Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: stress Page 1 of 2

A “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” Kind of Story

Or “Why I Haven’t Written”

I apologize upfront for the plethora of complaining words you are about to be tortured with, but I did say I was sharing my journey and that means wherever it takes me, not JUST the happy/joy reading journey. This is my story and sometimes I just gotta purge the dark parts so that the light can shine back in.

story
Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Ok, my friends, here we go. I’ve been mulling over and putting off sitting down with this laptop all morning. I did get it out and sit down to write…something…but then checked my social media, became distracted, felt like I really should eat something, and then, I don’t even know what I want to say anyway, so I got up and put it away.

While I was eating breakfast (the one I got, not the one I probably should have eaten), I had a flash about what I wanted to say. I finished reading Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman on Monday morning, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, I did have some t

And it’s gone…dan walked in talking about propane and solar … like I have any idea what he’s talking about. This must be exactly how he feels when I walk in telling him what the cat just did while he’s working.

I cannot focus. It’s impossible.

Goes back and starts over again.

And a text now…

Let’s try this again. I turned the ringer off.

I did have some thoughts on mythology in general and a pretty neat story to tell about a dream I had.

I wrote down a note for myself and went to take a shower, came back only to feel like…what’s the point of any of this? I have at least a thousand things to do. I started reading another book yesterday and I’m so in love with it that I can’t put it down, but I can and do because I can’t focus on anything more than about 45 minutes at a stretch.

And then there’s the housework that needs to be done. The dishes are stacked up, I’m behind on my weekly chores because I was out of town the last two days. Laundry to do. AND the house is in general disarray because we’re remodeling the back bathroom and I haven’t finished repainting the guest room, the one filled with my sons’ extra clothes they didn’t take with them when they moved, along with a bunch of other crap I’m not sure what to do with. Stuff out of place makes my mind feel out of place, and now that it’s only my husband and I living here, it should be easier to downsize, clean up, and keep things in place. But it’s not.

I have a photo album I’m working on, several quilting projects, yard work that needs tending before it gets to0 hot, and I’m making two Viking shields to decorate the post where my driveway meets the road because…people need to see where I live.

Don’t even get me started on making better food choices, getting some exercise, and meditating to relax and put all this angst in its place. Oh…and I need to make plans to see family and friends and with gas prices going up again, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be trapped in this desert all summer with no relief.

And then there’s this blog. What happened? When I told myself that I had to write SOMETHING every day, I did, without trouble really. Sure, they weren’t all brilliant, but they were there. It made me feel good to get that done, see the writing streak grow, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. I’m not building anything. I’m not sure what I’m doing anymore, or maybe I never did.

So here I sit…still wondering what to do. All these words and I haven’t even gotten to what I came to write about today in the first place.

I have an idea. A restart. Today, I’ll share these thoughts, set my books aside and clean the house up, go to the grocery store, make dinner, and then enjoy my evening. Tomorrow morning, I’ll add “write and post” back into my morning routine. It means more to me than anything else, even if it just goes on forever just the way it is. Letting it go is feeling overwhelming nasty and poisonous in my heart.

See you tomorrow. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. The gods have spoken!

Log Rolling for Life

The sport of log rolling is a perfect analogy for my life. I try to stay on top as long as I can, but I inevitably fall into the water. My only solace is that I’ve gotten better at getting back up over the years. And sometimes the water is nice, so I stay down a while and enjoy that moment.

“…great adventures await you if you give yourself a little time to string moments of awareness together, breath by breath, moment to moment.” From Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

As you probably remember, this past November and December got away from me. I ended up in the water and I wasn’t happy about it. I thrashed and screamed, instead of finding my way back on top. My struggling didn’t fix anything, it made it harder to find my footing again. And it made the lives of the people around me more stressful.

At the end of the year, I realized what had happened (somewhat) and decided to take January at home, doing nothing, to recuperate. February started to pick up, and then as March began to get planned out on the calendar, I started feeling that panic. I was losing my balance.

