wing cabal has disrupted and disturbed to the point of taking over what used to be a political party with at least a relatively understandable world view -- one where I could maybe see their point.  Now there is no point.  Not one I can understand.

I am afraid of the current wave of anti-intellectualism;  anti-"elitism"; anti-press/media(ism); and every other anti-ism (except fundamentalism) that is now the gospel of the day.  Really?  Do we want people running things who are less intelligent, less sophisticated, less informed and less able to think creatively and critically than the majority of us?   Do we want a media that is so biased that we just hear over and over and over again the very things (often fraught with distortions and lies) we already agree with?  What happened to unbiased reporting?  What's happened to reporting at all?  Now it's all just opinion and conjecture.

I am starting to lose faith.  But maybe that's just what they want.  Maybe that's the point of it all.  To wear down and demoralize, to make violence commonplace, to denigrate and deny and defame until the effort to continue to defend ourselves against such an evil onslaught becomes just too damn hard.

Wait.  No. No. No. No.  I will not give in, give up, or give away my country!

I almost feel like there is a Civil War brewing....not one with cannons (hopefully!!!) but a war of ideas and ideals, of values, and of the very essence of our identity and our humanity.  Who we choose in November as our new president, as well as who we choose to represent us in Congress (even more important when it comes to day-to-day decision-making), will tell us who we are and who we want to become for the next four years and beyond.  

I look into the innocent faces of my beautiful granddaughters and I know I can't quit.  I have to work for candidates who stand for progress, for humanity, for kindness and compassion; who exhibit intelligence,  fairness,  experience, and  wisdom.  Is there a perfect candidate in the race this year?  Is there ever?  Nah.  But some are way more perfect than others.   Let's choose one who doesn't want to punch us in the face.

At least that's the view from here....





Monday, March 7, 2016

ONE LAST UPDATE, WITH GRATITUDE

OK.  After this post I'm going to move on from reporting on my recent episode of falling into the abyss.  But I feel sort of an obligation to offer an update because I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have reached out with support and love.  Oh my.

The unfortunate thing is that in the throes of it all,  huddled inside the black hole where no light gets in, is that it's hard to truly believe that people care.  Well-wishes get interpreted as pity or obligation.  I tell ya, Depression is a BIG FAT LIAR!  Cuz now that I am feeling oh so much better, I remember the blog comments, the emails, the phone calls, the texts, the visits, the flowers delivered to my door, and I am beyond grateful for the love and care of my family and family of friends.  I believe.

So...here's the update:

After that last "Addendum" post that rang with optimism I fell back down, hard, and stayed in the back hole for several more days of non-stop crying and misery.  Then, slowly, I started to find the light...at least for now.  I have a feeling this bout with the Demons is a going to be an epic battle.

Now:

1.  I'm reading a great book called "Buddha's Brain" which I blogged about here:  http://circlingthemat.blogspot.com/2016/03/building-new-brain.htmlf  (Take a look.)
2.  I've gotten a call-back from a therapist who sounds like she will be a great fit once she is back at her practice at the end of April.
3.  Hub has recently connected with a guy (on a completely unrelated matter) who is the founder of a Mindfulness Center which teaches classes on MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction - created by Jon Kabat-Zin and used widely now in medical settings and beyond.)  We are going to an introductory session together.
4.  I'm doing a sitting meditation faithfully every morning (short 15-20 mins).
5.  I'm ramping up my "move your body" (I hate the word 'exercise') opportunities.
6.  Getting to Yoga class has been a challenge, but yesterday morning I got up and did Sun Salutations in my living room for 15 minutes.
7.  I'm also doing a Facebook photography series and am reminded that when I'm looking through the lens all effort, worry, and time fall away in those moments of creative "seeing".

Re-reading that list makes me sound like I've just used my big bulging biceps and pulled myself right out of that hole and hit the ground running as if nothing had ever happened.  Let me clarify.  All of this is happening in slow motion.  Tears still come.  Anxiety still sets my heart pounding.  Often I curl up on the sofa with my blankie and stare out the window, with little energy for much of anything else.

But I don't feel hopeless and overwhelmed.  I feel like the worst is past and I'm highly motivated to collect some new tools for the toolbox for when the Demon Twins show up again.   I'm considering this:  Instead of hiding from them, lashing out at them, wishing they would crawl off and die, I might just have the courage and compassion to embrace them, to welcome them as familiar, albeit misguided, foes who seem to cling to the crazy notion that I need them for some reason.  I don't.  But the only way I can teach them that is to just love their good intentions into oblivion.

At least, that's the view from here....©