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Monthly Archives: June 2012

You want to avoid a lot of stress in your life?  When someone says, “I didn’t sleep a wink all night,” don’t argue.

My health has downturned and I had a bad night.  I might have slept a wink, I don’t know.  It sure doesn’t feel like it.  Thankfully, I now live with my Mom, who nods in complete sympathy and offers me a cup of tea whenever I have a night when I didn’t sleep a wink.

This is in complete contrast to any of my ex-boyfriends and some of my doctors, who would argue with me whenever I said, “I didn’t sleep a wink.”  Today, I even came across a self-help book that argued that there is no such thing as people not sleeping a wink all night, so don’t complain to your doctor or your ex-boyfriend about not sleeping a wink because you’re lying.

Quick tip, gentle readers — if someone ever says to you, “I didn’t sleep at all last night”, believe them.  It’ll make your life and the life of the incredibly cranky person in front of you a lot easier.

Put Yourself In their Shoes

If someone is telling you that they haven’t slept a wink, take it for granted that they are tired, angry, feeling vulnerable and quite possibly in physical pain.  Imagine yourself in that position.  And you have been there.  Even if you flunked out of college after only one semester, you’ve had mornings where you haven’t slept all night.  Remember that feeling?  Not nice, was it?

This is the same feeling that someone who hasn’t slept well is currently having.  For Pete’s sake, don’t argue with them about whether or not they did sleep briefly and just can’t remember it, even if your intentions are good.

It sounds like you are on the attack.  And we sleepless are more than looking for an excuse to rip heads off and you really don’t want to push us.  You would do the same thing is you were in our shoes.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

People have this strange inner craving to be right, even during times proving that you are right is not appropriate.  In case you’ve never been told, I’m telling you now — when someone says “I haven’t slept a wink all night”, react in these ways:

  • With sympathy
  • Offer a cup of tea or coffee or even Excedrin
  • Recount when you had the same thing happen to you
  • Agree with them that life is not fair and that you are sorry they are not feeling well

That’s it.  That’s not too hard, is it?  Sometimes I think that’s how wars got started — “My country couldn’t sleep a wink last night.”  “Nonsense — your country was in bed all night.  You lot must’ve had some sleep.  You lot probably had too MUCH sleep.”  “That’s it — I’m bringing out the tanks!”

If you want to contribute to world peace and a lot less stress in your interpersonal relationships, don’t argue with sleepy people.

Thank you.

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By the time I was 16, I could figure out when people were bullshitting me.  It was about religion and I realized that the people who were teaching me Christianity were only doing it to convince themselves that Christianity was real.  They wanted to believe in their beliefs more than finding out the truth (in that, as George Carlin said, “Religion is bullshit.”)  Once I could figure out which of my religious teachers were bullshitting me, it was pretty damn easy to figure out when people were bullshitting me on other topics.

So, now I’m 42.  That’s a LONG time having to deal with other people’s bullshit.  Unsurprisingly, I’ve become sick of it.  I’m too old to kiss up and go along pretending that I do not realize I’m being bullshitted to.  And we all do that, don’t we?  Lots of times we do this pretending-that-we-don’t-know-you-are-bullshitting-us dance if we want to get a promotion, keep a job or stay married.  However, if I’m in a position where I don’t need to kiss up, I don’t see why I shouldn’t point out to others when they are trying to bullshit me — even if they are clients, family members or celebrities I admire.

Now, at my age I am fully aware of my incredibly long list of character flaws.  The big one has been pointed out about a billion times from my Mom, “Rena, you tell too much of the truth.”  And she’s not bullshitting.  That’s a fun one to wrap your head around, especially after having been raised as a Christian and being taught that 10 Commandments stuff.

So, how does one handle bullshit?  You have to know if you need something from the bullshitter.  If you need something from the bullshitter, then keep your mouth shut.  But if you don’t need anything from this person, all bets are off.  Don’t go out of your way to point out that  you know they are bullshitting, but you don’t have to stick around while they’re shovelling it on you.

You have enough problems as it is.  You need reasons not to commit suicide and avoiding as much BS as possible can help.  If you have to, drop clients, friends or social networks just to keep the bullshit in your life to a minimum.  Spend time with pets, watch nature or listen to your favorite music in order to detox.

You ever feel like committing suicide after a divorce, broken engagement or other failed romance?  I have, so I know what you are going through.

In case you’re wondering, I still blame myself for failed romances (which I managed to mess up in not just one but two continents.)  And then, after a good pout, it doesn’t bother me so much and I go play with the dog.  I am very well qualified for talking about how it feels to survive bad love affairs.  So, later on, if you relapse and feel that you are doomed in your love affairs, don’t blame yourself for blaming yourself.  This will make sense in time, trust me.

