Healthy Self-Soothing

The other day, I was lonely, angry, exhausted, hurt, and generally disgusted with life. So I did what I often do: I went straight for the cupcakes. (I have found that pizza and ice cream are viable substitutes as well.)

For a split second, I felt much better. But then I felt much worse. It’s a self-defeating habit. It’s not healthy. It makes me feel bad about myself. And the problem is still there.

But self-soothing is vital. When you are under stress, it’s good to come up with coping skills. But it’s also important not to be self-destructive. Turning to drugs or alcohol or out of control spending or red velvet cake is not the way to go if you really want to feel better in the long run.

When you’re experiencing stress, try to be kind to yourself rather than doing something that will ultimately feel more like torture. Here are some suggestions that I’m going to try to take instead of consuming sugar and/or grease:

  • Take a bath.

  • Take a walk.

  • Talk to a friend. Ask for a pep talk.

  • Elevate your feet.

  • Relax in a hammock.

  • Read a good book.

  • Hug your dog.

  • Netflix and chill.

  • Listen to music.

  • Meditate.

  • Get a massage.

  • Sit outside.

  • Journal it out.

  • Work in your garden.

  • Create some art.

  • Just breathe.

  • Do something nice for someone else.

  • Feed the birds.

  • Do your favorite hobby.

  • Ride your bike.

  • Wrap yourself in something soft and warm.

  • Light a candle.

  • Dance.

  • Walk barefoot in your yard.

  • Do yoga.

  • Go swimming. Float.

  • Hug someone.

I think the trick is to identify when you need to be soothed, and then take charge of what that soothing looks like. Yeah, coffee ice cream may seem like the easy way out of your mood, but in the end, it’s not the best celebration of you. Choose a healthier path to calm your nerves so that you can be present and capable of finding a solution to your stress.

I think this is great advice. Now I need to take it. Wish me luck!

(Barring all of the above, maybe I should force the cupcakes upon the source of my stress instead of eating them myself. That would be satisfying. Maybe I’m on to something, here!)

soothing

A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

I Disagree

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the anatomy of disagreements. Naturally this has been inspired by the extreme divisions in this country, but it also has to do with the fact that I’ve had several fundamental disagreements lately with people I love and respect. I really loathe these situations, and find myself evermore diminished by them.

So let’s examine what’s going on internally when someone disagrees with me. First and foremost, I get defensive. I look for ways to justify my point of view. I feel rigid and unyielding. I don’t listen to what the other person is saying. I’m too busy working on a rebuttal.

And my adrenaline starts pumping. You’d think I was being chased by a lion. And that makes me feel sick to my stomach and a lot less calm and rational.

Next, I start second guessing myself. What’s wrong with my viewpoint? Am I being stupid? Did I overlook something? Am I crazy? Should I really hold this opinion? Will the other person think less of me for disagreeing? Do I care?

Then this internal battle goes on with my adult self and my wounded self. The adult self says, “Listen to what is being said. You might learn something.” Wounded self replies, “No! I refuse! This person is a stupid old poopy head.”

Sadly, my adult self only seems to prevail when I’m well-rested, not hungry, and feeling relatively self-confident. I’m a work in progress. Some days I’m better at listening than others.

Disagreeing is stressful. Listening is difficult. And I think we, as a nation, are becoming increasingly exhausted, which makes it harder to be our best selves.

But we need to try. Don’t you agree?

Disagree

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Shooting Your Mouth Off

In this fast-paced era, it’s so easy to say things without thinking. We’re in too much of a hurry. We can fire off an insult to the other side of the world in mere seconds. This is not progress.

Yes, I have been known to say what I think, to my detriment, but at least back in the 70’s there was usually a waiting period. No e-mails. I had to write it down, find an envelope, address it, stamp it, then find a mailbox. By then I usually calmed down and didn’t mail my rant.

There is a reason wars were less deadly prior to gunpowder. If you actually have to approach someone and look them in the eye with your sticks and stones, if you have to tramp for hundreds of miles before engaging, you have some time to think. But when you can easily reach your destination and shoot from a remove, there’s more room to act rashly. Semi-automatic is always more impulsive than flintlock, and flintlock trumps boiling oil every time.

Time calms you down. Effort wears you down. These things have been taken from us. We no longer get the time to ponder while heating up the oil.

Have you ever heard of someone getting into a fist fight right after chopping a cord of wood? Me neither.

We need to remember to slow down. If we lose that ability, we’re in big trouble.

slow down

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Things That Make Me Lose My Composure

Someone told me the other day that I’m very composed. It took me by surprise, but I suppose it’s true. I don’t enjoy drama. I haven’t thrown a tantrum in, oh, at least a week or two. (Joke.)

I think the reason I’ve never thought of myself as the poster child for composure is that I know what’s going on on the inside of me. That is a bit more chaotic than the outside stuff. If all that turmoil were on the surface, I think people would assume I was crazed.

