About a half year or so ago, my x-husband emails me. I got the email at work, saw the name - and froze. What could he possibly want? The last time he called he needed a reason for our divorce because he wanted to marry a girl in the Catholic Church. My mother took the call, and who knows what she said to him. So, 28 years it's been since we were married, and now all of a sudden he's emailing me. While staring at that unopened email in my inbox, the worst goes through my mind. What if he's contacting me to tell me that he's been HIV+ all his life, just found out and has to tell everyone he's ever been with? What does he need to know now to marry yet again?
So my mind goes until I couldn't take the suspense any longer and I finally opened that email. It was just a "hi, how are you?" To be honest, I was a bit let down after all the fluff I had worked up in my head. I replied with a short, non committing "fine, how are you?" and we began emailing back and forth.
It was strange, to say the least. He turned out to be a decent person, educated, solid, still works at the same place he worked when I left him all those years ago - and a total stranger to me. Well, I'm a total stranger to me now too, compared to the person I was almost 30 years ago! What I can remember, that is. There was a thought that stuck in my craw: Why? Why contact me now, after all these years?
I thought about it and thought about it and knew I had to ask, so I emailed the fateful question. A long time goes by before I get a reply: We found each other interesting way back when, and now that we no longer have the pressures of being married too young, we can be friends. I was impressed. That's reasonable, and a good answer - just one that didn't happen to answer my question. I repeated the question and suggested that it sounded like he was someone in rehab or going through AA working to make amends.
And, that's the last I've heard from him.
Constant Reader and I continue our conversation. This time, it's about an unknown somebody "from home" that checks this blog three times a day, every day without fail. One friend told me that it just couldn't be a woman, a woman wouldn't be so obsessed; it's probably the old boyfriend. Constant Reader agrees, thinking the old boyfriend was probably trying to work up the nerve to contact me.
To me, the mystery is sort of fun, though a bit on the creepy side. Keep reading, whoever you are. A blogger counts on those hits!
Thanks for reading!
If correctly handled, stress can be used as a positive force. UMN Counseling Center offers some suggestions to make that happen:
Get to the source- Most people deal with the symptoms of stress and not the source. Ask yourself why you are having an emotional reaction. Once the source is identified you can eliminate, bypass or alter the stressor.
Practice energy conservation - Do what you can and don't worry about the rest. Don't do someone else's work. Learn to work smarter, not harder.
Plan your tasks - Don't take on more than you can handle. Refusing tasks is less stressing than having a number of unfinished ones hanging over your head. Unfinished tasks are very stressful.
Reward yourself - Do an easy task if you need a stroke for achievement. Allow yourself a small reward for a job well done. Being internally motivated is less stressful than depending on someone else for positive strokes.
Stay loose - The game isn't always played according to the rules. Detail plan but always be prepared to chuck it and go with whatever feels right at the time.
Determine priorities - Do what is important. Ask yourself, "Am I doing what I really want to do now?" If no, ask yourself why.
Have a support base - Find someone with whom you can mutually share thoughts and feelings. Talk is good medicine for stress.
Develop a 'winner' attitude - Be positive about yourself and your choices. If something turns sour, think about it and accept the results. Positive thoughts are not destructive to your mind and body. Negative thoughts are and promote illness.
Win the war - Often it's okay to lose a battle. It doesn't hurt to give in once in a while. Ask yourself if your position is really worth the energy to defend. Losing a battle may help you win the stress war.
Work off stress - If you are angry or upset, try to blow off steam physically by running, biking, etc. Physical activity gives you an out-let for mental stress.
Do something for others - Sometimes when you are too stressed, you tend to focus on yourself. When you find this happening, consider doing something for someone else and get your mind off yourself.
Practice time management - There are only 24 hours in a day - no more, no less. Again, work smarter, not longer. There are a number of good books that can tell you how.
Operate in control - Stay in charge of your affairs. When the tasks get too large it reminds one of eating an elephant--one bite at a time. Break big jobs down into little jobs. Each little task can be rewarding in itself.
Accept what can't be changed - Don't fight the inevitable. When a final decision is made, you must pick the bed you want to lie in. Is the issue worth the stress?
Take care of yourself - Eat correctly and get enough sleep. You cannot cope with personal or organizational stressors if you're in a physically exhausted condition.
Learn to relax - Don't wait for the "When you can relax"- learn to relax now, before that day comes. Then it will already be here.
Study the following statements and choose the answer that best applies to you, using a scale from 1 to 4 (1 being almost never and 4 being almost always).
- Things must be perfect.
- I must do it myself.
- I feel more isolated from my family or close friends.
- I feel that people should listen better.
- My life is running me.
- I must not fail.
- When overworked, I cannot say no to new demands without feeling guilt.
- I need to generate excitement again and again to avoid boredom.
- I feel a lack of intimacy with people around me.
- I am unable to relax.
- I feel increasingly cynical and disenchanted.
- I am unable to laugh at a joke about myself.
- I avoid speaking my mind.
- I feel under pressure to succeed all the time.
- I automatically express negative attitudes.
- I seem further behind at the end of the day than when I started.
- I forget deadlines, appointments & personal possessions.
- I am irritable, short-tempered, disappointed in the people around me.
- Sex seems like more trouble than it's worth.
- I consider myself exploited.
- I wake up earlier and cannot sleep.
- I feel unrested.
- I feel dissatisfied with my work life.
- I feel dissatisfied with my personal life.
- I'm not where I want to be in my life.
- I avoid being alone.
- I have trouble getting to sleep.
- I have trouble waking up.
- I can't seem to get out of bed.