Yesterday was when I started feeling it in my guts. I did start to cry a little, but I didn’t lose my temper, and I didn’t call everything off. I did take a few deep breaths and let some thoughts go, and I finished the day. But in the evening, as I started to fall asleep, I started thinking…and then couldn’t sleep.

Today, the log is still floating and the only way to stay on top of it is to keep my feet moving and stay balanced. Focus is the key and I’m working on that.

I’m going to enjoy another busy day and not think about tomorrow, or the rest of the week, or the plans for the following week. Not right now. Each time I start to feel that panic, the “I’m not going to get to rest, I can’t get it all done” feeling that tightens my chest and races my heart, I’m going to take a breath. Just like when I meditate, I’ll stop a moment and feel my breath move in, fill my chest and belly, hold it a beat, and then deflate. Quietly, without drawing attention to myself. I’ll give myself one focused moment alone, and then return.

Something I realized about myself recently is that I do have a fear of missing out. Not in the sense that I see something someone else is doing and want to experience that too, but in a personal way. If I don’t respond to that text, read that book, keep the house clean, make the food from scratch, go visit that person, I feel like I’ll lose them all forever.

It’s crazy making. And it needs to stop.

People love me, even when they don’t hear from me every day. If I don’t do the laundry today, it will get done tomorrow. If I don’t finish that project this week, I’ll get to it next week.

Or not. That’s ok too. I can’t do everything I want to do. I can’t have everyone I want in my life at all times. I don’t have the resources for it: time, energy, money, etc. If I am here right now, focused on what I AM doing, I’m not wasting time and missing out.

That’s my goal today. Be here right now, enjoying what I have in my hands, not worrying about what tomorrow may bring, or what’s going on with friends and family when I’m not available.

Aggression or “Don’t Drive Angry!”

My dear reader, the aggression that I see on the roads has got to stop. Really.

Yesterday, I was telling you about how I had disconnected myself from the news media completely. I posted, and then got in the car to drive down the hill, still thinking about it. I started to shuffle through my list of podcasts but set it aside. I needed to think quietly a while, so I set my notebook out with my pen ready just in case I needed to capture anything that floated by.

I started thinking, “You know, Michelle, everyone is going to think you’re crazy.” I kept imagining the questions and the scoffs. I’m not new to this. I’ve attempted to explain before. But I always come up short-handed. I can’t seem to get my ideas through.

I jotted down, “principles: there’s a list of principles I go by when considering information” and then I sat in traffic trying to get out of the basin and my thoughts were scattered.

My town, and the surrounding area, is filled with extremely aggressive drivers. Do we not understand the basic rules of the road? Am I mistaken in believing that the point is to get where you’re going safely, not get there first? I didn’t know we were in a race to the finish. I watched people vie for pole position, pass me (in a no passing area due to major construction at 30 mph over the posted speed limit) almost forcing me into a wall when they hit the turn, and aggressively not allow other cars to merge into traffic as if they were in line for a prize and would miss out if someone “cut in front of them.”

I started to wonder (as I sat in the twenty minutes of stop-and-go caused by a lack of understanding of traffic patterns, something easily fixed, but you know, screw those people), is our driving aggression a reflection of how we are all feeling right now?

It reminded me of Groundhog Day.

Aggression in drivers.

I get it. Life is complicated. We’re all a tad upset and unnerved these days, but do we need to make it worse by attempting to kill each other on the way to work, school, and the grocery store?

Apparently, the answer is yes. I can’t change that, but I can drive defensively, respond not react, and let things go. Which brings me back to those principles I was thinking of when I started.

Not devouring the news doesn’t mean that I don’t care about what’s happening in the world, but there are natural limits to everything, and I choose to put my energy resources only into things that I can do something about personally.

When something comes into my life, I research what I should do about it, do what I can, and let the rest go. I am not always successful. There are times when I become overwhelmed. I hear something, google it, start to read news articles, and then start to panic. How will this affect me? What will happen? Will my loved ones get wrapped up in this? What can I do? We have to do SOMETHING! Rally the troops! We’re going to war over this!

Ugg. It gets ugly. But I am getting better at it. The space between receiving information and responding to it is getting wider through practice.

