Friday, May 31, 2013

50 things I’ve learned in 50 years of living

Turning 50 got my attention. I’m solidly middle-aged now. I’m half a century old.

Birthday flowers from Larry.

For me, this month has been a time of looking back and looking forward. I’m excited about the future, and I’m grateful that I’ve made it this far.

Birthday cake.

I started thinking about what I’ve learned so far in life and then began putting together a mental list of those things.
I decided to write them down and share them with you. And since I’ve lived 50 years, I thought I’d make a list of 50 things.
There’s no great wisdom here. This list doesn’t constitute everything I’ve learned (I hope), and I’m sure I’ve left out some important life lessons. But I thought it would be a fun exercise to try to quantify what I’ve learned over the years.
So here, not in order of importance, are 50 things I’ve learned in 50 years of living:

1: You are not helpless.

2: You may not be able to control anything else, but you can control your attitude.

3: It’s important to hold on to every shred of hope we can.

4: There’s always something new to learn.

5: You don’t have to answer the phone just because it rings.

6: You cannot stop a riding lawnmower by using your foot on the ground as a brake.

7: Not everyone will like you.

8: It’s OK that not everyone will like you.

9: Having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

10: Taking medication for a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

11: The closest distance between two points is a straight line.

12: Libraries are vital to communities.

13: Gray hair is not ugly.

14: Every creature, every living thing, has a part to play.

15: Animals can save our lives.

16: If a cat’s ears are laid back and she is rapidly switching her tail, don’t try to pet her.

17: One of the hardest things to do is to forgive, either someone else or yourself.

18: Sometimes a good cry is what you need.

19: Doing your best is not the same thing as trying to be perfect.

20: You don’t know what another person is thinking unless he or she tells you.

21: Sometimes it’s best to not say anything.

22: We all make mistakes. All of us.

23: It’s natural to feel nervous about trying something new.

24: Find the balm for your soul, whether it’s prayer, poetry, music, whatever—and keep it close.

25: Listening to someone else can be a gift to that person.

26: You do not have to hang out with people who try to make you feel less than you are.

27: Everyone has burdens.

28: Uncertainty is hard to accept, but it’s freeing when you do, even for a moment.

29: Just because you are related to someone doesn’t mean you have to spend time with them.

30: Put gas in your car once it drops below half a tank.

31: It’s OK if you don’t like the same book/movie/TV show that everyone else likes.

32: Good manners can make a world of difference.

33: You are never too old to find a way to do what is important to you.

34: Remind yourself of your priorities every day.

35: Even if you’re not good at a game/sport/activity, if you’re having fun, do it.

36: Don’t let the fear of what others will think be your guide.

37: Gossip is destructive.

38: Good will win.

39: Sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree.

40: Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

41: Every situation can teach you something.

42: Don’t wish your time away.

43: If you’re angry with someone, don’t send them an email until you’ve calmed down.

44: Sometimes it’s good to remember that it’s not all about you.

45: You’re not responsible for the happiness of others, and they’re not responsible for yours.

46: Accept compliments graciously.

47: Be kind to others and to yourself.

48: Festering wounds have to be dealt with.

49: Don’t put yourself down, and don’t listen to anyone who tries to put you down.

50: Being grateful can have an amazing effect on your mood and outlook.

What’s one thing that you’ve learned that you’d like to share?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

OCD and getting help when help is needed

Yes, the nurse had noticed my hands. And she had told the doctor about them.
That scared me. I didn’t want the doctor to mention my hands. I didn’t want to tell him about my hand washing.

