Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review, Now Enriched with 2012 Goals! Part of a balanced diet!

As I look back on the year almost completely behind us, I can't believe what a change from January.  Diagnosed with health issues, way over-stressed from my job, frustrated because my creative outlets were stymied.  That was a lot of negative to manage through.

But manage I did, and I thought I'd take a few minutes to enumerate the positives from the year just past.   You see, I have a tendency to get so wrapped up in what needs to be done, that I forget to mark the accomplishments of what did get done.

So here we go, the top 10 accomplishments of the year!

10.  Took a few lunch breaks and used my vacation time. 
This would seem like a no-brainer to most people, but I have a long-standing habit of eating my lunch at my desk and working straight through.  With the job switch, I had a little more flexibility to go for walks, and/or take actual breaks.  I had also managed to rack up a goodly amount of banked vacation over the last few years and I took some quality time for me.

9.  Changed to a less-stressful job.
I'm not a person who particularly relishes change, nor do I necessarily manage it well.  However, things came to a head this past year when I absolutely needed to make changes for health reasons.  Specifically, reducing the 140 mile round trip drive I was making daily for work.  I was able to make that happen by May and within days Mr. Eggshells could see and hear a positive difference in me.

8.  Socialized
This likely seems odd to many out there in the interwebs, and it's possible that there are a few out there who think I'm an extrovert.  Fooled ya!  I actually have a social anxiety disorder which means that groups of more than 3 or 4 are too much.  Bracing myself for social activities not only takes a huge amount of my energy (which due to #9 above was often in limited quantity), but it takes me a long time to rejuvenate it afterwards.  So this year Mr. Eggshells (similarly of the cave troll ilk) and I decided that we'd make a concerted effort to socialize on a regular basis.  With people.  Outside of the house.  (We survived it, too, go figure!  :P)

7.  Found the House Rhythm
With schedules resembling chaotic whirlwinds over the last few years, managing house stuff has also been fractious at best.  Add into the fact that we keep doing renovations and reorganizing, keeping everything going has often been a full time job.  That neither Mr. Eggshells or I really had time to do.  No more!  I completely attribute this to excellent thyroid medication and 2 hours less on the road, but we've been able to keep a routine going for the last few months where we can not only finish projects, but also keep the day to day stuff working.  I know, right?!  Crazy.

6.  Fixed Those Pesky Health Issues
Oh, they're not gone completely, but I made great strides in the past year.  Re-balancing my thyroid made a world of difference to my energy level (from non-existent to actually being able to function).  As well I headed off a pre-diabetic condition and made my doctor very happy.  Made me pretty happy too for that matter.

5.  Supported People Around Me
I don't think about this too much, because it's really just who I am as a person.  But I think it's important for me to acknowledge that my connecting with others around me has been an important part of my year.  Some have been long-term friends, others have been far-flung family, and yet others near strangers on the internet.  I tried to make a special effort to 'be present' for people when they had a need - be it a kind word at the right time, a joke to make them smile, or a listening ear when their world was imploding.  I hope that my efforts helped, even just a little bit.

4.  Asked for Help from Others
This isn't an easy thing for me to do, but like #5 above, it's important to acknowledge.  I've tried to reach out whenever I've needed help with something, and to accept what people want to do for me at face value, without trying to pay them back or make it 'even'.  This, whether it's a minor (or major) issue, or just taking me out to get a cup of coffee.  Because I've come to realize that just as it's natural for me to do things for other people without expecting anything in return, other people can and do feel the same way.  And just like I'd want people to let me do that, I should let them.

3.  Writing 
I started writing again!  After many years of creative writing abstinence, the drought has ended.  Obviously, the blog has been a part of it, but I also participated in NaNoWriMo, a month-long writing extravaganza.  Not only did it give me a sense of what I could accomplish, it has also helped me understand how to incorporate writing as part of my regular life.  

2.  Crafts
I've always got projects going but rarely have I had the time or inclination to work on them or finish them.  This year I set small goals and achieved most of them.  In addition to the feeling of accomplishment, having a creative outlet did wonders for my mental health.  

1.  Treated Myself As I Treat Others
Like a lot of people are to themselves, I am my harshest critic.  I'm also a perfectionist, often having unrealistic expectations of myself.  (Mr. Eggshells kindly reminds me that I don't realize I'm overdoing something until I've overdone it.)  That said, this year I tried very hard to be non-judgmental of myself in terms of perceived failures. Instead, I took a step back and asked myself how I would respond to someone else who didn't succeed at "x, y, or z" in the way they wanted.  The result was that instead of wearing myself down with negative self-talk, I took it all as a lesson learned and moved on. 

