Five year journey, part 2

(Part 1 here)

Sometimes, I think that I have undiagnosed ADHD. I relate too well to descriptions of people with ADD etc. Apparently, December children are overrepresented on the ADD spectrum. I am a December child. My therapist did point out that it doesn’t really matter if I have ADD or not; I hold down a job, own my own condo, have no bill collectors chasing me, etc. I adult just fine.

The thing about being scatterbrained (besides needing to write everything down) is that things requiring a lot of discipline remain out of reach. I have, for years, disappointed myself in not being driven to try a 90 minute daily practice of yoga and meditation because enlightenment sounds so cool!

Instead, I’ve done the spiritual equivalent of the buffet: A little of this, a little of that. Restless, curious, easily wowed, easily bored. Some things seep in and stick, though. 

A few of my spiritual books. The wide unnamed one is a worn copy of “A Course in Miracles”, I gave a new cover.

A few of my spiritual books. The wide unnamed one is a worn copy of “A Course in Miracles”, I gave a new cover.

I was raised by a grandma who was into New Thought, theosophy and astrology. Her wisdom and guidance and free thinking guided me during some crucial years. The idea that God is not a being but Love has stuck with me ever since my mother introduced me to Science of Mind at age 17. Affirmations have stuck with me. I used guided meditation a lot in college and it mitigated my scatteredness; I was able to focus and remember better. But I did that sort of thing on a whim or once a week or whenever. The experience and knowledge didn’t leave me; it became what I call my spiritual toolbox.

My spiritual toolbox contains the fruit of many classes, books, sermons and seminars over the years. Affirmations, faith, astrology,  meditations, yoga, etheric oils, reiki, crystals, Tarot, etc. I can tell you this: There is one constant and that is Love. If whatever you are being taught or told is not promoting goodness, it’s not True. I have also remembered Grandma’s words that God will always be stronger than any tool I use (such as astrology); a reminder to commune with spiritual source. 

The thing is, I have disappointed myself by not having routines, for not having a regular practice, for not being disciplined. This has applied to both the spiritual and the physical.

Yet, here at the start of 2019, I know I’m not the same as in 2018. When panic starts, I recognize it far more quickly than before and I stop it far more quickly. It no longer becomes something I must care about; it’s just there and I shove it aside. 

It has occured to me that this is something to be proud of. That I have, in spite of my monkey brain, been able to do the work that has changed my thinking and beliefs and will continue to do so. I know that it’s very important not to get frustrated. Feeling forced or “shoulding” myself is not healthy or helpful and just makes me want to abandon whatever it is I’m trying.

I took small steps. I talked with my therapists and healers and friends, sorted my thoughts and my beliefs, journaled a bit, found a meditation that let me visit my childhood, and talked some more. Bit by bit, a new structure took form. The thing is, it wasn’t just one thing and it certainly wasn’t just one steady thing, as in daily or regularly. My curiosity drove me to books and articles, learning about complex PTSD, about mantras that can heal depression, about my own family dynamics.

Learning the Gayatri mantra by heart in the shower

Learning the Gayatri mantra by heart in the shower

And I have realized something: Having variety is what works for me. The moment the novelty wears off, so does my dedication. But switching it up a bit or keeping it short is doable. For example, my I-planned-to-this-daily yoga routine is 15 minutes long and I choose to target different body parts each time. My morning Om chanting takes only as long as it takes for my tea kettle to boil (about 2 minutes), maybe a minute longer. That’s it.

For years, I’ve recited a “prayer” on my walk to work. I’ve used it for so many years, I can’t remember its source. It goes like this:

Close your eyes or focus on something natural, like clouds or trees or a flower. Hold your palms open and facing up, if you can. Breathe in while saying silently to yourself, “I breathe in the cosmic forces of the Universe, asking for strength protection and guidance.” Exhale. Repeat once. 

If you want something extra, do this a third time, changing what you say after the comma. My standard is “…asking that each and every encounter with each and every person be a joy and a blessing for all concerned.” If I have more things I’m concerned about, I end up holding my breath for quite a bit!

