The stress confession

(Sorry, my autosave cut off the last portion of this blog post. The last couple of sentences are there now)

“Could stress be your problem?”

“I don’t feel stressed,” I replied automatically as I shielded my eyes from the overhead light in an effort to ease my pounding headache.

It’s totally not stress, I thought to myself, stress happens to boomers who work 60 hours a week, people who can’t afford to eat, and those irritating girls I went to college with who were constantly chirping “I’m SO stressed!” at even the simplest assignment. I just need to be better. Work out more. Get more sleep. Eat better. This’ll go away.

This morning I was awakened by a cat crawling over me. As I worked slowly into consciousness, I found myself panicking.

That was a request! Where’s my Request Log form? *flipping through an imaginary clipboard* Okay, okay, I found it. Activity: sleeping. Item requested: attention. Words used: “MEEEEEOW”

Wait, that’s not right.

I woke up, laughed, and gave the noisy cat some attention, thinking about how I must really need a break from work.

Hmmmmm…..

With my hands occupied with the cat, I let my mind work. Okay, so emotionally, I feel pretty good. I feel happy, confident, fulfilled, sometimes excited, and relatively creative. And physically?

I suddenly realized that there was actually quite a list of physical symptoms. The weird super early morning insomnia, the prolonged appetite weirdness, and my recent habit of grinding my teeth are all things that have never been an issue before. I’ve been taking longer to heal, had more headaches than normal, and random muscles are often sore for no obvious reason.

So, emotionally I may be fine, but I’m starting to entertain the idea that my body may be telling me that there’s something wrong.

I feel weak for blaming any or all of this on stress, but it does make sense. I recently started a demanding job, and am working more hours than I expected. Part of that job is dealing with lots and lots of paperwork, and the panic at not being able to find a certain data sheet hasn’t been limited to the realm of dreams. Additionally, most of my support network of friends and Adrian have been away for the last several weeks.

The best advice I’ve received for this elusive stress-but-doesn’t-feel-like-stress was to imagine what I’d tell someone in my situation, and then go do that. That feels a little weird, but it’s worth a shot.

Back to school (again)

January has come to an end, and I’m back in school and at work. After a mostly quiet winter break, it’s refreshing to have a full schedule again. Everything in moderation – a season of rest to balance out a season of busy-ness.

It’s at this point that I generally have dropped all of my New Year’s resolutions to get through the grind, and here’s an update on how I’ve been doing.

Get in 30 minutes of cardio three times a week, and some other sort of exercise two to three other times throughout the week

Nope. Nowhere near. I actually started laughing when I read this because the failure has been so complete.

I’m not very good at motivating myself to exercise, particularly if I have to put any thought into it. As such, I’ve found a couple of classes at the university gym that fit into my schedule and I’ve committed to trying them out for the month of February.

If after that I don’t like one I give myself license to make a change, but I want at least a month to get past the initial awkwardness of trying something new and see if they work for me. I’ll be trying out spin (an entire hour of spin oh god I’m going to die O_O), zumba, and pilates.

If these do work out, this is only a temporary fix since in four months I’ll no longer be a student, but it should give me a good idea if classes are helpful for me. Once I graduate I’ll have to work out (pun intended) whether it’s worth it to join the gym that a few minutes’ walking distance away, which is about $600/year.

Surprisingly, my local gym actually has a wider variety and schedule options for classes than the cushy college gym, but we’ll see – having all that doesn’t actually do me any good if I don’t use it!

Fill up one, if not both, of my new journals

This one’s going pretty nicely, and I’ve been filling up about 2-3 pages a week. I thought I probably wouldn’t have a whole lot to write about and would just doodle mundanely, but I’ve written a pretty decent amount considering that my blogging is, at most, once every two weeks or so.

That’s a snapshot of my ViHart inspired winter break to do list. The first item on the list? “Stop pining away like a freaking teenage girl.” Oh man, I’m awesome. (And yes, it’s checked off thank you very much) Continuing the awesome-ness, near the bottom is “finish Bible story book for the kids”, which was supposed to be their Christmas present. It’s still not done. I can’t find any good clipart to use for Job, and it’s got me stuck.

Eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day

I’m definitely not anywhere near this goal yet. But! At the start of the month I was averaging about 1 – 1.5 servings a day, and I’m now hovering around 2. A small change, yes, but it’s an improvement. I think I’ll work toward an average of 3 this month, which gives me an easy rule of thumb for one fruit or veggie at each meal.

Organizationally, digitize my information as is feasible and hang my clothes up the same day that I do laundry

The digitizing is done at this point, and I have a stack of books waiting to be sold; some will go to Amazon for store credit, a few will go to some smaller book retailers, and the remaining ones that can’t be sold will be sent to a literacy group. I’m trying to do only one box per retailer, so the books going to the same place as my textbooks from this semester will have to wait, but everything else can be sent off as soon as I have some boxes.

It feels good to already have a resolution mostly done! My clothes hanging is still iffy, but whereas at the beginning of the year I was only putting my laundry away at about the time I was washing the next load a week later, now I’ve got it hung up by about 2 days after laundry. Still not where I want to be, but again it’s at least an improvement.

Top off my wardrobe and then stop worrying about it

It’s been a bit tight financially with buying textbooks, cleaning up a mistake I made on my taxes a few years back, Christmas consumerism and saving up to get my car looked at, so realistically I probably won’t start working on this until about the middle of the year.

Get my money’s worth out of my sewing machine (if possible)

I have yet to do anything with my sewing machine. As I was writing this I went to put a scrap of fabric through to see if it got shredded up, only to realize that my bobbin is out of thread. I’ve got to get going to class so I don’t have time to fix that and try it out for real.

Speaking of which, I need to head out. I’ve got class to go to, a paper on inclusion to draft, and when I get home some butter chicken and naan to make for our meal tomorrow. Mmmmm.

Cause Fatigue

I’ve heard the phrase “compassion fatigue” tossed around for awhile now. Wikipedia tells me that it was first coined in the ’50s to describe the attitude of people who work with victims of trauma, and how they became cynical and desensitized to the suffering of others. I hear it mostly used now in the context of our interconnected world, where photos of every natural or manmade disaster are commonplace and lose their emotional effect.

Particularly in large scale disasters, our minds simply can’t wrap around how immense the situation is; what 190,000,000 gallons of oil in the Gulf, 200,000+ casualties from the earthquake in Haiti, or 27,000,000 victims of human trafficking around the world really look like. The numbers are just too huge, the ramifications too immense. Stalin may not have been off when he quipped that “when one dies it is a tragedy. When a million die it is a statistic.”

I wonder if there’s a similar effect, something like “cause fatigue.” There are so many causes to rally behind – poverty, hunger, human trafficking, the environment (which has plenty of specific causes like recycling or reducing dependency on oil), simplicity over consumerism, fair trade, disaster relief, clean drinking water, researching disease cures – the list is nearly endless. All of these are valuable, meaningful, and generally good things to pursue. But no one can take all of those into account all the time.

Let’s take a small example, like making dinner. To try to take all of those causes into consideration leads to a massive list of questions about my food: how was it grown/raised (i.e. organic or free range, plus research into what those terms actually mean)? What kind of effect will this food have on my body? Were the workers who came into contact with this food paid a living wage and treated civilly? Is the company that profits from buying this food ethically sound? How far away did this food have to travel? How much gas was used in that transportation? What sort of environmental impact did the production, packaging, and transportation of this food have? Plus probably some more that I haven’t even thought of.

Trying to go through that laundry list of requirements and research just to prepare a meal sounds exhausting. Now imagine that extended to every aspect of life. There’s simply no way to try to live into all of those at once, we have to choose at most a couple to take up. That feels so disjointed and hypocritical though; how could I take up women’s rights but not human trafficking, because those are so interconnected? Or poverty without rehabilitation or mental health advocacy, since many of the people who live outside have addiction or mental health issues?

Everything is connected. There are no simple answers to try to fix anything. Just on an organizational level, as human beings we tend to muck things up – even if we had the resources necessary to try to resolve a problem that still wouldn’t guarantee progress.