Can You Control Who You Fall In Love With?

I became homeless when I fell in love with a homeless alcoholic man.  When that ended (because he tried to kill me) and I needed the services of the local homeless shelter, I had pretty deep conversations with the staff there.  I mentioned to my case worker that “everything was my fault because I was the one who fell in love with an alcoholic.”

She jumped right on me and said, “You can’t help who you fall in love with.  It’s completely out of anyone’s control.  It’s like catching the flu.  So there’s no point in blaming yourself.  It happened.  You’re better now.  Move on.”

Love is a pretty senseless thing at times.  We are driving to find someone to love as much (or even more) than we are driven to find food and shelter.  This doesn’t mean love is a bad thing.  It just is — no good or bad about it.  What’s good or bad is how we react to love.

Or so it seems to me.

What About Karma?

In one sense, our lives are the products of our thoughts, expectations and past actions.  What goes around, comes around and all that.  There are many people who believe in karma.  I do, too — to a point.  I don’t think falling in love with someone who later turns out to be a monster means that you deserved the treatment because of some past misdeed on your part.  You saw something wonderful in someone who didn’t agree with you and treated you badly for all of your love.  That’s basically all it is.

This is what I tell myself, anyway.  If I didn’t, I get scared to make any kind of decision, wondering what my past karma was like.  If you don’t agree with my views on karma, I’m not offended.

But do what you have to in order to get over a bad romance and find joy again in your life.  Your ex is certainly not worth killing yourself for.

Hope this helps.

Stress is not your enemy.  Stress is more like a house guest who doesn’t realise it’s time to leave.  Stress is fine and dandy in the proper time and place.  But you can’t let it stay in your house all the time after the party is over.  There’s a time when you have to tell it in no uncertain terms to go away.

You need balance in everything, including how you perceive stress.  It is not a contagious disease, a conspirator against the human race or even someone who likes to play practical jokes on folks.  You don’t need to COMPLETELY eliminate stress from your life — if you do, that would be just as dangerous to you as being stressed all of the time.

Lessons from Goldfish

Stress is one of many inner tools that our bodies use in order to survive.  You can see this in any critter.  One of the most peaceful sights in the world is a goldfish swimming  about, (unlike these special nibbling fish, goldfish usually don’t go looking for stressed skin to nibble on).  Too much stress will kill them off (goldfish stress includes overcrowding the tank, sudden change in water temperature, some idiot tapping the tank glass).

When goldfish are stressed, they loose some of their protective body slime (that’s what it’s called, I swear) that keeps away certain fishy diseases which are always present in freshwater.  When the slime’s away, the fishy diseases play…unfortunately, on the body of the fishy.

However, stress is also what makes goldfish alert for predators and to quickly swim (or even leap out of the water) away from them.  Stress is what gets their bodies ready for the quick actions needed to keep away from the mouths (or the nets) of the Big Fish.

But after the menace goes away, the goldfish relax and go bopping about their fishy ways, looking for food, sleep-swimming and quite possibly meditating.  Goldfish seem to have the ability to turn their stress reactions completely off when they need to relax.  This saves their energy for the next time they need to avoid another Big Fish.  If their wild carp ancestors didn’t have stress at all, goldfish would never have been domesticated.  Now goldfish keepers get to worry for the fish.

In Conclusion

So, don’t look at stress as The Enemy.  It is your friend…whenever the shadows of the Big Fish of your life swim overhead.  If you are stressed, your body thinks something is around to harm you.  If you can’t see and can’t sense any immediate danger, then it is safe to relax.  Take a deep breath and treat yourself to some of the other posts on this blog.

Hope it goes swimmingly for you.

“Maybe I think too much for my own good…” — Paul Simon

It is very easy to worry about what others are thinking about you.

Go and read that sentence again.  I’ll still be here.

Welcome back.  That first sentence was kinda silly, wasn’t it? (The meaning, not the grammar.)  Why stress yourself out worrying what others think of you?  How can you tell what they’re thinking?  Are you telepathic?   So why worry about what you can’t quickly determine as fact?

Because we are human beings, that’s why. We worry about really stupid things, like whether a complete stranger thinks my hairstyle is hip or hopeless.  As if the stranger has nothing better to think about than you.  Now, if you are worried about the stranger thinking about how to lay his hands on your wallet, then that’s a survival issue and not the kind of worry I am talking about.  This kind of worry is called taking yourself too seriously.

You Are Not The Center Of The Universe

This might come as a shock, but you are not the center of the universe.  Don’t be upset — this is actually good news.  Heck, it’s GREAT news.  This frees you from the burden of trying to be perfect in front of others.  And that is a heavy burden.  Suppose you had to teach every onlooker the right way to do absolutely everything from blowing your nose to adjusting your glasses?  Quite a burden  And yet, that’s how a lot of us act when out in public.

