Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vacation perspective

Spending the holidays with family in small New England towns.  Feeling the cycle of life.  Babies are born, grow into children, become adults.  Adults marry, have children, have grandchildren, die of old age.  The cycle has been continuing for longer than our history records.

In the small towns, the pace is slower, more relaxed.  Instead of being on guard against each other, strangers smile and say hello.

People of different personalities learn to work around each other, to fit together and still be themselves. 

We sit and read, or sit and talk.  We listen.  We let each other be.

Here, there is room for me.

My normal life is not like this.  In my normal life, I don't fit.  I'm always looking for something to ease the boredom, always looking for the richness that is missing.

All those things I thought I wanted to do, they don't seem important any more.  Violence prevention, education, restorative justice, databases, spreadsheets, radio show, druidry -- they are all gone from my mind.  What is with me now is small New England towns, family, music, going for walks, reading, and learning about the histories of our small New England towns and of our families. 

When do we stick with relationships

His job was in one city, her job was in another.  They lived apart.  She visited him on the long holiday weekends. When they retired they could be together.

They both retired at the same time.  The time had arrived.  Only it was not what she had hoped for.  A year and a half before retirement, another woman came to live with him.  He chose the one who needs him over the one who was always there for him.  And the one who was always there for him is still there for him, despite her bitter disappointment. 

Would I do the same?

It seems to me that when you are young and healthy and gallivanting about, you meet lots of people and make your choices about whom to share your life with.  When you are old and frail and sick, your choices have been made, and you stick with the people who are in your life.

Me, I'm in the middle, somewhere between young and old, between healthy and sick.  In some ways, I'm still making choices.  In some ways, I'm sticking with people.

At this particular time, when I think about making choices, I look for how I'm treated.  I look for a relationship based on mutual acceptance and respect.  The only way it's appropriate to request a change is for either of us to say what we want from the other.  For example, I won't say, "You should quit smoking because smoking is bad for your health," but I will say, "Please don't smoke near me because it makes me cough."  I look for someone who sees who I am, likes what they see, and helps me see myself in the positive way they see me.  I look for someone who treats me as a treasure, and in return, I give the same. 

So would I stick with someone who decided to live with another woman instead of me? I don't think so.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Persistence

The Fall 2015 issue of Haverford Magazine tells the story of Emily Tuckman.  Her passion is acting.  She knew that was  not a sensible career, so after college she got a job at a nonprofit organization.  However, her passion still called her.  She got a master's degree in theater education and became a drama teacher.  Still, that was not the same as acting, and her passion still called her.  She continued teaching, but also did some acting and started a theater company.  She was drawn more to the theater company work than to the teaching work.  She wanted to do more with theater.  One of her students told her "You need to think about your future and your passion...that's the lesson you want to give us."  She quit teaching.  She went to a lot of auditions.  She estimates the rejection rate at the auditions is 90%.  But she keeps going.  But still she keeps going. 

The same issue also profiles Charles Wurster, who was involved in getting DDT banned, and recently published a book about those efforts.  He says that can be learned from the experience was, "When you get thrown out of court, you don't go away, you go back and knock again.  You keep banging on the system."

The people who succeed are the ones who keep going in the face of repeated failures. 

I just don't have that kind of persistence.

Preventing violence

There's an article Kids expecting agression from others become aggressive themselves.  To me, it seems obvious that violence often comes from fear, from a desire to protect oneself.  People in my country are talking a lot lately about preventing violence.  Many see violence as the only way to end violence.  But to me, that only continues the cycle.  It just doesn't make sense. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Social and psychological impacts of chronic illness

I've been noticing a sense that people with different chronic illnesses have a shared experience.  Beyond the physical symptoms, certain social and psychological things commonly come along with chronic illness.
  • Friends, physicians, etc. tell you that there is nothing really wrong with you, or that your physical problems are entirely psychological.
  • People pelt you with a hailstorm of advice.
  • You become isolated because you can't go out and do things.
  • Even when you do see people, you can't be real with them.  You try to pass for normal, you don't talk about your illness.  You do this to protect yourself from the hailstorm of advice.  You do this because you are tired of being an invalid.  You do this because you want to be a normal person.
  • You find that you need help more than you can offer help, which leaves you feeling useless.  You which that the world valued what you have to offer.  You wonder if you have anything to offer.  
  • The way that you live as a result of your illness, the way you curtail your activities, diet, etc., is seen by others as something that is an expression of your choices and preferences, while you see it is something that interferes with the expression of your choices and preferences. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Gender equality, 1870 style

In 1870, Henry Parker gave a speech arguing the women should be admitted to the Massachusetts Agricultural College.  That sounds like it would be in keeping with today's view of gender equality.  But if you look at what the speech says, it's not really how we think today.

He argued that just as men were learning farming at the college, women should also learn housekeeping.  A woman should learn to handle all the housekeeping on her own, so that she would be be "helplessly dependent on Celt or Chinaman."  She should learn housekeeping so that instead of "gossiping about her neighbhors' affairs," she can think about the chemical reactions involved in baking.  She should learn housekeeping so that instead of discussing "where this or that person buys sugar...and who does like sugar in tea and who doesn't, and whose aunt does and whose doesn't" she can instead think about the chemical properties of sugar.

Guess what.  I was educated, and I don't want to think about the chemical properties of sugar.  I want to think about humans, not necessarily my neighbors' affairs and who likes sugar in the tea, but such things related to humans and are more in keeping with my interests than

It reminds me of the story about when my great-grandparents first got married.  My great-grandfather knew that my great-grandmother had studied Latin, but had not studied Greek.  He thought she would enjoy it if he taught her Greek.  Turned out she would rather go for walks and see flowers.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Unusual path to a career

The Fall 2015 Collete of the Atlantic alumni magazine profiles Gabriel Willow.  After being homeschooled in rural Maine and then graduating from the College of the Atlantic, he spent three years in the Yucatan Peninsula doing environmental education and conservation.  He then moved to New York City to go to art school.  While looking for a bathroom, he stumbled across Prospect Park Audobon Center.  They hire him.  That sounds like something that would happen to my sisters.  Not to me or my brothers.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Living with chronic fatigue

For the past year, I have been more tired than the preceding four years, although overall, I’ve been tired for 10 years, and in the past year, there have been some weeks here and there that were not so bad.

At times, I am so filled with being tired that it’s hard to talk about anything else, but I don’t like to talk about it, so mostly I just don’t associate with people.  Of course, the other reason I don’t associate with people is because I’m too tired to do anything.

There are two reasons why I don’t like to talk to people about it.  One is because of what people say.  If you google “what not to say to people with chronic illness” you’ll get many different articles that all say basically the same things, and these are the things that people have been inundating me with for the past decade.  Except I’ve managed to cut it back some by not talking to anyone.

The other reason I don’t like to talk to people about it is because it’s not what I want to be.  It’s not who I am.  I am outdoorsy, energetic, adventurous, and playful.  I love skiing, hiking, rollerblading, and dancing.  I have intelligence, wisdom, and compassion.  I have good ideas.  I do things to make the world better. 

At least, that’s who I thought I was, but maybe that person is dead now.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chronic illness

If someone is blind, we don't think it a reflection on their character when they say they don't drive.

If someone has no leg, we don't think it a reflection on their character when they say they don't ski.

Those with conditions such as celiac disease, multiple chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, post traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and attention deficit disorder don't always get such understanding.

"You need to snap out of it."

"You need to get outside your comfort zone."

"You just need to eat more spinach."

"You're depressed."

"Don't be so picky."

"Take a chance."

"You value your time at home."

No, it's not that I chose to be a homebody. 

I used to love mountain climbing.

I used to love rollerblading.

I used to love going to concerts and festivals.

I used to love dancing.