Janet at ocdtalk wrote a wonderful post this week about “OCD and Early Treatment Experiences.” In her post, Janet writes about the troubles many people with OCD have when seeking help for the first time.
Her post resonated with me and brought back some memories of my own early attempts to get help for my OCD.
I suffered from obsessions and compulsions for years before I ever got treatment. My first symptoms appeared when I was a girl. When I was a teenager, I read a magazine article about OCD and recognized myself in it. But I remained silent. I told no one about my strange thoughts and compulsive habits.
Of course, my parents noticed some of my compulsive habits, especially the copious amounts of water I ran whenever I washed my hands. But they didn’t seem to connect the actions with anything other than me being wasteful and a problem.
Apparently the only thing my mother told my pediatrician was that I was crying a lot and tired, as I wrote about in a post about being a child with OCD and depression.
That’s behind me now. Perhaps my mother had no vocabulary to use to explain her daughter’s strange actions. Perhaps she was just afraid of what was going on with me.
Once I became an adult, I was no better an advocate for myself. And that brings me to a memory that came to me when I read the ocdtalk post.
When I was in my early twenties, in graduate school, I visited Student Health. I didn’t have health insurance, and I could be seen at Student Health with my student ID for a low fee.
If I am remembering correctly, I was there because of my ears. They seemed to get blocked with wax a lot. Or so it seemed. I wanted the doctor to check them.
It wasn’t the first time I went to the doctor for my ears. I see now that picking at my ears was a compulsion of mine. I was obsessed over the possibility of them getting blocked and muffling my hearing. So I picked at them and then had them checked at the doctor’s office to make sure they weren’t blocked. It was OCD at work.
On this particular visit, the nurse had taken me into the exam room. I don’t remember, but she probably asked me the reason for my visit and went through the usual pre-exam routine.
I don’t remember how I happened to see her walk down the hall after she left the exam room. But I remember looking down the hallway and seeing her walking with the doctor. She was pointing to her hands and talking.
I immediately grasped (perhaps incorrectly, but I don’t think so) that she was telling the doctor about my hands.
My hands.
From about three inches above my wrists to my fingertips, my hands were red. They were chapped and dry and raw looking. Here and there were little spots of dried blood.
I knew what was wrong with my hands. I washed them compulsively, soaping them up repeatedly with each hand washing, running hot water over them.
I didn’t use hand lotion because that might contaminate them, I thought.
Yes, the nurse had noticed my hands. And she had told the doctor about them.
That scared me. I didn’t want the doctor to mention my hands. I didn’t want to tell him about my hand washing.
When the doctor came in, he didn’t say anything about my hands at first. He was kind and looked in my ears.
My memories were fuzzy about this for a while. I had to go back in time in my mind and picture what happened. I remembered that he did say something about my hands. He asked me about them.
I lied to him. I told him I forgot to use lotion and the cold and windy weather wreaked havoc on them.
I missed the opportunity to tell him about the extreme anxiety that drove me to wash my hands over and over.
And what would have happened if he had asked again after hearing my lie? What if he had suspected that hands that raw looking weren’t just chapped from the cold and wind?
I’ll never know, and that’s OK. I eventually did get help.

But what concerns me is the possibility that there are others with OCD who are too afraid to talk with their doctors, but who may have signs like my red hands that the doctors don’t address. It concerns me that parents may not know what to do about their children’s symptoms. It concerns me that people may tell their doctors about their OCD symptoms, but the doctors don’t know what to do with that information.

Because of my concerns, I will continue to do as Janet advocates in her post: educate others about OCD and encourage those with OCD and their families.

Do you have OCD or think you do? Are you a family member or friend of someone with OCD? One information source is the website of the International OCD Foundation. Their Find Help page offers multiple resources.

Why do you think it’s so hard to discuss certain things with our doctors?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day and thoughts on my father

My father in uniform, probably on leave at his home.

I think of my father on Memorial Day.
Actually, I think of my late father probably every day, but my thoughts of him are particularly strong on this day that we in the United States honor those who sacrificed their lives for their country.
My father served in the Army as a medic during World War II, mostly in the Pacific. He was wounded on September 30, 1944, but survived and came home and built a life with my mother.

My father somewhere in the Pacific on Aug. 21, 1945.

It was on Memorial Day 1996 that my father first expressed to me his thankfulness for having made it home when many of his fellow soldiers did not.
That gratefulness fit with the rest of his life: he never bemoaned growing older, never complained about an upcoming birthday. He was always proud of his age.
I was not very close to my father when I was growing up. We grew more comfortable with each other during the last few years of his life, before he died in July 1997.
He wrote down his life story at my request. And after his death, letters that he had written to one of his sisters while he was in service came to light.

A postcard my father sent his sister in 1942.

These written documents have helped me to know more about my father than I learned while he was alive.
Years ago I scanned the letters and gave copies to my brothers and my mother. I want to go back and catalog them better.
I also want to transcribe his whole story (I’ve done only part of it) and distribute those to family members, too.
I know there are still things to learn about my father and my family as I delve deeper into his writings.
That is not an always easy task for me, though. I had and have a troubled relationship with my family of origin. Some memories are painful.
But I don’t want that to hold me back from the truth, from the story of my father, and through his story, part of the story of my family.
It will be a project worth doing.
With that, I leave you today with wishes for a safe and peaceful holiday.