Distress Symptoms or Signals
There may be times when it is difficult to step back and examine your own attitudes about life. There are other clues or signs that let you know that it's time to make some changes to reduce your stress level. Some of these signs are:
- Expression of boredom with much or everything.
- Tendency to begin vacillating in decision-making.
- Tendency to become distraught with trifles.
- Inattentiveness or loss of power to concentrate.
- Feelings of persecution.
- Gut-level feelings of unexplainable dissatisfaction.
- Tendency to misjudge people.
- Uncertain about whom to trust.
- Inability to organize self.
- Inner confusion about duties or roles.
- Physical changes such as:
- Sudden, noticeable loss or gain of weight
- Sudden change or appearance
- Decline or improvement in dress
- Sudden change of complexion (sallow, reddened, acne)
- Difficult breathing
- Sudden change of smoking habits
- Sudden change in use of alcohol
- Allergies or new allergies
- Sudden facial expression changes
- Sudden changes in social habits
- Not going to work or home according to past schedule
- Change of life situation or style, e.g., marriage, birth of baby, divorce, death of spouse.
Although we may perceive stress as a negative, it can be a protective "fight or flight" response to keep us from harm. Stress can be positive too and spur us into action. Either way, positive or negative, too much stress can leave you open to emotional and physical illness, especially over long periods of time.
The "Social Readjustment Rating Scale" (Holmes and Rahe, 1967) can help you assess where your stress level is right now. Circle all the experiences you've had in the last 12 months, then total the score.
100 death of a spouse or child 73 divorce 65 marital separation 63 detention in jail or other institution 63 death of a close family member 53 major personal injury or illness 50 marriage 47 fired from work 45 marital reconciliation 45 retirement 44 change in health or behavior of family member 40 pregnancy 40 sex difficulties 39 gain of new family member through birth, adoption, or marriage 39 major business readjustment 38 change in financial state 37 death of close friend 36 change to a different line of work 35 change in number of arguments with partner 31 taking on a new mortgage 30 foreclosure on a mortgage or loan 29 change in responsibilities 29 son/daughter leaves home 29 trouble with in-laws 28 outstanding personal achievement 26 partner begins/stops work 26 starting or finishing school 25 change in living conditions 24 revision of personal habits 23 trouble with boss 20 change in working hours or conditions 20 change in residence 20 change in schools 19 change in recreational habits 19 change in church activities 18 change in social activities 17 major purchase such as a new car 16 change in sleeping habits 15 change in number of family gatherings 15 change in eating habits 13 vacation 12 Christmas or holiday observance 11 minor violation of the law ____ Total
150 or less = minor stress
150-199 = mild stress
200-299 = moderate stress
Over 300 = major stress
It is estimated that 30% of those with a score below 150 will experience emotional or physical illness in the near future, while those with a score between 150 and 300 have a 50% chance, and those with a score over 300 have an 80% chance of a significant emotional or physical illness.
So, what's your score?
So, I reread what I wrote to see what I'd forgotten to do to ward off the blues. I have the curtains and blinds wide open, but we've had a cloudy sky all week. It's been pretty cold too, so I've only been going outside long enough to feed the horse. Ooo boy, have I ever been craving those starches! Um, I've been avoiding the scale.
I don't anticipate this blue mood lasting for very long. I may be blue, but I'm still positive (a-hem). Now that the days are getting longer, it can't be too much longer before good weather comes. And I saw a robin yesterday! This morning, the water hose wasn't frozen! All very good signs, don't you think?
How have things been going for you? Have you seen positive signs? How have you been weathering the winter?
The eyes of a horse are the window to the soul and a mirror at the same time, so they say. Each eye can see and process very different images at the same time (monocular), a true multi-tasking mechanism. They have no depth perception, yet can see great distances, even in the dark. Switching to binocular vision along with their full attention, a horse can almost predict your every intention. Even while asleep, the eyes continue to send messages to the brain. These incredible eyes are expressive and communicate much about the horse, and the expressions can change rapidly.
Odin will tell me that he knows he goofed up by giving me that baby look, the way his eyes looked when he was very young. Along with a sagging lower lip and floppy ears, his eyes will about close as he falls asleep with his head against my chest. I get a half-closed, sullen look when I ask him to do something he isn't thrilled about doing. His playful look creates little dimples around his eye, and it won't be long before he's running and bucking around. When his full focus is on me, both eyes, it is almost always certain to throw me into gales of laughter. It looks like a little boy deeply smitten by his kindergarten teacher. When he understands something new, he will blink several times. Those eyes will look like they've turned off as he throws his head up and refuses to look at me when I've asked too much of him too fast. He doesn't understand and doesn't quite know what to do about it.
The ears are a constant radar for a horse, swiveling 180 degrees, and the cupped shape captures sounds way beyond a human's ability to hear. Like the eyes, the ears work independently of each other, but work with the eye. Where a horse's ear points is where his eye is looking and his brain is focusing, even while asleep. Their rapid movements are a visual representation of just how fast things change for a horse in his world. And, they communicate and express much too.
Odin's ears flick back and forth as he tries to listen to me talking to him through the glass in a window. With both ears forward, he focuses on listening for my voice, then his ears will flick to his reaction to what I say. His ears will flick back as though he is listening for something behind him when I ask him a question, or even just when I'm looking straight at him, and especially when he is confused. They will pin flat against his neck at a dog or cat too near his food dish. With both ears straight forward along with his eyes, he waits for the next cue as he is very interested and willing to do what is asked for next - if I can stop laughing long enough to give him a cue.
Body language is the next level of communication for a horse. To another horse, this is an escalation of severity of meaning in what the horse is communicating. Though a horse learns to tolerate much of a human's inability to 'hear' him through what is conveyed via the eyes and ears, he makes sure that he raises his 'voice' in perceptible levels to us, and won't insist with kicks and bites, even when startled.
