Just breathe

Lately I have been under a lot of stress and my buckets are not only running dry but it appears I might have some sand at the bottom. Maybe even some tiger mussels. Is that a pop can?

I’m not the only one. A lot of people who are in my inner circle of friends and family are feeling stressed out. It’s like shoveling shit from a seating position and they keep bringing more trucks full of the stuff. Work, family, the things we are hearing on the news, the continued politicization of the pandemic, the cost of gasoline, ex-spouse shenanigans, and why is everything still so smokey outside?

There are times I feel guilty for being an emotional drain on those around me, so much to the point where I just withdraw. I’m not the only one. I’ve got baggage. I’m always honest about the baggage I carry around with others, but I’m not always honest about it with myself. I can handle it. I can carry it. I can do this without asking for help. I can do this all day!

Sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you just feel these little earthquakes rumble up from inside of yourself. One more phone call or text or email that comes in and you hear yourself saying “Oh what the fuck else?!”

There’s a thing called spoon theory that I learned about from someone who had cancer a long time ago. It goes like this. Every day we get a number of spoons. Everything we do uses a spoon. When we are out of spoons, that’s it. No more energy for the day. We might get ten spoons. We might get three.

When people talk about spoon theory, you know that you’ve been reusing your spoons. You’re not just out of spoons for the week on a Tuesday, but you’ve been eating soup with a fork for a while.

Money, kids, your job, family, relationships, court, whatever is on the News, sickness, self-doubt, trying new things, fighting Resistance, getting out of your own way, deadlines, annoying people, Other People’s Problems, and just about any other ingredient in this awful stew we have to stir and consume every day.

I hate when things get like this. I hate how I feel. I hate what I put others through in dealing with my anxiety, insecurity, stress, depression, guilt, and lately it feels like a tapestry of the stuff that has been woven over so many of us these days. As a recovering co-dependent, it is hard to not try to take responsibility for how others are feeling. Sure, you can try to help others–and you should–but you cannot feel what they are feeling for them. That is something each of us has to do for ourselves and we are stuck doing alone.

I’ve been reluctant to write about self-care and mental health because there is someone who just loves to screen cap my blog posts and use them against me in court. I wish as some point someone would realize that is sorta stalkery and I also wish they would understand that I’m trying to help other people with my words. That talking about these kinds of things is actually healthy. What isn’t healthy is being afraid to express yourself in a safe and constructive way. What also isn’t healthy is knowing someone who hates you is probably your most avid reader. So, I just keep talking.

Silence never did anybody any good when it comes to stress. Being seen. Being heard. It’s okay to let other people in and ask for help too. This platform just has a wider reach.

I’m not a fan of meditation. In my opinion, it is like being stuck in an elevator with the most annoying person in the world who just won’t stop singing that stupid Lambchop song. Unfortunately that annoying person is called Overthinking. Some days it’s “the Song that Never Ends” and other days it’s “I’m Henry the Eighth!” (Second verse! Same as the first!)

I don’t do drugs. I’ve had a psychologist suggest cannibis, but then he recanted and said “Naw, you’re paranoid enough”. It doesn’t help that whatever paranoia I have is spurred on by someone actively trying to wreck my life. Sometimes those monkeys come over into your circus. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.

But eventually there comes a point when you have to stop overthinking, worrying, imagining the worst case scenario, and just close your eyes and breathe. Just a few deep, slow breaths. In and out. It is hard to accept happiness when everything that is running out of you is pushing it away. Just like breathing, you have to take in the good air and breathe out the bad. If all we do is breathe out, we can’t take in what is good.

I guess if I were a spritualist, I would have to say that it is just being present in the moment. I am me. Living in this moment.

All the things that came before are over and we really don’t know what is to come. For those few breaths, we know that we are breathing. That is a fact. That is something solid enough to build the rest of your day around.

So, just remember to breathe.

Stress and the inconvenience of being a writer

In the last few days, things have become increasingly stressful. Sometimes life throws a curve ball–or fifteen–at you. As a long-time overthinker I have put that character trait to work by allowing myself to get the overthinking down as writing. The big problem with that, however, is writing is no longer optional. In order to wrap my brain around things, I have to put these thoughts down onto the page.

There are times when talking to someone else about things would be wonderful. This is what you get out of therapy, when someone else can see things through a different lens and offer their thoughts that aren’t boxed in by your own perceptions. Sometimes talking to friends helps, but friends don’t (and shouldn’t) want to spend all the time an overthinker needs to spend on a problem. They have their own problems, or after a while they just become exhausted by what is going on in your life. Sometimes I think of how great it would be to have a cooler older brother or sister to chat with. Someone who has their life together and can just floor you with a simple solution that works to fix everything.