How have you preserved family memories and mementoes?

Friday, May 24, 2013

About birthdays and turning 50

   I’m writing about an upcoming milestone birthday for my Random 5 Friday this week.
I’ve got some trepidation about getting older, but I’m not moaning and groaning about it. I’m grateful for the time I’ve had and for the time I have left.
Random 5 Friday is a weekly meme started by Nancy at A Rural Journal. Link up and join in if you’d like—it’s fun!

I will turn 50 years old next Thursday. I have truly mixed feelings about it. I usually enjoy my birthdays and don’t mind getting older. I see a birthday as a new beginning, a new phase. This time, I am not sure. I’m a bit unsettled about it.

Me at age 10.

I remember my mother saying she didn’t mind turning 40. But when 50 came around, it was jarring for her. I remember her saying that my father asked her, “How does it feel to be a half-century old?”
That was almost 36 years ago. Now I’m turning a half-century old. Wow. I can’t quite wrap my head around that.

Me at 26.

I didn’t mind turning 40 either. It was kind of fun, and funny. And 40 really was a new beginning for me. I was planning my marriage to Larry when I turned 40. We got married the November after my birthday in May.

Me and Waddles when I was 40.

It’s not that I want to go back in time. My favorite age is always my current age. I wouldn’t be 20 again, or 30, or even 40 again for anything. I’m healthier, smarter about life, more sure about myself now than I have ever been. That’s a perk of my getting older.

I do have a sense that I should have accomplished more in life by now. But I try to just let those thoughts float on down the river.
My dreams are still going strong on the cusp of 50. I’ve got a lot of writing to do. I’ve got my freelance editing to start. I’ve got a lot of healing left to experience, a lot of spiritual growth to work towards. I’ve got a lot of things to do for others. I’ve got growing older with Larry to look forward to. I’ve still got a lot of living left to do.

What has been your favorite age so far? What do you like about getting older?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


May the Lord have mercy on those who are hurting.

My thoughts have been on those affected by the tornado in Oklahoma, as I’m sure yours have been, too. I’ve been thinking of those injured, of those who have lost their homes, and especially of those who have lost loved ones.
Tuesday evening I worked until about 8, then my husband picked me up and we stopped by a little diner in town for a bite to eat.
I’ve been deep into newspaper layout and editing today and didn’t come up for air very often. So Larry caught me up on the news from Oklahoma. He had been able to watch the evening newscasts.
I listened to his stories, and I realized that we’re both drawn to the personal stories, to the stories about individuals who experienced the storm, to the ways people are helping each other.
We talked about how we would handle something like that happening in Altavista, and neither one of us could truly imagine what it would be like find our home gone, our town destroyed, our lives devastated in that manner.
I would hope that we would react like so many did in the stories Larry told me: with strength, with compassion, with pluck.
I would also hope that I would remember that there were many, many people praying, sending healing thoughts, giving money and water and just connecting.
I wish I could remember it all the time. It seems like I remember it best in times of tragedy in this world. And that is this fact: we are all connected. We are all connected.

May the Lord have mercy on those who are hurting.

In what ways do you feel connected to others during hard times?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Background noise: cicadas and thoughts

After being in the ground for years, the cicadas have emerged. They have reached my area of Virginia, and they are loudly announcing their arrival.
Physical evidence of their existence is mostly made up of empty shells lying around outside or still clinging to branches of bushes.

Another sign of the presence of cicadas is the sound they make.
The sound they make in the woods behind our house seems otherworldly. I’ve never heard the arrival of a space craft (except in a movie), but I imagine that an approaching hover craft would sound like cicadas.

Usually I can hear them only when I’m outside. But lately, if the house if pretty quiet, I can hear their insect roar through the walls.
I don’t like a lot of noise. If I concentrate on the sound of the cicadas, I get a bit anxious, and I just want it to stop. It’s like an irritant.

But what if I compare the whine of the cicadas to the presence of intrusive thoughts?
Angry, fearful thoughts sometimes crowd in, especially when I’m lying down at night trying to go to sleep.
But if I use the river of thoughts strategy, I can practice watching those angry and fearful thoughts float on by without engaging with them.
With the cicadas, I can get busy doing something or focus on a more pleasant sound, and soon I’ve forgotten about their song. I’m no longer engaged in the sound.
Last week, I took some photos of the cicadas in our yard. I might as well make friends with the singers.