The above is now part of a new morning routine, one that got tacked onto a regular activity I do. The best way to start a new habit is to stick it to an existing one. (My problem is that I don’t have many existing regular habits.) So, while my tea kettle boils water for my morning coffee, I do 9 Om chants (because I like 9) while raising and lowering my arms, then I do the cosmic forces prayer. I now also start with some yoga forward bends which help loosen me up.

I’ve tried apps. They are rarely a perfect fit so I lose interest or get frustrated. I also don’t want my cell phone in bed with me. So something I can do myself, that involves my body, seems to be a better method.

Bitmoji_Aw_Yeah.png

I finally own my flighty self; I acknowledge and accept that buffet-style is what works for me. I no longer want to be someone else, be different. I can accept who I am, how I function. I’m not stupid or irresponsible; I just have to understand what motivates me and what helps me.

When it comes to my own mental health, I have done what matters. I have listened to all my helpers, and I continue to listen to them. I have taken responsibility for my healing, in my own way.

I’m not usually proud of myself, but this time I am! Yes!

Five year journey, part 1

I’m thinking about the last five years, because the blog I started in 2014 went poof as I switched providers. (Always read the instructions thoroughly before switching website hosts, kids.) Then a bit of magic happened and I could save my texts and restore posts; the photos were already saved. 

Bitmoji_Me_5.png

As I went through and relinked photos, I saw that I’d been talking about stress and things bothering me on and off. It isn’t just a process to heal; it can also be a process getting sick. (These posts now have the tag “personal” for my own purposes, but they may serve you, too.)

The communists of the Cold War era would make five year plans. Life coaches and career advisers often ask you where you see yourself in five years’ time. That’s a question I’ve never been able to answer. In 2014, I was on a healing path, having explored A Course in Miracles and finding ho’oponopono since 2009. A big rift in my family relations had been healed at this point. I was feeling pretty darned good in 2014. 

I remember I found myself in a situation a couple of years earlier, where I had to learn a lot of new things. Nothing like doing that to confirm that an old dog can indeed learn new tricks. And a good thing that was, because in 2014, I lost my job in one department due to downsizing, but got another job in another department, requiring me to learn entirely new things. And I did. 

I was still riding high on whatever wave this was through 2015. Slowly, in 2016, something was catching up to me. Not the age of my bathroom (a museum piece at this point, and finally renovated in 2016), but something else. We were downsized again; everybody in my (new) department had to reapply for their jobs. I got lucky, once again, and got my job back, but it was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had at work because of what it did to all of us. So the winter of 2016/2017 sucked. Easter week of 2017 came and sucked with only one day of warmth and sunshine; the rest was chilly, cloudy and wet.

Summer of 2017 as seen from inside a boat

Summer of 2017 as seen from inside a boat

I had family visiting that Easter and the visit became rather challenging and disappointing. It did feed the thing catching up to me. By the fall of 2017, I was not doing well, calling in sick to work after a panic attack. I basically stood at my own front door in tears because I couldn’t bear the thought of walking through and going to work. That’s  a pretty strong message! I’m sure that a rainy, cool summer with no trip abroad hadn’t helped my spirits, either. My boss thought transfering me to a temporary position as a beta tester for IT would be a good fit. And for a while it was.

In the midst of all this, I was taking evening classes, dealing with a frozen shoulder, catching up on US tax filing in order to renounce my US citizenship, getting a Norwegian citizenship, and finally severing one of the last ties to my country of birth on January 30, 2018. (Still have final tax return to go as of this writing.)

The summer of 2018 the thing catching up to me finally introduced itself. “Hi, my full name is Depression Anxiety Panic-Attack. I’m moving in. I’m going to terrify you and make you feel useless and helpless and keep you from going on vacation. For starters.”

Well, this was unfamiliar territory. I’ve always been a worry-wort but I’ve also been able to think it away. But this time, two things happened: This new feeling was stronger than anything I’d experienced before—and I seemed to be locked into it, not thinking about my spiritual toolbox and how it could help. The library was open but I didn’t think to go in. 