In the same way that I’ve chosen to deal with traffic, I deal with rest of the world around me. I limit my news sources to those that seem the least inflammatory and urgent, like printed magazines and books. Once a week, I listen to a few choice podcasts, interviews and conversations mostly. Online, I limit my interactions to those that are fun and entertaining, and I share only that which I am personally experiencing. That’s my version of “defensive.”

I try to respond to the world around me in peace instead of reacting in anger and frustration, as much as possible. I am human, so I fail often, but I do learn.

And the rest…I let go.

This is what is bringing me more peace. This is what is making me a better person than I was. And this is how I’m trying to make my surroundings better than how I found them.

Self-Inflicted Stress Ramble

Prepare yourself for a self-inflicted stress ramble of a mildly epic proportion. Can you have something be “mildly epic?” Seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

Self-Inflicted Stress Visual Representation
A Drawing of My Mind

Stressing out. Too many things to do. Too many plans. Not enough time. Down time needs to be included. I can’t simply keep running from one thing to the next. Books to read, posts to write, housework to do. Grocery store, visit friends, hiking, shopping, hanging out. Cooking, talking, texts, articles to read. Yard work and laundry. TV shows. Sleep.

I have notes from my last three drives that I’d love to talk about. I’m thinking about a shift in my blog subjects. Reading a lot less. That is stress too, but I read to connect and hear other people’s stories when I’m alone. Jake is home. I want to focus there, while the real person is here. I know my time is short.

Mental health. Fun and interesting new discoveries I’ve made through a podcast and some Instagram posts, which I know are not real therapy. I need time to sit and process.

Looking at my week. Is posting daily an impossible task? I’m not sure where I’m going, what I’m going to do next. Do I need a plan? Or should I just go back to more journal like thoughts? SEO has hijacked my thinking and blocking my process.

More books on my TBR shelf. Ones I need to read, ones I think will help.

Phone calls, dishes, repairs to make. Craft projects and room rearranging. Road trips planned. Time away from home.

Time. There isn’t enough.

I’m looking for a meditation workbook/journal, one that will help me focus on self-love, a little help in the self-acceptance, letting go of expectations, and kind of thing to work on as a new piece of my morning routine. Any ideas?

I know it’s self-inflicted stress. I have no external authority or task masters. Something has to give and I have to choose it.

I’ll be back here. I promise. See you Monday.

A Walking Meditation with a Friend Invites Our Minds to Slow Down

The clouds of a storm being pushed through the pass and spreading out over the desert. Like the walking meditation, the wide open space slows the storm down.
A storm being pushed through the pass and spreading out over the desert.

When you think of a walking meditation, you probably think of being alone with your thoughts, quiet contemplation, and frequent stops to just take a deep breath. Mine are something quite different.

I’m a noticer. Go for a walk with me anywhere and you’ll see it. Even in my own neighborhood, I walk along excitedly pointing out plants, animals, clouds, and…ideas. When I have things on my mind, which is always, walking helps me sort it out.

I don’t like to walk alone.

It’s the talking that I need, getting out of the metal loop. I need that the other human that will listen and bounce things back at me.

Yesterday I walked with a friend. We took “the longer route” around the neighborhood. I had things to sort out, conflict that need to be looked at and resolved.

We headed north down the dirt road. I pointed out the place where it floods every time it rains a lot, the kind of mud that you can’t drive through because the tires slip every which way in it when you attempt to climb the driveway. And it reminded me of the track my sons raced at that had that terrible river silt mud that would slip out from under your feet or get so deep it would suck your shoes off.

We met the dogs at the end of the road and I predicted their behavior. The one leaping and barking like she’ll eat you. Rottweilers seem so vicious behind a fence, like Cerberus guarding the gates of hell, until you’re invited inside, and they commence to loving you. The older Australian Shepard runs the length of the fence, chases her tail, runs back, chases again, barking the whole time. The two will get into skirmishes about who is doing a better job and chasing off the intruders, while two goats stand watching and wondering what all the excitement is about.