The level of a horse's head works together with his eyes. Raised high, this allows the horse to focus on something almost miles away. When Odin is excited and focused on me with both ears and eyes, his head is high in anticipation and his whole body is ready to move. A more level neck and head show his relaxed state of mind since his flicking ears aren't telling him there's anything to be concerned with. The tail can swish contentedly at flies while asleep, raise out of the way when he's moving (or farting) or swish hard in irritation. A hind foot can be lifted and curled a bit as a warning to me or a dog. I will get this level of warning from him if I'm touching a part of him that he doesn't like being touched, though I insist he tolerates it anyway. It seems that dogs are far more stupid than humans, because none of them will back off until Odin lets that back foot fly. It is so lightening fast that if Odin were truly aiming, the dog would be launched.
Since Odin is my only horse and I am his primary companion, he has learned to communicate with me in more human ways, so to speak, than other horses with another horse for a companion. In a way, he has learned to teach me in much the same way as I teach him: one step at a time and via release of pressure. At first, when he wanted the top of his rump scratched, he'd keep backing into me until I finally figured it out. Now, he will slowly and politely back to me, one step at a time, until he is in range of my reach. When he wants his belly or back scratched, he will point at the place with his nose. As soon as he figured out I was trained pretty well, he began to point to the hocks on his back legs and even his ankles. He'd keep pointing if I didn't figure out it was the back, not the front, of his hock or fetlock that needed scratching.
I am Odin's main source of safety and comfort. He will literally run to me if he is concerned. But, one hand on his neck or shoulder and all four feet are planted. It may take awhile for his head to come down, but "easy" and that hand on him means, to him, that he is safe. He will run to me to get that nasty horsefly off the top of his rump where he can't reach. One time, he picked up a thorny vine with a mouthful of grass and came running to me across half a 50 acre pasture. He kept giving me his mouth until I saw the end of the vine showing in the corner and removed it. A heavy sigh came, then he turned and walked back to where he was.
Being with my horse is the greatest source of joy for me. I've been able to feel that joy because he has taught me how to be In the Moment with him. If my day is overwhelming and my mind is filled with thoughts of my own concerns, I can go out with Odin and my stresses are gone. If I don't stay In the Moment, things can happen fast around this horse. Trust me, a 1600 pound horse standing on your foot, or bumping into you is a pretty loud reminder to stay in the here and now. Being In the Moment is an immediate release, and because of a horse, I am able to experience what has always been there and available to me without my knowing: peace and joy.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Think about it for a minute or two. I see this mostly watching politicians on the campaign trail. A smile is plastered to a stiff jaw, cold eyes that don't smile and don't meet your eyes, on a head that is held high on a stiff neck with shoulders up and crunched together. Their feet never miss a beat as they walk by you to the next person with their hand out, and the very brief handshake itself is no more alive feeling than that picket fence of your neighbor's you used to run your hands over as you walked by. The politician is going through the expected motions, but would probably prefer to be sitting in a dentist's chair getting a root canal. At least then, he'd have a reason to be tense and defensive, and his body language would match what he's feeling.
Politicians are the most obvious, but there are others equally adept at saying one thing while their body language tells you something entirely different. Others might do it and not even know they're doing it. Still others might do it to tell you what they think you want to hear. Like "I'm fine" when the car just crashed into a telephone pole; and even though you know otherwise due to the obviously broken arm and the pinched, white face, they say it anyway.
Psychology can help us understand this. One term used to describe this is persona. A persona is what a person creates and presents to the world as him/herself. Mostly, it is close to, but not quite, how the person wishes to be perceived. Another term is a façade or mask. It is not unusual for someone to behave differently at home than they do at work, for instance. Another concept is congruence, or simply genuineness. What is happening inside, how one truly feels, is what is present in body language and statements made. What's shown to the world is the same as what is really inside.
What is common in psychology (and it appears to be in politics too) is matter of degree. Adopting a false front may be conscious or unconscious, it may be something that started out as a defense against extreme anxiety or fear and then used all the time, or it may be a way to handle a tense situation with less stress. No matter how prevalent, it seems to be sensed almost immediately. It's worth thinking about, not only while looking more closely at others, but also taking note of how you behave in various situations as well.
This is an introduction and basis for much more of "me, myself and I." As you get to know yourself, really know yourself, you'll be able to understand others more. Oh, and have no fear: This is common among "normal" people.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more...
This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. ~~HH the Dalai Lama
Though I half expect a membership invitation from AARP to be in the mail any day now, I find it funny that most of my very early memories are the same ones I've had all my life. But today, another one, small and hazy, popped up in my mind. It was around the time that I found that hiding place behind the dining room door, so that puts it in the year of 1962, the year my brother was born.
My father held my hand as we were walking by the park not too far from our house. It was very cold, yet I had on a dress, ankle socks and shoes instead of boots, along with that hated knit hat with the 'dingle berries' on top. My father was dressed in a way I had never seen before, a suit, and I was frightened by that. But, it was so rare, so new to be walking with my father alone, that it somehow didn't seem that big of a fright. I was fine until we got to the front of this massive, tall, very dark looking building with huge doors. When I realized we were going to go into the church, terror took hold, and that's where the memory ends. This small memory brought up many more to go along with it.
In 1964, my parents bought a small parcel of land and built a house 'out in the boondocks.' As soon as we moved in, we would drive into town every Sunday morning for mass at St. Mary's. We'd park in the same spot on the street, walk past the same policeman on the corner, go in the same side door, walk down the same side aisle, and sit in the same pew. In the pew in front of us sat an old lady that always wore enough bath splash to stink up that whole area of the church. Immediately, my eyes would sting and then water, my nose would start running and I'd sneeze what seemed like a thousand times before mass was over.