We do what psychiatrist Dr. Abraham Low  called, “taking our dear selves too seriously.”

It can be hard not to think that everyone is staring at your and silently condemning you.  You are, after all, stuck in your head hearing all of your inner voices.  But, so is everyone else.  They are stuck in their heads hearing all of their inner voices and hoping no one thinks they are crazy.

They are usually so worried about getting caught doing something uncool, impolite or just plain stupid that you can get away with a lot of normal behaviors like uncombed hair, wearing a stained shirt or even farting (sometimes).  One time on a bus I pretended to read a newspaper upside down.  Did anyone notice? No.  Did I get a seat all to myself?  Also, no.  That’s because no one cared that I was holding The Philadelphia Inquirer upside down.

Thinking Too Much

Our imagination is a tremendous tool, but only if you know how to use it.  Just as you wouldn’t turn a fire hose on in a crowded elevator when nothing is on fire, you need to know when to use your imagination.  Wondering what the other guy is thinking helped our species out in times of mortal combat.  However, very few places in modern life provide us with the necessity of wondering what the other’s next move will be.

It does help to use your imagination in wondering what your boss, lover or audience you are giving a speech to thinks of you.  It would be too easy to just ask them, as that would take all of the fun out of using the imagination.  Besides, they could be lying just to spare your feelings.  But you don’t know that for sure, because that is what your imagination is telling you.

See what a crazy spinning wheel this turns into?  Save yourself a lot of stress by telling your imagination to cool it when you are surrounded by strangers.  Laugh at the very idea of you being the center of attention on a crowded bus, for example.  Of course, if go on the bus stark naked, that’s another story.

Have a miserable day

I’m having a miserable day. This is actually a good thing for me in the long run. I’m not used to having a lot of really happy days, which I have had recently. After a while of good luck, I start wondering when the crash is going to come. So sometimes I wake up and decide I’m going to have a miserable day to just get the let down over with and then go back to being reasonably happy.

This approach will not work for everyone, but if it works for me, it may work for someone else.

The Wheel Goes Round

Everything happens in cycles. Birth, growing up, ageing, death — it goes round and round. This can happen for people, plants, animals, countries, kingdoms, stocks on Wall Street, fashions — pretty much anything. I think this also happens with our emotions and inner life. We change from being happy to being miserable and then go back to being happy again and so on and so on.

So, sometimes I push the wheel of fortune a bit by scheduling a day to be miserable. This usually coincides with a migraine or recovering from a migraine, just to make it even more convenient. In this way, I get out all of my crankiness and insecurities until I’m thoroughly bored with it and then go back to a more even keel.

The Boredom Factor

Have you ever met someone who was happy all of the time? Or someone who was miserable all the time? You just want to smack the both of them, don’t you? Being stuck in either state is not right.

Besides, it gets boring having one mind-set all of the time. Not everyone gets bored with being happy or tranquil all of the time, but some of us do. I used to live with an alcoholic who would repeatedly try to stop drinking. He’d do really well — once was dry for nearly a year — and then would go right back to drinking, even though he knew full well what it would do to him. He said to me once that he found sobriety boring. I found the drinking really boring and finally left him to his pursuit of non-boredom.

So, this is why I schedule a miserable day now and then — to remind me never to wind up being like the guy I left.

Hope this helps.

Prozac nation

Some books are memorable because they are so good.  And then there are books that are equally memorable because they suck so bad.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation (Riverhead Trade; 1994) falls into the latter category.  I read this a few years ago but still can vividly remember how much I hate it.

The subtitle is Young and Depressed in America: A Memoir, which gives you a good clue that the best use of this book is as a doorstop.  Disease memoirs are tedious unless the reader can really identify or pull for the narrator.  After about fifty pages, you just want to smack this narrator about the head.  She whines so much that it becomes repetitive and repulsive.

The book bounces back and forth from looking at major depression in America as a whole to her own sad, sorry life.  The book would have been far more interesting had the author kept herself in the background and made depressed America at the foreground.  The book also discusses the growth of “crazy meds” or psychiatric drugs in the early 1990s.

I am not a fan of Big Pharma, but Prozac (fluoxetine) certainly helped me out.  A couple of years ago, under my therapist’s supervision, we cut the dose to one 20 mg pill every other day.  It didn’t work out.  Within two weeks I was my old suicidal self.  It looks like I’ll have to take Prozac for the rest of my life or the rest of my life will be damn short.  There’s nothing horrible about that but Prozac Nation does suggest that the use of medicines to treat depression may ultimately do more harm than good.  I disagree — using myself as a personal example.