Now, it's your turn.  Leave a comment and name at least 1 thing that you are proud of doing/achieving this year.  :)

As for 2012, I don't do resolutions because the concept just seems way too formal for the likes of me.  But I do have a couple of goals that I will continue to work on, and they're basically in the same vein as the things I did this year.  

I would like to wish you all out there a Happy New Year and hope that 2012 brings you love, joy, and peace.  I also want to thank you all for your friendship, and for the time you take to drop by and read my little slice of life here.  

All the best for 2012!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Bed Dynamic

As anyone who has shared a bed long-term knows, there is a definite dynamic that occurs between the sharing parties.  Whether it's a sibling or a spouse-type,  there's always a period of staking your claim, settling in, and finally coming to terms with the resulting balance of power.  And blanket stealing.  

It's kind of like politics but hopefully with fewer politicians and bi-partisan tendencies.

Big surprise to no one, being a high-anxiety type gal, sleeping for me is a hit-and-miss affair.  I can remember at around age 8 having a discussion with my elementary school counselor about how to curb insomniac tendencies - oddly enough, despite it being in the 70's he did not advocate having a couple of shots before bed.  ;)  Through my parent's divorce and living on my own, I never quite found my sleep groove, but managed well enough.  Plus the fact that I was young and carefree and spending tons of time partying.  After I moved out, my Mom's house was always the place where I could sleep, so when I'd visit I'd get some catch up.  After she passed away, sleep was again at a premium.

Until I got married, where, after a period of adjustment, I now sleep the best I ever have in my life.  At least as far as I can remember, which may not be saying much considering my recent post. Of course, I still have routine early morning wake-ups and the like, but nothing like in years past.  The downside is that now that I operate with sleep, when I do have insomnia it's hard as heck to function while tired.  There's always gotta be a catch, right?

As a result of my years of insomnia, I've developed a few bedtime rituals that are specifically designed to help me not feed the anxiety and to assuage the OCDemon (especially after midnight).   I won't go into all of them because y'all might think I'm crazy(ier than I really am would like you to believe).

Being comfortable during sleep is pretty much the primary way to not only get to sleep, but to stay asleep (which is my personal brand of insomnia).  A big part of this for me means regulating temperature, and keeping the blankets in a relative amount of order to help with that temperature thingy (cuz you know, waking up with no covers affects temperature).  Which becomes more important when sharing, because you not only want to stay asleep, but you want your partner to stay asleep too.  (I'm really just talking to my partner here, and reminding him how bad it is if I don't stay asleep.  Bad for him, that is.)

Let me start this portion of my post by saying that I love Mr. Eggshells very very much.  He does everything he can to make my life easier, often times in spite of himself  - which he will readily admit so I'm not being a cow here.  ;)
Mr. Eggshells is a good sleeper for the most part, and has this really freaking annoying ability to fall asleep moments after his head hits the pillow if that's what he so chooses.  I guess maybe I'm too ornery or stubborn or something, because I never listen to myself when I tell myself to go to sleep.  (Fortunately for him, he also goes to sleep when I tell him to.  Of course, the alternative to doing that is to go outside and sleep under his truck, so really it's a win-win when he just listens.)

The other amazing trait he has, of which I'm completely in awe, is his singular ability to completely demolish neatly arranged bedding in nanoseconds.  

No, that is not an exaggeration either.  NANOSECONDS.  

For those of you who are not geeks (which makes me wonder really how you got to this blog) and who do not know...a nanosecond is one billionth of a second.  Which is really really really small, and in terms of time, well, it would be like if you blinked but really fast.  Like so fast you couldn't even see it.  Not that you can see your own blink but this is the type of blink you wouldn't be able to see on someone else.  It would look like they're just staring at you, but they weren't - they blinked.  Unless they're messing with you, and not blinking but saying they are.  In which case, you should kick them really hard in the shin.

But I digress.  (And if it wasn't obvious, I kind of got lost in my own metaphor there, but I won't tell anyone if you don't!)