As individuals, there’s very little any of us can do to truly impact a cause.

But even with all of my cynicism and cause fatigue, I’ve begun to think that it doesn’t so much matter which cause(s) I choose to rally behind, but rather that I do it at all. There’s something life giving and grounding about looking at something larger than myself and my minuscule problems; about having compassion for others even if I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the numbers. And that’s worthwhile, even if I never manage to enact change – which is valuable to be reminded of, because true change and progress are so difficult to achieve.

I don’t know yet what the big “thing” I champion will be. That’s part of my further exploration of myself and my identity that I’ll probably be fleshing out for some time.

Storytime!

Over the last couple of months, I’ve spotted someone I graduated with, let’s call him M, at a few events around town. I have plenty of foggy memories of him, since we ran in the same group, but two stick out.

One is of the day after he had asked me out. I was currently dating one of his good friends and was caught off guard and not really sure how to handle it (that lack of understanding boy-girl relationships hasn’t gone away, either), and the next day M claimed the whole thing was a joke. I got laughed at by essentially our entire group of friends and stormed off in a huff.

This story is probably still in my memory for two reasons: a) I’m reminded that I was quite a whiny, insecure brat at 16 and couldn’t handle any sort of situation that poked fun at me, and b) it was pretty fantastic foreshadowing.

Alex (who I would begin dating in only a few short months) chased me down after I made a scene and got me calmed down. The guy I was dating at the time stayed with M, laughed and made fun of me. And then a couple months down the line had a crisis of sexuality and (in my second distinct memory) cheated on me with M.

It probably goes without saying that I didn’t have an awfully great impression of M, mostly due to the association with discovering the person I’d been dating for a year and a half wasn’t actually interested in girls. When I’ve seen him around, the first scene in our imaginary conversation had me saying something along the lines of, “Hi! My first boyfriend went gay for you. How’s it going?”

However, someone whose opinion I value had recommended M as a person worth hanging out with. I was reluctant to consider it because argh awkward high school stupidity that is embarrassing to remember.

Today I caught sight of M at one of the community free lunches. Before I gave my brain the chance to veto the idea I found myself sitting in the chair next to him and saying hello.

And you know, he’s actually a nice guy. He seemed genuinely pleased to see me, and given the situation our conversation wasn’t too awkward.

It seems that the further I get from high school, the more I recognize that the people I spent the least amount of time with have become the most functional and interesting adults. The irony is not lost on me that, in turn, the people I thought I’d be friends with forever are now about as close to me as the average person I’ve had a class with over the last four years.

All this caused me to go back through my yearbook from that year…and then all of my yearbooks. For any of you that have actually read all of this, here’s a treat:

In retrospect, maybe sixth grade wasn’t the best time to transition from homeschooling to public school.

The “ugh” tells you everything you need to know about that year.

In seventh grade, I ditched the glasses by Halloween because back then they weren’t cool.

In eighth grade, I was trying really really hard to be a popular preppy girl, but by the end of the year I was hanging out with sixth graders.

My life would not make a good teenage geek to chic movie.

Ninth grade was a rough year.

Also, this picture is what I look at whenever I debate chopping my hair off. NEVER AGAIN!

But by tenth grade I’d grown my hair out, settled into a group of friends and thought I was pretty cool.

With all the other pictures in black and white, you didn’t get to witness my hair dying frenzy over the years.

This shade’s my favorite, but I’m too lazy to deal with all that dying business.

Alright, alright, show’s over. Move along folks, nothing to see here… I’m just going to go burn “recycle” all of those yearbooks.

(obligatory end of year reflective post)

I feel strangely satisfied at the end of this year.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a mixed bag; I went from being in a long-term relationship with the possibility of marriage hanging like a giant question mark, to, well…not. At this point, I have approximately zero good friends my own age, though a handful of acquaintances/distant friends. I’m still about as messy and disorganized as I was last year, and am increasingly convinced that real, long-lasting change more often comes in quiet, minute intervals rather than hinging on a single decision or event.

