What’s worth doing even if I fail?

Look! Another post inspired by Brene Brown, this time from Daring Greatly. “What’s worth doing even if I fail?” She whispered this phrase to herself as she was walking out on stage at her 2012 TED talk. I think I have to step back further from where she’s at though and just start with “what’s worth doing?” What is something that needs to be done, what is something that I feel I need to do? I want to do some sort of deep introspection and thinking here but honestly I am too internally blocked to go that far. That will eventually be my answer to “what’s worth doing even if I fail?” but I’m not quite there yet.

That leads to the question of what is worth doing in a more general sense. Superficially I want to create whether it is to create a difference, create an object, or create a thought.

Creating a difference is important to me because I have always desperately wanted to be needed. So much of my self-worth and identity is tied into being a helper, being available for people when they have little else. It’s probably the primary reason why I’ve been entrenched in mental health nursing since I became a nurse nearly a decade ago. (Side note-holy shit that was 10 years ago!) If there’s one group of people that don’t have much it’s the people described as severe and persistently mentally ill. All of the agencies I have worked at served a population of people that were homeless or only one flat tire away from it. I could be something for them: a smile, a greeting, a “how are you?” with the actual desire to know, a quiet presence to cry with, or a guide when the voices, self-contempt, or anxiety got to be too much. (This is where my tendency towards over functioning comes in but that’s a blog for another day)

You see, in working at places where my need to be needed was satisfied with little effort on my part I was able to continue to do without having to stretch out and be uncomfortable. Sure there are always the discomforts of learning new systems, new people, and figuring out my place in the system but I could always figure out a way to create a difference because there was always at least one person around that needed something.

Creating things has become a large focus for me in my knitting and crochet projects. I can make things that are useful and have an art to them. They aren’t perfect but often I’m the only one that knows how imperfect they are. Other people see the things I’ve made and appreciate them and all is good in the world. I’ve even slowly been pushing past my fears of different techniques and projects because this is a challenge I can do. If it doesn’t work out I can just rip back the yarn and watch my work shrink away until the mistakes disappear. (Note that more often than not this is an accidental thing and results in cursing at the tiny loops until I get everything back to where it’s supposed to be.) I can take chances and risks with little waste except my time and patience. This is a safe place to challenge myself and do something daring.

Lastly, creating a thought is actually the other two forms of creating mixed into one. A thought is an unformed object budding from someone who has been bit by the inspiration bug. I’m still working on how to do that with any consistency. There’s an unhealthy level of criticism and fear around creating a thought… oh. Right. I think that is probably what I need to focus more on. A something that is so important and worth doing despite the risk of failure would be an act of creation so long standing as to inspire thought, discussion, debate. Writing is one of those things for me.

Perhaps that is enough honesty and being vulnerable for the night. I know that my something worth doing despite the risk of failure is doing something that can inspire thoughtful discussion, ideas, and perhaps action. It’s still a rather broad concept at this point in my journey but I now have a direction to wander while I let this percolate a bit more. Hopefully the process of finding out what’s worth doing even if you fail isn’t so vague or hidden from yourself as what I’ve found my something to be.

Rising Strong means writing

Earlier today, well yesterday by the time this is posted, I started a new audio book Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I’ve had it on my phone for several months now but only just recently felt like I was maybe ready to hear her words. I’ve got several of her other books and have read some, but not all, of them. Honestly they have been too much for me to process all at once. They inspire deep introspection and assessment of yourself in a most painful way. The primary focus is on shame, guilt, blame, fear, vulnerability, trauma, self-doubt, and avoidance. Heavy, heavy topics, especially for those who have, ahem, avoided such intense personal awareness.

Despite the heavy topics I felt that this book was easier to listen to than to read as the slower pace enabled me to process the implications more. Also, hearing Brene speak directly about her own experiences and stories that others have trusted her with makes it feel more intimate. There’s power in a person speaking their own story, their own struggles and triumphs. It’s also relieving to hear that someone with such a strong background in social work has to battle through understanding these hard concepts and that it’s not an automatic thing for her. She has been able to learn and gain greater awareness and understanding so that she can recognize when she’s falling into the trap of blaming, getting even, or avoiding what she is experiencing.