But, even when shit happens, I’m a lucky girl. A friend had been through the same thing and was ready to spend time with me and let me talk. I got a full refund on the vacation trip I had to cancel. I had the satisfaction of knowing that canceling had been the right thing. I enjoyed a relaxing “staycation” with a few museum visits and lots of sunshine and heat. (2018 was a record-breaking hot and dry summer.) Back at work after my summer vacation was over, I seemed to be all right—until I wasn’t. 

On August 30 2018, I went on partial sick leave. It’s almost 6 months later, and I’m still on partial sick leave. 

I talked to the company psychologist back in September/October. That handful of meetings did me a lot of good, and helped me be gentle with myself. I identified the triggers and the latent self-talk I didn’t know I had. Childhood stuff, of course. A whole story of good and bad, of guilt, loss and confusion. Of me trying to be a Good Girl so the family will start being loving and supportive again like it used to be. I didn’t know I was still trying to be a Good Girl 40-50 years later.

My insurance through my employer then got me another therapist for 10 more sessions. As I built myself back up with her help, I stretched the sessions out more. I have two left. Here too was some lovely synchronicity: I’d discovered yoga mantras and my therapist practiced yoga and gave me some tips.

My GP, who is fresh out of med school, also turned out to be a fantastic listener and the one who reminded me that no matter what I learned in therapy, that was just the start, getting the necessary tools. All the healing and work was going to come after and take time. Bless him for reminding me that this stuff takes time! And for a constant diet of partial sick leave.

So here I am. Feeling a lot better than in a long while. So good, in fact, that I feel like applying for work. I realize now that the job that saved me in 2014 is not a good fit in the long run. 2019 will be the year I figure out where to go next. I’m too old to leave my employer, but changing departments is no problem. I’ve just got to make myself ready.

But baby steps. Bit by bit.

A version of the Gayatri mantra that I learned by heart to help myself. More about that in part 2.

Elevenie "Darkness"

Inspired by Paula’s “elevenie” poem (“Elfchen” in German) ending in darkness, here’s mine about the end of short winter days:

Darkness

Occupies daytime

In the winter

Until a climbing sun

Returns


An elevenie poem has 5 lines with one word on line 1, two words on line 2, three words on line 3, four words on line 4 and one word on line 5 that is different from the word on line 1.

Paved versus cobblestoned

The charm of Bergen is its old streets and equally old houses. The classic tourist photos look something like this:

An old residential street

An old residential street

So I thought I'd show you the less charming, more modern side. The side of the city I usually see. Honestly, I like this part, too. It's just not the most photographed.

Bergen is a constantly growing city. The population has doubled to 250  000 in the last 40 years. As for most cities, at some point you can't expand out; you have to start expanding up. So we've been seeing more and more taller buildings, although not in the city center itself (regulation rules and stuff).

I live in one of the suburbs, Fyllingsdalen, a mere 10-20 minute bus ride into town, depending on time and route. It's a trip I take a lot because I love going to "the city".

Mt Løvstakken, watching over Fyllingsdalen, one morning. In front, the local mall on the left and an apartment building on the right. This is what I see on my walk to work.

Mt Løvstakken, watching over Fyllingsdalen, one morning. In front, the local mall on the left and an apartment building on the right. This is what I see on my walk to work.

Downtown Bergen is the big draw for me: Tradition, cobblestones, bars and restaurants and the easiest place to meet friends from other suburbs. But before you get to that medieval city center, there are the more modern edges. Two of them—a 2 km tunnel (Løvstakktunnelen) and a bridge (Puddefjordsbroen)—are the first ones I constantly encounter going to town.

So on a lovely late autumn afternoon two months ago, I got off the bus right after the tunnel. First thing you see starting up the bridge that goes across the Puddefjord is one our newest apartment buildings, and is (as of this writing) the tallest modern structure made out of wood, named Treet (The Tree or The Wood as in what a tree is made of; wood for burning is "ved"). All I can think is that there's not much privacy on those balconies; you can see everything, including the beginnings of hoarding.