I used to love skiing.

Now those things are too physically uncomfortable to enjoy.  Yes, I can still do some of them for short times once in a while.  But the fact that I don't do them very much is not something I chose.

The fact that I enjoy my time at home, reading, listening to music, practicing tai chi -- yes that's something I chose.  I chose to enjoy what I have.  But it wasn't my choice to cut back on other activities.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Believe me


I wish that people would believe each other.  Sure, some people are not truthful, but I wish that the people who know me well enough to trust me would believe me.

There's an article, "I’m the one who will believe you – the transformative power of trusting our kids’ emotions" by Alissa Marquess  at  http://creativewithkids.com/im-the-one-who-will-believe-you-the-transformative-power-of-trusting-our-kids-emotions/.  That article says instead of telling your kids to calm down when they get upset, acknowledege their feelings and be present with them.

In writing this article, Alissa Marquess took the ideas from Men Just Don't Trust Women" by Damon Young at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/damon-young/men-just-dont-trust-women_b_6714280.html and applied the ideas to parenting.

Damon Young said that when his wife is upset about something, before she even tells him what it is, he thinks, "she is probably over-reacting."

In my experience, it's not just because she's a woman, it's because she's his wife.  What I see is that people think that their spouses, significant others, and offspring couldn't possibly know something they don't know.  It's as if the people close to us must have the same pool of knowledge they have, so if they come up with something that doesn't fit with our pool of knowledge, it must be that they are making it up, not that they know something we don't know.

Damon Young says that a similar phenomenon occurs with racism: "only "facts" that have been carefully vetted and verified by other Whites and certain 'acceptable' Blacks are to be believed."

To  me, this ties in with how people treat people with chronic illness.  In the article "28 Things Spoonies Wish Others Would Stop Saying to Them" at  http://themighty.com/2015/11/28-things-spoonies-wish-others-would-stop-saying-to-them-1/, Elisabeth Brentano lists the things that everyone with chronic illness has heard many times:
  • Stop being a hypochondriac.
  • If you eat all organic foods and a balanced diet, you won’t need to take medications.
  • Get more exercise.
  • Why don't you want to go out?
  • You don't look sick.
  • Have you tried thinking positively?
There are many articles like this. Just google "what not to say to someone with chronic illness" and you'll get lists of the thing people say to us all the time. 

When I was in fifth grade, they took the girls aside to teach us about what to expect with the arrival of puberty.  They just told us what would happen to us.  They did not tell us what would happen to the boys.  Similarly, they took the boys aside to them and told them what would happen to them.  Anyhow, they showed us a movie and gave us a booklet.  The booklet explained that while some women complain of cramps, no physical cause has been found for such symptoms.  It explained that the cramps are probably caused by the stress of worrying that you might have cramps, so if you just relax and don't worry about it, you'll be fine. 

Then when I was in sixth grade, the doctors announced they had discovered a physical cause, so now cramps were real after all. 

So that's the medical profession for you: don't believe the women until the male doctors validate what they say.

Heroines

A week ago today, on the radio I heard Scott Simon say, "I'd hoped to persuade my daughters to dress up as Angela Merkel and Terry Gross for Halloween tonight. But they've decided to be a goddess and a princess." 

A few hours later, I was looking at some of the catalogs I get in the mail, and I saw one selling a book called Warrior Goddess Training

That's what we women feel inside ourselves -- we are warriors, goddesses, princesses, vampire slayers, Amazons, heroines.  We are strong, brave, and beautiful.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Potash Hill Fall 2015

Some notes from the fall 2015 issue of the Marlboro College alumni magazine:
  • Politics professor Meg Mott is teaching an intensive this semester which looks at addiction from the perspective of politics, economics, culture, race, and communication.  The course considers how addition is presented in public debate, and how else it could be looked at.  Meg Mott says, "The questions being posed in the current debate tend to ignore the larger structural reasons for drug use: in a town with no jobs, selling drugs is far more lucrative than panhandling.  In a nation with reduced social services, using drugs dulls the pain of losing custody of one's child, not getting a callback on a job interview, or having to wait through the winter for a Section 8 voucher."
  • Alumnus Randy George and his wife own Red Hen Baking Company.  They were recognized by President Obama as one of 12 Champions of Change because they offer good pay and benefits to their workers.  Randy says, "There is actually a self-serving side to it too.  I want to sleep and take days off knowing that the people who are working for us at those times are experienced at what they do and truly care about doing the best job they can.  You're not going to find people like that if you just pay them the bare minimum."
  • Alumnus Scott Williams was elected state attorney in Vermont's Washington County.  He says that "responding to crime as a public health issue is, in the long run, a more effective approach than the traditional law enforcement model."
  • Alumnus David Skeele is working on "an iambic pentameter political thriller/rock musical."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Aging and decline

 Getting older means my health problems will only get worse.  Getting older means the health problems of those around me will only get worse.  Getting older means more and more of my loved ones will die.

I'm already failing to help my family members the way that I should.  Their needs will only grow greater, so my failure will also grow greater.  I don't have it in me to give what they need.

I don't have it in me to take of myself even.  And I will only grow sicker.

There's one person I can talk to.  Having a friend gives me a sense of stability and sanity.  He is older and sicker than I am.  He does not plan to outlive me.  What will I do without him?

I hear of people with such scary health problems.  How will I cope when I encounter such problems?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Take care of your body

My mother told me, "When I was younger, about 40, I told myself 'take care of your body and it will take care of you.'  Now I don't have to tell myself that.  Now my body always reminds me it needs to be taken care of."

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Heroines

People might expect that I would identify with empathic types like Deanna Troi, or with brainy bookworms like Hermione Granger, but I don't identify with them at all.  I identify with warrior types, like Xena.  It seems silly because I'm a pacifist.  It seems silly because I'm a clumsy, fat,  middle aged person with chronic fatigue and chronic cough.  But I don't have to turn away from it.  I can embrace the fact I feel within me a courage and idealism that I see in warrior types.  I can embrace life and fight for my cause, just as the warrior heroines do. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Refuge

Humans get so worked up.  I guess they don't know how to solve violence, poverty, and racism, so they get all worked up over little things, things it's easy to have an opinion on. 

It wears me, seeing the way humans lash at each other in the media, whether it's politicians making statements, or ordinary people conversing over the internet.

And it wears me, being around humans.  In person, they are not so cruel as they are in the media, but still, they are so earnest and fervent about silly stuff. 

At last I go home.  It's the weekend.  I do have to go out Sunday, but I can spend Friday evening and all day Saturday here in my refuge, my place of quiet peace.  I can curl up with a blanket and a book.  I can listen to beautiful music and sip hot beverages. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

September is for stargazing

I don't often spend much time stargazing.  Winter is too cold for standing around outside.  In summer, by the time it gets dark, it's bed-time. But in September, it's both warm and dark, so one can stick around and look.  The sunset, the stars, the crickets, the trees -- I love sitting out on my balcony in the evening.  It's one of the best things about my life here. 

Another nice thing is weekend mornings drinking coffee and reading by a sunny window.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Tired

I'm so tired.  I feel like my bones are made of crumbs.  I did nothing today.  This is not how I wanted to spend my life.

Self-efficacy

I wrote a paper once on self-efficacy, did a literature review.  Bottom line is, if you believe you can do something, you're more likely to succeed, because you keep trying in the face of frustration.

When I told someone that I am disheartened by jobhunting, he lectured me on how I must be using incorrect  jobhunting tactics, and how I did not understand how jobhunting works.  He actually had no understanding of my jobhunting experiences, he just assumed I must be dumb and in need of enlightenment from his mighty self.