There are people who figured out how to be vulnerable and aware of their self-worth but there is at least one other person who hasn’t figured that out for every one who has. The ones that have already do something that is both obvious and hard; they write out their story each day. It doesn’t have to be for a particular amount of time or have a true focus or method of narration. Some people write short stories, some draw it out, some use blogs or diaries, some write letters that will never be sent. All of these are things I’ve encouraged patients to do in the past. “Write out what you’re feeling, give yourself permission to be honest with yourself.” It’s so easy to give the advice, not so easy to follow it yourself.

I’m going to try this idea. Writing for just a little bit of time, sometimes just for me but other times it will be to share. It may not always be on this blog but one of the others I’ve got, depending upon what’s more appropriate. Some of my stories for the day would be what Brene called “shitty first drafts” SFD for short and they won’t be shared. Some may be fiction narratives for me to explore what’s going on in my head. Others may be rants or complaints or pleas for understanding. Regardless I feel that bringing this whole blogging idea back to life is probably healthy. Plus, I’m starting a new chapter in my work life and since I can’t do something funky with my hair I can at least make some other visible change in my life. Blogging is visible, if less so than my hair, and is probably far more likely to result in moments of revelation. Those are pretty cool when they happen even if they are infrequent.

Anywho, writing, it’s a thing and a thing I hope to do more often.

Considering How I Phrase Things

There is a prescriber at work who has made an interesting impact on me and I’m not sure if she is even aware. I have become much, much more conscientious about now I say that I don’t actually know the answer to one of her questions. When I first started working at the ATU I received some feedback from a coworker basically saying that this prescriber was more or less pissed that I was okay with saying those three words “I don’t know.” It was unprofessional and unacceptable. Since then I have learned, especially when speaking with her, to make sure that I always answer with something else. this usually means things like, “you know, I’m uncertain about that but I think so and so may know. It has also forced me to pay a lot more attention to what people say about a clients behavior or what’s going on with them because I don’t want to be caught saying anything resembling I don’t know if it’s at all humanly possible.Her opinion of me and my capabilities have shifted over the last six months or so. I don’t believe she is hesitant to hear what I have to say about what’s going on with a client. She trusts that if she asks me to do something I’ll get it done or at least do my darnedest to make it happen. I’m surprised sometimes when I consider what her opinion of me was a year ago and what it has become and it makes me realize how much changing one small bit of speech can really do for you. methinks it’s a lesson that can be applied to multiple parts of my life. Now just to figure out what other key phrases I need to be way of.

Checking Off All the Little Boxes

As with any job there are trends that I have observed in the psych field that seem to occur every year. The transition from spring to fall is when we start to see those who are depressed come out of the wood work. Winter is when we see the more at risk population, low income, frequently homeless and those with a history of incarceration. Spring is when we start to see higher incidence of mania and/or psychosis. Summer is a bit of a hodge-podge, but I think there tends to be more family related stress and strife that plays into that. Kids are at home, there are higher expectations for temp workers to find employment and it’s hot. People get grumpy and pissy and irritated when they’re hot.

Let’s focus on that bipolar population, sorry, I really should say it as the population who has a history of bipolar disorder/suffers from bipolar (let’s call it BPD I/II from now on). Like I said above, most tend to go into a more manic phase at this time of year. Not everyone though. Some get the pleasant experience of a mixed episode meaning that they experience some depression symptoms and some manic symptoms. This group tends to be at the absolute highest risk of suicide: feeling suicidal, coming up with a plan and they have the fucking energy to be able to actually carry through with those plans. The sad part is that they have the highest rate of success. I’ll go look up the research again should anyone want to see that. My knowledge is coming from stuff I had discovered in 2007 when I was desperately trying to figure out the world of psych for my first job and then from observations throughout the years. Incidentally it’s also one of the major reason why people who start on anti-depressants are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts and carrying out plans; the antidepressants don’t affect their thinking and emotional state as quickly as they affect the physical symptoms of depression. They get the energy and even some motivation before they actually start to feel better. It sort of mimics what a mixed bipolar episode does for people.

Anyway, the point of this post is that I fall into the smaller group of people with BPD that are more likely to feel depression than mania at any change in seasons. That is partially because I have the type II version which nearly always tend toward depression rather than the hypo mania side. I think I’ve experienced hypo-mania only a handful of times in my life and those episodes are nearly always followed by a pretty strong crash into depression. I normally can observe the symptoms and act on them before they get to the absolute bottom. I start eating healthier, exercise more, attempt to read more, make a good go at trying to get better sleep, and all that good jazz. It’s actually the primary reason why I do any of these, not to lose weight, not to look better in my favorite jeans, though those are all really awesome bonuses.

