Thursday, February 28, 2013

Looking Up

Last week was pretty crap-tastic. I pretty much got hit from all directions. And I'll admit, it wasn't a pretty weekend for me (emotionally, and probably physically as well). I tried, and some friends and family certainly helped, but it just was really rough. When you get rocked like that, and you've been ill to boot, it's not going to all get magically better, no matter what anyone says. But, it does get slowly better - you just have to notice it. So today, I thought I'd give some homage to those little things that are helping make this week, and even helped make this past weekend, on the up slope (in no order, not even chronological).

  • Got to see my brother, sister-in-law, and my adorable niece and nephew on Sunday (they say Maya a lot, it's super cute). 
  • Dinner, conversation and laughs with several friends I haven't seen in a while.  
  • Felt well enough to actually do gentle yoga this morning - I'm trying not to push it. 
  • I get to see my Philly travel tweeps tonight. 
  • I started a Facebook page for Lilies and Elephants and it's been liked, commented on, and shared by over 70 people already. That may not sound like a ton, but I'm all about baby steps. 
  • The Flower Show is here next week. I LOVE the flower show (especially Lilies!). 
  • My inability to work out has not (yet) caused me to gain a bunch of weight like I thought it had, at least according to my scale. 
  • Red wine - enough said. 
I know these things may seem insignificant, but they're not. Not to me. Because I'm willing to guess that unless you're in some very unique position, 95 percent of the days we have aren't filled with huge mega accomplishments or incredible events. Think about it - compared to the number of days you've lived, how many days have you gotten a promotion, started a relationship/gotten engaged/gotten married, had a child, closed that huge piece of business you've been working on for ages, received a major award, etc? Really, it's probably not very many. I'm not saying this to depress you, I promise, so stay with me here. Now, think about the number of days you've had a great workout, enjoyed a good conversation with a friend, drank a nice warm cup of coffee on a cold day at your favorite cafe, helped someone with advice or support they needed, been helped with advice or support you needed, taken time for your favorite hobby. It's probably a lot higher than the previous percentage. 

So today, I simply thought I'd share those little things that have made me happy this week. Because certainly, I feel it has to go up from last week. But really unless I decide to look up, I'll never know. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sh*t Happens

Yesterday, something really shitty happened. I was already having a tough week, with my mystery illness and waiting for the insurance company to approve the MRI on my brain. I was feeling lonely and frustrated at not being able to do much and not seeing or even hearing much people I'd really hoped would reach out while I was going through all of this.

So yesterday, I decided to make myself get out of the house for a bit and go to my favorite cafe. It's kind of my safe haven - everyone knows me there. It's almost like being in a small town where people know what your order is automatically, know your habits, etc. But yesterday that changed. While at the cafe, my wallet got stollen - complete with license, credit cards, debit cards, insurance card, AAA card, the little cash I had on me, etc. I will say, I'm thankful it was just my wallet, and not my whole purse with my phones, meds, and everything else. But still, I had no ID, the thief drained my checking account, ran up my credit cards, all within an hour or so. It clearly wasn't an accidental "I dropped my wallet and someone decided to help themselves to $10 in cash". I was targeted. At a place I trust. What's worse is, my purse was next to me on the chair the entire time. I did once go up to the counter to get a coffee refill, but it was a total of maybe a minute, max, and the counter was about three feet from my table. It wasn't a one-off situation. The person knew what they were doing, waited for the window of opportunity, and literally cashed in.

Yes, I was furious and had severe anxiety about losing the money, the ID, everything. But what bothers me more is that I feel violated. A place that felt secure to me no longer does. What if that person is there again? Are there more people there that would do the same thing? I'm not a naive or overly trusting person. In fact, I'm the opposite. I'm a bit over-protective and paranoid about my things, and I have severe trust issue with just about everybody, thanks to several issues from my past. So it's not like I was sitting there with my purse wide open, leaving my wallet out for all to see and learned my lesson about life in the big city. Rather, I was already overly-cautious and I'm a bit afraid I'll become downright neurotic about my belongings and my trust in general.

I did learn a very valuable lesson yesterday. Nobody and no place is immune. I live in a very nice part of the city, I was at a trusted place where I know a lot of people and people generally watch out for each other, and I am very careful about the security of my things. Never the less, the thief got me. All in all, if I'm going to be a victim of a crime, it could be way worse. Thank goodness it wasn't a violent crime. I wasn't robbed at gunpoint or mugged. I didn't even realize my wallet was missing until about an hour after it happened - after all I had no reason to check, as my purse was with me basically the entire time.