Heading to town; "Treet"

Heading to town; "Treet"

Behind me, the tunnel home

Behind me, the tunnel home

They do have an awesome view of Damsgårdssundet, Damsgård sound. On Treet's side of the sound (south side) is a neighborhood built mostly after WWI in one of the city's earlier suburban sprawls. Across from Treet is a mix of newish and not so new apartment buildings, several built by union members for union members, also from a good 100 years ago. Hence the little neighborhood called Trikkebyen, "Street Car Town" on the north side of Damsgårdsundet. The fjord continues to Solheimsviken, an old industrial area, now all modern office buildings. And of course, off in the distance, our tallest mountain, Ulriken (642 m).

West, Treet

West, Treet

South, Mt. Ulriken

South, Mt. Ulriken

East, Trikkebyen

East, Trikkebyen

"Trikkebyen" is a nickname for a few blocks within a larger and much older neighborhood, Møhlenpris, named after a guy with a mill. When I was studying insurance a couple of autumns ago, I walked through this neighborhood to one of the most modern buildings on Damsgårdsund. Rather charming area and I want to go back and walk the new pedestrian bridge across the sound. Møhlenpris itself was the Jewish neighborhood of Bergen, back when we had Jews. There are memorial stones commemorating the lives lost during WWII. Today's population tends to be ethnically mixed, too, but everyone is proud of their neighborhood and it shows in their creativity:

As you approach Møhlenpris bus stop towards downtown Bergen

As you approach Møhlenpris bus stop towards downtown Bergen

Mural in Møhlenpris, depicting children from different eras

Mural in Møhlenpris, depicting children from different eras

From here, I go up the stairs from the bus stop at Møhlenpris (optionally, up the hill under the cultural history museum). At the top of the stairs is our Human Rights Square, next to the human rights organization the Rafto Foundation. And now we get into what is now considered downtown Bergen, but even this area is a relatively new development, not being part of the original downtown area, but one of the first extensions of the city. We are now near the university, museums and where the rich first built modern (for that era) homes on this side of the city bay. The original botanical gardens are also here, currently in hibernation.

Human Rights Square

Human Rights Square

Fish(less) pond; former fancy homes in background

Fish(less) pond; former fancy homes in background

Our museum of natural history backs onto the gardens

Our museum of natural history backs onto the gardens

From here, the neighborhood consists of a lot of late 1800's buildings. Norway, and Bergen, were experiencing a population explosion, and were also trying to keep the number of city fires down, so larger, stucco buildings became the norm, then. Seen with today's eyes, the neighborhoods are still charming. Here are a few examples as I leave the university area:

Sydneshaugen (South Point Hill)

Sydneshaugen (South Point Hill)

Roadworks and streetcar tracks

Roadworks and streetcar tracks

It isn’t just dogs that use lampposts for messages

It isn’t just dogs that use lampposts for messages

And then we get back down into one of the older parts of town again. The neighborhood between the university and back towards Puddefjorden is called Sydnes (South Point). This is one neighborhood that still has the charming jumble of small wooden houses and cobblestoned streets that Bergen is known for.

Sydnes neighborhood

Sydnes neighborhood

A map of my walk - sort of. Tunnels confuse teh Google. :-)

A map of my walk - sort of. Tunnels confuse teh Google. :-)

90, if you want

A friend commented on another blog post of mine about how we're told that loneliness shortens a life span like a smoking habit does. Her married parents are now within waving distance of 90; she doubts she'll get to that age.

I have a theory, or maybe it's just a good ol' opinion about longevity and it's this: People live a long life because they want to.

I know where my friend's coming from. I have thought the same: That making it to 90 (or even 80) just might not be in the cards for a single, childless woman who has nothing but seated hobbies like knitting, watching TV, surfing the 'net, blogging…

I grew up with "The Greatest Generation", the people who practically starved to death during the Great Depression, then went through a world war (and maybe starved then, too) and still made it into their 90's before giving up this earthbound life.

So the researchers think they lived long because they ate little. Underfeeding yourself makes your metabolism slow down which makes you live longer (is the theory I've read). I have, however, also read the opposite: That people with a hearty appetite for food also have a hearty appetite for life. And we do know that for both people and animals, going off your feed is not a good sign.