This year hasn’t been so kind about it. Over the last 6 months I have continued to experience various symptoms of depression despite taking all the above actions and asking my doc for some med changes. What really has sucked is that the last three months I finally got hit hard by the complete lack of motivation to do what I need to in order to keep myself from tanking further. Exercise? Yeah, non-existent. Eating better? Forget it. Wanting to do much of anything? Ha! That’s funny. Feeling good about my job and what I’m doing there? Eh, still some of that, but it’s really damn hard to get myself to not be cynical and wanting to interact with patients much. By Saturdays I’m kind of useless. I try to get as much done in the morning since I developed that routine and if I don’t complete it, I’m fucked.

I wasn’t fully aware of just how bad things had gotten until my husband started to ask me about it. The fact that he was aware and able to ask about it is saying something because he really doesn’t have the awareness of such things that some/many people do. I had given him some reference material when we first started dating and even gave him a pretty clear (I thought) list of symptoms that I tend to experience, subjective and objective. A few months ago when I asked him about it again he told me point blank that he really couldn’t notice the subtle changes over time much at all. He’s never been very good at reading many of those things and whatnot so it’s honestly not much of a surprise. He’s a tech dude, he gets tech things really well and is great at problem solving but when it comes to things that he can’t do much about he is pretty apathetic about them. When it does get to the point that he is completely aware it really is hard for him to deal with. He wants to fix it. He wants to make it go away. But it’s not that easy, probably partially because I really am not good at listening to anything or anyone once I get to this point.

I think it’s probably a bad thing when all the things that I’m upset about in relation to myself are basically check boxes for the DSM-IV diagnosis for depression. Let’s look at this list from NIMH:
Major Depressive Disorder requires two or more major depressive episodes.

Diagnostic criteria:

Depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for at least 2 weeks and at least five of the following symptoms that cause clinically significant impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning almost every day

1. Depressed mood most of the day. Worse the last three or so weeks, but been experiencing some since November.

2.Diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities. Reading? Meh. Exercising? None. Wanting to go out? Eh. I’ve really only gotten excited by a few select things, many of which I’m really not as excited about as I would have been a year ago. Even then it’s a very short-term thing. *sigh*

3.Significant unintentional weight loss or gain. Actually this one I’m not experiencing as much. Some weight gain, but that’s what happens when you go from a 1350 calorie a day diet and exercise to around 2500 and not exercising.

4.Insomnia or sleeping too much. Ugh, yes. If I don’t take something to help me sleep I toss and turn the whole damn night. I don’t actually seem to fall asleep and stay asleep until sometime after 6 or 7 am. Given that I only got to sleep past 8-9am two days a week until this last week that was pretty significant. Now I get four days a week, but holy crap is it hard to get up. Work or school were pretty much the only things that could pull me from bed from 11am. Now that I am not in school, well let’s just say I haven’t gotten much of anything accomplished this last week.

5.Agitation or psychomotor retardation noticed by others. Anytime I am not at home. Especially if I am with or around people. It’s not as pronounced at work, but it’s been commented on several times the last few weeks. Yay for nearly autistic like repetitive movements to decrease anxiety…

6.Fatigue or loss of energy. Why don’t they have this as number 5 rather than 6? It goes so much better with the insomnia question. Anyway, yeah. This is probably my biggest complaint. I am freaking tired all the time. Doesn’t matter how much or how little sleep I’ve gotten, whether I have plans or things to do or absolutely nothing at all to do, I am exhausted. It sucks.

7.Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt. Not too bad, not yet. I’m starting to feel some of this, especially since I haven’t been much interested in doing things I need to like helping around the house. Blargh.

8.Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness. Worse so than usual, yes. Indecisiveness is something I always experience, but not to this extent. Lack of ability to think or concentrate? Oh yeah. I am slow to respond or pick up on what others are saying and am definitely more flighty than usual. The only thing I really seem to be able to concentrate on is a book when I’m reading, but even that is iffy.