But life isn’t like it is in the movies. You don’t go through two acts and have Robin Williams show up and say “It’s not your fault, chief,” and everything is suddenly better. This is another reason to get the words down. You can be your own Robin Williams. And you don’t have to put the heavy burden of being your Robin Williams onto those you care about.

Writing things down can help you make things linear which are difficult to make sense of, given a general mosaic of chaos. You can go through everything one step at a time and fight your battles in succession, rather than facing an entire angry mob of emotions. You can even come back to them after the storms have passed and remind yourself that even though it felt like the world was coming apart at the seams, you survived and those challenges which seemed so insurmountable then would not be so hard now.

├ůs for the good things, I enjoy writing about those too. Putting those thoughts and feelings down on paper allow you to step back in time and always have that memory with you. The scents, the way the light was falling on a hillside, the wind, the rain, the roar of a crowd, or the hum of tires on the road. Whatever you decide to put in that stew of memories will bring about all sorts of levels of flavor later on in ways you never imagined.

Anyway, even writing these thoughts down has helped and now maybe they will let me do something else with my talents, which until now I have been too rattled to focus on for very long. It’s always something, so they say. Right now I have a lot of challenges ahead of me and it’s hard to see what lies over the next hill or turn of the road. All I can do now is to continue driving ahead, moving forward.

Let’s see how this all works out.

Hello, Brain. (You bastard).

Last night I was up until 5am. I turned in for bed at around midnight. I thought I was tired. I was tired. I just lay there and turned over and over and over, unable to sleep. I read for a while. I’ve nearly read A Moveable Feast after just about a week, which is saying something for me. I’m a slow, careful reader. At about 3am, I sat up and using the Notes app on my iPhone, I wrote a short chapter, or at least a long scene. About 1700 words. Then I wrote notes for several other scenes. At 4:30, I said to hell with it, took another swig of Jamesons and went back to bed. It had no effect other than a fear that my teeth are going to rot out of my head at this rate.

I think I finally fell asleep at around 5am. I woke up to my 7:45am alarm, telling me to get my son out of bed and ready for online schooling which runs like IngSoc in 1984 with its 8am mandatory meeting and a whole slough of annoying Zoom chats and monitored time on reading an math apps scattered throughout the day. Because, you know, why be flexible with time in an online learning environment?

Dear school, I have some notes…

I went back to sleep and actually had some dreams, but I get woken up by the sound of cereal being poured, or my son talking to his teacher over the Zoom interface, or some asshole mowing his grass at an ungodly hour.

The problem is weird to explain to people and one I haven’t experienced in my life. It used to be that I could write any length of writing and feel satisfied. I would go to bed, feeling accomplished, and sleep like normal people. Only now I write, and then my brain says “Wait, remember this? If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget.” So I write it down. That and the 1,000 other things I need to get down. I feel this almost spiritual connection with the writing now. I am not the creator, but the facilitator, pulling these ideas from whatever source, and putting them into the story. The story needs me to tell it. The story won’t let me sleep until it feels like it has been written.

Sometimes I think when the story is done with me and I have outlived my usefulness, I will just drop over dead. At least I can rest if that is the case.

Dropping off social media has freed up a lot of time. But I can’t help but wonder if my sleeplessness has something to do with interrupting a familiar pattern. My Fear of Missing Out might be affected since I have the urge to open Facebook or Instagram, but really am apathetic as far as what I will see there. Right now I have email, Messenger, and WordPress.

Writing at night is what my brain wants to do. When my son is home, I’m not being interrupted by racket that he makes, having to stop and make meals, or pick up the messes he excels at leaving all over the house. There are not the endless questions and interruptions of a kid who is bored and starved of other human interraction because he is learning online.

When he is gone back to his mom’s, the house is too empty for a few days and I miss the sounds of someone else. There is no middle ground. But late at night, after the assholes in their hotrods stop racing up and down the highway, and there are no garbage trucks, or shitheads bouncing basketballs in the park behind my house, and only the sound of crickets or barking dogs is there to cradle my smoking mind, I can write. In the cool darkness. No landlady poking around with the lawnmowerman looking at trees, no door to door salesmen selling new shingles or extermination services.

Just me and the writing.

Too bad I also enjoy sleeping too.