Here's the thing: The folks I grew up with, my "Greatest Generation" grandparents (or maybe they're the generation before), made it well past 90 before deciding to leaqve this earth. Grandpa was torpedoed and divorced during the war—and subsequently estranged from his son ; Grandma has been widowed twice and never got along with her own mother. They've moved countries, getting stuck with a kid in their retirement that they weren't planning on. Both had a past as smokers. Grandma was always overweight and hypertensive. Big stressors. They went through a lot of unhealthy shit and still they made it past 90.

Yes, they were married. They had each other and they got along, and they both had a positive, friendly disposition. They had both stopped smoking decades earlier, and I guess having me around in their old age was also a positive.

These are my two data points. Still, the question is: With everything going on, why live into your 90's? Why did my grandparents?

Nothing says "I've been here a while" like a moss veneer

Nothing says "I've been here a while" like a moss veneer

For Grandpa, the end started when the war came back to him. Psychosis brought on by PTSD robbed him of the last of his strength and he spent his last months in a nursing home. He was hard of hearing, had cataracts and was basically hard to communicate with but also restless. He calmed down when Grandma and I visited and just talked like we always did. Us gals yapping, Grandpa just listening—the way it had always been.

He didn't die until I gave him permission to. I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time. Same thing with Grandma. She didn't die until she knew I would be OK without her.

With Grandpa, it was a Sunday visit, him oblivious to Grandma's and my presence. Knowing he would never come home again, I started talking, telling him that bringing me to a foreign country, away from my parents, was OK. It turned out well. I wasn't angry; I was grateful. The deaf man turned his head towards me as I was speaking, his cataract-covered eyes looked clear and focused and he was: Focused on me, on what I was saying, alert. And I am damned sure he heard every word I said. Two days later the nursing home called and said he'd died.

He needed closure. Then he could go.

Grandma was 9 years younger than Grandpa and we got to enjoy another 11 years of talking about everything and anything before it was her turn. With her it was the body that gave out first. A lot of sitting probably gave her more pain than necessary. It was frustrating for me with her in the nursing home; I handled being the adult and having to be responsible for both of us rather badly (sorry, Grandma). Bless her, she always stayed patient with me. Our last conversation ended with me telling her I had as much in my savings account as she had in hers. "You do?" she said. Later than evening she had a stroke that put her in a coma and she died within a week.

She was always after me to save, always worried about my finances (she had worried about her daughter the same way, so I guess it was habit). Knowing I'd got the message and was doing fine let her know she didn't have to stay around any more, so she left. Keep in mind, this was a woman who would wonder why she'd lived so long. What for? Now you know.

So if people actually choose when to leave this earth, what is all the advice regarding longevity about?

It's actually about 1) pain avoidance and 2) purpose. Taking care of the body through regular movement and eating well helps mitigate problems with aging or illness. Having meaningful relationships and hobbies gives one purpose.

It's like making sure your aging car is well-maintained; it won't break down as often if it is. Also, a car needs to be used regularly so the battery doesn't go flat and the oil doesn't turn to sludge. That analogy of regular use also applies to human minds and bodies.

Here's the thing, though: We can't all do all the things researchers think will make us live longer. If you want to live a long and happy life, do it your own way. I mean, if you hate exercise, exercising will just be another life-shortening stressor in your life, especially if skipping it makes you feel guilty. Likewise with anything mental. Creating stress and guilt in ourselves defeats the purpose. Find something that lets you move that works for you. And for your mind, same thing. Find something that sparks your own creativity, something that makes the hours fly by. And if it's done sitting, so what. Peace of mind and joy far outweigh sitting.

Speaking of peace of mind, my adventures with Norwegian sick leave, therapy and having a depression have taught me a few things about myself. I thought I was strong and positive about myself, but whadya know: I too have a skeleton in a closet. I made the closet; I put the skeleton there. It's named Guilt and it has very strong bones. (Obligatory Astrology: This whole blog post is nothing but Saturn/Capricorn stuff.)

So the new lesson I'm learning is how to be gentle with myself, how to have a healthy perspective on who I am and what I am capable of. Also: Practicing forgiveness. Forgiving myself, and forgiving others (mostly myself, these days). The healthiest thing I have found I can do for myself is to be my own best friend, to accept and love myself.