Making another turn, we find the abandoned razor scooter that has been laying there for several years. I still wonder how it got there. It’s a dirt road full of sandy ruts, not the place some kid would be riding it, accidently leaving it behind.

Dogs bark behind every fence we pass, rural alarm dogs. They warn us that someone is approaching the house, but it’s usually coyotes they are barking at. After a while, every owner knows the different barks. The visitor at the door, delivery truck, large bird, invading dog, coyote, all their barks are distinct. They’ve been doing that job long before surveillance cameras.

We keep walking and talking.

When one part of my brain is busy keeping my feet going in one direction, noticing and identifying all the mundane things around me, another part of me begins to relax and open up. Then I start to talk, ask questions, and listen to answers. My emotions take a slower, more regulated pace so that I can identify them and sort them out, then I can begin to respond instead of react to the things I’m feeling.

It’s a long walking meditation where the good stuff starts to happen.

The same part of me that makes me jump from the car screaming “Real prairie dogs!” is the same part that makes me scream, “You’re not the boss of me!” and “This is the worst day ever!”

Most people don’t tell you to tone your joyous reactions down. Some do, trust me. I’ve heard them. “You’re making us look bad, Michelle. Can’t you settle down?” “Try not to be too enthusiastic. It’s hard to keep up.” They are few and far between, but I know they are still out there. I see them at the grocery store when my sons and I are getting loud about the cost of an item or that there are no Vege Tables (more like Vege Stacks, my son says).

Almost anyone will tell you tone down your anger, frustration, or sadness.

They don’t want to see that part of you. And why is that? Why do we label one emotion as good and the other as bad? Why can’t I say, “I’m sad today and the whole world sucks ass!” without someone saying, “Don’t act like that!”?

I feel like I’ve spent my whole life being told that some emotions are negative and should be avoided. The result of that has been me not knowing what to do with those emotions. Like a small child with no place for the big emotions to go, I end up having a tantrum, yelling, and looking for ways to hurt others the same way I’m hurting.

“I need attention! Help me with this feeling!” I feel myself yelling in my head. What I get in return is a time-out. I’m left alone to deal with those feelings, and nothing gets resolved. I only hurt in quiet or lash out in anger for being a human being.

I don’t blame the people around me for doing it. We don’t know any other way. This is the way we raise our children, and this is the adult behavior we get from it. You end up being good at being alone with your “bad” feelings, avoid them, or start using coping mechanisms to deal with it. None of them are healthy.

Raising my own children through Peaceful Parenting methods (and I can hear people that know me laughing at ME using the word “peaceful”) helped me notice where I lacked in relating to other people. Finding Radical Unschooling, helped me learn new ways of learning. Both approaches to raising children have changed how I develop my adult relationships.

Michelle, you’re doing it again. What does this have to do with going for a walk with a friend?

Everything! Walking with my family is the way we made time and space for the big emotions that lead to the deep conversations and connections. The longer and easier the walk the better. Now that my children are grown and on their own, I’m more focused on my adult relationships and that’s where the walking meditation comes in.

I’ve been doing it for years, but this past weekend is when I noticed the connection. We had a lot on our minds to talk about but never found the time. We’re always doing something or going somewhere. I instinctively asked for a long walk and while we were walking, it dawned on me what was happening and now I can use the process deliberately.

When I ask a friend to go hiking with me, I’m asking them to make time and space for connection. I’m saying, “Let’s talk. I know we all have things we need to get off our minds.” It’s better than a cup of coffee or a few beers. It’s focused “us” time with a bonus of exercise!

Hot Tip: If there’s some reason you can’t walk; weather, health, etc., try a driving tour. It works the same way.

It’s That Old Feeling of Overwhelm Again

“Post, a man of his times, tapped into a fin-de-siecle American fear. The pace of change – with telegraphs, electricity, railroads, ticker tapes, and economic booms and busts – seemed overwhelming.”

Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast

This was the turn of the last century, 1897. Can you imagine someone being transported from then to now? I believe it would hit him like a ton of bricks. Our pace of change – with the internet, smart phones, social media, 24-hour news, and economic booms and busts – is overwhelming to most of us and we aren’t even aware that we’re feeling it.