They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and I'm still standing (or sitting), so I guess some day, I'll look back on this week as one of those that made me tougher and more able. For now, I'm going to be extra vigilant, and try to work through my already rather severe trust issues, so that I can get past this in a healthy way and move on. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Loneliness Lessons

One topic that I've surprisingly managed to not speak much about, until now, is loneliness. This is most likely because I've intentionally avoided writing much about my romantic/dating/love life, which is often where loneliness tends to come into play for people. That being said, I'm still not particularly speaking about that area of my life - I want to be clear on that. If you really want to know about that sector of my life, feel free to ask me privately, but it's not something I discuss much here. Quite simply, I'm fine airing my own dirty laundry but don't feel it fair for me to air anyone else's for the general public to see.

So back to loneliness. To me, it's one of the worst feelings in the world (perhaps second only to hopelessness).  The reason being this: if you're sick, hurt, frustrated, sad, angry, depressed, anxious, out of money/a home/car/job but you aren't lonely, it means you still have people there to support you and help you out, which can make a world of difference in these times. Similarly, if you're happy/excited/any other positive feeling but have nobody to share this with, it doesn't feel nearly as good - at least to the majority of people. Now I realize, the whole "nobody can make you happy but yourself" thing, and I believe that to an extent. But let's face it - the way people treat us influence how 99 percent of us feel, whether we want to admit it or not.

Loneliness doesn't always equate to alone-ness. There are times when I choose to be alone - I want to relax, read, meditate, just get away from the world for awhile and let my brain relax.  I've also had some of my best travel experiences going solo (though I'll admit I wouldn't necessarily want to do it all the time). Similarly, I've been in situations where I felt terribly lonely when person I loved was sitting in the same room with me. Loneliness is an emotional location, not a physical one. I've dealt with a lot of loneliness of all sorts over the years, and I've learned some coping skills - though by no means does it mean that I never feel lonely. I thought I'd share a few things I've learned, in hopes that they can help others who battle loneliness as well.

  • Reach out. As tempting as it is to say "nobody gives a flying $&%", blocking people out certainly won't result in less loneliness - how could it?
  • Be open minded - you never know whose going through something similar. I've at times felt like those people who "should" be there for me aren't, but then someone I haven't talked to in years reached out (thank you, Facebook) and completely understands what I'm going through. 
  • Evaluate. Loneliness can teach you a lot, as much as we hate to admit it. If you're lonely with your significant other/best friend/family member sitting in the same room, clearly, something is not right. It's time to look at the situation and decide what that is, and how to address it. 
  • It might be everyone else, but it might not. I'm certainly not blaming you, or me, for being lonely.  But as I mentioned in the first point, I have noticed when I feel lonely, I tend to start with the all or nothing thinking. If I reach out to a couple of people and they don't react as I'd like, or if I haven't heard from people I "should", I get those poisonous "nobody cares! I'm all alone!" thoughts in my head and I start looking at every little thing as a sign that I'm right, even when it very well might not be. 
  • Resist the "yeah, but". You know what I mean. It's the "That person did reach out. Yeah, but they live so far away. It's not like we can hang out." Or "Well this person mentioned going for coffee. Yeah, but they're not one of my best friends. My best friends should be reaching out." Because when you 'yeah but', what that's implying is that these people reached out, but they're not enough. Not only is that completely unfair to those people who are making the effort, but you could be shutting out people who could really be supportive - and who you might be able to support in return. 
I've actually learned, at least at times, to use the loneliness as a lesson, and an experiment of sorts. I KNOW there are others out there who feel the same way, if I let myself think with any reason. I know there are people who can relate, and who I might really enjoy talking to and getting to know - and hopefully vice versa - if I only opened my mind a bit. So now when I feel lonely, I try to consciously pay attention to those people who reach out that maybe I didn't expect (in addition of course to those who I did expect). I've heard from people completely out of the blue who now have become friends that I regularly contact. It doesn't mean you're not lonely, that you don't wish this person or that person cared more, that you aren't hoping to meet that special man/woman if you're feeling alone relationship-wise. But it helps me not ignore those people who are right in front of my face if I'd only look for them. And I find I don't have to be nearly as lonely as I thought.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Keeping My Cool