We have to make our own rules for living. Knowing how to make ourselves happy has huge value. Who wants to be ancient but miserable? Find your peace of mind and your joy, and enjoy for as long as you want.

My grandma. I try to be like her.

My grandma. I try to be like her.

Longevity: My maternal grandmother when she was 93. Those are her paintings on the wall. Art was one of her joys.

#astrology: Transitting Mercury in Capricorn is right on my natal Saturn today.

Lisa's Eleven

A little musing and sharing via eleven questions thought up by Lisa and found via Paula.

1) Socks? Love them or hate them?

— I have cold feet. Socks, please, and they have to cover my ankles. I've chosen to get different patterns and stuff, inspired by a co-worker wearing a pair of bright orange ones. That's when I realized that colorful socks are important. IMPORTANT. Nobody ever sees mine since I wear bootlets at work.

Handknitted socks a co-worker made for Secret Santa. And I won them! They keep my feet toasty in rubber boots

Handknitted socks a co-worker made for Secret Santa. And I won them! They keep my feet toasty in rubber boots

2) Is there a God?

— Paula starts off with "I wonder why peeps are so obsessed with this question." Since I have constantly asked myself this question, I don't find the obsession weird.

The answer is yes, by the way.

The real question is: What is God?

3) Is a pizza a pizza without cheese?

I like Paula's answer (must have cheese!), but since pizza is one of those incredibly flexible dishes, it can also lack cheese. I mean, I still remember how upset I was when Mexican pizza became a thing (blasphemy!!!) but they do taste good so I gave up caring.

4) What’s your favorite book and why?

For the longest time my favorite was "Illusions" by Richard Bach. I've outgrown it now, but I still have two copies. Favorite book does not equal most used, however. In that category I could put my ephemeris because of my astrology interest and Louise Hay's "You Can Heal Your Life" because of the affirmations for everything that ails a body. If I have to bring just one book to a deserted island, it'll be an illustrated, unabridged encyclopedia.

5) Do aliens exist or are we floating around in space all alone?

Both. Maybe we're the Mt. Everest of the universe and only the most daring make it for a visit. That's why it looks empty in this neighborhood.

6) Do you still have the teddy you slept with as a child?

I never had a teddy bear. Don't actually like them. Anything with eyes tended to bother me as a kid and still does. The only stuffed animal I remember having was a yellowish snake I named Oscar. I don't have Oscar any more (moving countries tends to leave stuff behind) but I actually still kind of miss him. I didn't sleep with the snake or any other stuffed toys at all. I had a calico cat who would fall asleep under my chin and move after I'd fallen asleep.

7) Brussel sprouts? Yes or no?

Fresh ones, gently boiled, are actually almost sweet in taste, so yes to that!

8) Christmas? Do you love it or hate it?

I'm not Christmassy in that my home turns into Santa's workshop, but I love the lights because it gets dark early where I live so anything cheering is a plus. It's also the only time of year I turn into a romantic, indulging and overindulging in sappy movies with happy endings and a bit (or a lot) of Santa magic. In Norway, we get a bit of time off so people are pretty chill between Christmas and New Year which is nice after the hectic preparations before Christmas. And the solstice means the days have stopped getting shorter! Whee!

Christmas tree at Håkonshallen with the Norwegian tradition of white lights only

Christmas tree at Håkonshallen with the Norwegian tradition of white lights only

9) What’s sexier – a beaming smile or thigh high boots?

Both are sexy, but I'd only stay for the smile.

10) If you were stuck with one view for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Either the smile from question 9 or nature. I have to have a tree or something that attracts bird. Ideally also a mountain or body of water. Actually, I want to see the sky, to see sunsets.

11) Which do you prefer? Spring or Autumn?

Autumn. The stars come back (because the nights get darker), the air gets crisp, and I get to wear sweaters again! Spring in Norway is just stressful for me: Too many people outside doing things that stink (painting houses, barbecuing).

Autumn also has frosting

Autumn also has frosting

Feel free to take on these questions for yourself!