Do you have cicadas in your area? How do you handle noise that you have no control over?

Friday, May 17, 2013

My favorite person

Larry on the banks of the Staunton River.

There’s no one I would rather spend time with or talk with or listen to than my husband Larry. He’s quiet and unpretentious. He’s also smart and funny and kindhearted, and I love him dearly.
To illustrate that I’m not just generally gushing about the man, I’m using my five random facts this week to talk about Larry.
You can join in with Random 5 Friday at Nancy’s A Rural Journal. It’s fun!

Larry has known about my OCD and depression since we started dating. But I know it must have been hard on him once we got married. I’ve had some hard times with the depression especially, and I know that’s not always easy to live with.
He’s not the type to ask a lot of questions about how I feel. He’s very practical and solution-driven. In the past, that bothered me. I wanted him to show he cared by asking me for details, by talking often and openly about the OCD and depression.
I have come to my senses, though. He shows his support by loving me unconditionally, even when I’m an irritable mess. He shows his support by picking up the slack at home and taking care of so many of the responsibilities when I’m not feeling my best. His dependability, his sense of humor, his gentle heart and his love all tell me what I need to know: he will be there for me.

Animals are drawn to Larry. All he has to do is say hi to a neighborhood cat, and he or she wants to move in with us. When we visit his cousin, who has a sweet dog named Misty, she’s often found curled up at his feet.
Larry still talks about his boyhood dog, Shep. They were best friends.
And I can’t say enough about Larry’s tender heart when it comes to our cats, Sam and Chase. He helps tend to them so cheerfully and lovingly. Sometimes I’ll hear him in the next room, talking to them. Then he’ll come to me and tell me what the kitties told him, funny stories that always make me laugh.
Larry also enjoys watching wildlife. The other night, he arrived home from the grocery store and parked in our lower driveway. He called me on the phone and told me to look out the back window. There in the backyard were two deer lying in the grass. He wanted me to see them before he scared them off by walking across the yard.

Larry stands up for the underdog. He does not suffer bullies nor does he like to see others taken advantage of or mistreated. I am very proud of him for this. When he faces a situation that calls for speaking truth to power, he’s calm, circumspect and always respectful.

Like you, me and everyone else, Larry isn’t perfect. I used to try to change him (why do we do that to each other?). That’s another thing I finally came to my senses about. He doesn’t need to change. He is who he is, and I accept him.
Now, my chief concern is for Larry to be happy, content and to know he’s loved.
We argue and disagree about things. But we have the same basic values, and we always find a way to resolve things. Sometimes it takes a while. But I never doubt that we will.
Though Larry does have this habit of keeping the house too hot in the summertime. He wants to save on electricity. I want to stop sweating. That’s an ongoing battle. Not a serious one, though.

Larry attended Virginia Tech. I attended the University of Virginia. In Virginia, that means we’re rivals.
We’ve managed to live peacefully together, despite our different loyalties. During football season, it’s a little intolerable because Virginia Tech has a far superior team. But I’ve been nice about it (usually), and I’ve even given him Virginia Tech clothing.
Larry claims that our cats are Virginia Tech Hokies. I say they’re Virginia Cavaliers. The cats just smile.

Who is your favorite person?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Snippet of a memoir: Waiting rooms

Part of this post was first published on this blog on Feb. 15, 2012. My post on Monday about OCD and health stirred up some memories that I wanted to share, and what I had written over a year ago was a starting point.

When I was a child and teenager, I spent a lot of time waiting.
Some of this waiting happened in actual waiting rooms, places of calm in the midst of the sadness and fear of hospitals.
I was surrounded by sickness growing up. I’m the youngest of three, with two older brothers. My oldest brother is 11 years older than me. My next oldest brother is two years older.
My next oldest brother was born with spina bifada and clubfeet. As a result, he had to have multiple surgeries as a child and spent a lot of time in the hospital.
My father had a major stroke when he was 54. I was 12 at the time. His speech and movement were badly affected, and he had to retire from his job as a rural letter carrier for the post office. Later that same year, he suffered a blood clot in one of his kidneys and almost died before the kidney was removed.
My mother also had her share of illnesses and hospital visits.
So the waiting rooms in the hospitals in the nearby city were very familiar to me.
The nicest one was a large room that had real furniture, like you’d find in a private home. Chair railings ran along the wall. Paintings covered the walls.
There were volunteers stationed at a counter, and they helped visitors find their way around the hospital and answered general questions. They were usually women who wore pink-jacket “uniforms.” They were called “Pink Ladies.”
Though people came and went, there was a hush over the room. No one spoke loudly or laughed or cried where you could hear. It was like being in a church.
When I was 7 or 8 years old, when my brother was ill quite a bit, my parents would leave me in the waiting room while they went up to be with him. In those days, at that hospital, children under 12 were not allowed to visit patients.
I always had a book with me, and I would sit in one of the nice green armchairs, my always-present purse tucked up against me, and read. Sometimes I would look up and stare at the paintings or the signs on the wall and on the swinging doors that went back into the main part of the hospital.
One night, I wasn’t kept waiting downstairs. I was allowed to go up to my brother’s hospital room.
My mother came down to the waiting room and led me back through the swinging doors into the part of the hospital that was usually forbidden to me.
I don’t remember what she told me at the time, if anything. But I had heard enough talk to know that my brother was very sick.
I remember walking into my brother’s room. He was lying in bed. He was very pale. He lay as if exhausted. He didn’t look at me.
My mother lightly pushed me towards the bed.
I stared at my brother. But I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything.
I stood there for probably just a couple of minutes, and then my mother took me back downstairs.
Years later, my mother told me that the doctors were afraid that my brother wouldn’t live through surgery scheduled for the next day. So permission was granted for me to go to his room to see him. As my mother put it, the nurses “looked the other way” as she led me to his room.
My brother made it through the surgery fine.

Remember the concerns I expressed in my post about OCD and self-doubts about health?
It has become clear to me that I have a difficult time believing I’m sick “enough,” injured “enough,” because I’ve seen a lot of illness in others, especially family members.
I was the lucky child. I didn’t have physical disabilities. I didn’t have serious illnesses. I was the one fortunate enough to be waiting in the waiting room.
It’s not an earth-shattering realization, and I don’t want to start complaining about my every pain. I’m grateful for my overall good health.
Of course, for all my good physical health, even as a child I was beginning to show signs of mental illnesses: OCD and depression.
Those illnesses were more hidden, though. Less talked about.
Perhaps some of us who have dealt with low self-esteem, perhaps as a part of depression, have this way of thinking: other people are worth concern. We’re not.
That’s not a healthy way of thinking. All of us are worthy of concern from others and ourselves. It’s OK to ask for help from others. It’s OK to express our pain and sadness.
And what a blessing it is to know that someone is listening. Thank you, my dear blogging friends, for listening.

Monday, May 13, 2013

OCD and self-doubts about health

I had another appointment with my orthopedic doctor on Friday and received a mix of good and bad news.
The good news is that the bone fracture in my foot has healed more since my last visit a month ago.
The bad news is that I still need to wear the orthopedic boot or a fracture shoe for another month.
The doctor showed Larry and me the X-rays. Some of the fracture is “smoothed over” and none of the jagged teeth that first appeared on the X-rays are visible.
But part of the fracture still looks, in Larry’s words, “like a Pac Man figure’s open mouth.”
The foot still hurts some when I’m not in the boot, aches at night if I’ve been on my feet for a long time. And it’s tender to the pressure the doctor puts on it.
Those symptoms helped the doctor determine that the best recommendation is to stay in the boot. I can try the lower fracture shoe, but if the foot hurts while wearing that, I’m to go back to the boot.
He thought it would heal completely as long as I listened to my body.

And then the doubts came.

An orthopedic boot is a great conversation piece. People I don’t even know will ask me why I’m wearing it.
Some will tell me their own stories of being in a boot. Some will talk about being in one for a matter of weeks.
I’ve been in one for over two months, part of that time on crutches.
People who I see often seem amazed that I’m still wearing it.
“You’re still in that boot? How much longer do you have to wear it?”
And at work, I get the impression—and it could be all in my imagination—that my co-workers wish I would get out of the boot already.
I can’t do certain assignments because of my foot. I can’t walk long distances to take photos at large events. My driving is limited. I’m working my regular schedule of 32 hours a week, but there are limitations on what I can do.

So in the doctor’s office Friday, all these thoughts came crowding in and I started to doubt myself. I asked myself questions such as, Does it hurt enough to warrant the boot? Was I exaggerating how much it hurt? Was I giving a false impression to my doctor?
I don’t have anxiety that I’m sicker than anyone else thinks I am. I have anxiety about giving the impression that I’m sicker than I really am.
One of the reasons I wanted Larry with me when the doctor talked to me was so that he could be a witness to what the doctor said and what his concerns were. I didn’t trust just myself.
Towards the end of my visit, I finally asked the doctor some of the questions that I had: was it unusual for it to take so long to heal? Was it unusual to still hurt? Was it strange for me to still be in a boot?
Absolutely not, said the doctor. If it had healed totally in two months, THAT would have been unusual, he said.
I told him that some other people were surprised that I had been in the boot for so long. He said if my fracture had occurred in a different part of my foot, they would be right. But this is a Jones fracture, he reminded me. And this type of fracture can take a long time to heal.

Later, I remembered what he had said about listening to my body.
Having OCD, I don’t always trust my interpretation of what my body is telling me. I wonder about how much pain is “enough” to warrant concern. I wonder if I’m sick “enough” to call for the care of a doctor. I wonder if I’m worth all this fuss.
I want to be certain. And I can’t.

Deep inside, I know my foot needs the boot. I know I feel pain. It’s just the OCD creeping in, causing me to doubt myself. It’s just me listening to others instead of to my body and to my doctor.
I’m not going to let those doubts compromise my health. I will just live with them. Eventually, the accompanying anxiety will dissipate.
And eventually, I will get out of this boot.

Do you ever have doubts about the seriousness of a health problem you have?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Counting the train cars as they go by

I like trains. I like watching them go by. I like hearing their whistle late at night, even though it’s a rather lonely sound. I wonder where they’re going. I remember the feeling of riding on them, though it has been many years since I’ve been on a train.
When I was a teenager, my school bus, on one particular road, often had to stop for a train. I would try to count the cars as they went by. I usually lost count at some point, becoming confused as the train sped by, wondering if I had skipped a car or counted one twice.
These memories started a stream of memories that fed my Random 5 this week as I join once again with Nancy Claeys’ blog.

Larry and I enjoyed a picnic in the park on Sunday. I decided to get some shots of the train trestle that crosses part of the park.
I like train trestles. I like the sound the trains make as they cross them. I like the architecture, every part needed to hold up the weight of the train.

I’ve been on a train three times. When I was in elementary school, my class took a school bus ride to Monroe, Virginia, in a county near my county. We got on a train there and took the short ride into Lynchburg, where the school bus picked us up. I was so excited.
In 1976, my family and I took two trips on Amtrak, one to Philadelphia and one to New York City. I loved visiting other parts of the country and experiencing the big city.

I remember once sitting in the car, in the backseat, as a child and listening to my father count the train cars as they went by. He liked to count things.
My mother has told me that my paternal grandfather, my father’s father, counted a lot, too, including tobacco sticks as they were put up in the tobacco barn.

One of my OCD compulsions is counting. I used to compulsively count letters on signs, working and reworking to get the total number to come out to a number divisible by three. Three was my magic number.
I also counted the steps I took, stairs I climbed, window panes, so many things. I did it to try to calm anxiety.
I don’t know if my father and grandfather had magic numbers, or if they felt a compulsion to count. But I wonder. I wonder if I inherited my tendency to develop OCD from my father’s family.

When I was 12 or 13, my father asked me to count the cows. He had suffered a major stroke and was housebound for a time.
He raised Black Angus cows. No one else was home at the time, and he was worried about all of the cows being in the pasture.
I had such a hard time counting them. They kept moving, and I kept recounting. It took me a long time.
And my OCD kicked in. I worried so much that I would get it wrong and something would happen to a wandering cow and it would be my fault.

What, if anything, do you like about trains and train trestles?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Ant on a wildflower.

Do you ever feel too tired to sleep? That’s the way I feel as I write this. My body feels like all the energy has drained out of it. But I’m having a hard time relaxing.
Today—well, it’s after midnight now, so yesterday—was a long day. I spent most of it in court, covering a trial. I was there until nearly 7 p.m. Then I had to rush over to another county building to cover a couple of public hearings. I went from there to the office, where I wrote two stories, one on the trial and one on the hearings. Then I worked on updating the website.
The trial isn’t over, so I have to be back in court later this morning for the closing arguments. Then the jury deliberates. Once a verdict is reached, it’s back to the office to write a story for the website.
I’m rambling, but I’m having a hard time focusing. And I’m having a hard time coming up with a topic that would be helpful and interesting for you.
I worry about that. I want to write posts that connect with you. But on days like today, all I can do is tell you how I feel and maybe a bit about how I handled the day.
I felt rushed, and I worried about getting out of court in time to cover the county story. But I did something that I don’t always find easy to do: I asked for help.
Last week, I knew Tuesday was going to be a bear. So I asked my boss if he could help by covering a 4 p.m. government meeting if I didn’t get out of court in time. And he did. I was apologetic about it—I don’t like asking for help—but he was OK with doing it.
So there’s a good reminder for me: it’s OK to ask for support.
And one more thing I did that helped me through the day: on the way back to the office in the evening, I listened to music in the car.
I haven’t driven in over two months because of my broken foot. But today, it was just necessary that I drive. I didn’t know how long I’d have to be in court. The courthouse is a 25 minute drive from home. I like having the car there where I can retire for a brief respite during court recesses.
So I told Larry I would drive. I put on a shoe and drove, and then put the boot back on when I got to my destination. It worked fine.
But what I’m really getting at is what did while I was driving this evening.
Usually, my driving-alone time is also my music time. I listen to my favorite music and sing along. I don’t do it as much when I’m with Larry.
I missed Larry today. We’ve been riding around together every day for a long time. But it was nice to put on some Alison Krauss and listen to her angel voice and sing along. It gave me a 25 minute rest, in a sense.
Asking for help. Music. Both are good things.
And now my brain is telling me it’s time to stop writing. My thoughts have slowed down for a change. It’s time to go to bed.
I didn’t have the opportunity to read blogs Tuesday, but I hope to be able to later today. I miss my daily routine, but I’ll be back.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Let the wind take those thoughts away

“Let’s fix some sandwiches and go down to the park for a picnic.”
Larry didn’t hesitate. He hears “go” in a sentence, and he’s ready.
So we fixed some sandwiches and chips, added some drinks and drove to the park. Our town has several parks, but we always visit the one by the Staunton River.
It was a cold and windy Sunday. The temperatures were in the 50s, but the wind made it pretty chilly.
That didn’t stop us. We just put on our jackets, sat close together on the bench by the river, and ate our food.

Larry likes to go. Me? Less so. But on Sunday, I needed to go.

Some things are happening that have upset both Larry and me. The things don’t affect Larry and me directly, but they might affect our community. We’ve both felt a lot of shock and anger.
I can’t be specific about it here. And the specifics don’t change the effects on me.
When things upset me, it’s hard for me to let go. Whether it’s my OCD or depression or the generalized anxiety, negative thoughts lead to more negative thoughts, going around and around.
Thoughts about the situation followed me Friday night into Saturday morning. I woke up often, and every time I did, my thoughts went back to the anger.
I played the “what if” game. I imagined scenarios that only made me angrier.
I felt jumpy and irritable. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome flared.
Worst of all, I felt the beginnings of hopelessness, which scares me particularly because it’s a hallmark of my depression.
That got my attention.

I will not let what others choose to do or say affect my mental health.

So I’ve tried different things to counteract the anxiety.
I’ve prayed the Serenity Prayer. I’ve reminded myself of things I can do nothing about.
I’ve also concentrated on what’s most important to me: God, Larry, my cats and my writing. I’ve used visualization as I’ve thought of them.

On Saturday, Larry had a day-long class, so I was home alone. I did some chores, looked after the kitties, took a nap.
I had another spell of anxiety in the evening. I wanted to go outside and run, or at least walk really fast.
I couldn’t do that. But I wanted to do something. I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted to get away from myself.

The picnic helped tremendously. After we ate, we walked around the area, taking photos. We rode back into the newly developed area of the park so I could get some shots of the railroad trestle and some other interesting sights.
Despite the chilliness, the wind felt good. It metaphorically blew away the negative thoughts and replaced them with fun, the beauty of nature and the joy of being with Larry.
And then we went for ice cream.

This will not be an easy week. But when the thoughts creep in again, I’m going to imagine being in the park by the river with Larry, in the wind and the coolness, among the green grasses and the wildflowers. I will imagine the wind lifting me above those thoughts.

What do you do when you can’t get your mind off of a worrisome subject?