Back Roads

Hello.

Once again, so much time has passed.  The thought of trying to chronicle the events of the past days is overwhelming and so, I don’t believe I’ll try.

I shall start writing and we will let the important stuff reveal itself…in it’s own time.

I do know for certain that the past days have been shadowed by a rather high level of continuous anxiety.  That is most certainly not helpful.  I have been consciously trying to deal with it by travelling along back roads and unbeaten paths metaphorically speaking. I’ve avoided social media, the news and anything else that could be potentially unsettling as much as possible.

I’ve tried to shed unneeded baggage for this portion of my travels…a full car load of superfluous belongings to the thrift store and another box almost full in the hallway. We’ve streamlined our school plans and made them more efficient and applicable to our lifestyle and my daughter’s learning style.  The housekeeping chores are limited to what has to be done and not what “should” be done.

Basically,  I’m trying to live more realistically and become comfortable with what works for us rather than what I believe the world expects.

This is a work in progress.  Trying to figure out what our new normal will be.  All of this is good stuff.  Steps towards the life I’ve claimed to want for so long…accelerated with a sense of urgency due to circumstances beyond my control.

It seems that losing control…or the illusion of control can have it’s good points.  The silver lining, so to speak.

And what has brought all of this anxiety and goal evaluation on?

Some of it you know about…

The incurable, progressive “whatever” that I have.  Not multiple sclerosis, which is good news, but something.  My doctor’s appointment is on the 18th.  I wait until then and try not to worry or anticipate, but to be patient.

Until then, I’m working my extra job at Sherwood Forest Faire and enjoying the company of some really fantastic individuals who bring me joy and lots of “food for thought”. Definitely good traveling companions for this life’s journey.  Still, it’s fairly obvious that this very physical job is more difficult for me this year than last.  That makes me sad and worry about what the future holds.

The bills for the medical procedures and appointments are coming in.  Our insurance is good, but doesn’t cover everything.  As I enter the amounts into “undebt it”, the program I’m using to track our progress in getting out of debt, I’m watching months added onto the timeline.  Still, we are doing okay financially.  The monthly bills are being paid.

There is something else going on that I can’t share as it is not really my story to tell.  In time, that will be written about.  Until then, I carry a lot of pride and fear for the individual concerned.  Even good decisions can cause stress.

I’m trying to concentrate on the journey and the beauty and joy that are certainly a part of it. Trying to travel at a slower pace so as enjoy the trip more and not miss anything. There are more frequent pauses along the way.  A fancy way of saying that I’m taking lots of naps.

I’m trying to be better about taking care of myself so that I can better care for those that I love.

I’m trying to travel slower and lighter and more intentional.  The same as in days past, but with a greater sense of need and urgency.  This is a conundrum of sorts. Urgency and need do not translate well into less stress and simplicity.

Life.

I’m trying to figure it all out.

Aren’t we all?

Journey well, my friends.

Prayers and blessings…

Kummerspeck

The sharing of words from my “new to me” thrift store book purchase continues…

Today, I am dealing with the aftereffects of kummerspeck (noun, German, excessive weight gained through eating as a means of relieving stress or strong emotion).

Today, I finally feel like I have beaten back the flu, the allergies, and the virus that mimics allergies…all basically resulting in congestion, coughing, and exhaustion.  I feel almost back to normal and can take a full breath without gasping for air.  Air is good.  Air in the lungs is even better.

Now, I can start back with my resolve to eat healthier and walk at least 10,000 steps daily.

Over a year ago, after my surgery, I went from weighing in the 230 range to 180 pounds. Since then I have slowly gained back a lot of the weight.

First, a skipped day of walking and then a junior hamburger.

Then some hot weather so a couple more skipped walks.

Then a half-price milkshake from Sonic.  (Note to self:  half-price does not mean half-calories)

Then a bad day (or two).

It all adds up to weighing 200 pounds again.

I am definitely a stress eater.  Almost any food is comfort food for me.

Thus, the word of the day:  kummerspeck.

I have too many health risks to live like this.