Can you feel it creeping up on you, that sense of overwhelm?

We are told, by our social media friends and advertising, that we should be doing more to stay on top of things, follow this, vote for that, boycott these companies, and rage against these kinds of people. We should be raising our children, maintaining a career, and building our bodies and minds at the same time. And don’t forget all the other atrocities that are happening all over the world so that you can have your $3 drive-thru coffee on the way to whatever it is you are going to do!

We feel bad when we slow down and unplug. As if the world’s activities are somehow our responsibility and we’re slacking big time.

In response to this silent and sneaking sense of overwhelm, we lash out at each other in anger and frustration every chance we get.

And thanks to our instant electronic connection with the entire population of the world, we get that chance very often. We send ripples of intensity, fear, sadness, electronic screams out into the world with every keystroke or thumb click…and then wonder why there is so much ugliness out there.

The internet is evil! Smash your smart phone! Delete your social media accounts!

Nah…don’t fall for the hype!

These tools are capable of doing so much for us in so many good ways. We just need to learn how to use them. Fire was once only an unruly part of nature, destroying everything in its path, until we learned how to use it more wisely. The same goes for every force and every invention. There is a learning curve and there is pain to any learning experience.

Until then, don’t fall for the hype and fear mongering. You don’t need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Take breaks, regroup, breathe, and remember those are people out there just like you…maybe not as smart but they’re working on it. Give each other some space to learn and grow.

Losing Touch With Our Symbols

I have a new skill. I can hear the difference between a male and female Great Horned Owl in the dark, and not have to hear them right next to each other. Listening to a female call to her mate in the dark this morning, I wondered about the symbols of Fall. Why do we put owls in our Halloween decorations along with ravens and crows, harvest symbols like corn stalks and pumpkins, and cool nights and big orange moons low on the horizon?

I grew up in the city, only going into rural areas on special occasions; camping weekends with my family or hiking with friends. We slept with our windows closed-up tight, the doors locked, and the air conditioning on. I woke up to an alarm clock inside a curtained room, rushed to get breakfast and my things to get to school and then work on time. I spent very few quiet days and nights.

Moving to the rural high desert of Southern California changed my life immediately in many ways, the first of which was an immediate slowing and quieting down. My city nerves, always twanging, never resting, continued to fire off even in the quiet desert atmosphere. Like…when you leave a concert or a bar after a long evening of dancing and drinking, you lay in bed, ears still ringing from the clamor of music and laughing. Or like when you finally get the cast taken off a broken limb and your skin, grown used to the constant touch and rubbing of the material, crawls for days with the cool air against it. Those neurons in my head were so used to hearing noise, seeing light, and reacting to stimulation, it took a long time for them to relax and quiet into my new surroundings.

A couple years into living here, I began to notice the changes in seasons. The feel of the air from one season to the next, the plants that changed, the animals that came and went. People say that Southern California has no seasons, but they’re wrong. They may not be garish and obvious, but they’re here. You simply have to be quiet and look closely.

In a house with large windows filling up almost every wall, you notice the light day and night. The sun coming up a little more and more to the north or south, and then back again. The moon changing each and every evening, sometimes you think a neighbor has a new unshaded porch light, so bright that you have to close your curtains to sleep. The stars change with the seasons! I didn’t know that until I lived here.

But the owls are what I love most. Summer gets hot here, as you probably know. By August, the swamp cooler runs all night and into the morning. The big fan sits on the roof pulling air from outside, through wet pads and into the house to cool us as we sleep comfortably. It feels marvelous but it is loud and monotonous. I know Fall is coming because the swamp cooler has been able to cool the house enough to shut off in the night, leaving the house quiet and still when I get up in the morning.

Fall has officially arrived when I can turn the swamp cooler off when I go to bed and open all the windows to let the cool, dry night air flow through the house as we go to sleep. Lying in bed, it’s quiet, so quiet that I can hear animals walking by outside my window, coyotes on the hunt. It’s an amazing feeling, but not half as amazing as what I hear in the morning.