For instance, I’ve been perpetually freaked out ever since Donald Trump took office. I’m surprised I haven’t developed ulcers from the sheer frustration I’m experiencing as I watch him systematically destroy everything he touches.

I also tend to lose my cool at this time of year at work on my drawbridge. The sailboats are out in force, and for whatever reason, most owners don’t seem to take the time to know what the hell they’re doing with those very expensive toys.

And don’t even get me started about pedestrians. I haven’t crushed anyone yet, mind you, but they sure make it a distinct possibility. And I’d kind of like to keep my job.

The one thing that brings me closest to violence is witnessing the abuse of children or animals. If you can’t pick on somebody your own size, I’m sorely tempted to give you someone your size to pick on. But you wouldn’t like it.

I also can’t abide selfishness or greed. Be as self-destructive as you want. It’s your life. But when your actions negatively impact others, I take issue with that. And for Pete’s sake, take responsibility for your actions. Grow the %@$& up.

I find liars despicable, and people who are hellbent on believing those lies to their own benefit are even worse. If you can’t reach your destination without taking one of those two crooked paths, then you might want to reexamine your destination. It most likely will not turn out to be the paradise you envisioned.

So, am I composed? The jury is still out on that one. But I find that chocolate helps.

balance and composure

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

10 day album challenge #1: Eva Cassidy, Songbird

So, a friend of mine nominated me to do an album challenge. “The task is to post once per day for the next 10 days about the top ten albums that have an impact on your life, and to pay it forward by nominating someone else each day to do the same.”

When I got this challenge, I must admit that my heart sank. I have never considered myself a very sophisticated music lover. I know what I like, but I have a hard time putting into words why I like it. Who am I to comment on another artist’s art?

And then there’s the fact that I absolutely HATE chain letters. At least this one didn’t threaten me with death or dismemberment if I didn’t comply. But still.

I don’t like to be told what to do. And 10 days’ worth of writing is a heck of a commitment. But at the same time, I was intrigued at the thought of stretching my writing wings in a musical way and flying right out of my comfort zone.

Okay, so I’ll play. But no one is the boss of me! I’m changing the rules to suit me. First of all, I’m not writing about this for 10 days in a row. I will write about 10 albums, yes, but only on the occasional “Music Monday”. And I refuse to nominate anyone else, because I try to avoid adding stress to the lives of the people I love. Having said that, if you’re reading this and would like to take up the challenge, go for it!

_______________________

So, for my first entry, I’ve chosen the album Songbird, by Eva Cassidy. Yes, I’ve written about Eva Cassidy before. She died an untimely death long before I ever heard her beautiful voice, and that adds an extra special poignancy to every song she sings. Her voice is like sinking into a fragrant warm bath after you’ve had a particularly stressful and strenuous day. Ahhhhh… She really was a songbird.

The reason this album is on my mind at the moment is that the 4th of July is coming up. What does that have to do with Eva Cassidy, you ask? Well, when the fireworks start, my dogs are always terrified. I mean, totally and completely freaked out. And I know that some people react the same way. But last year I discovered something. Eva Cassidy is the balm to my dog’s spirit.

I had only been in my house for a couple weeks, so I knew this would be a particularly challenging fireworks experience for Quagmire. He had yet to feel completely settled in our new home. So I knew that I’d be staying home and making an extra effort to keep him calm on that most despised of holidays.

I decided to close us both into our new bedroom, turn the lights down low, and listen to soft, soothing music. It is my humble opinion that there’s no music more soft or soothing than that of Eva Cassidy. So that night we listened to the Songbird album on Youtube over and over and over again. (For what it’s worth, Quagmire’s favorite song on the album seems to be Fields of Gold.)

And it worked. Quagmire curled up at my side and fell asleep despite the pops and booms coming from beyond our little valley. Now this album will be forever linked with the 4th of July in my mind.

The next time you’re feeling anxious, listen to Songbird. It’s like musical Xanax, but in the best possible way.

Thanks, Eva Cassidy.

Songbird

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that? http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

My Own Personal Pleasantville

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the movie “Pleasantville”, I highly recommend it. A boy from the 1990’s is obsessed with a sitcom from the 1950’s called Pleasantville. It’s your typical show of that era, showing a world that never actually existed, in black and white, where the mother wears pearls and high heels to do housework, the father gives sage advice and is highly respected, and the children are well mannered and, well… pleasant. But when 1990’s boy suddenly finds himself in Pleasantville, he starts to realize that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I seem to be living in Pleasantville since I recently bought my house. It’s in an isolated little valley where all the neighbors know each other, and everything feels safe and clean and drama-free. Everyone has a dog. I’m even on a first name basis with the mailman and the local convenience store clerk. It’s this oasis of calm, with each of us in our very own cute little houses.