I have too many things that I want to accomplish to risk my life like this.

Healthier choices.

Smaller portions.

Food is fuel, not a reward.

The reward is feeling better.

It matters what I eat.

I matter.

 

 

 

What Now?

No writing the last few days…just a lot of thinking and a bit of keeping my mouth shut and some reevaluating my life.

This flu bug just keeps hanging on.  No fever, not really sick, but not feeling well either.  Lots and lots of coughing that’s threatening to become bronchitis.  I’m sure some allergens are responsible also.  I’ve been trying to take it easy and just do the really important stuff, but mainly thinking….

Thinking about the other night when I went into my studio and realized that my work table was once again so cluttered that I couldn’t actually use it.

One of the things on it was an old visual journal from 7 or so years ago.  It’s part of a box that I packed away about a year ago because I couldn’t make a decision about what to do with them.  And then I brought the box back out because there was an empty shelf in my new studio. Sigh.

I started paging through it.  There wasn’t actually much in it as far as original art went. There were a lot of articles about creativity and quotes.  There were some collaged pages using images and words from magazines.

I decided it wasn’t great stuff.  I reread the creativity articles and decided that they weren’t all that important.  You can find millions of articles in that vein on the internet.  I started copying some of the better quotes into a new journal and then realized that these can also be accessed anywhere anytime I might suddenly need a quote.

Then I came across a page that featured the words, “I need a pause button”.  I wrote about that just the other day right here in this blog.

The next page dealt with the issue of clutter…

And the next, dealt with finding time for creativity in the midst of life.

I burst into tears.

This journal is over 7 years old.

I’m still stuck in the same spot.

Sure, I’ll grant that I’ve made some progress.  There have been steps forward and steps backwards.  That’s how life works.

But…I have not changed my life significantly.  I am essentially still working on the same issues.

Insanity, right?  Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

I took the journal and went to the center of my labyrinth that I am constructing in my yard (it’s technically just a couple of circular rock piles, but let’s not judge…work in progress) and set the damn thing on fire.

We could be generous and say it was a ceremonial gesture ritually symbolizing significant change and hope for the future.

Let me be brutally honest.  That’s not what happened.  I was just a pissed off and enormously frustrated woman destroying something that I had previously found significant.

In reality, that journal was just another one of the hundreds of things that are in the way of what I claim to want.

So, it turns out that this year’s motto…Re-thing, Re-imagine, and Reflect…are the correct words for change.

I haven’t come up with any grand solution or any new plan.

It’s just very clear that the old ways aren’t working well enough.  I don’t have time to piddle around with these changes.  I’m not going to live forever!

For now, I’m sticking with sorting through things.  Hopefully, more ruthlessly and with a clearer understanding of what needs to go.

This thinking can’t just apply to belongings.  In fact, “things” are the least of my worries. Old habits, relationships, emotional baggage, and choices all need to be brought under the microscope.

What is beneficial?

What brings joy?

What is worthy?

What brings me closer to the life I envision?

Ugh.

Reality checks can be brutal…

and painful…

and enormously helpful.

Reality Check

So….what’s been happening since my last post?  Too much it seems.  And that’s not a new situation.  It seems that my body is sending me a reality check…via my eyesight.

And that has certainly caught my attention.

Here’s what’s been happening.

It all started mid-summer.  Remember mid-summer around here?  It’s okay if you don’t.  I can barely remember most of it and I was the one living it…a short re-cap:

Two of my oldest kids moved out on their own.  We were preparing to enroll our youngest in private school (after homeschooling all of our kids for the last 20 something years).  My sister had surgery that turned into a medical disaster of long-term duration.  We were in the middle of numerous renovation and just plain fix-it projects around the house.  We were caring for a seriously ill dog.

Am I forgetting anything?

Probably.

Let’s just say that I was feeling pretty stressed.

I noticed that I wasn’t seeing very well.  I figured that my eyeglass prescription had changed.  I was really busy.  I put off going into the optometrist.  Things didn’t get better.  I started moving my glasses to the top of my head and doing everything up close.  I started watching television without my glasses.  With my eyesight, that means I was listening to the t.v. and not actually watching it.  I started having headaches.  Driving at night was almost impossible.  I started avoiding the computer…important stuff like email and the budget.

