Lying Awake (Don’t Ask Why)

I’ve been up since 2am with a fever & a stomach bug.  I’ve listened to quiet music, concentrated on my breathing, read, crocheted, stared out the window at the slowly dawning sky.  It already feels terrible & mildly headache-y to be awake at this hour of the morning even when I’m well.  But since I’m sick & most likely won’t be going to work or doing much of anything today, I’m here blogging, trying to figure out what I can do to keep myself occupied.

If my husband wasn’t asleep, I would clean.  And it’s quiet enough that I could spend the time writing.  What could I tell you, dear Reader?  I actually just finished listening to this week’s This American Life episode, which I found compelling.  Without giving too much away, the story is about a kid who’s mentored by someone who fills his head with a terrifying worldview & how the kid tries to unlearn those beliefs as he grows up.  I recommend you listen to it if you’re interested, but I can say that the podcast kept my attention because I went through something similar with my own family & the religion I was raised in.

I think the thing that resonated with me the most is that this kid is fighting his own mind’s anxiety so hard, even years later after breaking off contact with this person.  I totally knew what that struggle was like.  There’s a part of me that logically knows that many people go through something similar at an impressionable age—I just wish the inner turmoil wasn’t so encompassing sometimes that that idea would be easier to remember & reach out.  For myself & for those others who struggle to right themselves after a similar incident.

And I think that the other thing that is ultimately sad & frustrating & revealing is that people who influence us like this, with a unforgiving philosophy or an argument built on self-interested emotion or even what they might think is an inspiring anecdote, I think for the most part believe they are helping us.  They reach out to us because they think we need their insight or guidance.  I doubt I will soon forget the absolute tear-eyed conviction of the woman who told me & a Sunday school group of my peers that the world would end in our lifetimes & that we had to rise to the occasion.  Or the sense of absolute worthlessness that flooded my 11-year-old mind then & has stayed with me in one form or another 25 years later.

Which is another reason why it’s a struggle to speak up sometimes, because I never want to do that to another human being, even by accident.  Sometimes I fear that I already have but I’m learning to live with that fear & to be more aware of my choices.

Anyway, this is getting kind of deep for a blog post.  I’ll sign off now & go stare at the Kitten Academy live feed for an hour or so until I feel like my stomach can handle breakfast.  See you over there?


Acceptance (Or Something Like It)

Having recently read Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score, I’d decided soon after finishing the book to try one of the recommended readings.  I chose Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Coming To Our Senses, mainly because van der Kolk discussed some of the collaborations the two of them used in studies.  I haven’t put it up on my Goodreads, partially because the book has a weird dual thread of (Kabat-Zinn’s) self-promotion & actual insightful commentary on human perception that bothers me.

But there is one concept that I’ve been stuck on for the past few weeks that I keep playing with mentally.  Kabat-Zinn mentions the Kanizsa triangle, an illusion where three circles suggest a triangle at their center due to their shape.  He presents a scenario where a Zen teacher shows this figure to a student & says something like, “If you say there is a triangle in the center, I will tell you that you’re wrong.  If you say there isn’t a triangle in the center, I will tell you that you’re wrong.”

My initial reaction was a fear where there is no right answer, meaning (for my people-pleasing self) that I cannot make the other person happy or content or solve the problem they present me, meaning a frightening (but purely hypothetical) situation where I can’t solve their problem or get away from their scrutiny.  The idea that ambiguity resides outside of my attempts to understand or create order was terrifying.  Ambiguity means unassessed threats means I might get hurt means run away run away run away NOW.

(And if I wasn’t trying to be honest & make a point here, I’d link to Courtney Love’s “Mono” where she screams those last few words.)

All of that was my traumatized brain.  And now that I’m healing, I’m facing this idea of ambiguity, where things do & do not exist at the same time, & thinking that I might be able to learn to be ok with it.  At least, that’s the skill I want to have moving toward.  I’ve left behind the over-used survival instinct & the chronic exhaustion it causes.  I’m struggling now with the remaining traces on my reasoning, where categorizing past experiences as either all good or all bad seems like an easy solution.

But that’s not what I want.  I want to accept myself & my place in the world & grow stronger from that purposeful knowledge, not from the reactions to the ghosts of the past & the wolves at the door.


The Not-Snow Day

Grey Window View
Morning View in the Winter

Yesterday was an odd day.  I woke up to a temperature of -3° Fahrenheit & a heater that was struggling mightily to heat the rest of the house.  My husband & I decided to spend most of the day in our upstairs bedroom where the heat from the sun would be captured & our flannel-covered bed could help keep us warm.

It was like a snow day without the snow; a sick day without actually being ill.  We went nowhere, camped out with a bunch of books & busywork, & indulged our cat as he stretched more & more across the width of the bed.  But this is not really what was odd.

What was odd to me was the relative quiet within myself.  I’m a jittery person that is constantly pacing & trying to figure out what to focus on first, because there are always so many things I must be neglecting or forgetting to do.  And I’m still that person to a certain extant, but with the recent PTSD treatments I’ve had have turned a lot of that interior noise way down.  I still felt some guilt over choosing to do almost nothing for the entire day, but I was able to do it with the emotional mudslide.  I could answer the question, “What about. . .” with a common shrug & let the thought alone.

I don’t know if I’ll ever really stop fighting myself—that constant tension between what I want & what I think I’m supposed to do or what I think others think I’m supposed to do has been with me so long.  Anticipate, defend, escape, repeat.  But yesterday was the growing proof that the tone could change, that a different balance could be found.  And that insight is such a small, powerful thing that it scares me too because it is too dear to be lost.

But the fear is not the stronger emotion; what prevails is the wonder & the hope for the future.

Books, Thoughts

Bookmark Monday (III): Bookmark Buying PSA

The holidays are here, everyone!  There will be lots of cool gifts out there for stocking stuffers or even just as small gifts from friends & loved ones.  Bookmarks are a fantastic example.  But as I was going through my bookmark box, I noticed a few at the bottom that, though lovely & given with good wishes, I have never used.

Three fashionable but impractical bookmarks
Bookmarks that tear the page instead of keep the place

All three of these have top pieces that are heavier that the rest of the bookmark, meaning they tend to sink down onto pages & tear them.  Especially if you are mainly a paperback reader, like me.  They are lovely to display as objects on shelves or clipped to card stock or stuck upright in a plant or basket.  But remaining in a book, even for a brief while?  Nooooooo.

However, if you do like the weight & durability of a metal or plastic bookmark, you can still find interesting ones that are in the classic rectangular shape without any edges or corners that could catch.  For example:

A stylish metal bookmark with a classic form & durability
A simple, elegant solution

Ahhhh, a wonderful straightforward marker that I can put in my book without any worry about what it will do to my pages.  So remember, this holiday season, go with a timeless style of bookmark so your bibliophile friends will worry less about their pages & remember more your thoughtfulness.



(Bookmark Mondays originated from Guiltless Reading.)

Guiltless Reading
Books, Thoughts

Nostalgia Porn of the 90s, part 2

Maybe I noticed this because I think that everyone else lives in their memories of the 90s, like me.  But I came across this book cover & I get the nagging feeling that the cover artist watched a lot of The Pretender.  Because this certainly looks like Ryan Merriman, who played Young Jared.  Or some scary VR replica.  Brrr, the uncanny valley is unforgiving.