At bedtime, we get the bedding straightened out (because, no, I do not make the bed in the morning, since science says that it's healthier to air out the bedding - don't blame me, blame SCIENCE for my messy bed).  I get into bed, cats start looking for treats and/or cuddles (routine-based life forms after my own heart!), and finally Mr. Eggshells gets into bed.  From the nanosecond his hand touches the blankets to draw them back, they are demolished. What were neat layers of covering are now in complete disarray, the bottom sheet is coming out and his pillows are up a tree or something.  (My pillows are safe because I make sure I'm in bed first and my head holds them down...and so far he has not managed to include my head as part of the disarray.)

The first time it happened, I was sure it was contrived.  While he claimed innocence, I have to admit I just couldn't see how he managed it.  And then one night I watched it happen.  One second the bedding was as we'd set it, and the next, KA-POW!!!  Bed 'splodey!

But you know, I can't even be upset - I'm too impressed.  It truly is a thing of beauty - how amazingly awesome Mr. is at this particular art form (because you know it has to be a goddess-given talent).  Me and OCDemon can only laud the power of his creativity in complete destruction and thank our lucky stars he has limited access to gunpowder and TNT.

And I guess, cultivating talents are an important part of life.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wait, what?

A co-worker recently reminded me about a box that I'd received and put in a specific location.  I had no (zero, nil, zip, nada) recollection of any box, or activity around a box.  But my handwriting was on the box, meaning that at some point it was in my possession, or at the very least, in my stream of consciousness.


Several years ago, during a heavy cycle of grief, I had almost constant memory lapses.  From what I understand it's pretty common, as one weathers the physical, emotional, and mental shock of loss.  

The thing is, you can't really let it get to you; it's really the brain's way of helping you through the crappy stuff.  Even my tendency to be a perfectionist was waylaid by my utter inability to give a rip about whether or not I did something or forgot to do something.  (And by perfectionist I mean rabid OCD, but that's just between you 'n me.)

I found that the disconnect is typically personal go-to behavior was to buy books.  The same books.  Over and over and over again.  I'd find duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate copies of the same book in my house, often in the same bag from the same store (they made great gifts!).

I've known people with grief brain who put things in the wrong place or forgot to do things they'd been doing daily for dozens of years.  Completely understandable, but also why it's more like a fugue state then simple memory loss.  Your brain isn't even remotely involved in the present here and now; it's like someone else is operating the controls, and you may or may not be watching them while they do it.

Which is why at this point in my life where I'm not grieving - where I'm actually happy and relatively well-adjusted - it's so confusing to me that it seems to be happening to me again.  Oh, there are a variety of minor stressful things I'm working through right now, but in this case, I think it's more a matter of NOT being completely stressed out.  Like the lack of stress *is* the stress.  

Now how messed up is that?

Having changed jobs my overall stress level is so reduced that I'm finding it a little hard to gear down from the years of ramp up.  Which makes sense, since chemically your brain/body doesn't distinguish between distress and eustress.  From this, one could assume that a change in either type of stimulation can have an effect on behavior.  

I know that there's a certain amount of learned behavior when it comes to coping with stress, and if I recall my 20-years-ago Psych class, there are bio-chemical markers that are actually patterned in the brain when those learnings take place.   It would make sense that the process of changing those behaviors or un-learning specific coping mechanisms would also change the bio-chemical markers.  Or at the very least disrupt them.

All this because I keep forgetting stuff.  Is it any wonder, with all that random "stuff" in my head?  

For my next trick, I'm planning on going off caffeine.  I expect my brain will completely melt, while at the same time analyzing it to death.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Making of a Writer

At the beginning of November I posted about joining Nanowrimo, touted as "30 days of literary abandon."  And while I've been writing since about age 7, I had never in my entire life sat down to a specific goal with a set deadline when it came to writing.

I wasn't entirely sure it would work.  Granted, I know about the value of project management - I wouldn't have been in the business of it for 20 years if I didn't.  Maybe it's because I do it for work that I never thought about applying it to my creative endeavors.  Or maybe I was just trying to keep the two separate.

In any case, I'm not sure if it matters so much to break it down.  What I do know is that between the muse and I, we dominated those 50,000 words.  What hits home even more forcefully to me is that those 50,000 words were managed while life went on.    That despite having zero prepped when I started, being sick, recovering from a minor accident, and taking time for a much needed Lord of the Rings marathon.  (Truly, mandatory!)

Since finishing (or winning, as they like to call it, and hey, who am I to argue?!), I've taken a wee break from writing.  Oddly enough, the pattern has been set - I've felt like something was missing the last couple of days.  Like when I haven't finished reading a book and it's nagging at me to go read.  Only it's my book.  And it's calling me to finish.

It's a good feeling, all the way around.