You know what, explaining to me that I deserve those rejections because I did everything wrong, that is not cool.  That is not something I need in my life.  I deserve better.  I deserve friends who support me.  People who put my down are not friends. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Respect

I share myself with you because I trust you with respect.  I don't share myself with those who don't treat me with respect.

Respect does not mean you have to agree with me.  It does not mean you have to like everything I like.  You can think my ideas are strange.  But you have to believe that who I am comes from intelligence, wisdom, kindness and integrity, rather than from stupidity and cruelty.  When you don't understand, give me the benefit of the doubt, that I might possibly have good reason for my point of view.

And respect is what I give to you.  I don't like all the things you like.  I don't agree with you about everything.  But I  like who you are.  I see who you are as being fundamentally good.

You told me about the things you were interested in.  It's not what I'm interested in, but it never occurred to me to reacted negatively.  I liked that you were telling me what you were interested in.

I told you about what I was interested in, and you lectured me on how stupid and pointless it was.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Recovering from rejection

Something came up in my facebook news feed.  I don't know the person who wrote it, but one of my Facebook friends liked it, so it came up in my feed.  It says:
12 years ago today, Alison made me the happiest man on earth. As my friends can attest I knew she was the one for me 2 weeks after we started dating. After 12 years of marriage and 2 amazing kids, I can say that asking Alison to marry me is still the best decision I have ever made.
 On one hand, I read it and I think that no one ever said that about me.  I was never the one someone wanted.  I'm the one from whom men flee.

For a few moments I feel sad.   Then I hear Pete Seeger singing, "I feel, I feel, I feel like a morning star," and I feel happiness.  I see the rich life around me.  I see the friendships that survived conflicts and have lasted for years.  I see the life I have made.  I do a radio show that people enjoy.  My work makes a real difference in the community organization I belong to. 

There are people who treat me as a treasure, and in return, I treasure them. 

The person who saw me full of shortcomings has gone away.  It's just as well. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Goals

I was reading the book about mindfulness for people with ADHD.  I came to a part about writing your values.  Sort of like goals, but more big picture.  Not the things you are going to accomplish and be done with, but the things that you want to devote time to throughout your life.  I like doing things like that! In typical ADHD fashion, I put down my book and went to my computer.  In typical ADHD fashion, when I got to my computer I checked my email, replied to a message, picked out some music to listen to, played Spider Solitaire, and read Nimue Brown's latest blog post.  Now, at least half an hour after arriving at my computer, I turn to making the list.  I realize that it's a list I've made a hundred times before.  That's what people with ADHD do.  They make the list, but get stuck on the implementation.

And now, another 15 minutes after I wrote that a half hour has passed, here are my goals:
  • Home.  I want my home to be a haven.  Clean.  Uncluttered.  The things I use easy to find and close at hand.  Decorated in a way I like.  Easy access to outdoors.  Beautiful views from windows.  Sunny.  Peaceful -- no loud noises of traffic and rowdy people.  In walking distance of the places I want to go.  In the short term, I need to work on cleaning and de-cluttering, and setting up a system to keep it that way.  In the long term, I want to re-locate.
  • Outdoors.  I want to live in a climate conducive to spending time outdoors.  I want to walk, rollerblade, just sit around looking at scenery. I want to go to outdoor fairs, festivals, and farmer's markets.
  • Physical activity.  I want to dance, walk, and do tai chi.  
  • Read, write, compile.  I want to have quiet time for reading, writing and compiling.  I want to compile family history information.
  • Community.  I want to be a part of creating a community in which people treat each other with respect, seek to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and compassion, and seek to live sustainably.
  • Music.  I want to listen to music, share music with others, compile playlists, play musical instruments, and sing.  
  • Family and friends.  I want to be part of a circle of family and friends.  I want to support my family and friends, and I want them to support me.  
  • Enjoyment.  I want a life full of joy, playfulness, and contentment.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Divination

Since I became a druid 5 years ago, I've read of divination, especially ogham divination, as being part of druidry.  I don't believe in divination in a supernatural sense, but it seemed to me that it's like art.  It's a way to see beauty and tap into your feelings. 

So I bought The Celtic Tree Oracle.  There are instructions for a complicated way of drawing a bunch of cards of having each one signify a certain thing.  But from the start, that was not my intent.  My plan was to draw one card, maybe in the evening, maybe before meditation. 

I did that for the first time last night.  I was very tired yesterday.  All day at work, I was especially distractible.  I got work done, but I wasn't working on the things I meant to be working on.  I kept going off on other projects.  Usually I have one coffee before work and one in late morning or early afternoon.  But I was a mess from the time I got to work, exhausted and irritable.  I had my second coffee of the day not long after getting to work, and my third mid-afternoon.

I stayed late at work, not super-late, but until just before 6.  Then I did two errands after work. 

When I got home, I was exhausted.  I had dinner, and then lay in the living room listening to the radio until bedtime.  I went to bed early, at 8:45.  But then I had trouble falling asleep.  Maybe it was because I had extra coffee to try to make it through the day.

I got up and went to the ogham cards.  I shuffled them carefully, and let myself be drawn to a particular card.  I chose my card, and it was Uilleand.  I opened the book to read about its meaning.  I read of a bird which, when disturbed, flies up and makes a scene to draw attention away from its nest.  I read about turning away from distraction and seeing the truth at the center.  This seemed apt, since I have been reading about ADHD and since I had a distractible day.

After reading about Uilleand, I felt a sense of peace.  I went back to bed, and this time I could fall asleep.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD

The third ADHD book I am reading is The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD by Lidia Zylowska.  The point of the book is pretty much given in the title.  The book reviews some research and gives some exercises for practicing mindfulness.  There's not a lot of research on using mindfulness for ADHD, but there's research on using mindfulness for the things ADHD affects, such as memory and concentration. It doesn't give a lot of time to explaining what ADHD is, but there are some parts about ADHD that resonate with me.
  • "You can have many ideas but likely have trouble focusing and prioritizing, since you may think everything is equally important.  You may feel paralyzed, not knowing where to begin, or you may sometimes impulsively start several projects at once.  You may have trouble initiating a task, staying on task, or transitioning out of a task."
  • ADHD is not really a deficit of attention.  It's a deficit of attention regulation.  
  • "I see many ADHD adults who are stressed and overwhelmed  They frequently feel behind and are constantly trying to catch up on what they need to do.  They often describe themselves as 'running on empty.'"
  • "In general, writing things down and posting them in a place you are likely to notice them is a great help.  However, leaving loose pieces of paper all around or having haphazard reminders in multiple places -- which adults with ADHD tend to do -- is not helpful."
One thing I thought was interesting, though it wasn't specifically about ADHD, was that people who had difficulty with anger were able to reduce their verbal and physical aggressive behavior with mindfulness.  They practiced focusing on the sensation on the soles of their feet instead of on whatever was making them angry.

Another study had some psychotherapists meditate just before a session, and others meditate at another time.  Patients had better outcomes when the therapist meditated just before the session.

People who habitually pay attention to certain things have larger brains in that area.

Mindfulness includes both formal and informal activities.  Formal is when you sit and meditate.  Informal is when you stop and be mindful during the course of the day.  Both formal and informal are needed for ADHD.  Formal trains you to be better at informal.

When you meditate, your mind will wander.  This is normal.  Don't judge yourself.  Just label it and move back to the present.  Labeling it means noting what is happening in your mind: worry, itching, thinking.   Say, "There is anger," rather than "I'm angry."

The book offers an 8 step plan, with several exercises for each step. It suggests spending about two weeks on each step before moving on to the next step.

Step 1: Become More Present: Attention and the Five Senses

Practice tuning into to each of the five senses separately, as if each is a different radio station.

Step 2: Focusing the Wandering Mind: Mindful Breathing

Practice awareness of breath: nostrils, chest, abdomen. If your mind wanders, just remind yourself of your intention and return to your breath.  You can count as you breathe, or use a word (such as "peace") or use a visualization, such as a wave of air going in and out.