Expecting

In my ongoing journey to figure myself and life and all that stuff out, I’m now trying to learn about non-attachment. Attachment = expectation. In “The Shack”, they suggest you ditch the noun and go for the verb: Expecting. That is making more and more sense to me. Expectation sets you up for failure; expecting opens you up.

Yes, I just plagiarized my own comment on my previous post. I have noticed lately that unopened messages produce their own kind of stress in me. I have been feeling overwhelmed so am back on 50% sick leave (had tried to reduce to 30%). It just doesn't take much to get me worked up, and it doesn't feel like excitement or anticipation. It feels like dread. So not good.

The thing is, it's just the mind playing tricks. Because every single message or email I opened was harmless. Utterly harmless. Nothing overwhelming or negative or difficult. Just a message.

There are a variety of techniques for dealing with stuff, some physical (like taking deep breaths), some more mental (like saying you're safe as long as you're breathing). I have been trying to meditate, unguided, silent, blank. And of course my mind wants to fill the space. That's what minds do. So I have to gently shove the thoughts aside but the process itself has led to some discoveries.

Like when Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" shows up because I said to myself I want to focus on a blank space. I said to my mind I'd share that later. And that wording gave listening to music a whole new level. It made a two-way street. "I'll listen later" is one-way. All about me, the listener, and the music is just an object. But "I'll share later" seems to acknowledges the original effort of the musicians. They aren't next to me now, but "sharing" creates a more active form of listening; the music becomes a bridge. This could, of course, just be wordplay, but I like it.

Anyway, back to messages. The Universe has been deliberately setting me up, to force me to learn to think differently. 

My 50% sick leave started with 3 days of 100% (that overwhelmed thing). I texted my team leader at work twice on Friday: Once to tell her I was off sick, and later to tell her I would be back at 50% and what schedule would work for her? I got no reply on Friday and the back of my mind was sure I'd pissed her off in some way. 

Sunday I was set meet a friend for coffee, a most reliable friend. If he says he's picking me up at 1 pm, he's picking me up at 1 pm. He usually texts me to let me know he's in the parking lot. But I got no text, and immediately entertained the idea that he had driven off the road and was dead somewhere. After telling myself I'd survive losing him and I was also being utterly ridiculous, I texted "Did we have a date at 1?" and waited for a message back that didn't come.

That's when I noticed that my birdfeeder had … a pair of blue tits! So far it's been mostly sparrows and one timid great tit (a young one so that's why; he hasn't learned yet). Blue tits! Cool!

My phone rang. My friend wondering why I wasn't meeting him in the parking lot. I hadn't got a text, I said, but I'm on my way. That was 1:04 pm.

Later on Sunday, I got my missing texts. The delayed text from my friend let me see the birds. Texts sent Friday from my team leader also showed up. All was well.

I just really need to stop assuming the worst. Or assuming at all.


A tit is what the bird is called in Europe. The North American cousin is called a chickadee. But saying great tit is great fun, ain't it. ;-)

Also, here's a video that explains fractals the way I wanted to explain it in my last post. :-)

At the root: Fractals

"Once physical disease is ruled out, it is time to consider the root cause of most mental depression: a lack of love and connection in life (not a lack of serotonin)."

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Via Paula's blog comes the idea of grabbing some book, going to page 62 and line 6 on that page to use for a blog post. I opened Kindle to the last book I'd been reading (Graves MD, Harrison. Mantra Meditation: An Alternative Treatment For Anxiety And Depression (pp. 62-63). Novus Energia. Kindle Edition) and Kindle being what it is, I chose what it claimed was page 62 and what was the sixth paragraph (or line shift, if you will) because the sixth line was a header. My sixth paragraph is the quote above.

The quote also echos another book I'm reading: The Shack. I saw a quote paraphrased from it on Facebook: "Why am I here?" "Because this is where you got stuck." That resonated with me, so I decided to reread the book.

I'm stuck, you see. Stuck somewhere in the past. Stuck with habits that served me in the past but aren't serving me now. I'm trying to get myself unstuck.

That right there, though, is part of my problem, my challenge: I am trying to get myself unstuck. Me, by myself. Just like the protagonist in "The Shack", I haven't been willing to just trust in the Divine, to devote myself to that trust.