Through my misery, I'd watch my parents pick up the 'misstle-ette' from the magazine rack, a new one every month, and follow along throughout the service. By then, I had a good start on reading and could follow along too, so I'd grab one. In this little book were instructions. When the priest said this, you say what is in bold print right after. It even told you when to sit, kneel, stand up, sit down. The only time you weren't supposed to follow that little book was during the sermon. This was a fancy church, complete with a microphone for the priest and speakers mounted all over, so even though I couldn't understand much, I heard every loud word.
Once mass was over, the priest and alter boys would file down the main aisle and wait in the vestibule. We didn't go out the same door we came in; we had to go by the priest and shake his hand. The thought sends a shudder down my spine. The hands were always soft, cold, and about as genuine feeling as a store mannequin. I felt smaller and smaller as this massive, formless shape leaned down to shake my hand.
Tagging along like a well-trained puppy, eyes swollen and red, nose flowing rapidly, back to the car we'd go. On the way home, we'd stop at the grocery store where my brother and I had to wait in the car while my parents shopped. Then, the yelling would start between my father and mother. Ear-shattering volume, they yelled at each other so loudly that you could almost feel the yells bounce off the windows of the car. I'd run for my room as soon as we got home, listened to the yells through the walls, and listened to them until my father went to bed after dinner because he had to work that night….
This was the routine for years. Slowly, I began to comprehend more and more, and with that comprehension came a sort of horrified wonder at the blatant hypocrisy of it all. Everything from the rote recital of what was in bold print to the intimidating priests to my parents' habitual Sunday feuds spoke nothing but phoniness to me. Add to it all my physical distress with severe allergic reactions to perfume and you have a kid that absolutely hated going to church. I took away nothing from those years of Sundays but disdain for a ritual that stood only for misery and anguish, and sometimes terror.
This was the beginning of my rejection of religion. Now, it couldn't have been that bad for you, could it? If your parents took you to church every Sunday, what were your experiences like?
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. ~FDR
Last night, I happened to catch the last half of "Real Life with Bill Maher." The show's guests were various members of the media, with an additional guest, a reporter from the Rolling Stone. This reporter said something along the lines of this: "It's funny. When something is written about a success (speaking of the surge in Iraq) or recession, suddenly there's a flood of articles coming across the wires declaring that it is so within seconds. Does anyone actually verify the validity of those stories for themselves? No, I don't think so." Straight from the horse's mouth, the news is a rumor mill.
I keep a close eye on AP and Reuters feeds, and scan the headlines several times a day. I don't know for sure how often the feeds are updated; my guess is at least every hour. During one rotation, I caught a headline that said something about Bush earmarking X billions of dollars for returning soldiers' care. The article itself was four short paragraphs, then it was gone. I guess it's not a story worth picking up and running with.
The rest of today's headlines have been pretty much the same as they've been all along: Doom and gloom about Iraq, the Middle East, recession. Once in awhile I'll catch a flash of a headline about a giant prehistoric mouse skeleton found, that the man who 'cured' cancer has died, or that cloned meat and milk is declared safe to consume. Not exactly positive, but a break in the usual.
When I step out the door of my own Little World and venture out into the Big World, the car radio blares out the same news headlines, the songs seem blah, I pass by gas stations with an eye on my fuel gauge and a catch in my breath at the even higher price per gallon, and come out of the grocery store with not much of anything besides a much smaller checking account balance. My pinched pennies are screaming in agony, even though I pass by my mailbox without checking it to ease the pain, knowing that there is an electric or water bill in there just waiting to pinch those pennies even more.
This is tough to write because I have to think about it. "I think, therefore I am" (Descartes). I realize that I am afraid, and that I push the thoughts of that fear deep down and out of sight. I read somewhere that depression results from repressed fear. It seems to fit. So, the result is an overall, general feeling of depression. (I think this explains the last week's worth of angry posts!) Yes, it's fearful to be afraid.
"Misery loves company," does it not? Though the path to the repression of fear may be different, I suspect many people are feeling the same depression. It's like a snowball rolling downhill, because, in addition to all the external 'noise' of the media, we add to each other's depression as we interact. All of life seems depressing for all of us. What can we do?
Open the Door!
Yes! Fling it open wide! It's just that simple. Kick that depression, that fear, that doom-and-gloom negativity right out the door! It truly is just that simple. It's so simple, in fact, that we all tend to forget that we have that ability. I think, therefore I am!
Stay aware and on the lookout. You'll feel the cold of doom and gloom and negativity coming your way. When you feel it, shine a light. Lend a positive thought to a conversation, smile, choose to ignore the news because you're too busy enjoying yourself. The good thing is that the doom and gloom and negativity will pass over you! Think about it: Light can totally obliterate darkness, but the opposite is not possible.
Don't give in. Don't allow yourself to fall back into the negativity. You are armed and ready now. You know about it, you know how to protect yourself. Now, you just have to remember it. Think about it, imagine it, and hang onto it hard.
There's more about the power of thought in the essay by Burt Wilson that inspired me to write this today. Think it through, because this is only half of it. Now it's time to put it to work.
Life is Knocking
Negativity is contagious. We know that, we've lived it, it feels like the whole world is living it. So, it's time to prove that positivity is contagious too. Pay it forward!