I lived with it.  I pretended that everything was fine.  I didn’t really tell anyone. That’s what a “good” mom, wife, person does.  We soldier on.  That’s what I was raised to do.

At the end of December, my husband and kids dragged me to the eye doctor to get my new glasses.

During the exam (which I failed miserably) the doctor commented that my script hadn’t changed all that much.

Hmmm.

Interesting – since I can’t see much of anything…everything’s blurry.

We ran through the test again.

And that’s when I noticed it.

I was trying to read the whole line of letters.  And I couldn’t.  When I tried to focus on one letter at a time, they were going in and out of focus…rapidly.

When I mentioned it, the doctor said “hmmm”.  It’s one thing for me to say “hmmm”.  It’s another thing altogether for the doctor to say it.

Long story short (too late, I know!) it’s not my eyes at all.  It’s my brain.  I’m now seeing a neuro-developmental optometrist.  And having Neuro-Visual therapy.

I’m a reasonably smart person.

I don’t know crap about any of this.

Yet.

I’m learning.

There’s a lot of big words.

Basically, I’m stressed. Not “normal person I need a spa day” stressed.  I am apparently in constant “flight” as in the fight or flight thing.  I’ve heard references to this before from a psychiatrist when we were figuring out whether I was depressed or anxious (or both).  That’s why I take an anti-anxiety med.

I’ve lived with this for a while.

I write about it here.  I’m trying to live a more intentional life. I’m looking for joy.  I’m decluttering crap.  I’ve been working on it…I really have.

Apparently, I’m not doing enough.  Or I’m not doing it right.  Or….I don’t know right now.

I do know that this has all gotten my attention.  We talk about stress.  I know stress is bad.  I know it.  But I didn’t really know.

I knew that stress could cause problems physically.

I knew that it could happen…someday.

But this is scary stuff…right here and right now.

My body is tired and running too fast and things aren’t working right.

Right now, we are at a fixable point.

So, it turns out that my new slogans for the new year were spot on.

Rethink…

Reimagine…

Reflect…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walk

Yesterday, in an attempt to improve my health, I ventured into unfamiliar territory with my dogs.  It’s a route that I used to walk all the time, but haven’t traveled much in the past year or so.  The homes in our neighborhood are on 1 to 5 acre lots and its got lots of gentle hills…an ideal place to walk.

So, I leashed up Matilda the Basset and Barret the Dog and we started walking. We walked about a mile down the road, hit the dead end, and turned around.  The weather was beautiful and we were just slightly winded…having a good time.  All is well.

On the way back, however…

One of my neighbors, who I had not previously met, had let out (into her fenced yard) three of the biggest, bad-ass looking dogs that I have ever seen.  They may well be the sweetest dogs on the earth.  I try not to judge by appearances.

Matilda is one of those dogs that thinks every human and every dog on the planet is here to be her best friend (and rub her belly).  She is also very vocal.   Barking away, she tries to run up to the fence and say hello.

I try to discourage her.

She does not want to be restrained.

She really wants to meet these dogs.

I am becoming entangled in her leash.

She pulls out of her collar.

I am completely hobbled by her leash.

She is at the fence.

The three dogs go wild.

Matilda is baying.

The three dogs are gnashing their teeth and lunging at the fence.

Spittle is flying.

They are all running up and down the fence.  Matilda is apparently unaware that they want to completely rip her to shreds.

Barret decides to come to her rescue.  Barret is a very, very scary dog when he gets riled up.

The neighbor comes outside screaming.

I am still tangled in the leash and my shoe has become untied.

The dogs are raising holy hell.

I can’t hear what the neighbor is screaming so I think she is yelling at me.

I’m apologizing…we are in her yard and my dog is loose.

Turns out she is yelling at her dogs and not me.

I am trying to get untangled and retrieve Matilda and keep Barret from going over the fence and introduce myself.