I'm not in a good place right now, so today I called in sick and stayed home and read. So many good lines in this book, but the one that suddenly had me bawling was the description of the protagonist's soul: A messy but beautiful garden, rich in layers and details:

[T]his garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive— a living fractal.

Young, William P.. The Shack (p. 138). Hodder & Stoughton. Kindle Edition.

Fractal. And the tears started. The whole paragraph made me cry, but the word "fractal" was the trigger.

You see, in all my attempts and trying to understand not only myself, but humanity, the planet, the universe, it seems to me that the best model to understand it all is fractals. 

Fractals are a seemingly complex image but it is made out of many smaller images that look exactly like itself. If you keep zooming in on a fractal, you just see—the fractal. It doesn't change and it can go on forever. It's eternal and no matter where you, what viewpoint you have, you are seeing the fractal. 

Where do patterns repeat? All over, in many ways. Some examples:

  • We marry someone who is like that same-gendered parent, and we repeat our parents' marital pattern.

  • Stressors we experience as adults actually go back to our childhoods.

  • The model for an atom looks just like the model for our solar system.

  • Under a microscope, neurons and ganglia look like the roads of a metropolitan area.

  • Anything you need to learn and heal in this lifetime can be found in this lifetime; you don't need a past life regression.

Sure, you could call that macro and micro. For me, the fractal idea is a better visual description. It shows why the macro and the micro have so much in common.

The other thing about fractals, is the repetition. You keep repeating something simple and you end with something complex, like the broccoli pictured above. Also, something about the growth, about it never wavering from its original pattern was what got to me in a good way while reading today. It's another way to have eternity.

Repetition shows up in another way, too: In all the help I have received, in all the friends I have who can relate, in all the messages abounding about how to approach the Divine, how to have a regular, spiritual practice and a regular, spiritual connection. This isn't my first time trying to figure stuff out, but I'm hoping it'll be the last time I'm in this much pain. (I admire those of you who have struggled with depression your whole lives and still keep going.)

Something has been growing, in spite of my efforts to ignore it. Some gardener has been tending to my soul, to that which is good and right with me, underneath the veneer of human life. It is time for me to join in the gardening.

Let me just finish the book first.

Help

The spring of 1969, I traveled across country with my grandma and grandpa. Just before leaving California, I had heard The Beatles song "Help!". The movie had been showing on TV one evening at my mother's. I liked the song and I remember singing it in Maine, where we'd stopped off at Grandma's son's place and I got to meet my cousins. Only days after that visit, we were on our way to Norway.

In trying to understand where my anxiety comes from, I've tried a number of different meditations (I've shopped here a lot lately). In the latest one that I tried, I was to name my anxieties. I had only one: Helplessness.

Moments from my childhood made me feel helpless. I fended for myself on Saturday mornings when my parents slept in. I didn't actually like that. (To this day, waking up to the sounds of voices or activity in the kitchen is hugely pleasing to me.) I would rather a grown-up helped me because I was a clumsy child.

Moments from an imagined old age make me worry about being helpless. Gave one knee a slight twist a good week ago and found myself unable to walk down hill. Well, I'm surrounded by hills! So now what??? And what about 20 years from now? Oh, no!

Speaking of needing help on hills: Cobblestones set at an angle helped horses towing wagons get a foothold up and down steep streets. From Sydneskleiven, Bergen, Norway

Speaking of needing help on hills: Cobblestones set at an angle helped horses towing wagons get a foothold up and down steep streets.
From Sydneskleiven, Bergen, Norway

In the meditation I was guided to see my anxieties differently. First of all, they aren't linked to the here and now. My knee is fine again. And I most definitely am not helpless!

Quite the contrary: Over the years, many good people have stepped up to help me—a random positive comment here, a full package of therapy there and everything in between. And the timing is impeccable. Just as I wonder where to go next, an article shows up in my newsfeed, or a friend calls, or my doctor makes a brilliant suggestion. 

I may have problems, but I have even more blessings. And most importantly: I am able to admit I need help and to ask for it. Just like in "Help!"