Step 3: Direct and Anchor Your Awareness: Mindfulness of Sound, Breath, and Body

Set an intention to pay attention to a specific thing.  Pay attention to that.  Then set an intention to pay attention to a different thing.  For example, set a timer and spend 3 minutes focused on sound, 3 minutes focused on breath, 3 minutes focused on body sensation.  This exercise gives you practice being in the driver's seat of your attention.

Use sound, breath, and body to anchor you throughout your daily life.

STOP:
Stop
Take a breath.
Observe sounds, breath, and body sensation.
Proceed.  Consider where your attention was, what your attention is, and choose what to do next.

Step 4: Listen to Your Body: Mindfulness of Body Sensations and Movement

Body scan: focus on each part of your body, one by one.  There are a number of things you can do at each place:
  • Relax
  • Tense and then relax
  • Move
  • Direct loving attention to that spot
  • Imagine breathing into that spot

They have a diagram of the body showing:
  • Sagittal plane - front to back
  • Coronal plane - left to right
  • Transverse - horizontal
This diagram reminds me of the Sphere of Protection in AODA practice.

Many people with ADHD are clumsy.

Practice mindful movement exercises.  Stand in one place, and practice mindfully swaying, stretching, standing on one foot, raiiing arms, swinging arms.

Walking meditation: while walking, focus on your feet.  You can think of each time you place your foot as representing being proactive and starting new things, or you can think of each time you left your foot as leaving things behind.

Spend 2 minutes standing still, 5 minutes shaking, 3-5 minutes dancing, a few minutes sitting or lying down.  This comes from Kundalini yoga, but in yoga, you usually do 10 minutes on each thing.  Prepare a CD or playlist that has an appropriate number of minutes of music to shake to and music to dance to.

Your facial expression and body posture reflect how you feel, ,but it also goes the other way.  Practice changing your facial expression and body posture to reflect the feelings you want to evoke.  Sit up straight if you want to be more assertive.   Practice the soft smile.

Do any activities that relax or loosen your body, such as aerobic exercise, massage, yoga, hot bath, sauna.

Using mindfulness to cope with pain: Notice the pain, and any thoughts associated with it.  Then focus on your breath or a part of your body that is not painful.  Keep switching between them.  Accept the pain.  Don't try to change it.

The same technique can be used for restlessness.  Notice the restlessness.  Notice the physical sensations and thoughts associated with it.  Switch between focus on the restlessness and focus on something else.  Use compassion.  For example, tell yourself, "I know restlessness can be unbearable because of ADHD."  Try things like going for a walk, moving a part of your body, or doodling, and be mindful how you feel before, during, and after these activities.

Notice your body throughout the day, including during transitions between walking, standing, sitting, and lying.

Step 5: Observe Your Mind: Mindfulness of Thoughts

Imagine your thoughts as clouds passing through a blue sky.  Observe them as they go by.  Notice the space between them -- the space where you can observe your thoughts from a distance.

Creativity comes from daydreaming.  Give your mind time to relax and roam.

Mind traps to watch out for: judging others, judging yourself, all or nothing thinking, blaming others, blaming yourself,  magnifying, minimizing, making assumptions, rigid adherence to rules, disregard for rules.  When you get into a mind trap, use the STOP practice.

Step 6: Manage Your Emotions: Mindfulness of Feelings

People with ADHD may be quick to emotional responses, or may push aside their emotions. Use the RAIN practice:

Recognize
Accept
Investigate
Non-identify

Explore the emotion.  Observe how it impacts your body.  Be kind and gentle with yourself.  Non-identify -- just watch it and learn from it.  End by recognizing your courage in being present with a difficult emotion.

Loving-kindness meditation: Starts with yourself and loved ones.  Eventually can move on to those we feel neutral about, those we dislike, and all beings.  Can say something like, "May you be happy,  may you be safe, may you be healthy and live with ease"   or "May I be happy, May I be free of suffering, may I be safe, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I find joy, may I be healthy and strong, may I accept myself as I am."

I was doing something like this when I was practicing regular mediation 2010-2012.  I don't think anyone told me to, it was just something I came up with on my own.

If you have trouble sending loving kindness to yourself, you could try thinking of yourself when you were a child, or thinking of how people who love you feel about you.

Before you can send loving kindness to people who have hurt you, you may need to sit with the hurt for a while.

Cultivate joy, gratitude, humor, and playfulness.

Step 7: Communicate Skillfully: Mindful Listening and Speaking

Use the STOP practice to make sure you are paying attention when someone is speaking, not talking too much, and not going off topic too much.

Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent, compassionate communication:
  1. Observe: when....
  2. Express feelings evoked by observation:  I feel...
  3. Needs: I need...
  4. Request: I would like....
You also use this to express empathy, describe what another person feels, but leaving off step 4.

Mindful presence meditation: Instead of choosing to focus on a particular thing, observe yourself as you notice whatever arises: sound, body sensation, emotion, though.  End with loving kindness. This cultivates a flexible, receptive attention that you can use when interacting with people.

Step 8: Slow Down to Be More Effective: Mindful Decisions and Actions

Use the STOP practice to look at how you are dealing with tasks.  Are you interested? Bored? Procrastinating? Overwhelmed? Wanting to do something else? High or low energy? Motivated? Are you doing what you intended to be doing or something else?  If you notice an obstacle, such as avoidance or lack of interest, imagine you are looking directly at it and naming it, "There's avoidance."

If you are frazzled, calm yourself with the mountain meditation.  Imagine a mountain.  Think about how it has been standing there for millenia through all kinds of weather.  Imagine you are the mountain.  As you breathe, say "Breathing in, I see myself like a mountain.  Breathing out, I feel solid and strong."

Task sequence: choosing, starting, doing, finishing.  Be mindful of what you are doing at each stage.

"Many adults with ADHD report being overwhelmed by their choices and not knowing where to start."  That's me.

Acceptance Commitment Therapy: List the things that are important to you in life.  List long-term and short-term goals in each area.  Now look at the extent to which your day to day activities reflect what is important to you.

Meditation if you need help getting started: "Breathing in, I am like a tiger.  Breathing out, I am focused and ready to act."  You can say, "Jump tiger!"

Make lists, set priorities, break tasks into smaller step, focus on one thing at a time.  If you get distracted, go back to the thing you chose to focus on.  Watch and vary your pace.  Take breaks for a fixed amount of time, and return to task when time is up.  Give yourself external structure -- post-it notes, someone working with you.  Sometimes it helps to have someone working on their thing nearby while you work on your thing.  If you drop the ball, forgive yourself and pick it back up.

Be mindful of finishing.  Do you have a sense of completion before you are really done? Do you procrastinate more as you get near the end?

Savor how good it feels when you are truly finished.  Remember this and use it to motivate yourself the next time.  

To get out of hyperfocus, practice flexible focus.  Imagine a frog jumping from one lily pad to another.

Developing good habits: When you want to get into the habit of doing something, like leaving your keys in a certain spot or taking your vitamins, do it very mindfully.