But. I feel more comfortable in my own skin, accepting my introversion rather than trying to fight against it (a small aside, I prefer “introvert” over “shy” – my lack of speaking in large groups is generally because I want to hear what other people are saying, not due to social anxiety), and I feel like I have a better understanding of what I want to do and be – even if it’s a long, long road to get there. I also feel much more comfortable with my body image and self esteem.

The latter is probably partly due to my ~20 lbs of weight loss since June. For the graphically inclined:

The plateau indicates I should probably start exercising to get down to where I’d like to be, but I’ll get to that later.

This week I was researching my “ideal” weight for my height, age, and frame size, and had to relearn the freshman year of college lesson that not everything you read on the internet is reliable; most of the calculators estimated my ideal weight range as some variant of 120-150. Even though it was frustrating, it also made me laugh because I realize that without developing an eating disorder or chopping off a leg there is simply no way I’ll be losing 30-60 more pounds.

But all that to say, I’m within six months of graduating college (just got my commencement information today!) and thus having to venture out into the real world. This year will definitely be interesting.

And for all my talk of change coming slowly there is something within me that just can’t get past the whole resolution idea. Something about assessing everything in my life once a year and finding things I’d like to work on appeals to my more linear nature.

Here are my resolutions for 2011:

Get in 30 minutes of cardio three times a week, and some other sort of exercise two to three other times throughout the week

I was initially going to make my resolution to finish the P90X program generously gifted to me by my future brother-in-law, but guys, I hate it. So much. I hate it hate it hate it. Though I’ve finally managed to figure out a way to turn off the annoying announcer guy’s chatter that isn’t related to exercise cues, it still drives me nuts. A common theory in educational circles is that to do anything and feel okay about it we need to have about 70-80% success rate, which is successful enough to make it feel like we aren’t failing but still offers a challenge. My success rate with P90X is, even when I only do a half a workout at a time, more like 50% because I am crazy out of shape. I really need something more suited to my current ability.

Fill up one, if not both, of my new journals

Well, okay. One was given as a scrapbook, and one was intended as a sketchbook, but I already have plenty of sketchbooks that are not nearly as nice, and I don’t plan to take up scrapbooking anytime soon. While this blog is helpful as a journal of sorts, I want to do more of creative journaling to incorporate mixed media. And, frankly, there are lots of minutia in my life that I’d like to note down but don’t want to subject all of you to. (A normal person response to this would be to write a blog and keep it private. My response is to throw paint at it. Huzzah!)

Eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day

So, this part’s kinda awkward. You’re suddenly realizing just how unhealthy I am, aren’t you? While I’m sometimes good about getting more color in my diet, I have an unabashed love of carbs, and they are cheap and tasty. My veggie tastes are pretty vanilla, and fruit gets expensive fast. Just for clarification though, I’m talking about 5 servings total, not 5 of both fruits and veggies – the latter would certainly be good for me, but I’m trying to stay realistic.

Organizationally, digitize my information as is feasible and hang my clothes up the same day that I do laundry

See what I told you about minutia in my life? This isn’t really all that interesting. With my sparkly new terabyte external hard drive (wheeee!) it’s helpful for me to store some of my things in a digital format rather than have it collecting dust. For instance, I still have a lot of teacher stuff that I’d like to keep around in case I change my mind, but won’t be using it anytime soon. Evernote to the rescue, and I’ve got a third of it already uploaded, tagged, and easily searchable. As for the clothes, that tends to be what makes my room look so messy. Just getting clothes up off the floor makes a big difference.

Speaking of clothes…

Top off my wardrobe and then stop worrying about it

This is kinda tied to the weight loss, since I’ve had to give away a lot of my clothes. The clothes that are left are largely dark in color and not quite varied enough for me to not feel repetitive. I’d venture somewhere in the range of 1-2 undershirts, 2 pairs of jeans and slacks after my weight evens out, and 2-3 more shirts and I should be set for quite awhile. I’m just tired of looking at and trying on clothes; they’re expensive, many don’t fit my body type well, and I’m annoyed with the whole consumerist gig.