If you're my Facebook friend or follow me on twitter, you've probably seen some recent posts/tweets about what I'm calling, for the moment, my mystery illness. Aptly named because basically the doctor told me my symptoms are puzzling but nothing more.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but I have Epstein-Barr virus (not the mystery illness, well-documented). I got it when I was in fifth grade and once it's in your system, it's in your system for life. If you're not familiar with Epstein-Barr, it's often referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome though technically the two differ.  About three weeks ago, I started feeling like I was having a flare up. Which I haven't had, at least to my knowledge, in years. And by years I'm talking like 10-12, at least. I was exhausted beyond reason - something that even with my sleep issues isn't typical of my generally over-energetic self. Then two weeks ago, I started having horrendous dizzy spells that made me literally have to hold onto furniture in order not to drop like a stone. I attributed them to various things - medication reactions, low blood sugar, etc - and figured it a coincidence that they happened so close together. Though they seemed to linger on and on - way past the point that the medication should be affecting me and after I'd ensured I had plenty of food in my system.

After about four episodes close in time with the same pattern - horrible dizziness and disorientation, trouble gripping and weakness in my right hand, followed by several days of sheer exhaustion and stabbing headache - I decided it was time to go to the doctor. So I spent my Valentines Day getting a medical exam, an EKG, and blood work, and waiting for my insurance to approve an MRI of my head/brain. Nothing says sexy like a paper gown with an opening in the front and a bunch of electrodes stuck all over you.

With my kinesiology degree and background in the health field, I know just enough to be dangerous. I know several things that can cause all of these symptoms simultaneously. The doctors have said they're particularly worried about one-sided weakness and lack of grip strength. I also know several reasons this might be. I know that they asked me if I had a history of seizures. Not counting my allergic reaction to the DPT shot (because this was a very pinpointed reaction, not caused by a condition), I have not. I'd rather not start making history now. Despite my suspicions, the doctors won't tell me what they are looking for in the MRI. Several people have asked me why, and it's quite simple - they don't want to worry me for no reason. I appreciate that, in theory. In reality, it just gives my brain more directions to wander.

So I sit in a waiting game. They told me there's actually a chance that I might not be approved for an MRI. What we do then, I don't know. I guess they try to recode it and make the insurance company see the importance of it so they approve it. Or I suck up my $1500 deductible and just get it done. But for now, I'm trying to work and write as long as I can focus on the computer. I'm trying to keep upright as often as possible so I keep as awake as possible. I'm trying to eat rather well so that I stay healthy otherwise while I'm not super active and can't work out.  I'm trying not to be a Google detective (though I'll admit I have searched once) and trying to keep my cool.

I'm keeping a relatively low profile while this is going on. Not because I don't want to talk to or see people, but because I am focusing on those people who reach out, who want to keep in touch and/or see me even when I'm not my usually energetic self and can't go out for drinks and such. Also, quite simply, I haven't had much energy.  And while I'm not being the social butterfly I traditionally am, I welcome communication and company so please, feel free to drop me a line or a text or whatever. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why I Don't Want To Be Perfect

I am not perfect. Sorry to say, neither are you. Or the person next to you. Or the person next to him/her. Truly, nobody's perfect. Even the most seemingly perfect of people mess up, have their faults, make the wrong decisions from time to time. It's because they're human. And as humans, we have human nature. It might mean we get frustrated, stressed, lazy, jealous, angry, hurt.  It might even mean, ironically, that we're a perfectionist. I can honestly say that at some point or another in my life, I've been all of the above. Not consistently, and not at the same time, I hope. But maybe even for a few minutes. I'm not a lazy person, but I have moments of "I don't want to do a damn thing but turn on this crappy TV show and stare at it for a few minutes." The thing is - that's totally ok.

If you know me, you know I feel that "normal is boring" (also, a setting on the dryer - whichever phrase you prefer). I truly mean it. I actually like being imperfect. It allows me to learn and grow, to adjust and evolve. If I did everything perfectly the first time - or ever - how boring would that be? I'd go through life, day after day, doing the same thing, being perfect. Yuck! Do you know how many people I wouldn't have ever met if I was perfect? For instance, I've made some wonderful friends through blogging and social media posts about my condition. We share this amazing bond that,  if I was perfect, we wouldn't have.

Or take, for instance, the fact that I'm admittedly a very emotional person. Yes, I take things to heart that maybe I shouldn't. Yes, I put more stake in certain things said or done - or, as the case may be, not said or not done - than others might. Yes, it might cause disagreements and fights because of how emotional I can get. But guess what - that same ability to feel things deeply is the reason I'd drop everything and run to you when you're having a bad time and need a ear or a shoulder. It's the same reason I have forgiven so many things that most people think I never should have. I can put myself in people's shoes. I can feel their pain when they are truly apologizing and hurting because they've upset me. It's the reason those that I'm close to get personalized cards for their birthdays instead of a generic e-card. It's the reason I have, at times, given to others at the expense of myself (a bad habit perhaps, but it's tough to break because I truly care so deeply). It's the reason I try to go above and beyond for people in my life. I do these things because the emotional aspect of things is so important to me and I want to share that caring with others.

So no, I don't want to be perfect. Do I wish I didn't have a condition? Well, what's the point in that? I have it. I have to make the best of it, and so I look for the positive aspects and the positive things I can do with it. But here, perhaps is the best thing about me not being perfect and not striving to - I don't want you to be perfect either! How boring (see the theme here) would it be to be around someone that does everything perfectly. Not to mention, I'd feel like a total loser! Kidding. But seriously, I like others' quirks for the same reason I like mine. They make people more human.  Imperfection allows us to learn from each other, help each other, guide each other. That, to me, is beautiful. It's what makes the world go round.

So go out there today and (while keeping it legal and moral) be imperfect.  While you're at it, applaud others for their imperfections. Because otherwise, the world would be a really boring place. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Just Sitting

Sunday, as I ate breakfast at my favorite cafe, as I often do on weekend mornings (and some weekdays too, I'm not going to lie), I notice something a bit troubling.  As I got ready to dig into my bagel sandwich, I looked around urgently for some activity to accompany my eating. Should I continue reading my book while eating and hope not to get coffee and/or ketchup all over it? Should I pop open my computer and jump on Facebook or email? In the end, I settled for something less cumbersome - Words With Friends on my phone. Interestingly enough, there was one glaringly obvious option that I completely overlooked - just enjoy eating my breakfast!

As a Buddhist (or an aspiring one), I read a lot about just sitting in the moment and enjoying the action, however small, that you're participating in. If you're eating, thoroughly enjoy every bite. If you're cooking, focus simply on the action of chopping the vegetables. If you're waiting at the bus stop or sitting in traffic, take pleasure in the fact there's literally nothing else to do at the moment, rather than hoping for the bus to come quickly or the traffic to speed up. While I truly wish that I felt the ability to have this inner calm and contentment with every moment, my brain has trouble with it in practice. First off, I get bored. I want something else to actually do. Secondly, if I try to overpower this urge, my brain takes over and my thoughts race. As I sat eating my sandwich and playing Words With Friends, my brain got the idea for this blog and I started writing it in my head. Even doing two things at once didn't slow down my brain's desire to take on another task.

It's very difficult, in our go-go-go world with everything at our fingertips and every task due yesterday, to just simply sit, or eat, or listen to music, or watch the snow fall, or any other solitary and quiet task. And yet, how many times do you get somewhere and not remember the drive, or look back over your very busy day and not even be able to specifically say what you were doing that made it so busy? Ever find yourself part way through a phone conversation with a friend and realize you have no idea what the conversation is about because you've been checking email or sports scores? Embarrassingly I know I have - which is not fair at all to the friend. And I can't tell the number of times I've said "wow it's already xyz month? Where has the year gone?!".  If I wanted to be truthful with myself, I'd have to acknowledge that I don't know where it went because I wasn't really paying attention.

So I'm making a goal to try to fight my urge to quadruple-task every single moment, and force myself to slow down. I'm a realist, so I don't expect to savor every single bite of food or relish sitting in traffic. But I want to make a concerted effort to focus a little more on the moment. This isn't a prescription for "do whatever you want, you only live once" type of living in the moment, but rather an aim to take notice of when I desperately cling to doing five things at once because I can't imagine just sitting with myself and eating a bagel.

What one thing can you do to enjoy your moments a little more? Start small. Maybe it's playing the cell phone game when out to dinner with friends (you know, the one where you put your phones in the middle of the table and the first one to check theirs picks up the tab). Maybe it's not checking your email every time you come to a red light. Start to take a little notice of all of the times you double or triple book your attention, and pick one thing to work on. Hopefully after a while it becomes less work, and more enjoyable. When that happens, perhaps you can pick another habit and build on from there.

As always I'd love to hear your thoughts and what habits you think you could to work on.