9.Recurrent thoughts of death (APA, 2000, p. 356). I don’t think so, though it’s hard to tell since there is a lot of conversation at work about our suicidal patients. What I really want is just to be able to sleep until I actually have gotten enough *good* sleep to be functional again. I don’t know if that counts or not, but I’m leaning towards no. Maybe some of the therapists/counselors I know would disagree, but really I don’t care all that much whether they disagree with me or not. I don’t feel like I’m suicidal. I haven’t actually thought about what it would be like for me to die or even thought about plans. I have discussed what people do that just seem silly or don’t actually work, but that’s about it.

Just for shits and giggles, let’s take a look at the manic side of things too.
Bipolar 2 Disorder, in which the primary symptom presentation is recurrent depression accompanied by hypomanic episodes (a milder state of mania in which the symptoms are not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning or need for hospitalization, but are sufficient to be observable by others).

Manic episodes are characterized by:

A.A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary) Ugh, irritated mood is one of the major things that my husband noticed. I’m irritable, easily agitated and more and more frequently difficult to get along with. I know that some people actually have irritable or angry depression so I don’t know if this is depression related or not.

B.During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (4 if the mood is only irritable) and have been present to a significant degree:

(1)increased self-esteem or grandiosity Not so much, no.

(2)decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep) Definitely not.

(3)more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking Maybe pressure to keep talking, but I don’t believe so.

(4)flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing Is the inability to really control where my thoughts go or what they do part of flight of ideas or racing thoughts? I don’t know that they are racing except when I’m feeling massively anxious, but maybe? Probably not.

(5)distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli) Ugh, yes. Too much of anything overwhelms me and makes it difficult to focus or concentrate on anything, but again, this is also a symptom for depression or at least one of the things that tends to come up with depression.

(6)increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation Psychomotor agitation, yes, but that’s also a symptom for depression and anxiety as well.

(7)excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)” (APA, 2000, p. 362). Luckily for me, no. The closest would be buying sprees, but I usually force myself to think about things for a while before purchasing. It also helps that I don’t have that much in the way of expendable cash.

So there may be some hypo-mania mixed in there too, but if so it’s nothing compared to this fucking depression. It’s interesting how easy it is to check those things off right now. Well, it’ll probably be more interesting when I come back and look at this in a few months, but I can look forward to that.

This post has gotten waaaay too long so I’ll just leave it off here. If you got all the way down here, wow, kudos to you. You are now free to return to your regularly scheduled day and activities, whatever those are.

Reflections on some not so awesome memories

Video

I have had this song come up several times on Pandora lately. I initially really liked it because it’s got a lovely piano playing in a predominantly minor key and the singer’s voice matches the tone of the song so well. I like the bridge transitions, especially the way she transitions from the bridge to the chorus by using what I’ve always thought of as chunky, melancholy chords. It’s one of those songs that kind of makes me want to cry, but that’s because the song is intended to elicit such emotions. That was all I paid attention to the first half-dozen or so times I heard it.

Then I listened to the lyrics. I was in the shower, my thinking place, and just sort of stopped to actually hear the story Ms. Grey painted with her words. It was sort of like getting punched in the gut. Or maybe the throat.

I’m sure I’ve referenced it a few times here, though nothing overt or glaringly obvious. My ex was something of an ass to the Nth degree. If it weren’t for the fact that he was in the Army and it’s a big no-no to get an Axis II diagnosis a psychiatrist would have diagnosed him with Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Antisocial (personality disorder) Traits. In case you don’t actually want to read the wiki articles about those two disorders, just know that they both are pretty much what they sound like they are. He was charming, suave and subtly manipulative the first 6-12 months that I knew him. Then he not-so-slowly transformed into something of a clearly manipulative, emotionally and mentally abusive, controlling, delusional, lazy-ass, *insert your favorite descriptor for a waste of space here* moocher that I had the pleasure of having to deal with outside of work. Except he was really great at sleight of hand maneuvers so that I and anyone casually interacting with either of us wouldn’t realize something was going on or that it whatever they noticed was my fault, my failing. He even managed to convince me that all our problems, his problems really, were my fault. He couldn’t keep a job because we lived too far away from all the places he could work. He lied to me because I wasn’t strong enough to deal with or know the truth. It was my fault that he turned to one of his exes for support, talked shit about me and was making promises to leave me and go off with her as soon as I was “strong” enough to not kill myself over him. The list goes on and on and on.