Get my money’s worth out of my sewing machine (if possible)

Since I traded up my old sewing machine for $30 I haven’t found a whole lot of time to use it, and the one time I tried it marred the fabric irrevocably, so I’ve been shy to try it out again. But, if that fabric was just weird and my sewing machine is workable, it seems reasonable to try to get my money’s worth out of it. As I mentioned about how expensive shopping is right before this, it’s worth pointing out that many dresses and skirts are just shy of the $30 mark, so even one of those would make the machine just about pay for itself, and I am totally not above going the Dress a Day route. (I could be wrong here, but that might actually be easier than trying to work off a pattern to make something from scratch. And, wallet and environment friendly!)

On a similar tack, with my Christmas gift of a book full of knitting patterns, I may try and complete one of those. But seriously, for all of the jokes made at knitted sweaters, those take forever. I’m not sure my enjoyment of knitting can persevere over my ADD.

And… that’s all, folks. I feel like that’s pretty reasonable, though probably the hardest one for me will be the fruits and veggies. Having a low food budget makes it a bit painful to spend $4 on a cantaloupe, so I may need to check out some alternatives to grocery stores to see if they’re any cheaper. Or, I could *gasp* eat in season foods, but I’ve been Americanized to want strawberries whenever I please, growing seasons be damned.

On that note, happy 2011!

 


Simplicity and Senior Reflections

So, confession time.

As anyone who has lived with me for any length of time can attest, I…well…um…

I’m really messy.

I’ve gotten better about keeping some of our common areas clean, but my room has always been a sticking point.

Frankly, I’ve just always had too much stuff, much more than I need. But instead of dealing with that, I’ve tried to deal with the symptoms; clutter, messiness, and lots and lots of guilt.

With all of this in mind, I tweaked an idea I found recently. The main idea was to take a picture of everything you own, in order to evaluate what is really necessary and as an aid to de-cluttering.

I’m far too lazy for that, so instead I only took pictures of a few things.

I took pictures of all my various nice smelling girly things (perfume and lotion mainly) because those tend to be very tempting for me to pick up without thinking. My yarn stash got a picture as well because when I have to walk through the yarn section of the craft store all those warm, soft, bright yarns sing a siren song.

Finally, I snapped photos of my wardrobe. I’m finally pretty close to my goal weight and have given away a huge chunk of my clothes, meaning now I have to actually go out and replenish it. I’m not planning on getting much more, but, for instance, just today and yesterday I finally found two decent coats, a must-have for the winter coming up.

The clothing pictures were more practical for me, since having a visual reminder of what I already own when I go looking for new pieces makes it easier to make sure everything can mix and match, so that I can continue to have only the amount of clothing I really need.

But all that wasn’t really that big of a deal. The best part was that I finally went through my room and pared down my belongings by a lot. My room is cleaner than I think it has ever been, with lots and lots of open, clear space. The whole atmosphere is lighter and more open now.

And it’s even better because this will last a lot longer; it wasn’t just hiding all of my stuff away until I need to use it, I actually have much less random stuff that I don’t use.

Ahhh it’s wonderful.

And then, with my room cleaned and organized I trekked off to visit one of my sisters for most of the weekend. It’s nice to start feeling like my relationships with both my mom and several sisters are more like friendships and less like parent-child or older-younger sibling relationships.

~~~~~~~~~~~

As a small aside, while I’m admitting things anyway, can I tell you a secret? (well, I guess it won’t be a secret now)

I see the light at the end of my educational tunnel, but I have one nagging regret.

When I feel a little less practical and more optimistic, I really

really

wish I had gone to art school.

Not majoring in art at Chico State, but going to an actual, dedicated art school.

I don’t even know what I would’ve majored in (fashion design? illustration? photography? painting?) or what

I would do with that sort of degree, but the desire is definitely there.

Maybe it’s just a curiosity about whether I would’ve been able to do it, if I would be able to continue to stretch myself and keep up the creativity.

And don’t you dare suggest I go back to school for an art degree, I don’t even want to think about more school.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Some snapshots of this week:

I know not how to fix this. Maybe it's good I didn't try to get a degree in fashion design!

A couple of weeks ago I got to do a photoshoot for my sister and her significant other, and just delivered them last week. She wanted to be the first to see them, so now I can show a couple of my favorites: