Thanksgiving Weekend: Being thankful for things I don’t like.

Hello! Welcome to today’s post that’s actually yesterday’s real post. (You may have seen my non-post post from nearly midnight last night.)

Maybe it was because yesterday was Thanksgiving Day that I woke up in a weird, meditative state this morning and started thinking about the concept of gratitude. Counterintuitively, I wondered, could I be thankful for things in my life that generally cause angst or distress?

I realized that:

1). I’m thankful for my depression, because it reminds me that I can’t guess a person’s struggles. Every stranger is a mystery, and it doesn’t make sense to judge a mystery. It doesn’t make sense to react to a mystery, either, no matter the rudeness or awfulness of it.

2). I’m thankful for my phobia, because it means that I can feel something. I can think of nothing positive about my paralyzing fear of roaches, but I can appreciate that it evokes a pureness of any emotion.

3). I’m thankful for stressful situations, because they force me to practice patience, self-control, and nonchalance.

4). I’m thankful for awkward situations, because they force me into a place of self-scrutiny.

5). I’m thankful for pain, because it heightens the bliss of not being in pain.

6). I’m thankful for cold, because it heightens the bliss of warmth.

7). I’m thankful for bad days, because they make me eager for the next day. Every day is a new day.

8). I’m thankful for the intensely trying or traumatic experiences in my life, because remembering them gives me perspective.

9). I’m thankful for hard times, because I come through them – I hope – as a more understanding person.

I realize that I can choose to see my struggles as positives; they can help me to become a better human out in the world.

 

“Without darkness, you can’t see the stars”

 

 

 

The silver lining of a bad day is the day after.

This has been a week. I’m sure you can all relate to this: there is no day as good as the day after a really bad day. The great thing about today is that yesterday was a day of epic fuckery such that today can only be better. For one thing, I was able to get to the gym this morning. I couldn’t go on Tuesday or yesterday, so you can bet that today’s workout made an immense difference.

For me, everything about working out makes everything better, even an aspect as simple as setting up whatever area I use. I took this pic weeks ago when a friend pointed out how I always organize my area, with my backpack and water bottle to the left:

 

Organized crime.

 

I took this picture jokingly, but it’s soothing to see it because I see habit, and habit can be a balm. It’s a way of feeling in control; in this case, it’s a healthy way.

This post comes from a place of gratitude. Yesterday is over. Today is a new day. I have yet another doctor’s appointment this afternoon (my third this week) – one of my medical specialists – but this is a good thing. Today’s doctor will be different, and I’m very optimistic that whatever he does, the experience will be the opposite of the one I had on Tuesday. I’m talking about ophthalmology, the only medical specialty not available at our V.A., by the way.

Yesterday, man. There was just something about it. Callaghan had a Very Bad Day yesterday, too, for reasons different than mine. It was awesome that we didn’t get into it despite our equally bad moods!

I’ll try to remember to repeat this mantra on future bad days: tomorrow is a new day. Some sayings make profound sense, and there’s nothing like experience to appreciate a tired old adage as something more than a tired old adage. Everyone is different. It’s good to hone in on adages that help get us through. For me, “things can always be worse” is a good reminder, but it isn’t as reassuring as “tomorrow is a new day.”

 

Friday mental health meditation.

It’s been a hard week.

With chronic, clinical depression, you live with a continuous mental health ebb and flow. It’s usually unpredictable. When I feel the ebb, it’s easy to dwell on factors that might be feeding my mental state into the darkness.

Because while the low points usually come from nothing in particular (such are the vagaries of compromised brain chemistry), there are also times of stress responses to factors I can identify.

I recognize the counterproductive nature of dwelling on those factors, but still, it’s hard to avoid gnawing at them sometimes. This is why I constantly enumerate the things for which I’m grateful. When I catch myself going over the negative stuff, I can fall back on my long-standing practice of counting my blessings throughout the day, every day.

When I’m down, I try to dwell even more on the positive.

In other words, actively practicing gratitude amounts to depression damage control. I have other forms of therapy. Working out consistently is therapy, literally: exercise frees the body’s endorphins to help the brain make you feel better. Creative endeavors such as writing are therapy. Loving on (and being loved by) my cat is therapy. Eating well to avoid poisoning my body is therapy. I try to laugh a lot. I try to maintain a lifestyle that can help others, rather than hurt them. Now, minimizing my life is even a form of therapy. I see a shrink and take psych meds, as well, but in the daily course of living, it’s these other actions I choose to take that help the most.