How does it relate to the song? Well, note that he started out only subtly off. Then he turned into the sort of person that I never thought I would attach myself to. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I didn’t actually deserve to be happy. I really was the cause of so much misery and heartache. The fights were all my fault. The things that went wrong were my fault. I just wasn’t enough. I failed again and again when I tried to make anything better. I was never good enough. I never knew what I was talking about, even when I did. I deserved all the bad things that happened, all the lies, all the half-truths and misdirection. It was what I knew, what I expected and it was, as so often happens, normal, comfortable in that horrifying sort of way. I wasn’t happy, but I knew the routine, I knew how it would end, change was scary. I accepted everything because, well, what other choice did I have? (I know the answer now, but not then.)

Except that I (finally) got space and time away from him. I lived half-way around the world from him and discovered that I could actually be happy. It took over a year, but I gathered my courage and told him I was no longer going to be his thing to manipulate. I left him. And I suppose that is where my story differs from the one told in this song. She doesn’t leave at the end. At least not yet. I escaped. I found a life that I am happy with. I found people who love and support me and whom I love and support.

Sadly, that doesn’t keep me from going back to those memories. I still have times when I revert to behaviors I learned while in that relationship. I suppose I’m still a work in progress. Aren’t we all? We’ve each got our own demons, some are just more obvious than others. I just wish they couldn’t haunt us after we have exorcised them from our lives. Their shades can be just as painful and scary as the demons themselves were.

Right. Well, something more pleasant to come in the near future. Probably something about Anomalycon or the zombie apocalypse or something.

Daily Prompt: Silver Screen – “There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”

“There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” Gandalf the Grey, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

This line is probably one of a few lines that struck me as *important* when I first read LotR. Some were remembered because of the scene, “You. Shall. Not. Pass!” (read exactly like that) or perhaps because I liked the idea of something, “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to. ” Still, none of them rang with the same sense of truth like what Gandalf’s words to Frodo within the Mines of Moria did.

I believe, that at its heart, this is what LotR is about. It is not about saving the world from evil. It’s not about the corruption of man and the loss of magic. It’s not about industrialization and how it will destroy the world. It’s not about war and the havoc it wrecks. It is about this one, simple truth. That there is something more in this world, something that guides people to be where they need to be. It doesn’t mean that evil will be thwarted at every turn-there is still free choice and free will-but there will always be those who can make a difference.

The greatest hero in LotR gets little credit, but he has the biggest heart and the strongest determination. He has something more to look forward to beyond ending the war with Sauron and destroying the Ring. Samwise Gamgee has his role to play and he plays it well. Not even Gandalf understands Sam’s role within the whole, though he knows it is important. Regardless, he gives Sam his only order, “Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee.” Sam, being the most loyal of the entire party follows his directions and ends up carrying Frodo and the Ring, physically and metaphorically.

I know it’s pointed out ad nauseum that LotR depits how it is the actions of the smallest of the characters that makes the greatest impact and the most sacrifices. However, I believe it is applicable to real life. We may not all be fighting this grand battle against an evil entity that is threatening to take over the world, but we are each have a role in the overall well-being of our fellows. Small kindnesses have a big impact. Small acts send out ripples that can either join and enlarge the ripples caused by others or oppose and diminish them. We were born here for a reason, there is some sort of plan. While most of us are but the smallest of players upon this large stage even our small roles have an impact in how the show (the world) turns out.

I just hope we’re all getting our lines and stage cues kind of right. Most of what we do and know is unscripted, but there are those special moments where we are caught up in a bigger scene and there is actually something we’re to do right then and there. I don’t know how many times we are given to get it right, one or fifty or however many we need, but I still take heart in knowing that there is something out there, some greater part of ourselves, that can nudge us in the right direction. Maybe not quite with the same authority and directness of a stage manager, but still some whisper of a hint of what we ought to do.

Seems kinda odd for someone who claims to be agnostic to hold such a firm belief, but then again, I don’t believe that the nudging comes from something that is omniscient or omnipowerful. It just is and it likes balance and there is an overall direction that we’re all traveling and thus there is a collective general intent that guides it as well as us. More or less, give or take.

Wow did that go in a very different direction than I thought it would when I started.

A random nighttime observation

Last night as I was attempting to fall asleep I had an epiphany of sorts. I figured out what it is that makes it difficult to fall asleep and why quiet rooms are really annoying to me. It’s really rather silly that it took me so long to have this epiphany. I guess it goes to show how much the mind can dismiss even the most annoying of things as normal.

You see, I have tinnitus, meaning a ringing in my ear(s). Most people have experienced this a few times in their lifetime, usually after exposure to really loud sounds or music. Some lucky few like myself experience it much more frequently or even continuously. I notice it when it’s quiet, but it’s pretty much always there. Noise that varies in pitch and tone, music or talking, gives me something else to focus on and it recedes to such a low volume that I don’t realize it’s there. More often than not something like reading, writing, or some other endeavor that requires my attention will also distract me from the sound though it isn’t guaranteed. It’s loudest at night when there’s little noise beyond the humming of the fan and maybe the heater or a/c if one is on. Even though I’m used to the sound, it’s still really annoying and does keep me from falling asleep easily. It also may be an explanation for why I have trouble focusing or hearing things in an environment where lots of people are talking. My brain is so used to disregarding noises that are constant, which the hum of talking easily turns into, and the ringing will get really loud in such an environment.

Have I mentioned that I feel really silly for not experiencing this “epiphany” earlier?

Most people who experience it will hear it in one ear or the other, though for people like me who hear it constantly it is more common to be stuck with it in stereo. The chronic version tends to be caused by a head injury, medication side effects or significant damage to the ear drums from frequent exposure to loud and pounding sounds for an extended time. I don’t recall when I started to hear it, so it’s possible to could have been caused either by medication, a frequent culprit being antibiotics, or in high-school from winter drumline, or my time in the army when we were firing weapons, frequently without hearing protection. I’ve had a concussion once or twice, but nothing truly serious (if you can consider a blow to the head “not serious”.)

I’m really not sure what I can do with any of this information. There aren’t many things that can be done for tinnitus. Ear plugs make it worse. White noise is almost as bad as ear plugs. If I fall asleep to music I have a more difficult time waking up to any typical alarm. That’s without considering the fact that it would drive my husband crazy. Ah well. At least I like music for its own sake rather than the added benefit of making this silly ringing a little less annoying.

Human connection

The yoga class I enjoy going to on Sundays is a “gentle yoga” class. We do very little in the way of vinyasa – continuous movements – which means we pretty much spend the majority of the class stretching. Yesterday was even more relaxing than usual in that we spent most of the time on our mats on our backs or sides doing much more conscious breathing and meditation than usual. It is a great way to end the week or start the week depending upon how you view the calendar. There’s one other thing that makes it one of my favorite classes; Aliza, the instructor, is also a massage therapist and most classes will come through and do some brief, but pleasant shoulder or neck massage, at least for those who are okay with it.

I bring this up because for me, I experience very little skin to skin contact in a day. It’s one of the reasons why I cherish snuggling and cuddling with Nathan in bed. It satisfies a need that I am rarely conscious of. The only other times I get that skin on skin contact is through handshakes, which most days I avoid, or through massage the once a month or so that I pay for it.

The contact through massage, or truly a more conscious, gentle, and traveling touch, is special to me in a way that I have found difficult to describe. It is not just a pleasant feeling, but nearly spiritual. I feel an opening up within myself and a mutual exchange between myself, the person who is in contact with me and the world. I don’t feel drained after this exchange but neither do I feel “too full”. I feel balanced, buoyant, relaxed, and at peace.ven

I believe that the reason that this does not happen with all contact like handshakes is that I have learned to avoid opening up because there are too many draining people out and about. This is especially true at work. The people I see there are not just mentally or physically ill and injured, but there are deep gashes on their emotional and spiritual selves. They pull on everyone around them to try to fill and heal those gaps whether they are brand new or years and years old.

I probably don’t feel the same complete opening when snuggling because it is a different sort of intimacy, one of grounding and rooting and safety. I have noticed that when there is more massage or traveling fingers/very gentle tickles from Nathan that I experience the more spiritual opening rather than the grounding/rooting feeling I get from our normal contact. It’s incredibly lovely when I am experiencing both. The extent of my relaxation is something I rarely feel except at those moments when I have found a “zen” moment in meditation.

It does make me wonder if others are aware if they have the same experience. Do they realize that there is this different sort of connection with people? How does the lack of connection within most western cultures influence how closed off and isolated we feel?