Start sideways: if you are avoiding starting a task, just take a peek at it, dip your toe in.  I've done this with exercise -- tell  myself I'm going to do a small amount, but then find the ability to do more when I get started. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Just be

People are always arguing, giving advice, having opinions.  I want to be able to be with someone and just be.  I want people who can just sit and be satisfied with who I am right now, not try to change my mind or enlighten me.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Queen of Distraction

Now I am reading The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus, and Get More Done by Terry Matlen.  As with the other things I've read about ADHD, some things fits me and some don't.
  • It talks about have piles of paper all over your house, and not being able to find things in the piles.  I do have that problem.  However, other things mentioned in the chapter on clutter don't apply to me.  When I'm going out, such as to work, I don't have trouble with remembering and bringing with me the things I need, such as keys.  Also, the books says many women with ADHD have a disorganized kitchen, but that is not a problem for me.
  • It says that people with ADHD are drawn to books about how to de-clutter and get organized, but the books don't really work for us.  I think I'm not really drawn to the books, because I know they don't work.
  • One thing it suggests for de-cluttering is listen to your body.  Which aspect of the clutter makes you tense? Address that aspect of the clutter first.
  • It says "For many (but not all) women with ADHD, it's more enjoyable to do just about anything but cook."  That sounds like me.
  • It describes the following scenario for preparing dinner: "you remember there was a story you wanted to catch on the 6:00pm news, you promise yourself you'll only leave the kitchen for five minutes.  But, oh my god, the story is fascinating! While in the family room, you notice the pile of newspapers and toss them into the recycle bin in the garage.  While in the garage, you decide to take the garbage to the curb.  While outside, you notice some flowers wilting and decide to pick, oh, just a few dying petals off.  Twenty-five minutes later when you're back in the kitchen, the rice is scorched, ruining your pot and you dinner." I don't watch TV, and I don't leave things cooking to long, but this way of wandering from task to task describes me.
  • In the section on de-cluttering the kitchen, the book says go through the kitchen and put everything away.  If you find something that belongs in another room, don't leave the kitchen.  Have a box or bag for each room, and sort the things based on where they belong.  Then when you have finished in the kitchen, take each box or bag and put those things away. I have done something similar, putting things into piles depending on what is to be done with them but then when I finish sorting, I don't feel like putting the things away.  
  • It says "Brain scans show that when people with ADHD are forced to do boring tasks, the prefrontal cortex slows down, causing sluggishness.  In order to be productive, focused, and alert, the ADHD brain needs a higher level of stimulation than the non-ADHD brain."  
  • It suggests keeping a log of how you spend your time.  You may put off doing things because you feel it will take too  long.  When you realize it does not take as long as you thought, it may be easier to do it.  At the same time, you may end up being late for things because you don't allow enough time for getting ready.  I tend to have a departure time in my mind, and when that time arrives, I stop what I'm doing and depart.  Except that I still need to put on my shoes, brush my hair, and go to the bathroom, so I don't depart at the time I planned.  
  • The book says plan your day every day.  You can make the plan either in the morning, or the night before.  Make a to do list and prioritize the items on the to do list.  Then the book adds two important steps, the steps I always skip: 1) Reduce the number of items on the list to something that you can actually accomplish in the allotted time, and 2) Do the things on your list.
  • Set timers for start and stop times for activities.  Also, when you take breaks, set a time for when to end the break and get back to work.  Avoid doing "one last thing," like checking email.  
  • Give yourself mantras to help through difficult areas.  For example, when facing tasks you are avoiding, "Don't do it because you have to, do it because you can."
  • Make peace with routine.  Routine may seem unappealing to you, but it will give you peace of mind to have your chores done and to be on track.  
  • If there is something you are putting off doing, think about it.  What aspect of the task is putting you off? 
  • Sometimes people with ADHD have trouble listening on the telephone.  They need to be able to look at the person talking in order to pay attention.  I do have trouble paying attention to people talking, but I think the worst is in person in a group setting.
  • People with ADHD may have trouble with shopping, because there are so many sights and sounds.  I'm thinking about how it can be tiring for me to be out in the world, even just looking at scenery, and restful to be home in dark and quiet.  When I was on vacation, I couldn't sit by the ocean all day.  I needed to stay inside and do stuff on the computer, because staying in was more restful, even compared to just sitting by the ocean.
  • When others are talking, you wish they would hurry up and come to the point.  This is true for me.  People just keep going on and on blah blah blah in circles repeating themselves, and I interrupt them and get to the point.
  • We may argue because we crave the stimulation of arguments.   
  • When talking, it may seem that you jump from topic to topic, which may make it hard for your partner to follow your train of thought.  Make explicit the way your thoughts are connected.
  • Stay focused on what your partner is saying by repeating his words in your head, or paraphrasing out loud.
  • Looking at your partner and having physical contact with him may also help with staying focused on what he is saying.
  • When he is telling you something, it may feel like it is the same thing he has said a thousand times before, but remember, this is the most important person in your life.  Stop, drop, and listen.  
  • Your partner needs to offer support, not enabling.  Enabling is treating you like a helpless child.  Your partner needs to see you as a competent adult who has strengths and weaknesses.
  •  People with ADHD are sensitive to sensory stimulation.  They may find it hard to concentrate on something else when there are background noises.  They hear the hum of the fan, and of the refrigerator -- the sounds others don't even notice.  They jump when they hear a sudden noise.
  • Many are sensitive to touch.  They don't like sticky doorknobs, wrinkled sheets, or restrictive clothing.  But some feel the are calmed by being enclosed -- wearing close-fitting clothing, sleeping under heavy blankets.  
  • In addition to sensory sensitivity, women with ADHD may have emotional sensitivity.  They may be sensitive to criticism.
  • Women with ADHD may seem to have a strong sense of empathy, reacting strongly to the emotional states of others, or they may seem to lack empathy, because they have trouble focusing their attention on what is going on with others.  This is true for me.  I can get very sucked in to a story in a book or movie, but in real life, it may be difficult to wrap my mind around other people.
  • ADHD symptoms may be affected by puberty, PMS, and perimenopause.  During perimenopause it may be helpful to take a stimulant, an SSRI, and HRT.
  • "Many women with ADHD are underemployed and underpaid because they are afraid of taking the leap into a job they fear might be too difficult for them, resulting in many unhappy years stuck in dead-end, boring, or stressful jobs."
  • "Inattentive women still have hyperactive brains and need to be challenged and stimulated, so it's important that you don't fall into the sort of job in which you feel stagnant."
  • Schedule the things you hate doing in order to make sure they get done.  
  • Overcommitment is a common problem, agreeing to take on more than you can really handle. 
  • Sleep, nutrition, and exercise help a lot with ADHD.  Try to get out for midday walks.  Eat protein in the morning.  Eat complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohyrdates.  Cut back on sugar and caffeine.
  • Hiring a personal organizer, buying prepared foods, hiring a tutor to help your kids with homework -- these are not luxuries.  They are accommodations for your disability.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Spirituality Without Structure

Some notes from Spirituality Without Structure by Nimue Brown:
  • She says "I've even had Druid practitioners tell me that I must repeat meditations that don't work for me, and repeat them daily because they are necessary.  To question that, was, I was told, to disrespect both the teacher and the tradition."  When I think of it from the outside, when I think of a religious leader telling people what they must do  in order to show their respect to the leader, it seems like a situation which should inspire fleeing.  But when I'm in the moment, when I've chosen to embrace a tradition, a person, I try to comply with what that tradition or person tells me I should do.  I try to give them a chance.  And then I get mad at them.
  • She describes a spiritual experience as "an uplifting, inspiring, and positive occurrence"  which may inspire "love, hope, compassion, and the like."  That makes me think of a Pete Seeger concert.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Inner grove

Books that talk about meditation tell me that I should visualize my inner grove, that this will be a place I can return to time after time in meditations, a place for finding peace.  The books talk about starting by imagining approaching on a path, bridge, or stairs.  Then enter the place.  Then maybe you will be greeted by creatures who inhabit the place. Then you can explore the place.  Then you can leave using the same path, bridge, or stairs you used to enter. 

So, I have been creating my inner grove.  I'm terrible at drawing, but here's a general layout.   The entrance is on the bottom of this map.



Now, the more descriptive details:

You start by walking on a stone path that goes beside a creek.




You cross the creek on a bridge.