I’m grateful to have the unwavering support of Callaghan and my parents, but I try to manage my mental health without leaning on them too much. I’d never take them for granted, but I don’t want to be needy, either. It’s helpful just knowing that they’re there. I have to take responsibility for myself, because what if they’re not there one day? I can’t allow myself to become dependent on others for my mental well-being. This is a survival instinct more than anything.

Apropos of nothing, here’s a selfie I thought would be amusing to take (the other day):

 

Yet another awkward mirror-selfie attempt, but hey. Hi.

 

There’s always another day, and next week will be a new week.

 

It’s a small world, and I love you all.

Today, I want to say “thank you” for stopping by to read my blog… not just for stopping by right now, when you’re reading this, but for every day that you come here. Thank you to all of you.

Yesterday, I dug deeper into my stats, just out of curiosity: where in the world are you reading from these days?

The list of countries is humbling. (Note: I can only see countries. I don’t have a sophisticated stat counter that breaks it down to regions and provinces and states and cities and what have you.)

My first post appeared in this blog at the end of 2012. By the end of 2014, you, as a group, represented 96 different countries. By the end of 2015, you represented 106 countries. I can’t say how many countries you represented by the end of 2016 because WordPress didn’t produce annual blog summaries for that year (if they did, I didn’t receive one), but I’m guessing the number would’ve been higher yet… because now, mid-way through 2017, my statistic report says that you’ve come here from 150 different countries. And this kind of blows my mind. Some of you visit from countries that didn’t even exist when I was born.

So if you’re reading this… thank you, wherever you may be in the world. Ideally, I’d say “thank you” in all of your languages; instead, I’m sending serious gratitude vibes to you in your specific countries.

I want to give an appreciative shout-out to you in…

(the countries as WordPress arranged them – in the order of most viewers on down):

United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, Germany, Norway, Brazil, Singapore, Spain, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, Italy, Sweden, Japan, Philippines, Austria, China, Ireland, Thailand, Taiwan, Finland, Mexico, Russia, Hong Kong SAR China, Switzerland, European Union, Portugal, South Korea, Belgium, Poland, South Africa, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Romania, Denmark, Chile, Argentina, Turkey, Isreal, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Columbia, Sri Lanka, Croatia, Peru, Ukraine, Serbia, Qatar, Bulgaria, Egypt, Ghana, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, Slovenia, Lithuania, Jordan, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Estonia, Tanzania, Bermuda, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Luxembourg, Bangladesh, Algeria, Kuwait, Iceland, Nigeria, Slovakia, Dominican Republic, Cyprus, Iraq, Latvia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mauritius, Brunei, Kenya, Macedonia, Jamaica, Honduras, Guam, Oman, El Salvador, Bahrain, Georgia, Bahamas, Réunion, Azerbaijan, Laos, Albania, Malta, U.S. Virgin Islands, Myanmar (Burma), Belarus, Ethiopia, Angola, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Guadeloupe, Uganda, Curaçao, Paraguay, Maldives, Mongolia, Åland Islands, Jersey, Syria, Nepal, Moldova, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Fiji, Mozambique, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Isle of Man, Uruguay, Liechtenstein, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Faroe Islands, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Martinique, Bhutan, Papua New Guinea, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Grenada, Aruba, New Caledonia, Cayman Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guernsey, Siint Maarten, French Polynesia, and Montenegro.

Again, thank you. Your reading here means the world to me.

Here’s a relic from my childhood:

 

The Ginn World Atlas (California State Department of Education, Sacramento, 1967)

 

This atlas was intended for children. It could be called “My First Atlas” – ! It was published the year before I was born, and it was indeed my first atlas. The same atlas for a child today would look different, because our world is different.

When you think about it, our world is small. It’s amazing to me that now, in the digital age, we’re connected in a way that can be quantified (our energetic connection notwithstanding). We can see the extent of our connection, and that’s nothing short of awesome. It reminds us, for one thing, that we’re diverse and the same all at once. That whatever we’re in, we’re in it together.

Gratitude is a universal feeling, and my gratitude is bigger than I can express. It’s bigger than this small and fragile world.

Every morning, when I wake up, I reflect on all that I’m thankful to have, and that includes all of you who take the time to come here.

How I manage my mental illness.

I’ve touched on some of this in various posts in the past, but I’ve been asked to share an actual list of tactics I use to maintain my mental health.

First of all, I accept that PTSD and clinical depression are a part of who I am. Mental illness and the management of it are “my normal,” and this acceptance helps a lot.

It also helps to accept the fact that just as there are great days, there are horrible days, and days ranging between the two. Sometimes, all the meds and talk therapy and things on the list below just aren’t enough. When this happens, I try to recognize that “this, too, shall pass,” keeping it all in perspective. (I know that this is so much easier said than done. I can say it easily now, when I’m not at the bottom of the abyss of hopelessness and despair. All we can do is try.)