The other day in Wal-Mart, I proved it to myself. I walked around that always-busy store with a smile on my face. I laughingly remarked several times that I didn't see a turn signal. I started conversations about product choices or with general comments. I smiled and met everyone's eye that I passed. The result? Sometimes a double-take, that's for sure. My smiles were returned though, openly and meeting my eye. Laughter came easy too, along with relaxing shoulders and a sigh. Momentary, fleeting, but not always. I'd pass by again and catch a glimmer of a smile still on a face or two. Those smiles would be seen by others and returned too! It is contagious!
This is what life is meant to be. It's all in our power, in our power of thought. Life is fun! Try it for yourself. Pay it forward. I dare you! Open the door and let life in.
Thanks for reading!
Since I'm already blowing a fuse, let me continue..
While our Soldiers are in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq protecting the oil interests of a select few, our industrious leader is in Saudi Arabia, an outright monarchy, not promoting the spread of "democracy" but kicking back and enjoying the outrageous wealth of greed incarnate. In the process, our industrious leader is providing them with high-end weapon technology. What is he thinking? Greed is only loyal to money and right now, the US is struggling in that department. The whole world knows this, it's all over the news, and it's only a matter of time before we can no longer be the benefactor of the gaudy, excessive wealth of Saudi Arabia's ruler! Then, the loyalty will switch to whoever steps in where the US left off and those weapons will be aimed at us if we dare to make a peep about it.
How long are we going to continue living with our heads in the sand? This is not free enterprise, and sorry Charlie, the Trickle Down theory stopped flowing long ago. This is not trade; it is exploitation of the many for the few. It is all backward!
But hey, you are sleeping, you don't want to be bothered. You don't want to get involved. You don't want to risk anything. You would rather our Soldiers, our Soldiers that are led to believe that they are protecting you and "democracy," take all the risks for you then sweep them under a rug when they return. You would rather leave the responsibility for your life in the hands of politicians who are only working for the few, not you!
It is so much easier to let sleeping dogs lie.
"People wonder what in the world it is because this is the Bible Belt, and everyone is afraid it's the end of times," said Steve Allen, a freight company owner and pilot who said the object he saw last week was a mile long and half a mile wide. "It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts."Of course, "officials" are writing it off as an illusion caused by two commercial airplanes combined with the light and angle from the setting sun. That doesn't sound like a very credible, logical explanation to me.
The AP did a good job reporting both sides of the story. That the AP put it out on the wires means it will reach many. Unfortunately, the slant comes from categorizing the article as "Odd News" that no one will take seriously.
But, I say, "Resistance is futile."
What? Yes, I said that, and I'll tell you why. I am not one of the lucky ones that have seen a UFO. Therefore, I do not have enough evidence either way to decide for myself whether UFOs exist. I'm not willing to outright discount people's claims or buy into the government's shoddy efforts to disclaim and deny. But, I do know that two people standing right next to each other witnessing the same event will report two different things. People relate to and interpret based on their own perspectives. To resist, to negate any evidence at all would mean that, sooner or later, I'll be caught with my pants down.
In the meantime, while I wait for evidence to come my way, I will keep an open mind.
The Vet Center
1-800-905-4675 (Eastern) and 1-866-496-8838 (Pacific)
About the Vet Center, my friend writes, "The Vet Center (not VA) offers free counseling to soldiers coming back from overseas. The Vet Center works with readjustment issues and PTSD. This is their specialty. Nothing is recorded onto the soldier's record. If the building burns down all is lost. There is no way to track anything. That is how confidential this is." There is no cost for Soldiers and family members, and no record.
Military One Source
1-800-342-9647 available 24/7
A stand-alone agency that has become a mountainous resource of all things military can help in any situation a military member or their family can find themselves in. My friend writes, "MOS offers 6 free counseling sessions per issue for non emergency situations. (If for some reason the person needs an extension, then they will be able to continue counseling at no charge.) These are usually face to face and a counselor is located within 30 miles of the caller's home. Now, if for some reason the caller lives in a remote area or has some circumstance as to not being able to go to a counselor then telephone counseling is set up. In no way is anything documented or sent back to the soldier's record. Everything is confidential."
Pass this information on.
Thanks for reading.
News articles in the Associated Press, Reuters, and Associated Free Press report the findings of a New York Times study that uncovered a serious crisis for active duty and veteran soldiers of Iraqi Freedom. This crisis is unrecognized and untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The study found 121 soldiers that returned from theater were involved in killings, and suspects many more than the available documented cases found for this study. As disconcerting as this is, there is more to this story than these articles present.
My position at US Army Reserve Family Programs was 'unclassified', meaning I had no direct access to military information of any kind. My work involved working with families of deployed Army Reserve Soldiers to offer support, information and referrals. I had direct contact with support programs available to families and Soldiers, as well as many others working in support positions such as mine. What I offer here is my opinion based on my experience and continued support of our Soldiers and their families.
Interviews with relatives of the  veterans brought a common refrain of "He came back (from war) different," the Times said, with references to substance abuse and mental instability such as paranoia. ~~ReutersThere is nothing in 'civilian' life that can compare to what a Soldier's life becomes in theater. No amount of violence in TV, movies, video games, comic books or even inner city gangs can prepare a person for the stress of a combat situation. Though Soldiers are extensively trained, just like a new mother experiencing labor, reality is far worse than what is prepared for. We were given a snapshot of what it is like with the events of September 11, 2001. Painful to recall, if you can remember what you were feeling on that date in our history, that is what Soldiers experience their entire time in theater.