I usually get up around 4am. Walking through my office, I pick up my journal, my book, my glasses (stupid aging eyes), and my phone. I stop by the kitchen for a glass of water and a cup of coffee and then on to my livingroom couch to settle in and read until the sun starts to lighten the sky.

Surrounded by my open windows, without the fans running, I can hear all the little things in the dark, including the owls. They seem to be most active at this time of day. Maybe they are just like us, it’s the end of their day, the kids are fed, Dad is home from work, Mom wants to talk about what went on and how she’s dealing with the neighborhood. The sun will be up soon, so they’re gathering the family together and settling down?

All I know is the noise that occasionally goes well into daylight hours and finally settles down as the sun begins to peek over the horizon. I hear the higher pitched female calls first and wonder what she’s saying. Then I hear the male return her call with his low WHO WHO from across the yard. As Fall moves on, I’ll hear strange screeching noises and more who-ing…it’s mating season and they’re calling each other to bed.

I could talk about owls all day, but I’ll leave you with this…what I originally was thinking when I started writing to you about owls. Why are owls a symbol of Fall? Because when we didn’t live in cities, when we were out on our farms and ranches, making our way in the world, when we sat in the dark making up stories about what was happening around us instead of watching them on Netflix, we heard the owls being sexy out there as Fall approached and associated them with the cooler nights and the shortened days. The spooky mating calls of a large night predator became a symbol of the coming winter and we incorporated them into our own stories and lives.

My culture perpetuated the symbol, but I had lost the meaning. Moving to the desert brought that richness back into my life. Nature, human and otherwise, remains constant. We may cover some parts up and lose track of the meanings for a while, but it’s still running underneath the surface, waiting to come up and reveal itself from time to time. We just need to keep our eyes open and look for it.

Get A Hold of Yourself, Man!

 I paused on these lines and thought, “That happens to me all the time,” underlining it so I could find it again later.

It’s the reason I post quotes like this on Instagram these days, a text has jogged a thought. I used to underline it and maybe make a note in the margin and leave it at that. Sometimes, if the passage struck me in a significant way, I’d write about it on my blog. Usually though, the thought came and went, and I rarely went back to it. I’ve always been jealous of people that can pull quotes from memory while they write or speak years after they read the book.

This quote got even more interesting when, at the end of my reading hour, I flipped back through the pages to create something for my daily post. I had highlighted several passages, but my eye went to this one again. Copying it down into the graphic, I was pulled in another direction.

“The condition, known as hysterical blindness, may be partial or complete, including one, several, or all objects.”

Have you ever been “blind with rage” or so upset you can’t see straight? That’s a form of hysterical blindness, anxiety so strong that your vision clouds and you feel blind. What causes that kind of anxiety? Huge transitions, deep grief, loss…global pandemics.

When we are living in a constant state of anxiety, we can’t think straight. Our minds, flooded with adrenaline, are blind to even obvious solutions to our problems, and we make terrible decisions.

I’ve been given a pretty healthy ration of shit lately for turning off the news channels, unfollowing/unfriending people that consistently share negative and nasty news articles on social media, and generally staying out of the loop when it comes to politics. How can I possibly make informed decisions if I don’t have all the “facts”? I’m hiding my head in the sand!

Stand by for imminent cliché…

We live in the information age, where we can be bombarded and inundated with “news” from all over the world 24/7 and I don’t think it’s healthy for any human being to live under that kind of stress.

I look around at my friends and family online and I see them under constant stress about things completely outside their control causing anxiety to the point of hysteria. I saw in it building up in myself, becoming blind to my immediate surroundings, so I put a stop to it. It hasn’t stopped me from completely freaking out from time to time. These are stressful times and, honestly, I’m tired of pretending they aren’t.

By opting out of the 24/7 news cycle, I’ve been able to focus on what is in my immediate realm of responsibility, my family, my home, and my neighborhood. My anxiety has lessened tremendously, and I’ve been able to think more clearly and make better decisions that benefit my life and those around me.

Reading the paper, watching TV news, or popping over to social media for a moment, reminds me of those old movies where someone is screaming hysterically and someone grabs them by the shoulders, slaps them hard across the face and says, “Get a hold of yourself!” We’ve all whipped each other into such a frenzy, we can’t possibly make logical decisions.

What else can I do but take a big step back, protect myself, and wait for the storm to clear? Humans have survived on this planet for a long time without knowing what everyone is doing, everywhere, at every moment. I don’t need anyone to make a law, start a movement, or create a boycott to make a decision that keeps my mind and body healthy and neither do you.

THIS is Why I Drink – Episode 1

Earlier this week I read an article in the paper that made me think, “THIS is why I drink!” I laughed (LOL’d you might even say) and thought to myself, I should write a blog post with that title. I even went so far as to laughingly post the thought to my Facebook page and my “friends” and I had a good chuckle over it.

This morning I had the thought again. What if I did? An assignment, even one assigned by myself, helps me to be a bit more productive sometimes. That’s it! No more rationalizing needed. I’m doing it!

And now, my friends, I bring you, the first episode of “THIS is Why I Drink,” a short, hopefully at least mildly humorous, post about the one (or two) things this week that have driven me to drink yet again.

On the docket this week, my neighbors. Not my actual neighbors, the ones that live on my street or the ones that come over for drinks, but the wider circle. The people in general that live in my town and surrounding area. Here’s what set me off.

I’ve been avoiding Facebook. I was about to say “like the plague” but now that everyone has come to a consensus we are in one and are acting accordingly, I should say I’m not going quite that far. I have been limiting my exposure though. The fear-based dumb-assery I started to find among the groups I belonged to and my acquaintances from past lives started spreading like wildfire once the plague landed here in the US. To be completely honest, I’ve been more afraid of people than the virus since the first weeks of the shutdown.

But, you know what they say…

And since I can’t control what the rest of the world does, I took control of what I do and took a big step back from social media for awhile. I must say, it helped my mental health tremendously.

But this week, as I took my quick daily scan of my closest friends and family, a suggested group popped up and I clicked it. Like a fool, I ran my socially thirsty eyes over a few posts to see what the tone of the group was and that’s when I saw it.

It was a question from someone asking what are some good sights to see around the area since they’d be taking a drive up over the next week. The comments were overwhelmingly hostile and I was (again) embarrassed that I live here.

There were many very aggressive and nasty comments ranging from “Stay home you piece of trash.” To “Why would you come here and spread your filth to us?” But the one that really struck me was, “We moved out here to get away from you people.”

Did you now? That’s very odd. I mean, it is a desert town outside of the city, yes, but it is also a town outside a large National Park. So, I’m not sure if that really constitutes, “getting away from people.” Yes, our homes are further apart for the most part. We don’t have a big movie theater or mall, but we do have the only Walmart in a 50 mile radius.

The town is here mostly because of the Marine Base and the National Park. It is definitely a smaller rural town, but if you wanted to get away from tourists, visitors just passing through, this is NOT the place to live. Our economy depends on those people on their way to see the park and/or to go camping.

So that was the moment, this week, that I closed what I was reading and sighed to myself, “This is why I drink.”

If I simply could not ignore a question like this, because I was truly afraid of the spread of the virus and couldn’t mind my own business…wait, that’s the thing right there! If I were so terrified of the spread, I would be at home so it wouldn’t matter one wit if a tourist came out to my town, so I would mind my own business.

But if I were somehow forced to comment, I would have tried a more positive approach. Like, “A lot of things are closed in town right now because of the shutdown. There are only drive-thru restaurants, no place to stop and use the bathroom, and it’s very hot, like over 100 degrees by 11 am. I’d suggest bringing a car picnic and doing an air-conditioned drive-through of the park or the deeper deserts. You could see the town, make plans for better times, or go see the wide-open spaces. This is a gorgeous place to hike the rest of the year though! Here are some links to my favorite places!”

But no, my lovely neighbors were hostile and nasty. It was not only disheartening, it was scary to see such vehemence from over 150 people in a few short hours.

And so…I drink. Bottoms up, everyone! Fear is in the air and it sure makes people do some ugly things!

DO get out and enjoy the sunshine as much as you can. Of course, try to maximize physical space, minimize contact with strangers, wash your hands, and most of all be kind to each other. We’re all having a rough time and we’re all doing the best we can with what we have.

I worried myself silly about sharing these thoughts with you here on my blog. I know you don’t need more negativity in the world, but you know what? No one is always roses and sunshine dust and that includes me. Now, don’t worry. This will only be a once a week rant style post. Some of them will be lighter than others. And I promise to balance it out with another weekly assignment at the beginning of the week called, “Why She Gets Up In The Morning!”

So Much is IN DEMAND Lately

Daily-Writing-Prompt-7-2

Thank you, Writers Write, for all your brilliant help!

What exactly is in demand these days? Toilet paper (for some reason I still don’t understand)? Fabric masks to wear at the grocery store so the people around you aren’t afraid? Patience? A positive attitude? Honesty? Common sense?

It’s been a rough month for me, and that’s putting it lightly. I’m not coping with the stress nearly as well as I would have hoped I would, but I am learning. I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest month I’ve lived through. Being arrested for armed robbery and attempted carjacking and then spending a year of time and money getting my life back was slightly more upsetting. My arrest through me for a loop. By the end of the whole process, my entire worldview had changed. There was no going back, no return to my naïve way of thinking. I was a different person.

What was in demand then was faith that everything would work out fine and some patience with the criminal justice system. What I really wanted was patience from my friends and family. I was going through a traumatic experience, life was completely rearranged, and I was looking at the possibility of losing at least ten years of my life in jail for a crime I did not commit. Could they allow me some leeway and forgiveness if I lashed out in fear and anger, or just felt like being alone?

Somehow this crisis is different. It feels more permanent, more world-changing for everyone around me, instead of just myself and my immediate family. And it feels so unnecessary, like it shouldn’t be happening, not like this. I’ll admit, I’m not dealing with it half as well I would have hoped I would. All this self-help shit isn’t putting anywhere near the “Let it Ride” feeling I wanted to have during a crisis, but I’m learning quickly. I’ve always been one to react badly at first and then re-think and adjust. I’m moving into the re-think phase at the moment.

What’s in demand now? Bravery, for one thing. Fear makes us do the ugliest things to ourselves and others. We can’t run in fear of a virus, not like this. We can’t hide in our homes forever, afraid we’ll catch something, afraid we’ll accidentally pass it to others. We can’t tear each other apart on social media over what we believe we should and should not be doing.

Understanding and space is something else in demand. Less judgment would be nice, too. What if instead of insisting that those around us do what we believe is the right thing, we just did what was right for ourselves? What if we allowed the people around us, in our towns, counties, and states, to decide for themselves what was right for them? What if we automatically assumed everyone around us was making the best decision for themselves with the information they personally have, instead of demanding that they follow our lead?

What else? Let me see…maybe some patience with others when they question the choices we each are making? How about when we question science or what our government is doing and why? What if instead of ridiculing and belittling those that question authority, we listen to them and allow them to speak? What about those that are worried about the financial future of our country? Could we give them a voice as well? It is important, by the way, just as important as your health. You may not get the virus that is going around, but when inflation starts, companies close, jobs and food become scarce, it won’t really matter, will it? Yes, your Grandma didn’t die of the virus, but now the whole town is threatened with starving. It is a legitimate concern and something we need to weigh in the balance when making decisions.

It seems there are a plethora of things in demand at the moment, huh?

And the worst part is that it’s being demanded of all of us at the same time. Not only am I struggling with these shutdowns, so is everyone around me. It’s hard to ask for bravery, understanding, and patience from my friends and neighbors when they need it just as much; like the toilet paper, there just isn’t enough on the shelf for everyone to buy a two months supply at once.

Maybe I’ll have to supply it for myself, retreat a bit and not add to the chaos, or create something here at home to replace it.

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