Then, before you is a field, with occasional trees, including maple.








In the field, you may find goats, sheep, llamas, rabbits, and chickens wandering about.
















Off to the sides, there are shrubs -- lilac, hydrangea, and mountain laurel.











Ahead and to the left is the apple orchard.























Ahead and to the right is a hardwood forest, with trees including maple and oak.




Straight ahead is a forest of white pine trees, with a carpet of pine needles and boulders.







If you continue through the forest, you will come out to wild blueberries.






Beyond the blueberry hill is the granite ocean coast.

Hidden away in the forest is a cottage.  In summer, the thick stone walls keep it cool inside.  For winter, there's a sunroom in back, with a woodstove, so you can sit in a chaise chair reading, cozy and warm. 



Monday, August 10, 2015

The past, the future

Druidry and the Ancestors by Nimue Brown reminds of us our roots.  Wherever we live, this ground we walk upon has been walked on by humans and animals for centuries, for millenia.  We are just one link in the chain.  And we have a long chain of genetic ancestors -- 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 great great grandparents, and so on back for millenia, except that not all are unique -- when distant cousins marry, they have some common ancestors. 

And my life is itself a chain in time.  From the present, my life stretches back to the past.  Living around here the past 20 years, discovering scenic areas around here, learning to rollerblade, being unemployed.  Before that, living in the suburb of a big city while going to grad school.  Walking a half hour to school.  Walking to grocery shopping, hauling groceries in a backpack, taking the train to my internships, living in a basement apartment, choosing the basement because I can dance around, stomping on the floor all I want, without disturbing anyone below.  Before that, living in the suburbs of a different big city, working a boring job in the big city, taking aerobics class, walking to visit my boyfriend, discovering the parks.  Before that, college, a community, a circle of friends, a place where I belonged.  Before that, growing up, my hometown, a misfit at school, some friends at school, vacations in more rural, rugged places, hippie parents who listened to Donovan, a rock band at my father's commune, playing on a homemade see-saw, getting a "swinging ladder" for the swing set, dressing up like a nurse.

And from the present, the future stretches wide before me.  An unwritten story.  An unforged trail.  It could lead anywhere.  We never know what's around the bend.  We don't know what we will find, but when we find it, we choose what course to take. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Book report: Taking Charge of Adult ADHD

Back in June, the doctor suggested maybe I have ADHD.  I'm not sure if I do or not, but I do have difficulty focusing sometimes.  I figured I'd read about ADHD, and even if I don't have it, I could get some ideas for strategies to help  me focus.  I read through the reviews on amazon, chose three books that I thought looked most promising, and ordered them on inter-library loan.

The first of the three is Taking Charge of Adult ADHD by Russell Barkley with Christine M. Benton.  Dr. Barkley has a thorough background on ADHD-related research, and shares the findings in a readable way.  He has found that people with ADHD need to be on medication.  The coping strategies he suggests are meant to be used after you get onto medication.  He offers 8 basic guidelines:
  1.  Stop the action: Before you blurt something out and do something impulsive, stop.  You have the urge to do something, so find a halting action you can do.  For example, inhale, exhale, and say, "Hmm, let me see now." 
  2. See the past and then the future: Imagine a TV screen, computer screen or whatever works for you.  Imagine that you are watching a video that shows you what happened in the past in a similar situation.  Also, for specific situations in which your mind's eye is blind, post images.  For example, a woman would impulsively buy designer shoes and then not be able to afford books her son needed for school.  She posted a shoe ad with a zero balance bank statement.  On the other side, she posted a photo of her son and an image of a diploma. 
  3. Say the past and then the future: Picture yourself holding a microphone and interviewing yourself on TV.  Be a journalist who asks tough questions.  Ask what's going on here, what did I do last time, how did that turn out, what are the options, what will happen if I do X.  Talk to yourself out loud as you try to choose your course of action.  Not necessarily in public, but at home, while driving, while walking in the woods at the beginning of the day planning the rest of the day. 
  4. Externalize key information: Post notes and images in key places.  Examples: a note with your wallet reminding you not to spend too much, a sign on the computer reminding you not to surf the internet.  Carry a journal at all times to write down the things you have to do, and check it hourly.  Use to do lists, and figure out how to make them realistic.  Identify how long each task will take, so that you can set realistic goals. 
  5. Feel the future: Think about the negative consequences of doing the wrong thing, but also the positive consequences of doing the right thing.  Think of how satisfied you will be when the task is finished. 
  6. Break it down and make it matter: Break tasks into chunks.  Steps that will take an hour or half an hour.  After completing a chunk, take a break for just a few minutes, and give yourself a small reward, such as looking at the view or playing a musical instrument.  Find someone you can be accountable to, and tell them when you've completed each step. 

    In a book on writing, Anne Lamott said that when her brother had to write a paper on birds and was having trouble getting started, their father advised to just write about one bird at a time -- take it bird by bird. 
  7. Make problems external, physical, and manual: Use tools so you don't have to hold it all in your head.  Like children using counting items like beads as the learn arithmetic.  Designers make models. 
  8. Have a sense of humor: Take ownership of your ADHD and laugh at yourself.  Say to people, "Well, there goes my ADHD again.  Sorry about that.  My mistake.  Now I have to try to do something about that next time."
 Then the book goes on to discuss strategies for certain arenas, such as education, work, health, driving, etc.  Of those, the only tips I found useful were in the education section.  Tips there included:
  • Find a coach or mentor, and meet with them twice a day for 5 minutes.  At the beginning of the day, tell them what you need to accomplish that day.  At the end of the day, tell them what you did accomplish.
  • Use a device that cues you to stay on track.  There is a device called MotivAider that vibrates.  You can set it to vibrate at certain intervals or randomly.  
  • Taking notes helps you pay attention to what is being said.
  • Use SQ4R method for reading: Scan the material to be read to get an idea of how long it is and how it is organized.  Write some Questions that the reading should answer.  Read one paragraph, the Recite out loud what it said, then wRite what it said, then Review what you wrote.  After you get practice, you can do this every two paragraphs instead of every paragraph.  
  • For tests, time off the clock seems to work more than extra time.  Take a break, walk around a few minutes.  The time of the break doesn't count toward the time doing the test.  The amount of time you spend actually doing the test is the same as for the other students, but you do take longer because of the breaks.  
  • Exercise helps with focus.  Do aerobic exercise before a test or before a boring class.  Develop a routine to do aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

New clothes

I liked the pants I bought, and was happy to be wearing them for the first time.  I had told my friend about them, but he did not comment when he saw me.  "Like my pants?" I asked.

Of course, he wouldn't.  His taste is not the same as mine. 

But he knew how to respond.

"They're very Terra-like," he said.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Not bored for a change

This morning at work, I worked on something that wasn't boring.  It was so refreshing, to work on something and just keep on thinking about it, instead of having my brain keep bouncing off everything I was trying to do.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Yellow lights

A few weeks ago when I was giving my friend a ride, he commented, "You are different from people around here.  Normally when people see a yellow light, they see that as a sign to step on the accelerator, not the brake."

Seasoned

I like people who are old enough to be seasoned.  People who:
  • Have been rejected.
  • Have known loss.
  • Have experienced health problems.
  • Know that even if you work hard, you may not be able to make all your dreams come true.
  • Cherish others for who they are, knowing that an ideal person does not exist.
  • Know the value of tact, rather than glorifying uncensored self-expression.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tired

I'm so tired. I can't do this. How can I live like this? It wasn't supposed to be like this. I was supposed to have a chance to live my life.  

Perspective on a day off

Acquaintance: Did you have a good day off?

Me: Well, not really.  I took a day off to get some chores done, but I didn't do anything.  I just lay around and relaxed.