A US Soldier of any rank, duty or role in Iraq is a target, 24/7. Their rifle is with them always; they eat, sleep and shower with the M-16 that they have endearingly named "Buddy", "Mom" or "Duke". At any moment, they can be shot at anywhere at any time. Extreme vigilance becomes a way of being. Transportation Unit drivers have become so good at avoiding IEDs that they forget how to drive a straight line. Some drivers report being hit by IEDs anywhere from 6 to 18 times without injury. Soldiers shoot at another living being for the first time in their lives. Anything at any time while in theater can be life threatening. This is only what I know of what it is like for Soldiers in combat support roles. I cannot comprehend this, let alone imagine what it is like for combat personnel.
Yet, a common thread among the demobilized Soldiers I spoke with was "I want to go back. I know I can do more. I want to do more." One Soldier, a driver that was hit and wounded by an IED, refused medical treatment until he returned from his mission. With a head injury and several pieces of shrapnel in his torso and arm, he would not allow anyone in his unit to take his place as driver and be at risk because he was not there to do his job. What incredible commitment, loyalty and courage!
I feel that there are two important points not considered in the NY Times study. First, "Combat Stress" or "Combat Fatigue" or just readjustment to life as a civilian is common and to be expected for Soldiers returning home, either for leave or demobilization. PTSD can only be diagnosed if symptoms persist or worsen over time. The second point is based on only what I heard: If a Soldier has difficulty, they will not seek treatment. They are concerned that any psych history in their file would prevent promotion or acceptance in Officer School. Though this came from others working in a support capacity and Soldiers, I have no way of confirming or denying this concern; but I heard it too many times to write it off.
This only scratches the surface of the issues faced by our Soldiers. I hope to be able to offer legitimate resources and updates as time goes on. If you have any relevant information to share, please take the time to comment.
Thank you for reading.
Read the NY Times article: Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles
Happy and nearly gleeful that, finally, a product is sold for what it is actually worth, I wasn't surprised to read the comments of those trying to squash the car before it even hits mainstream availability:
With developing countries like India and China putting more and more cars on the roads, it has created a greater demand for fuel, contributing to sky-high global oil prices. ...And the idea of such a low-cost vehicle has environmentalists petrified, conjuring images of traffic jams at midnight, hours-long commutes and rolling clouds of pollution.Of course the oil industry would be concerned! How dare anyone cut into their astronomical profit margin? It will be interesting to see how a war between the oil industry and environmentalists pan out. I'm not hopeful that consumers will benefit...
Driving down to Little Rock the other day, I see this billboard that said, "Read a letter from your unborn child" and I about hit the roof. Those I'm-right-and-everyone-else-is-wrong, Right to Lifers not only miss the fundamental right of freedom of choice in their fundamentalism, they are crass and cruel in the process. Where did they get the idea that it is ever easy to decide to terminate a pregnancy? Do women already in a lifetime of grieving need to see a message like that? What makes them think they have the right to decide anything for anybody else? You don't own me; slavery is against the law, so therefore you have no right to determine anything for me!
It's like seat belt laws. Does my not wearing my seat belt put anyone else at risk besides myself? No? Then why is it a law? I need protection from myself?
I think I'll stop there, before I get on a real roll.... Got any pet peeves you'd like to add?
The very nature of depression means that someone who is depressed tends to withdraw from family at the very time they most need your love, support and understanding. At this time you may need to reach out and help them, show them you care. The following ideas may help.
Listen - This may sound easy, but even if you consider yourself a good listener, one problem is that someone who is depressed is not always abe to articulate their feelings. Ready to listen to them always about their feelings and thoughts.
Do not say - I know just how you feel, even if you think you do. And avoid constantly trying to chip in with examples of similar things you think have happened to you that have made you feel the same way.
Be affectionate - You can show your care, concern and love in so many ways. How you show affection will depend on the relationship you have with the depressed person.
Touch is a powerful way of showing you care - a hand on the shoulder, holing hands, a hug, can be of tremendous help.
Spend time with them - Sitting and spending time with someone who is depressed, even if you do nothing but sit together, can be incredibly valuable and really helps to show your support.
Talk if that is what they would like to do.
Help formulate goals.
Suggest that increasing routine tasks may be a good idea.
Have a good laugh with them.
Encourage them to keep a diary.
Help them to think of areas in their life that are positive.
Remember to encourage and praise when appropriate.
Encourage them to eat a balanced diet.
Do not try to chivvy them out of it.
Do not try to force them to engage in social activities if they do not want to.
Learn as much as you can about depression and treatments so you are knowledgeable.
Do not forget about practical support too.
Other related articles:
How do you feel
How to deal with negative thoughts
Getting a good night sleep
Challenging negative thinking by making checklist
How to look after you
Dealing with the medical profession
My friend called this morning on her way to work. She said, "I read a lot of your blog this weekend." I hadn't had the chance to tell her I had written about our last conversation, so I asked her if it was OK. "Yeah, yeah," she says, "It was sweet. You're right about how hard it is to help someone close to you. You don't know how many times I've been afraid to go home, afraid of what I'd find." I came away from this morning's conversation feeling that she felt the support I offer, and that she can now forgive herself a bit for the "oughts", her expectations of herself in her roles with the person in crisis.
I watched Tim's face (my son, who is 22) as he read the post. In his usual, witty way, he said, "That's constant reader, chief. Stephen King calls them constant readers." When he got to the purpose of the call, his face went white. It hit home hard for him. Recently, he tells me, he has been helping a friend of his who has talked about suicide quite a lot. He said, "It's more important to help the person helping the suicidal person. I have no patience for someone who thinks suicide is the way out, and it's been hard for me to try to help my friend." He said, "It's just selfish. It's also selfish to grieve over the loss of someone who committed suicide." Though I was surprised by his seemingly unfeeling reaction, it launched us into a long conversation about the stages of grief and life stresses. In the end, he said, "It's the terror. When you said you were terrified, I was terrified too. I've felt that many times trying to help my friend."
Another person happened to call right after I had written Bumps in the Path. She tells me, "I can't read your blog. I get halfway through a post and give up trying to understand what it is you're trying to say. If I feel this way, other people reading it must feel this way too." Drilling down, she says that what I relate things to, like Buddhism and Zen and actualization, are things she knows nothing about and therefore can't understand.
She's right. If she misses the analogies, then others must too, so I started polling: "Your writing style has always been great, and I always look forward to reading what you write." And, "If I can understand it, anybody can. You don't have to know about Buddhism and Zen and actualization to understand what you're saying. I don't know about those things and I can understand you just fine." And the response that ended my polling came last night: "You are writing about self-evaluation and growth and becoming a better person. Some people either don't want to do that or have no idea that it is an option. In a way, it's like music. To some it's noise, to others, it's beautiful."
Yes, we all walk a different path. I remain hopeful that I can help smooth out some of your bumps. If you've a mind to, that is.
Thanks for reading, dear reader!
The first week of the new year started out just as busy as it had been during the holiday season. The tree and decorations had to be taken down and stored again, the house had to be cleaned and restored to order, gifts had to be returned, and the after season sales were irresistible. Plus, there were all the new 'toys' to play with and learn how to use and all the new clothes to try on and match up. Finally, the first "normal" weekend comes. Sleep in! Not too long though; there are still a few loose ends to tie up.
Tomorrow is the first day of the first normal week of the new year.
The alarm clock will go off at its normal time, jarring you out of a deep sleep. You'll pry an eye open to look at it, hit the snooze because you see it is still very dark and you must've set it too early. The next time it goes off, you wish you could just roll over and sleep. Finally, the nagging succeeds in getting your feet on the floor, though the cotton between your ears is particularly thick. That punch-drunk feeling is still with you by the time you get to work, and may last until lunch. Yep, write Day #1 off to jet lag and call it a day.
The rest of the week may be much the same, though you will start taking note of more things as you go. Was it always dark when the alarm goes off in the mornings? Was it always dark by the time I got home from work? Was it always this difficult to kick into a productive mode at work? Do I always feel this tired?
This is normal and to be expected. Next week may start out much the same way, but by the end of the week, you should be pretty much back to your normal self. I say "should", but it's really more of a scale. Some people never go through this punch-drunk, let-down stage and others take more time readjusting to day-to-day life. Try to remember how you felt last year and the year before to get a sense of what is normal for you.
Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you take a bit longer to recover from the holiday season, you are not alone. And, you don't have to struggle through it either. You could have a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), commonly called "Cabin Fever" or "Winter Blues". Research supports the causes of SAD to be an interruption of your body's internal clock, melatonin production increase, and a drop in the production of serotonin. SAD symptoms will start as soon as it becomes colder and the days shorter, but you might not have noticed them with all the demands of the holiday season going on. Here is a list of what to watch for:
- Depression - We all have sad, down days, but you seem to have more.
- Hopelessness - I think of this as a big let-down, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and the expectation that tomorrow won't be any better than today.
- Anxiety - You are worried, anxious and sometimes even fearful.
- Loss of energy - It's funny that this is more a feeling than an actual physical sensation.
- Social withdrawal - You don't feel like going to lunch with coworkers or to the mall or skiing on the weekend.
- Oversleeping - You go to bed early and hit the snooze button more than a few times. You take a nap whenever you possibly can. (In depression, this is a change of sleep pattern - you may sleep a lot more or a lot less.)
- Loss of interest - What used to be enjoyed and anticipated is now something you don't want to bother with.
- Appetite changes - You may eat a lot more or a lot less now, and SAD adds in a powerful craving for starches and carbohydrates (different from depression).
- Weight gain - Since all you're eating is carbs, the weight goes up.
- Difficulty concentrating and processing information - The cotton-between-the-ears, jet-lagged feeling.
- Open the curtains and blinds and let the sun shine in!
- Go outside as much as possible. Even a half hour during lunch can work wonders.
- Get some exercise and work on getting fit.
- Get enough rest and relaxation, eat healthy, and stay away from drugs and alcohol. Note that carbs and caffeine bring you up for awhile, then you crash.
- Spend time with friends and supportive family members. A good laugh is always a boost.
Thanks for reading!
Referenced this article by the Mayo Clinic.
Unless you kick and scream and holler at me, I'm going to explore something around an experience that caught me this morning. It's not the first time I've experienced this particular situation (though with different people) with this gamut of experiencing, so I'll share it with you, bring you with me through it, and then later, we'll explore.
This morning, while deep in thought about which way to go down the Bumpy Path, the phone rings as it will at this time of day. A good friend often calls while driving to work to chat and touch base, and it was her calling. She is a talented, skilled paraprofessional and we tend to think, problem solve and help in much the same ways. But today, her usual bubbly, lilting voice sounded tired, flat, and more than a bit hopeless. There is no chit-chat; instead, she jumped right to the point after "good morning" was said: Someone very close to her is seriously contemplating suicide. It's 'rock bottom' now, and at a critical point.
She and I have had many, many opportunities to cross over the line between friendship and counselor as we worked together during the last year, and we know each others' cues which role is most needed at any given moment. With her drastic change in the tone of her voice, I knew what was needed. I kicked into my "mode".
I've often described this "mode" of mine as flicking a switch that takes me, my self, and puts it up on my left shoulder. I'm switched to In the Moment as fully as is possible to listen and "walk a mile" along with the person I'm listening to. My self sitting on my left shoulder is silent until something of what I'm feeling is important enough to bring to the surface of my awareness. In the meantime, it records it all.
I listen hard for what she is feeling and try to find where she wants to go and what's stopping her from getting there. As I listen to her describe her experience in a frighteningly detached way, I fill in a word here and there when her mind blanks out, and she will either use that word in her sentence or my interruption unblanks her mind and she puts in the word she really means. Her seeming detachment comes from the struggle to pop herself into her counseling role while knowing very well how tough that is to do when someone very close is in crisis. I admire her strength, help a bit with thinking through how to best proceed in her roles, and let her know that I am available for her 24/7. She arrived at work and ended the call.
When I hung up the phone, the "mode" switch goes to off, and my self immediately hits the playback button and starts flooding me with all the things I was feeling during the call, those things I couldn't let get in the way listening. I damned the distance between my friend and I. I should be there for her in person. I felt angry at the situation for putting such a strain on my friend. I felt her frustration at how many walls she has to continue to climb and break through to be of help to the person in crisis. I felt in terror that the hours ticking away would continue to prove to be a spiral down. It was even more terrifying that my friend was much more terrified of that downward spiral than I was. I damned the distance between us again. As she must still feel, I felt helpless. I have no choice but to wait for an update.
I won't be much help for her when she calls back if I continue to be trapped by all the feelings. So, I went outside to feed my horse, dogs and cats and struggled to get back Into the Moment. One thing's for sure, if you aren't In the Moment around a 1600 pound animal, you become a pancake! It worked, at least long enough for me to write this down.
Can you "walk a mile" in my shoes? Can you pop into your Moment? What are some of the things you are thinking and feeling now after reading this?
I am so glad that you are here to share with, dear reader.
(Image source: http://members.shaw.ca/robelphinstone/finearts/togeth.htm)
In its usual manner, my mind went on from there, contemplating the media's warped, selective presentation of 'news', and a few things clicked into hypotheses. Unless we spend all day, every day, sifting through all the 'stuff' the media puts out there as information, we won't come close to gleaning the truth of what is actually going on. We have to read between the lines and search hard for the truth to leak through.
Back when I was teaching computer and Internet courses, I used to talk about how the Internet is the power behind freedom of speech. Though that particular freedom has always 'been on the books', only few had the ways and means to be heard by many: authors, journalists, reporters, anchors, DJs and such, within the confines of books, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Then the Internet comes along, is culturally adopted faster and more completely than any other invention in man's history, and along with it is an open, free, accessible medium of communication for everyone capable of hitting the "on" button. For the first time in history, just about everyone is able to be heard by many.
This is an incredible freedom - and an incredible responsibility.
Of course the traditional media is online with massive, expensive sites containing the same warped, selective presentation of news, along with more massive and expensive technologies focused on advertising. (It took Amazon.com to convince the world that the Internet was a viable, profitable medium.) It is a natural course for capitalism, and perhaps The Final Frontier for market expansion. Perhaps too, the majority expects the familiar presences to feel safe.
But, you no longer have to know how a computer or the Internet works to use it, just like you don't have to understand combustion engines to drive a car. It's very easy today with groups and blogs and YouTube etc. The feeling of safety is built right into these simple applications.
That should free up the mind from thinking about the tools and become focused on writing, right? It's not easy to write, it takes effort, and now that many people can read what is written, the writing should be as purposeful and clean as you can get it, right?
Beyond basic sentence structure and articulation, it is the content itself that is the responsibility. Because it is written and widely available, individually, each 'author' is responsible for each reader's reaction.
We have yet to determine the full impact of this historically new freedom of voice. We know that the Internet has expanded the worlds of countless peoples providing access to more knowledge, support, resources and information than ever imagined. But, in order to preserve and maintain this incredible freedom, each contributor must respect it for what it is - a freedom that can impact unknown, countless others. It is a personal freedom that demands personal responsiblity.
What are your thoughts?
(Did you know that we won't know who wins the primaries until next June? Egads.)
Completely by accident, I stumbled on Airset. I'm not one to recommend products, but I love this one. This one has all the available applications and features (including synchronize with Outlook calendar and contacts) that you need to get organized and more, much more, all in one place. And it's free!
Airset's power is its "group" foundation. (My main page is a 'group' of one, me.) Along the top are tabs for each of the groups I created. I have one called "Family" and I invited my son to join it. He joined by creating his own Airset account that shows his personal main page and the group "Families" that I created. I now can share with him via the "Families" group anything I have in my personal group, and visa versa. Contacts, calendar events, to-do lists, links, photos, music, files, blog - anything I can think of. The messaging feature allows you to send messages to any member of any group or all the members at once. Airset emails me my schedule every day, and it even includes the weather forecast. If I am still unorganized, it's not Airset's fault!
I created another group called "Site Projects" and invited a client I did two Web sites for. This gives her an invaluable tool to upload new photos and content for the sites and enter into the calendar when she needs them done. She can also use the To-Do list, set a due date, and Airset will remind me daily what I need to do. When it's done, I check it off, and that's it! If you want to create a public group, there is an option to create a Web page that can include a "join now" with a complete group description.
The best part of Airset is that there are no ads besides Airset tips. I get a ton of spam email and see more than enough ads online and on TV, so this is a nice, nice caveat. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.
Let me know what you think! airset.com
January Comments, Ideas, Critiques
First of all, Happy New Year! I'd like to welcome you and thank you for reading!
I'd also like to invite your input on what you see here. Would you like a post about something in particular? What is most helpful to you? Have you found what you are looking for? I'll include a comment area like this every month.
If you click on the title of each post, it will take you to a separate page that includes the article and all the comments. It seems easier to find where to leave your comment that way.
Again, welcome and thank you!