That being said, here’s my list… things I do to manage my mental illness:

1). I avoid alcohol (with few exceptions).

Alcohol is a depressant. It also counters or otherwise negatively interacts with medications taken for mental illness. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis is never advisable for the mentally ill.

2). I take medication and talk to my therapist on a regular basis.

Meds and talk therapy are basic, first-line tactics of controlling mental illness. It’s critically important to adhere to such a routine and to have my external resources at hand. I regularly visit my doctor at the V.A. hospital, and I know that I always have access to emergency help at a national veterans’ crisis line.

3). I work out and try to eat well (within reason, making sure to maintain a healthy balance).

Exercise heightens our mood by way of its effect on our brain chemistry. It leads to improved physical fitness, which improves our physical health. (For this reason, more and more companies are including gym membership coverage fees in their employees’ benefits packages.) Improved physical health reduces stress and makes us feel more energetic and better about ourselves, in general. Choosing healthier food options most of the time comprises the other half of this picture.

4). I have routines, and I stick to them.

Routines are underestimated and even sneered upon. We like to say that spontaneity is critical to quality of life, and there is certainly something to that, but the fact is that routine can provide us with mental health benefits, too. Routines are valuable. They can be soothing when everything else is chaos. Routines can give us a sense of control and accomplishment.

5). I eliminate toxic factors in my life (to the best of my ability).

The word “toxic” is overused in our current vocabulary (instigated, I suspect, by self-help gurus, but that’s beside the point) – and yet, it captures this point well. In a nutshell, a toxic factor is that which makes us feel badly about ourselves. It’s a negative and destructive force and presence in our lives.

Toxic factors can include situations, places, and/or people and relationships. It’s not always possible to eliminate such factors; when we can’t, we can seek out ways to lessen their negative impact. I recently liberated myself from an utterly demoralizing situation, and that leap hugely improved my mental health and quality of life.

6). I engage my creative energy to the fullest extent possible.

If you have creative juices, let them flow. If you have hobbies, indulge in them. If you don’t have a hobby, get one. Losing ourselves in the physical act of doing something we enjoy goes beyond mere escapism. It often involves honing talents with which we’ve been blessed. The act of doing something physical that requires the creative part of our brains is beneficial to our mental health. There’s a reason why occupational therapy is a part of an in-patient mental illness patient’s prescribed agenda.

7). I have cats.

Connecting with animals on an emotional level and caring for them has proven to be a powerful stress reducer, improving our mental and physical health. Our relationships with our pets can actually extend our lives, improve the quality of our lives, and even save our lives. I can’t think of anything that can compare to cultivating the love and trust of an animal. (I say “animal,” but this applies to birds and fish, too.)

 

Nounours: Please to not underestimate the healing powers of my purrs.

Nounours: Please to not underestimate the healing powers of my purrs.

 

8). I actively express my compassion for others in one way or another, however small.

Example: I don’t have time to physically go and volunteer at homeless shelters, so I choose to do my part by providing with water. I make sure to have one or two small bottles of cold water with me when I leave the house, especially in the hot months.

We buy generic water in bulk, keep the bottles in the refrigerator, and give them to the homeless when we see them on the street or at a red light. (Admittedly, I try to identify those homeless who are vets, though I’ll give water to any homeless person, of course.) Every time, without fail, the person takes the bottle of cold water with visible – sometimes overwhelming – gratitude and joy, which they express in such an open and heartfelt manner that I’m instantly put in empathetic touch with their plight. Water is never an unwelcome thing. The person usually opens it and chugs it immediately.

Kindness is invaluable for the human spirit.

Giving water to drink means and accomplishes much more than giving change or a dollar. Giving water with a smile is an act that says, “I recognize that you’re a human being and deserving of this basic, life-saving thing. Someone cares about you and your well-being.” I don’t think it’s necessary to explain how showing compassion to the needy can be anything but beneficial to all involved.

9). I set goals for myself and plan things to anticipate.

I believe I devoted an entire blog post to this. Having agenda items to look forward to is a pleasurable thing. It can also, in the worst of times, give us a reason to keep on keeping on.

10). I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. (Still trying. Still mostly failing. But still trying).

This can’t be stressed enough: Adequate sleep and quality sleep are important for optimal physical and mental health and well-being.

11). I count my blessings and nurture my relationships with loved ones.

One word: Gratitude.

Being grateful for what we have – and who we have – is an incredibly powerful reminder that things could always be worse.

