In which I have an epiphany

It’s Sunday morning. I’ve got my earbuds in; Eric is knocking around the kitchen, making a double batch of clam chowder and carefully cutting all vegetables into perfect cubes. (He’s the patient one in this relationship.) We’re having friends over for dinner tonight and he’s taking care of the menu. Technically, this isn’t something I can eat, what with the potatoes and the flour used as a thickener, so I’m making myself a pot of butternut squash soup. Tangent, I used my crock pot to cook whole butternut squash I got at the farmers’ market (still no oven, I’ll alert the media when THAT ever happens) (oh wait, I am the media) (awkward) AND IT TOTALLY WORKED.

I’m so pleased with myself for that little victory, honestly.

Anyway, you might be asking yourself why Eric is making a meal that I can’t eat. I don’t see it that way. He has taken it upon himself to create a menu and cook the whole ordeal. Okay, I did pick up some bread, I guess I get credit for that. 😉 He is doing all that so I don’t have to. And instead of having to explain my diet, we can just be like, Hey, two soup options! 

That’s such a relief.

*

This past week was rough. Deadlines deadlines deadlines because of holiday special sections. Coming home wrecked. (I forgot to check myself.) Feeling cranky and tired. Feeling defeated and overwhelmed before I even got out of bed in the morning because of all I needed to accomplish.

I was headed into work on Friday and thinking about how I just need … help. I was praying / pleading. Because dreading the day before you even get out of bed cannot be healthy.

The answer came rather quickly: I am collapsing under the weight of my own expectations. All the lists, all the schedules, all the planning for how the day will go. Nothing ever goes as planned, so I spend a good chunk of my day trying to retrench when things go awry. And instead of celebrating all the crossed off to-dos, I focus on the one or two that I inevitably don’t get to and how I therefore failed.

I started thinking about how I was dreading our trip to Banff and how I did so well because every morning, I set the intention to just be open to whatever gifts and lessons the day should bring. (Good or bad, the gifts and lessons don’t distinguish between the two.) And that trip ended up being amazing.

And then I thought about V’s comment on last Monday’s post about declaring this the year of less — how we might have less stuff, but not less chaos and overwhelm because we take on too much. How we don’t give ourselves a chance to breathe or really even figure out what our priorities are.

I got to work and pitched my to-do list. I went from task to task without any preconceived schedule. I had fun with my co-workers. I left the office at a reasonable time. Johanna and I went to a play later that evening that stars two-thirds of our editorial staff (meaning: I am the only reporter NOT in the play) with two more of my co-workers; we saw all kinds of people that we knew and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the crowd.

Jo and I also had a dance party in the car during the trip to and from the venue. Our moves are pretty good when we’re sitting down.

Saturday was similar. It’s my market / chore day and I hate it. I decided to skip the to-do list. I went to the farmers’ market at opening in my PJs (well, jeans and a sweatshirt, but I didn’t shower). I came home and started prepping that butternut squash and a slew of sweet potatoes. I dried some apples. Jo eventually got up and we hit The Store That Must Not Be Named and then the coffee shop — we need to get coffee more often — and then we went to visit my grandma. She decided that she needed three bananas and some grapes, and was kind of mad at me when I refused to take her money. (“You don’t let me do anything!”)

We took our time at the store and still got out of there in less than an hour; it’s nice having a kid who shops for their own lunch items and snacks). We took Grandma her produce and she was so excited. Apparently you don’t get a lot of fresh fruit in assisted living.

Usually after all my store stops, I’m just done: No more people, no more activity, just leave me alone. But again, I did not feel any sense of overwhelm or defeat at the end of the day. And I slept through the night.

I don’t know how long my brain will let me stay in this honeymoon period. I am not wired to think this way — I am naturally deadline-oriented, newspaper gig or not, and I have years and years of routines I’m trying to overcome here. Monday will be the real test: Newspaper deadline, and traditionally they do not go well. If I can get out of there and still feel mentally and emotionally sound, that will be such a victory.

Every morning in my journal, I write out my to-do list. This week, I am forgoing that in favor of a gift and lesson list — just a recap of a few things that happened the day before. (Friday: Co-worker fun time, acupuncture; Saturday: Visiting Grandma, time with Johanna.) I’m essentially trying to replace one routine with another because I don’t think I’ll succeed otherwise.

I may never be a free spirit, but I don’t need to be my own worst enemy, either.

Input vs. output

All members of the Walker Four are now equipped with iPhones — Eric finally broke. The best part was seeing Johanna’s face when we gave her that box because it wasn’t even remotely on her radar. Abby immediately set up group chat threads. Eric immediately started complaining about all the notifications received from said group chat threads. 😉

It’s funny how, being without a smart phone for literally years, we have all quickly adapted to the new technology.

Driving around and need directions? Siri can help with that!

Bored in the waiting room and wanting to kill some time? Word games!

Funny thing happening at home that Abby needs to know about? Snapchat!

But I’m old enough to remember a time when phones were connected to the wall and you actually had to be home to answer — no call waiting, no message service. You had to sit there and talk because the cord only allowed you to go so far.

I’m also old enough to remember a time when we would actually pay attention to the people around us. Get this: We would eat a meal or play a game or just have a conversation and that was ALL WE WERE DOING.

I know, crazy. Even crazier? We could work on a project and not be interrupted by bells and whistles and our own sense of boredom. We could focus.

I can no longer focus.

Looking at myself here, I’ve been thinking a lot about input — what I take in — vs. output — what I create. The cards are stacked in favor of input. I spend an awful lot of time just cruising around news apps, Twitter, Instagram, playing word games and checking out daily featured apps, and at the end of those countless hours, I can’t even remember what I’ve read or learned.

Probably because I’ve learned nothing. Or at least nothing worth retaining. But I have managed to get myself worked up over some stupid something that I have zero control over.

Why do I do that to myself?

What if I focused on output instead?

It’s an interesting concept: Create more than you consume. Is that even possible? I have no idea, but my September goal is to find out.

I’ve broken it down like this:

Input that makes me feel bad about myself

  • Twitter
  • Facebook (especially our newspaper page because the comments are generally terrible)
  • Unfiltered news pages that are more entertainment and shock value than actual news
  • Unfocused scrolling time
  • Playing games

Input that I enjoy and value

  • Books
  • Snapchat because it’s Abby’s primary method of communicating
  • FaceTime conversations because ditto
  • Reading blogs and real newspapers (aka papers, not screens)
  • COFFEE

Output that I enjoy

  • Journaling
  • Blogging
  • Working on my 365 project, which is basically a memory a day for a year … that I’ve been working on for like five years because sometimes I don’t want to remember
  • Working on The Simple Year draft
  • Writing news stories for work
  • Cooking (hashtag question mark because I’m kind of over cooking but also I like to eat)
  • Conversations and time with Johanna and Eric
  • Decluttering and cleaning (well, when it’s over and I can see progress)

Possibly I’ll add to these lists as the month goes on. It strikes me as ironic that I KNOW the inputs that make me feel like a terrible person and waste all my time and keep me from doing the things I actually value, but I DO THOSE THINGS ANYWAY.

On purpose.

I choose that.

Output makes me feel less scattered and more focused. I feel more grounded. I am calmer because I can release pent up thoughts and emotions when I’m able to be creative — I can let go. I am able to detach from what really doesn’t need my bandwidth. And I feel more gratitude and less … like I’m being put out, put upon, asked to give up too much mental and physical space.

Input that I enjoy — the books and coffee and blogs (like those by our friends Chris N and SarahN) seems to produce those same outcomes / feelings of wellbeing / sense of connectedness. Input that is just noise does the opposite.

Well, I’ve journaled about this and said it out loud on the blog, so I guess I have to do it.

Wish me luck.

And tell me your experiences or thoughts.

Good things

I am beyond heartbroken and stressed and sad and upset and angry and just … things this week in the States have been rough. I can’t stand the news, I can’t stand social media, I can’t take any more negativity.

I just can’t. But the hits just keep on coming.

So today we’re going to talk about good things. Not because things are good — they aren’t. But to remind ourselves that despite all that, there is light. Even if we have to dig really deep to find it.

So here are a few of my good things, in no particular order. And in the comments, I’d like to see yours.

  • This plant
plant blog

Mind Flayer at work?

I wrote a story about a local fundraising effort for fistula repair in Uganda, and the woman behind the fundraiser gave me this plant as a thank you. Thank yous are NOT necessary — I’m a reporter, I reported! — but I appreciated the thought and the kindness behind the gift. Abby has claimed it, and I’m also happy about that because plants bring her a lot of joy, and this one will remind her of me when she’s at school. Plus it’s just freaking cool — that droopy flower growth has been two months in the making. Awesome.

  • My grandma
gma blog

Grandma Hollywood

Grandma is 95. She came to live by us this past May. She’s seen a lot, she’s done a lot, she has great stories and has had great heartbreak, but she just keeps going. I love being able to stop by and see her. I love hearing her stories and learning about some of the genetic quirks that make me a Trisha (panic attacks, check!). I love that she’s always excited to get a copy of the newspaper and that she reads my articles first. I love how she proudly tells everyone in the halls, “This is my granddaughter, Trisha.” Grandma kicks ass, you guys, and she’s right down the road. I haven’t had relatives closer than 2 hours away since I was 9. This time with Grammie is such a gift.

  •  My laptop
laptop blog

Freida on the deck — that’s my parents’ 1970s card table she’s resting on.

Freida, born of anger and fire, has proven to be a beacon of peace and calm. Wow, that sounds dramatic. Here’s her origin story: I purchased this ol’ girl from an office supply store about a year and a half ago because I wanted the freedom to get out of my office and write, say, in a coffee shop. (Freida is derived from freedom. I wish I’d have been clever enough to come up with that, but it was Eric.) Freida and I have written in those coffee shops, on park benches, on the deck, in my parents’ backyard and in hospital waiting rooms. I lug her around every day in my backpack and, while she’s heavy and clunky, she’s worth it. Freida gets me out of the office, but more than that, she gives me the gift of possibility.

  • Coffee

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I made my 57,000th batch of iced coffee Monday night (method HERE — although now I use a gallon of water, 1/4 pound of ground coffee and let that sit upwards of 12 hours) and was reminded that there is such simple pleasure in grabbing a cup, filling it with ice and cold coffee, topping that mother off with lots of half and half, and heading to the deck to read or write. I don’t have a lot of food pleasures because my stomach is a jerk, but I do have coffee. Thanks, magic beans!

  • All my kids under one roof
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An old photo, but a good photo. And very indicative of their personalities.

It seems like just yesterday that Abby came home from college for summer vacation, and now we’re looking at roughly one more week with her here before taking her back. Johanna is pretty sure we can just lock the door and she’ll have to stay. Seems like a solid plan. I’ll report back on how that works. Although actually … we are in a good place. It’s exciting to see both girls spreading their wings and figuring out where they want to go. I mean, yeah, I would like to go back to when they were younger and I didn’t have to rely on apps to communicate, but I don’t know if I would wish for that because … well. You can’t stunt them, right? Isn’t this what we’ve been working towards? Those wings? Well, whatever, we’ve had a great summer and I have thoroughly enjoyed having both girls under my roof. They’re fantastic. And yes, I am biased, why do you ask?

All right, my lovely internet friends: Your turn.

P.S. Happy birthday, Shannon! Your list is coming …

‘New Year’ resolutions

Goodbye, July. Hello, New Year!

I found out the afternoon before my scheduled birthday massage that it was canceled. The therapist was dealing with a life-and-death situation with a family member and I understood her need to cancel. I’d have done the same.

I have done the same. Looking at you, April.

But I woke up feeling vaguely depressed. As I wrote in my journal (and I’m rather proud of myself for making the connection):

I think my issue with Plan A becoming Plan X and the difficulty I have in retrenching is because I’ve already visualized it all in my head — how it all went. So my mind is expecting THAT and suddenly, the narrative has changed. And that is NOT what I’ve visualized.

And that, internet friends, brings us to My Goal For 47: Learning how to retrench quickly when life throws me a curveball, whether a mild inconvenience or total restructure of the day’s events.

I tend to treat them both the same way: Like it’s life and death. Which is idiotic, I know this, and yet, here we are. My gut is all like, Run from the cheetah! even though my mind is all, Dude, there ISN’T a cheetah, calm down.

I can’t calm down. Also, I am rather fond of cheetahs.

Anyway, I have a feeling my inability to recover is tied to the scarcity mindset, that we have to get ours first because we deserve it and we don’t want to be left behind or forgotten.

Let’s face it, it’s fear that is behind my reaction — I haven’t had time to process this Plan X and that makes me anxious. I’m 99 percent sure I’m coming out the loser on this new scenario and if I take long enough to accept it, maybe I can get it back to my original vision.

So, logically, what I need to do is reframe the negative thought loop:

Who can I help? What can I learn today? Where in my life do I need extra attention and/or grace? When am I at my best and worst? Why am I feeling this emotion and/or thinking this thought? How can I be a light?

It will take time to retrain myself and my gut response. But I think I can do it. I’ve got all year.

A month-long celebration

I have always loved the month of July.

It’s my birthday month and, even though the thrill of birthdays ceased long ago, I still just really love everything about it: Summertime weather, more and more fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmers’ market, the girls are out of school, and life is more relaxed.

I love relaxed!

This year wasn’t a milestone birthday or anything (47), but I had the ingenuity in June to fill my July calendar with all of my favorite things: I scheduled two reflexology appointments, two acupuncture appointments, got my hair cut and thinned and made a massage appointment for my actual birthday. (That ended up getting canceled because the therapist had a very understandable family emergency. It’s been 17 years since my last massage, so I look forward to rescheduling.)

birthday blog

Abby and me at birthday dinner.

I had coffee dates, I read on the deck as much as possible, I took a few walks with Eric, I made sure I took lunch breaks and tried my best not to let any work stresses beyond my control ruin my outlook. My sister-in-law was in town a few days before my birthday, and the greater group of my in-laws had a barbecue party for me, which was adorable and very sweet. My parents also had us over for dinner and entertainment the day after — Mom is in charge of dinner, Dad entertainment, and that’s always scratch-its. It’s hilarious and awesome and we tend to lose. The day of my birthday included a coffee shop stop, Friday lunch with both my girls, reading on the deck and a dinner of my choosing — which was barbecued chicken and salad, because our oven is still broken (that is another post for another time). Not actually my choice, but you know what? We were all together on the deck and I had a lovely time.

Tangent: My birthday was on the coffee shop calendar, which was AWESOME. I share it with a barista there, who was a little more excited for the day to come — she turned 21. Also, I got four presents this year, and two of them were coffee shop gift cards. I have never felt so understood.

Anyway, it occurs to me that maybe I’ve been feeling so well this month because I have been taking such good care of myself. I’ve felt relaxed and happy, and every day has been a celebration, even if all I did was sit on the deck after work with my Kindle. While I can’t continue with this level of self-care appointments — too expensive, not covered by insurance — I can take the lesson with me into August: Giving yourself a break and doing something that makes you happy goes a long way towards greater general health.

Tangent No. 2: Abby turned 20 on Saturday, and I would like to take this opportunity, AGAIN, to mention that she was due on my birthday but was eight days late. I’m still mad about that. She remains unapologetic.

A not so new normal

I was at acupuncture earlier this month, updating my provider on our vacation, how well I’d done and how proud I was for not only surviving, but surviving well. And she was like, Of course you did well. That’s the normal you’ve worked hard to achieve. It’s only your mind that thinks it’s five years ago, when that was not your normal.

I sat there, completely flabbergasted. She was right — I have been feeling well. I have worked hard to get here — it’s been 12 years in the making, actually. That’s when I decided, on my 35th birthday, that something had to change. Um, because I couldn’t get up off the couch and I had a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old who needed me.

All the head meds, all the reflexology and acupuncture, all the doctor’s visits and learning how to eat for my gut, as well as how to manage my anxiety — that’s all paid off. And the truth is I’ve been feeling well for a while now. Setbacks have come when I tweak my diet or life inevitably throws me a curve ball. But overall … I am well.

I am well. I can’t wrap my mind around that fact. I need to flip my thinking so that I look at my life from today’s vantage point and not c. 2007, afraid of what could happen on the gut and anxiety fronts, expecting the worst day in and day out because that was just my reality.

But how do I flip the switch in my mind so I expect to feel well vs. always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the next IBS attack, for the next panic attack?

Hell if I know.

Well, maybe I do: Maybe, it’s like any habit I have attempted to form, when I make a conscious effort to reframe my routine — and eventually, it does become routine. Maybe it’s as easy as setting the intention each morning to be well. To recognize that I am well each night before I go to bed.

(That seems too easy, really, but I’m willing to give it a go.)

I don’t know, this is interesting to me because I am not a naturally optimistic person (nor am I a pessimist — I’m just a realist who expects the worst 😉 ). I like thinking about reality vs. perception, what’s really true and what I think is true. And I want to be well. I’m enchanted by the idea that I could expect to be well, all the time.

How different my outlook will be if I can master my thoughts.

Morning routine, summertime edition

I am a creature of habit, as I’ve often proclaimed. It’s an understatement to use those words because it’s more like I’m deeply entrenched in the day to day routines I’ve established and any varying of those routines sends me into a spin, from which it takes me a ridiculously long time to recover.

I’ve gotten into a routine this summer of waking up early (sometimes as early as 5:30, although it’s generally more like 6:15, even on weekends. Um, not on purpose. I think it’s all the light), making my coffee and heading to the porch with my backpack of treasurers, aka Freida the laptop and my journals and pens. I may or may not do a guided meditation or breathing exercise a la the Tide app. And then I just write.

Bean July 17.jpg

Bean is also a fan of the porch.

It’s nice outside in the cool morning air, listening to the birds and the orchard noises and even the traffic. Seeing what Mount Hood looks like that particular day, watching the cats tumble around and vent excess energy by racing halfway up the oak trees. Sorting through the events of the previous day and recognizing any areas that might need a little extra attention on my part, whether that’s because it gives me something new to think about or because I need a little (or a lot of) grace.

After porch time, I get ready for my day and head to work feeling ready to face whatever comes. Which sounds cheesy, I know this, but when I race out the door and straight into work — a job that’s chaotic enough — I feel out of sorts. Centering myself in the morning means I am more apt to stay calm the rest of the day.

When you live with anxiety, that’s huge.

I can take this time because it doesn’t really matter when I head in for work — journalist hours are whatever the story requires — and I only have my schedule to contend with in the summer. And my kids are older and require less attention. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep it up when school starts up again and the weather changes. But I’m not worrying about that right now.

I’m just out here enjoying my coffee.