Acquaintance (jokingly): You relaxed on your day off?! How terrible!  I won't be your friend any more. 

Acquaintance: Did you read?

Me: Yes.  But I wasn't planning to read, so I didn't have any new books.  I read some books that I've read before.

Acquaintance: Oh horrors!

It's nice to have someone put things in perspective for me, so I don't feel so bad about how I spent the day.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tact

My friend: For someone who's half space alien, your English is not too bad.

Me: That's not a compliment.

My friend: Well I gotta do something.  You said I was tactful the other night.  I have to uphold my reputation for obnoxiousness. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Unfocused

The doctor said maybe I have ADHD.  Is that why I never get anywhere?

I don't read nonfiction books much.  I  mean, when I have them, I just read a few pages and then I lose interest.

I do read alumni magazines.  I get them from five schools, of which I read four.  I read about doctors, lawyers, professors.  I was the peer of these people, and now I am so far behind them.

In one such magazine, there's a tribute to a former college president who passed away.  He went to college, then before finishing, joined the Peace Corps and worked in India. After working in India for a few years, he returned to college.  A professor who taught him said, "Tom came back invigorated in every way from his Peace Corps experience.  In India, he found what he wanted to do in life."

Have I ever found what I wanted to do in life? I've had moments when I thought I did, but such moments never last.

I went to a concert last night.  A flamenco guitarist and a percussionist.  Both are very skilled.  It takes practice to be so skilled.  I've never been focused enough to develop skill at anything.

I like dancing, skiing, rollerblading, folk music, trees.  I have skill at none of them.

For 30 years, it has been my dream to do research on social problems.  I have done nothing. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Haggling is not Quakerly

At http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/06/17/415287577/episode-633-the-birth-and-death-of-the-price-tag, you can hear Planet Money's Episode 633 "The Birth and Death of the Price Tag" from June 17, 2015.  It is about how haggling used to be universal, around 1870, we started having fixed prices, but now we are moving back toward more haggling.  At 3:30, they mention that in the time of haggling, one group of people did not haggle: Quakers thought it was morally wrong to charge different prices to different people. 

I don't recall being taught that haggling was wrong for Quakers.  In fact, for me, the epitome of Quakerliness was my great grandfather, and he haggled when he visited the Middle East.  I think he saw it as a way of connecting with people, to tell each other the story of what the object being purchased means to you.

But the Quaker principles ingrained in me cause me to favor fixed prices, to feel there is something wrong with haggling, sales, coupons, and gambling.  So it was affirming to hear in this stories that I'm not the only person who feels that haggling is unQuakerly.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A beautiful evening

I took the day off work to do chores, including dealing with frustrating phone calls.  It was hot and humid.  I was tired.   I was so tired that I felt shaky about moving.  But I persevered.  I remembered feeling this way other times, and coming out okay.  I went to the laundromat and did laundry.  I hung up the laundry on the balcony.  After the laundry was hung, I sat on the balcony.  Suddenly, the day was transformed into a beautiful evening.  The air, formerly hot and humid, was cool and clear, a perfect temperature.  The leaves glowed in the golden evening light, and fluttered in the breeze.  Overhead, the sky was blue, with clouds.  There was a layer of high clouds which stayed plastered to the sky, while the low clouds flew rapidly toward me.  The low clouds looked like giant birds or dragons.  I lay there gazing up, and I saw a flock of dragons flying overhead.  I just lay there basking in the wonder.

Then, after the flock of dragons passed by, I turned my attention to something closer to me.  Hanging on the clothesline right beside me was one of my fleece throws.  It has rainbow colors which I like, but even more, I like that the colors are not in orderly rows of stripes, but rather, they wander about.  The orange is shaped like flames.  So I stared at the fleece for a while, and its beauty filled me with wonder, just like the beauty of the sky and the leaves filled me with wonder.  An exquisite evening.





One good listener

For the past 9 years, everyone is like: "You're depressed."  "You should exercise more." "You should rest more."  "You should eat more meat."  "You should be more vegetarian."  "You should be gluten free."  "You should get a more challenging job."  "You should retire and not have any job."  "You should be grateful for your job."  "You should go out more, be more adventurous."  "You should take more medications."  "You should take fewer medications."

It's like being under siege.  I have one friend who doesn't do it.  He's the only person in the world who knows how to behave.  Even professional counselors don't know how to behave.

He said it is because he has so many medical issues and doesn't like to be told what to do.  I told him most of  the people who tell me what to do have medical issues too.  In particular, I mentioned parents.  I said, "Parents think that because you were a baby once, that you don't know anything.  They think they have to tell you what to do."   I commented on how parents don't like to get advice from their parents, so you would think they would know people don't like to get advice from parents, and they wouldn't give advice to their kids.  My friend explained, "There's blinders for that."

I am so grateful to have one good friend.  

An egalitarian college president

I work at a university where the president has a chauffeur who drives her from one building to another on campus.  She corrects any student who dares to call her by her first name.  She expects her vice presidents to rise when she enters a room.  This offends my values.  Quakers are the ones who went to prison for refusing to take off their hat for the kind.  I am stuck here until I find another way to earn a living.

Marlboro College is one place that has a very different set of values.  I have applied for jobs there, but I have not been offered any jobs there. 

The Summer 2012 Marlboro College alumni magazine has an article about a professor on the occasion of her retirement.  The professor, Laura Stevenson, joined Marlboro in 1986.  She says, "The first winter I was here we got a big snowstorm, and when I finally got to campus with my snowshoes and shovel, there were the president and the dean shoveling the walks."

The Spring 2015 issue suggests that the trend of non-snobby presidents has continued.  Regarding an ice storm in 2008, the magazine says, "Ellen was one of just a few people able to get to campus.  She opened the kitchen and ended up flipping pancakes." 

Ellen is the president of Marlboro.  The magazine refers to her by her first name.  The president of the university where I work not only refuses to be called by her first name, she also insists on being called by a pretentious title. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Humans who do evil deeds

Teacher Becki Norris writes about her former student in her article "Why I Testified on Behalf of Dzokhar Tsarnaev"
Why do we feel the need to believe that monstrous deeds can only be committed by those who are evil to the core? Is it too difficult to see the world in shades of gray, too disturbing to confront the idea of a good person turning to unspeakable acts? Over the past two years, I have had to accept that a kind and gentle temperament is not a lifetime guarantee, and a smart and caring child can go far, far down an evil path. I have discovered the painful truth that when you care deeply for someone, that does not stop even if he does unfathomably horrible things. We humans are surprisingly good at holding two irreconcilable ideas in our psyches at the same time. Yes, he did the unforgivable. And yes, I still love him. And — this one is hard to fathom, I know — he is a human being who still needs love.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Beginning Place by Ursula LeGuin

Different from the books I usually read.   The books I read usually have more plot.  Usually, I have to keep reading to find out what happens next.   It reminded me a bit of Tree By Leaf by Cynthia Voigt. Both are slow-paced, both have a sense of the sacred, and both convey a message.

In the Beginning Place, there's a man and a woman who start off with an antagonistic relationship and end up falling in love.  To me, that is a really trite plot device.  And I hate it most when you don't really see the relationship develop, when it's just like boom, now they are in love, instead of being a relationship that is built over a long time, with the building block of many small interactions.  And this book was one of those without sufficient development.  Yeah, they were starting to work together, a partnership formed by the necessity of circumstances.  And yeah, they went through a traumatic experience together, which bonds people.  But then all of a sudden they are having sex, and then all of a sudden they declare they are married.


So, my main complaint about the book is the abruptness of the relationship.

A good thing about the book is the view of the world: Reality is harsh.  Reality is working a job you don't like.  Reality is trying to protect your parents, but they are crazy and make crazy choices that hurt you, and there is nothing you can do about.  Fantasy provides refuge.  But reality keeps on being real.

Another good thing: Page 175, the female character's experience of being hugged by the male character: "He was a wall, a fortrees, a bulwark, and mortal, frail, easier to hurt than heal; dragonkiller, child of the dragon; king's son, poor man, poor, brief, unknowing soul."

We are just poor humans, fallible, breakable, but the comfort we give to each other is warm and strong. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Names

As I have written a number of times before, I like to meditate on names I identify with.  Today and yesterday, we have:

Laurel -- A flowering shrub found in the forest, so woodsy, and the joy of spring.
Sierra -- wild, strong, windswept
Sage -- Person of deep wisdom.  Also an herb, so an earthy person.  An herb used in ritual, so a spiritual person.
Skydancer -- one who dances reaching for the sky, like tree branches


And, also on the theme of seeking things to identify with, I think of this photo:
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/405535141421990814/

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lost skills of the modern age

I finished dinner.  It was not quite bedtime.  I was tired.  How to spend some quiet restful time until bedtime?  In the winter, I would go to the computer.  But now it is warm.  I went out and sat on the balcony.  The wind was whooshing in the trees.  Space for thinking.  In winter, I don't make space for thinking.  Unless I do meditation.  I did meditation for about two weeks last January and February, but soon fell out of the habit. 

And what I saw in my moment of contemplation was an economy of specialization.  Not Far From the Tree by John Bunker is a book about apples in a small town in Maine, but what I found most striking in it was the way that Maine farmers grew things for there own use, and then transitioned to growing them to sell.  For  millenia, humans have been so much more capable of taking care of themselves than we are now, at least those of us in developed nations.  If we want something, we buy it.  We have no idea how to create something ourselves. 

A few months ago, someone wrote on Facebook complaining about neighbors who put everything out as trash, rather than separating out the recyclables.  Another person, a local community organizer, posted a link to a pdf flyer listing what can be recycled.  He suggested that the original complainer print out some copies and distribute them in his neighborhood. 

Actually do something? Unheard of.  We expect everything to be done for us.  Have a problem with the neighbors? Complain to Code Enforcement or the police.  Let them fix it.  We wouldn't want to actually talk to our neighbors.

We talk to our coworkers.  My coworker is supposed to organize staff meetings once a month.  She consistently screws it up.  I told her last month where the problems were.  She forgot, so this month, I tried again, and really walked her through it.  There are three different calendars, and each lists a different location.  When she sends her email announcement, she just says the meeting is in the conference room, but she doesn't say which conference room.  Then she gets annoyed at people for not knowing where the meeting is, feeling as if they did not read her email.  So I walked her through each calendar, telling her what it says now, and discussing how to fix it.

But I would not do that with neighbors.  I don't know my neighbors.  I don't want to know my neighbors.  They are very different from me.  I don't know how to talk to them.  Sometimes people who try to communicate with neighbors get shot for it. 

I don't know how to communicate with neighbors.  I don't know how to build a house.  I don't know how to build a fire for cooking.  I don't know how to grow my own food.  I don't know how to find food in a forest.  I don't know how to make clothes.  I don't know how to make fabric.  I don't know how to make a pot.  I don't know how to make a musical instrument.  My ancestors knew how to do these things. 

If civilization fell apart, we would be lost.  The Transition movement tries to remedy this.

Arrival of warm weather

Three things:
  1. The feel of the sun on my skin
  2. The feel of the air on my skin
  3. The sight of leaves on trees
At this time of year, I experience these three things as drinking in health and healing.

I don't know if they are really the things that give me health this time of year.  It could be some other thing that I don't notice.

The sun on my skin actually can give me sunburn, so just because it feels healing doesn't mean that it is.

One thing that does seem to influence my health is that my asthma is better when it is not so cold.

On the other hand, the pesticides they put on the grass at work Thursday hurt my asthma.  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Okay to be who you are

Last Saturday, I read Web of Air by Philip Reeve.  It was terrible.  The main character abandons the children for whom she is the only parent figure, and her love interest leaves, feeling that she has betrayed him.  It left a bad taste, so I looked at my shelf looking for a sweeter book.  I chose The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip.  At the end of the book, Lyo kisses Peri.  That moment stuck in my mind.  What stuck was a sense of myself as Peri, being loved by Lyo. 

 I'm not insecure in the sense of doubting my worth.  I know I'm worthy.  What I doubt is whether other humans on this planet can see me worth.

I always feel like I can't quite be myself, because other people couldn't handle it.  This past week, I've been reading A Blue Sword.  The parts that jumped out at me were the same parts I quoted in this blog in February 2013:
she was adapting to her new life as best as her energetic self could. She might have screamed, and hammered on the walls with her fists...but she was trying her best to be good. So she was merely first to the breakfast table.
 and
 it wasn't her size or her coloring that held him beyond the first startled flick of notice; nor was it her beauty. There was too much strength in that face and in the long bones of the body for beauty. Something about the quietness of her, perhaps? Or her self-contained straightness....like the contained straightness he himself had learned, knowing well what could happen if he relaxed. 

 A song that resonates with  me is "Janie" by Alien Folklife.  It's about a girl who spends her life working to please her mother, but feels like she can never be good enough.


What I saw when Lyo loved Peri, I wondered, can I imagine that someone loves me that way? Can I live as if someone loves me that way? Can I walk in the world knowing it's okay to be who I am?

But I don't think that I can.

Dream

I dreamed I was talking to my cousin, who was a senior in high school.  I told her that what I do is I pick out colleges for people, pick out careers for them, and pick out names for their children.  I was thinking about what college she might go to,  maybe Oxford, NYU, Columbia, or Vassar.  She told me that she had already picked out a husband. 

I had the sense that we were just south of New York City, but we were also adjacent to the Skidmore College campus.  Her lacrosse team often played against Skidmore, and her chosen husband was a Skidmore lacrosse player.

Then we were traveling in a car or a boat or something.  I was menstruating.  I thought I was sufficiently protected, but it turns out I wasn't.  My cousin and I noticed there was a lot of blood on my cousin.  I said, "That's from me," and I could see the stream of blood from me connecting to the blood on her.  I said that I would change my protection at our next stop.

The next stop was a hospital, mostly a mental hospital.  One person in our group went with the doctor to get checked.  I was just there waiting, so I went to look for a bathroom. 

While I was walking through the hall, another doctor stopped me.  He said I shouldn't be walking around.  He was acting okay, but I knew that he was being inappropriately nosy, and wanted to find out what our doctor, who was good, was up to.  I figured it was a mental hospital so he didn't expect me to be sane, so I acted kind of dumb and crazy.  Basically, I was being blunt in a way that exposed his inappropriateness, but I was acting as if I was too naive to realize that he was being inappropriate.

In the  next scene, I was with the person I had come with and our doctor.  The intrusive doctor was at the next table, trying to spy on us.  I saw the red dot of his laser pointer, and it was like his surveillance.  The bad doctor was fumbling with a device.  It was actually a surveillance device.  Our doctor pretended not to know what it was, and pretending to be helping the nosy doctor get it out of its case, but our doctor was fumbling it a lot, messing it up, being clumsy with it, under the guise of helping, because he wanted to hinder.  Meanwhile I went on with acting crazy and too naive to know what was going on.  I was singing a song, apparently naively, which threatened to draw attention to what the nosy doctor was doing.  Meanwhile I was sauteeing cheese, flipping over slices with a spatula.  That's just what I happened to be doing at the time.  It wasn't part of my crazy act.

Then it was some days later and I was away from the hospital.  I was really grateful to our doctor for protecting us from the nosy doctor, and I wanted to send him a thank you card.  I did not know if it would get read through the surveillance program, so I just wrote thank you on the card.  I did not dare write explaining what I was thankful for.