 

Keeping it real.

Keeping it real.

 

That sums it up: In addition to acceptance, meds, and professional talk therapy, I manage my mental illness by working on physical health, stress reduction, and gratitude. I try.

Minor lifequake, big result. (and a few March favorites.)

The end of March found me largely uninspired where March Favorites were concerned. Truth be told, there weren’t many “little things” in March that significantly made my days brighter or my life happier. Rather, a few big things made the month notable, including my abrupt, exhilarating flight into another occupational dimension. A confounding series of events and an irreparable set of circumstances helped to catapult me here. I jumped… and I landed on my feet. I won’t write about said events and circumstances because they’re boring, and no one wants to read The Boring. Suffice it to say that my great launch proved to be entirely appropriate, and I am happy. And grateful! Very grateful.

Right. Well… here are a few “little things” that captivated me in March!

 

1). Bates Motel (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-BatesMotelSeason1

 

With some amount of skepticism, we thought we’d give this Psycho backstory series a try. By the end of the first episode, we knew we were in for some serious binge-watching. It turns out that there’s much more to this series than 17-year-old Norman Bates and his mother moving into the hotel to assume ownership and a fresh start. This is excellent T.V.

 

2). Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Sweet Violet.

 

Burt's Bees tinted lip balm in Sweet Violet.

Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Sweet Violet.

 

My obsession with Burt’s Bees lip products knows no bounds. I picked up this tinted lip balm to use when I want just a suggestion of color on my lips, and lo, it’s even creamier than my beloved B.B. coconut and pear lip balm! The Sweet Violet color is beautiful, and no, it doesn’t taste sweet.

 

3). derma e Firming DMAE Eye Lift.

 

derma e Firming DMAE Eye Lift

derma e Firming DMAE Eye Lift

 

I’d been using an expensive eye cream from Tarte that I loved, but it fell just short of cruelty-free eye cream perfection. This one by derma e comes closer, and it’s half the price of the one by Tarte. Also, bonus! I found it at Target, along with this night cream from the same line:

 

4). derma e Hydrating Night Cream.

 

derma e Hydrating Night Cream

derma e Hydrating Night Cream

 

I’ve never been a fan of flowery scented face creams, but this one, I love. The cream itself is rich without being too thick, hydrating without being watery, and just all around luxurious. Its scent of spring wildflowers only adds to its appeal. I will definitely be re-purchasing this night cream when I’ve used up this jar.

 

5). Overhauled home office.

 

The only cat allowed on my desk is this porcelain one I've had for over 30 years.

The only cat allowed on my desk is this porcelain one I’ve had for over 30 years.

 

I moved my office set-up out of its guest bedroom quarters and re-situated it in the room that’s actually my office, a decision made entirely by Nounours and Nenette, who aren’t allowed in the guest bedroom. That was the point! I wanted to work undisturbed. But I couldn’t stand day after day of sad little kitty faces and pitiful mews and paws under the door, so here I am back in my real office. This is a good thing. The kitties aren’t all over my desk as they usually are – like somehow, they know – and I love my office. It’s huge, for one thing.

The floor to ceiling tapestry on the wall next to my desk is the original one; it inspired the smaller one that I’d had in my outside-the-home office:

 

Sunset and twinkle lights in my office

Sunset and twinkle lights in my office

 

And:

 

A sleeping cat on a futon, because home office.

A sleeping cat on a futon, because home office.

 

I didn’t photograph the wall opposite the tapestry because there’s no need to showcase the Table of Death that took shape as I arranged things in here the other day. Nope. No need.

 

6). Backyard rocks.

 

Rocks masquerading as turquoise mixed throughout the gravel in our backyard

Rocks masquerading as turquoise mixed throughout the gravel in our backyard

 

It happened the other day that I was digging through our expanse of rocks in the backyard (don’t ask), and I found that we have these turquoise-colored stones throughout. I looked them up. It seems that they’re some kind of coppery mineral. I never knew they were there! A glass tumbler filled with a few of the brighter, more deeply colored ones now sits on the Table of Death.

 

**the end**

Hair: My First-World NON-Problem

When you think about it, there’s something uniquely banal about complaining about our hair, and yet we (with hair) can all do it. Even if we don’t complain incessantly about our hair, we still have stories to tell when the subject comes up. This week at work, a few of us stood around one morning sharing our hair-related woes. We probably could have talked about it longer than we did. We took turns trading hair horror stories, and we weren’t running out of material.

Hair.

It’s going to seem like I’m complaining about my hair right now. But I’m not.

Here’s a selfie I took in the car the other morning:

 

No matter how it starts out, this is how my hair always ends up. In my face.

No matter how it starts out, this is how my hair always ends up. In my face.

 

That big chunk of hair hanging down the center sums up the general state of my hair. It’s in my face, or it’s stuck to my lips or eyelashes, or it’s windblown, even when there’s no wind. My hair strands are thin. I don’t just have fly-aways… every hair on my head is a fly-away. The strands fall out easily and copiously. Callaghan is always having to detangle my hair from the vacuum cleaner roller brush thing, and my fallen hairs collect in the corners of the bathroom faster than I can think to gather them up. After I wash my hair, I have to remove a solid mass of clumped hair from the shower drain hair-catcher.

If I don’t pull my hair back before I eat, a loose strand might find its way into my mouth, where it’ll tangle up with food I’m trying to chew, leaving me to attempt an inconspicuous fishing expedition. When I catch the hair, I have to pull it out of my throat, because it’s partially swallowed.

It takes skill to do that without hacking and gagging like a cat with a fur ball on its way out, because that’s what the strand is at that point. It’s a fur ball, and it’s gross. I’ve written about this before; truth be told, it’s probably only happened a few times in my life, but each time was the equivalent of a thousand because of the mortification factor. (Of course, this kind of mishap usually happens in a restaurant, when I’m eating lunch with, say, people from work.) I’m a cat mom, but my own cats never even hack up fur balls!

I’m always pinching at my face in attempts to remove a loose hair that’s bothering me, or I’m reaching under my arm to grab at the bottom of the outside of my t-shirt sleeve to capture the loose hair that I know is hanging there, since I can feel it brushing against my skin. This is my plight… pawing at myself in pursuit of the loose strand of hair that can be felt, but not seen.

Weightless, fine strands of hair. It’s unmanageable no matter what I do.

If there’s one kind of envy I have, it’s hair envy. I’m always admiring the thick and glossy hair on other peoples’ heads. (I have long leg envy, too, but my hair envy surpasses it by far.) I’m fascinated by hairlines that are uniformly dense and beautifully shaped from ear to ear. My own hairline is uneven, a little high, and it’s always been thin on the sides, up by my temples.

Some people have lovely straight hair. Some people have gorgeous curly hair. Mine is wavy, but not in a nice way. The strands go in conflicting directions. It’s wayward and fly-away and runaway and every other kind of a way you can think of. I have cowlicks, too, and those little, fine baby hairs springing out of my hairline in the front.

When it’s humid, forget about it.

Despite numerous articles on the subject, there’s no “best hairstyle” for my hair or face, because my hair defies reason regardless of the cut. Any style I’d want to achieve would involve painstaking effort, and I’ve never been a person who enjoys “doing” her hair. I fail at having super short hair, because it has to be manipulated into looking the way it’s supposed to, and who has the time or the patience for that? (A lot of people do, it seems, but I’ve never been one of them.) Neither can I seem to get myself into the salon regularly to maintain the cut. Every time I attempt short hair, I end up growing it out again, and then I complain about how long it’s taking.

If I did have a “best hairstyle,” it would involve having bangs, I think… but with my fine hair, bangs just look scraggly on me.

There’s no perfect product for my hair, either, though I’ve found a few things that kind of alleviate the frustration. Most “weightless” hair oils and serums do end up weighing my hair down, and they don’t miraculously tame it. I’ve totally accepted that I’ll never have a lush, satiny mane of hair, but I’ll take smooth hair. Every once in a while, I’ll unearth my hair-straightener, which helps with the texture somewhat… but even that consumes more time than I care to spend. It’s been months since the last time I did it.

Having said all of this, I insist that I’m not complaining. My point is that I’m thankful for my hair. When I catch myself staring wistfully at other peoples’ hair, I think of how lucky I am to have any. Since the Gulf War, I’ve said many times that I could never have a bad hair day, and that is absolutely true. I’ve never had a day that was actually ruined by my hair.

Dwelling on my hair and wishing it was different or more like someone else’s always makes me feel guilty.

My hair is my biggest first-world non-problem. It is what it is, and I’m lucky to have it.

I’m lucky to have access to a shower, and shampoo and conditioner and other products.

I’m lucky to have the means to get my hair cut, and I’m lucky to have found a fabulous hair stylist who’s an awesome person, too.

I’m lucky to be in good health now, because when I had active autoimmune diseases back in the 2000’s, my hair told the tale of those struggles. (That was when I shedded the most.)

I’m lucky to be in my late 40’s and still have brownish-black roots that grow in darker than the deep golden brown color I put in.

My hair is a good reminder to be grateful for what I have, and that makes it one of my favorite features.