At this point, Matilda grows tired of “playing” with the three dogs and catches the scent of a rabbit.

When a Basset catches the scent of a rabbit, what little brain function they have shuts down and pure instinct takes over.  They will run for miles.  This property backs up to over 300 acres of undeveloped cedar and rock.

As I finish the pleasantries with my neighbor (which we are yelling at each other over the chaos of the four dogs trying to kill each other) I manage to free myself from the leash and hand Barret’s leash to my new friend.

“I’ll be right back!”

I take off after Matilda. I can hear her baying as she runs.  The path she has chosen is uncleared , cedar covered, rocky terrain. After climbing and sliding through a 6 foot deep rock ravine about a half mile away, I finally catch up with her.  She has come to a wildlife fence and stopped to rest. She is very pleased with herself and happy as can be.

I pin her in place with one knee and finally tie my shoe.

Then, I hoist up her long, wriggly, loose-skinned 50 pound body and balance her on my shoulder. I’m not trusting the collar again.  We hike back through the ravine and cedar.  Matilda is drooling down my back.

I retrieve Barret from the neighbor and once again apologize for the whole fiasco.

Then begins the long trek home. We still have almost a mile to go.

Today, I think we’ll take another route for our walk.

Stopping the Waves

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”  -unknown

So…I’ve been having a rough time of it lately.  Too much time has been spent trying to keep my head above water and battling the waves of life.

I can be a slow learning or put another way…I can be incredibly stubborn and become so intent upon reaching a goal that I hurt myself, and anyone on the journey with me while plowing forward.

Hurricane force winds…no problem.  I’ve got this.  Crashing waves…I’ve got a floatie from the Dollar Store.  Caught in an undertow…I can still see the shore so all is well.

And then comes another wave.  Small or large – it doesn’t matter.  I’m going under and everything is topsy-turvy and I don’t know which way is up and I can’t breathe and all is hopeless.

Learning to surf is a good idea.  Coping strategies are great.  They can be useful, or even essential, for dealing with the waves.

But, I think I’ve finally learned, once and for all, that sometimes I’ve just got to get out of the water and rest.

Simplifying is a great concept.  Hard to implement, but I still believe in it.  But, sometimes I’ve got to go one step further and just put a stop to everything that I can.  I still have to go to work.  Some school still has to be done.  Minimum housework is a necessity, but…

I don’t have to take on new projects or actively work on anything that isn’t urgent

Reading is a perfectly acceptable way for my daughter to “do school”

Home improvement chores can wait for a bit

Facebook will keep on chronicling

The election will still happen

I can remember that the world will keep on spinning without me and my furious bustle of activity.

Why is it so hard for me to accept that anxiety and depression are real?  Why do I feel the constant need to prove that I am worthy?  Why do I consider it “lazy” to rest when I am tired and need to recover from stress overload?

Last week, I practiced being kind to myself.  I rested.  I watched Netflix.  I colored.  I paged through magazines.  I read a book.

I didn’t make lists of things that needed to be done.

Today, I’m ready to dip my toes back in the water.  I’m just going to hang out there for a bit and see how it feels.  I’m giving myself permission to step back out and go back onto solid ground if I need to.  I don’t think that I’m ready to surf, but we shall see.

Anxiety is a real thing.  It causes real physical changes in our bodies.  It can make us more than tired. It can make us sick.  It can keep us on the shore and out of life entirely.   It is not something to ignore or make light of.

We don’t have to let it win.

I’m not going to let it win.

I’m going to learn how to spend some of my time surfing, some of my time wading in the shallows looking for shells and some time sitting in the sand and watching the waves come in…

Balance.

Solid Ground

Hello.

I’m still here.  And, believe it or not, I’ve been thinking about y’all a lot although I haven’t written.

I haven’t written here that is.  I’ve composed many a blog in my head, but honestly haven’t been able to summon the energy to reach out into the world and share – thoughts, feelings or stories.

I’ve identified a new truth about myself and have been spending some time in reflection as a result. After a period of challenges and stress, I have a need to pull in my borders and become a bit of a recluse.  In the past, I believe that I’ve resisted the tendency to do so because it was a sign of weakness.  I don’t believe that to be the case anymore.

August and September were really hard.  I’ve probably mentioned that more than once…

My sister was seriously ill…it is only just the last week or so that the full effects of her illness are being identified.   A lot of the issues are resolving. Some will not.  We are finding a new normal.

My daughter started private school which was a big transition from a relatively unschooling lifestyle.  Time was in short supply and she didn’t get all the attention and support she deserved.  She coped beautifully.  I am so impressed with her.  We struggled to cope with assignments and deadlines and hoped it would all become a comfortable routine – in other words, normal.

Our precarious financial situation deteriorated under the demands of everything that was going on.  Tempers grew short as we all became overwhelmed.  We were all stretched to the limit. We all longed for our old problems, our old life…what had been normal.

It is all too evident that once life has stretched beyond tolerable limits, it doesn’t rebound back into it’s normal proportions.

Things have changed and we can’t go back.

We can; however, seek solid ground and get our feet back underneath us.  And that is what we have done.

I’ve allowed myself to pull back from outside commitments and concentrated on family and myself.  The news has been switched off and I trust that the world will keep on spinning.  There is only so much that I can do and to attempt to do more only results in anxiety, anger, frustration and hopelessness.

Our daughter is back home and we are instigating  a learning plan that fits our needs.  We learned a lot about what works for us, and what doesn’t as far as education goes.  This week has been very good indeed.

The budget is back on the drawing board as we  reassess our goals and the reality of what we can and can’t do to improve our financial situation.

The dreams and plans that we were so excited about at the beginning of the new year last January have been brought back out into the forefront.  We’re evaluating and making adjustments in light of all that has transpired.

And, most importantly, we are resting and actively seeking joy.  There was very little fun and laughter in the last two months.  That must change.

I am exited about having identified my need to stop and rest and recover from hard times…to heal from the damaging results of stress.  Forcing myself to continue on when I’m exhausted and anxious isn’t being brave and strong.  It’s a huge mistake.  It makes me miserable and when I’m miserable…the whole family is miserable.

It’s important to learn from the past, let go of regrets and move on into the future.

So, for now it’s rest and laughter and family as we become comfortable in our new normal.

 

Losing It!

Last week ended on a rough note. I kinda lost it. I was so frustrated with life that I just blew. All the little (and some big) things that I’ve been dealing with pretty well, just started to seem like insurmountable hurdles…

The washer?  I’ve been okay with waiting on a new one or a new to us one and have been pretty patient – maybe not happy but working on a plan to get a new one. Until – Matilda the Basset Hound ate a whole lotta cream cheese that she stole off of the counter and threw up all over the sofa. Every stinking sofa cushion. And the stinking is an adjective in more ways than one. Yuck. The washer may sound better with our “poverty fix”, but it’s not washing very well. Yuck. I could only wash a slipcover or two at a time and even then they didn’t look or smell much better. I confess that I took the stick out that holds the washer at the appropriate angle and tried to beat the washer to death.  Didn’t even dent the washer – shattered the stick. Might have scared a few family members in the process.  Sorry guys.

The bad mood continued for two days. Bad moods aren’t productive. They happen because we are human, but they don’t solve any problems. They just create more – like guilt, anger, hurt feelings and headaches. I’ve gotten back to work on the three biggest issues that are causing our life to be less than perfect – the three main obstacles to a simpler, more intentional life:

  • Clutter and it’s contribution to an untidy, less than serene home
  • A diet and exercise that contributes to better health and to us feeling better mentally and physically
  • Financial well-being which includes better money management, a savings account and paid-off debt.

On Friday, we went to Houston to help our second daughter move into her first home post-graduation from college.  She moved from a suburb of Houston to almost down-town.  She did a lot of research and found a cute little apartment in a great neighborhood at a reasonable price.  Very proud of her.  Did I mention that it’s on the third floor?  She decluttered a lot of stuff, but the apartment is still on the third floor. A big thank you goes out to family in Houston that dropped everything on a Saturday and came to help haul stuff up. Up to the third floor in case I forgot to mention it.

She has inspired me to come home and recommence the decluttering effort. I can’t imagine (and don’t want to) what it would take to move us at this point. More has gotta go.

Anyway, I’m working on trimming down the budget some more to increase our debt snowball plan. I went back to look at the totals when we first started so I could feel a little bit more encouraged about the whole process and we have made some!

I’ve re-subscribed to The Fresh 20 meal that we used to use. I’m not advertising here, but I find it to be really helpful. I got an email for 40% off the subscription and it seemed like a good omen. I like it for three reasons:

  1. It helps limit the amount of groceries I buy. I tend to overbuy and we waste some food or just have too much in the pantry. I’d rather have just what we need and use the extra cash to pay on a bill.
  2. It includes a lot of veggies and fruit so we eat healthier. It’s reviewed by a dietician so I feel better about our diet.
  3. The main reason. I don’t have to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner.  That’s less stress for me and we are less likely to eat out at the last minute because I didn’t have a plan.

I’m getting closer to an actual budget (as opposed to a spending record).  I’m using You Need a Budget  which I find to be very friendly for a non-numbers person like me. The subscription is $5 monthly which is worth it for me because it helps keep me on track (and does the math for me). I just found out about Mint which is a free online budget. I’m trying it out, but am struggling with it a bit. It doesn’t track debts as well that are closed credit accounts or medical debts. It links to open credit accounts and automatically tracks payments, interest, and balances. Once again, not an advertisement – just information on what’s working for me.

And that’s why this post is titled Losing It.

Last week, I lost it and had a complete meltdown.  That sucked and was not helpful.

Now I’m to lose it in a good way:

  1. Lose more stuff!
  2. Lose food waste, unhealthy food and lose weight!
  3. Lose unnecessary budget expenses and debt!

Life is all about choices.  I’m going to keep trying to make good ones.

Festivities

Hello!

Did you miss me?

I’ve thought about writing many times over the past days, but was busy with the festivities and then recovering from them.

But, I’m back (sorta).

We had a great Thanksgiving celebration.  We sat nineteen celebrants at one long feast table that my son helped me create out of tables, desks and a door.  The food was plentiful and almost all good. Nothing is ever perfect, but it was close.

It was a fun mixture of family, old friends and new ones.  We played games, watched football, may have decluttered the inventory in the booze cabinet and…

for entertainment we had a guy breath fire and twirl a fire staff.  Betcha can’t top that!

I was fairly successful at keeping my perfectionism at bay and controlling my stress level.  Lots of cleaning didn’t get done and the house is a fair disaster now.  I do think the decluttering helped a lot.

I think I’m going to continue on with the game of decluttering five items.  There is definitely stuff that I have in readiness for a big meal or lots of guest that I never used last week:  dishes, linens, towels and the like.  Those can probably go.  And now that we are fully into cold weather, I’m finding some clothes that I don’t wear.  I pull them out, try them on, and take them back off again.

My health is moving to the forefront of my attention now.  Over the last six months or so I’ve been paying less attention to what I eat and one day of not walking become two and then a week and then a month.  During the holidays I ate whatever I wanted and can really tell the difference in the way I feel.  The fitbit is back on.  The veggies are back in the fridge. The carbs are going into someone else’s mouth.  I miss feeling good.  This tired, sluggish feeling sucks.

Celebrations are good.  Normal (boring) routine is also good.  I’m actually ready to cook a small meal, do some school, make some art, and read a book.  And definitely take a nap.

But first, I need to go finish the Thanksgiving dishes – don’t judge.  Most of them are done!  There’s just the odd glass here and maybe a few pans that needed to soak.  Maybe not for five days, but hey, I’m trying.  Remember, we are all works in progress.  Imperfect, but making an effort.

Decluttered today:

  1. 3 sweaters that are itchy (and ugly)
  2. 2 dessert plates
  3. some socks with no matches
  4. a wooden gate that is missing pieces and therefore doesn’t actually work as a gate at all.
  5. a box of thumb tacks