Yoga and other various exercise things

Over the last few months I have increased the amount of physical activity I take part in. Going to the gym, doing the whole martial arts thing, and most recently I added yoga.

I have found them all to be rewarding, all in their own ways. At the gym I get to just completely zone out and do my thing and not have any interaction with anyone else. Some would argue that’s not the greatest thing to do since I don’t push myself as hard as what I need to, which is true, but at this point I’m just happy I’m making it there again and getting satisfaction from what I do.

In martial arts I’m learning so many new things and discovering a whole different kind of satisfaction from slowly becoming more proficient in what I am learning. I enjoy learning things that make me feel a little safer in that if something were to happen to me physically, I most likely would be able to react in a way that will help me as compared to freezing. I am learning *how* to punch and kick and whatever other strikes or defenses you can think of. I am learning how to fit things together and all these other awesome things.

Lastly, with yoga I am learning more about focusing on my body and releasing my thoughts and just experiencing that moment, that breathe, that movement. I am able to feel the difference between how I am doing each day and also to not judge myself or my body. Some days I can easily hold a pose, warrior 1 or dancer, or I can easily move through sun salutations or other vinyasas without shaking limbs. Other days I require more patience with myself. And some days I need to recognize that I need to modify the pose or the vinyasa and make them easier on myself.

I feel that in working on all these different things I am slowly starting to round out how I experience life in my body and mind. I am becoming healthier, making better choices for myself and working on learning some sort of balance. It is hard in some ways in that I am often doing these alone when I would like to share what I’m learning with my husband, but I am also grateful in some ways that I’ve got my own things. I write a wee bit, in my blog and occasionally journaling, and exercise and do yoga, work on various craft things and am interested in different studies. Nathan does martial arts, (sadly on days that I work) plays video games, builds things whether legos or tech toys and programs things and studies those sort of things.

It’s good to have that balance and different interests. But… I look at all sedentary activities that both of us participate in and can’t help but think that we both need to be more active. It not only is good physically but also mentally to participate in different activities. Our minds and bodies like variety, need it even, in order to grow and change and become more capable. I also can’t help but look at it from the perspective of a nurse – a variety of physical activities helps the body maintain itself better, encourages better sleep, maintain hormone balance, cleans out toxins and requires “new” blood and oxygen be sent to parts of the body that don’t get much use in day to day activities and therefore are sort of forgotten or stagnant. I think that’s actually why I enjoy the variety of physical activity that I currently partake in. They each get me moving in different ways and activate different parts of my mind and body.

Best of all, there are restive and restorative forms of all of these. There’s finding “the zone” when running. Katas in martial arts where the body acts while the mind quiets. And in yoga there are options for what kind of rest/restoration I need – gentle yoga that’s still movement, hot yoga where I am only focusing on finding balance within the poses and nothing more, or the quiet meditation of restorative yoga where I slowly stretch and relax my body until I find a stillness in each position. Any of the practices are good and serve a purpose. I’m a bit more partial to the restorative yoga, but that’s probably because I just got home from participating in it.

Now on to homework I’ve been putting off. And maybe the gym later. I’ve got some new work outs to try that a friend gave me and I’m interested to see if I can do them and get the full number of reps she suggested.

An Interesting Study in Progress

I follow a few different religious pages on Facebook. It’s interesting to see what people will say, though I know what I am seeing is very biased as they are either very liberal Christian or a mix of multiple religions. One of them, a Buddhism page, posted a link to a study that one of his colleagues just got up and running. The study is a very long survey specifically targeted at agnostics/atheists. There’s so little research surrounding this growing population in the US, so I’m really excited to see that there are people out there recognizing us.

I include myself in that category because I’m something of a Buddhist(non-theist)-pantheist-agnostic-trending-to-atheist sort of person. Yeah, it’s a mouthful so I usually just say Buddhist or pantheist or if I really want to confuse people, non-theist. Much easier to say. If anyone is uncertain whether they fall into the agnostic/atheist category, here’s a really great piece on different kinds of “non-believers” or however you want to think about it.

Anywho, if anyone here is interested, here’s the link to the study, and if you’re more interested in seeing what/why/etc. here’s the answers from the people who are doing the research.

I’ll be posting more of my thoughts about the state of religion in America later, especially after the results are published.