At a time when the wider world seems ever more chaotic and scary, I love going home to my little valley. It’s like taking off shoes that are two sizes too small. Finally, a chance to wiggle my toes.

I love living in this fantasy land, and I’m going to do my best to maintain it for as long as I can. Are cracks forming in the façade? Well, yes. A few people in the neighborhood drink probably more than is warranted in certain situations. But so far, they’re happy when they drink, and I like them, and it’s really none of my business. One neighbor is passively aggressively critical of my benign neglect of my yard. Oh well. And I can’t get a decent cell phone signal to save my life.

But you know, in the overall scheme of things, those are problems I can live with. I love my little neighborhood. Just don’t expect me to wear high heels while I do housework. In fact, wouldn’t even count on me doing housework on a schedule that makes sense to anyone other than myself.

pleasantville

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Spiritual Residue

Have you ever noticed that when a toxic coworker goes on vacation, the atmosphere at work visibly lightens? People are more relaxed. They are more prone to smile and be lighthearted. You actually hear laughter in the workplace again.

On the other hand, there are some people that can make you smile when you merely think about them. Others seem to bring energy into any room they enter. And still others seem to be a calming presence.

As unscientific as this will sound, I think we all have an impact that extends far beyond our corporeal beings. I like to call this the spiritual residue. It’s very important to consider the type of residue you leave behind.

Toxic people leave a sticky, unappealing trail much like that of a slug. If people tend to avoid you or dislike you, if you criticize more than you compliment, if words of encouragement are not in your vocabulary, you’re one of those slimy individuals.

I’d much rather be positive, upbeat and fun to be around. Instead of leaving slime, I’d like to leave a nice, fresh perfume in my wake. I want people to feel better for having crossed my path. I think that’s an admirable goal.

[Image credit: 7-themes.com]
[Image credit: 7-themes.com]

Family Norms

One spring break in college I went home with a friend. Half Catholic Italian, half Jewish, hers was a noisy, welcoming household. Neighbors would come and go without knocking on their door, and help themselves to whatever happened to be cooking on the stove. The house was full of light and crackled with energy.

And forget about sleeping in. If you tried to, her father would kick open the bedroom door, shout, “Time to get up!!!” while throwing himself headlong into our bed. Then he’d bounce for a second until he was sure we were awake, kiss us both on the forehead and say, “Breakfast is ready.” Alrighty then. I guess I’m getting up.

For the first time in my life, I realized that not everybody grew up the way I did. Mine was a very quiet, reserved Congregationalist Waspy New England household. No one came to our door without giving about a week’s notice. For the most part, no one came to our door at all. Silence ruled. Calm and routine was what you strived for. The loudest noise was probably the hum of the refrigerator.

And for the most part, that’s exactly how my home is now. I have no idea why I bother renting a place with a living room. It’s not like I ever have guests or eat at the table. For me the living room is simply what you have to walk through to get from the bedroom to the kitchen.

I’m not saying that one lifestyle is superior to the other. It all depends on what you’re used to. I think living in my friend’s home would have made me a nervous wreck, but it was fun to visit. When it was time to go, though, I was a little relieved. I looked forward to getting back to what, for me, was normal.

Our families can probably trace their styles back for generations. That fascinates me. In essence, the way I live my life is strongly influenced by ancestors from hundreds of years ago. The way I do things and what seems comfortable to me was laid out long before I was born. I walk down the heavily trodden path that total strangers, who just happen to be related by blood, have followed for centuries.

And I’m actually kind of okay with that.

Norms

Fred Rogers Was My Father

fred_rogers

On the last day of 2012, I have a confession to make. I watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to an embarrassingly old age. It was my dirty little secret. I told no one. It was something for just the two of us. Every day I’d tune in to the only father figure I had. He would speak calmly to me when others would shout. He would encourage me when others were too tired to try. He would make me feel like I was okay when others made me feel like an outcast. Most importantly, he would make me feel secure at a time when my life was not the least bit safe. When he said that everyone had something different about them, something you could learn from, or that you could grow ideas in the garden of your mind, I believed him. To this day, I can say without reservation that Fred Rogers always had my best interests at heart. There are not too many people in this world who you can say that about.

If the man had run for president, he would have won. It says a lot about his wisdom that he never did so. But if he had held the highest office in the land, things would have been quite different. He’d have strode calmly and politely into congress and shamed them into stepping away from that fiscal cliff. He’d have given Washington a moral compass that is sorely lacking in this day and age. Maybe he would not have gotten the right and left to agree, but he certainly would have had them communicating respectfully and acting like the adults that they are supposed to be. He would have put a stop to the politics by fear that seems to be the rule of the day. And when tragedy strikes, as it sometimes will, he would be able to comfort the entire nation with his sincerity. One thing is for certain: If Fred Rogers were president, sweaters would come back in style.

Rest in peace, Mr. Rogers. When you passed away, millions of us lost the only father we ever knew.