Sensory involvement in comfort

I love Sunday mornings. This was not always the case, however, when I was a child and into young adulthood I was dragged to church every Sunday causing me to loathe Sunday mornings. My father would come into my room every five minutes telling to wake up, he would turn on the lights and if I would still lay unresponsive he would sometimes resort to yanking the covers off of me. I hated that. Church was more than a chore, it was an hour of torture. I stopped going sometime after turning 18 I think, I know it was my late teens.

I didn’t really start to appreciate Sunday mornings again until after I moved out and was living in my second apartment. I was single in a cute one bedroom near downtown, it was wonderful (the apartment and that time in my life). Every Sunday I would wake up early, grab whatever book I was involved in at the time and go to the local Starbucks for coffee and a croissant. I would sit for hours in one of their comfy leather chairs and drink my coffee as I read. When I started dating Todd we would go together sometimes if he had stayed over Saturday night. It was relaxing and very fulfilling.

When Todd and I moved into our rental in College Park together I would wake up every Sunday and have my coffee in my reading room, many times while posting to this very blog. I loved that room, it was my favorite in the house. I would sit and watch the squirrels and the bluejays out the window. We had a family of bluejays living in the Laurel Oak tree in our front yard at that house.

Now in our new house I get to sit on my love seat in the sunroom and greet the morning. I do this most mornings at this house but there is something about Sunday mornings that I enjoy most. This particular Sunday Todd has to work, which I am not exactly happy about but it does leave me with a qiet house which is nice. I like things to be quiet in the morning.

All of this is just a lengthy introduction for what is actually on my mind this morning. I was sitting thinking about what makes me enjoy Sundays so much and what made me dread them in the past. I started thinking about smells and sounds and tastes, which led me to wondering about the sensory elements involved with good moments and memories versus bad or unpleasant.
For example, I love the Out of Africa soundtrack and play it all the time in the house when I am cooking, doing chores, art, or having guests over. The reason is because when I was a girl my Mother would always put on this soundtrack before my Aunt and Uncle would come over to visit. I always looked forward to their visits. I remember she would have the lighting down in the house and everything just felt very at ease so this soundtrack has always put me in a good mood and made me feel calm.

I thought about this more and compiled a partial list of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes etc that I find comforting.

The smell of coffee
The Out of Africa soundtrack
The sight and sound of wind rustling through the tree branches
Lighting from lamps versus overhead lighting
Natural light from open windows
Apple cinnamon tea boiling on the stove
Mint and Eucalyptus
Mockingbird songs
Dark storm clouds
A slight chill in the breeze from an open window
Daylight peeking through the shade of a canopy of trees
Leaves falling off trees after a gust of wind
Raspberries and Bananas
Heavy rain with thunder

Christmas in July

Now that we are reaching the end of our first week in the new house and things are being set up and put away all I can think of is how much I am looking forward to our plans for the next few weeks. I get so excited for plans with Todd I feel like a kid on Christmas all year round.

Yesterday was our 2 year anniversary so tonight we are going out for date night to celebrate. I love date night with Todd, we have so much fun together.
This weekend we are going to do some projects around the house, our first weekend as home owners working on our home.
Next week is my niece’s 3rd birthday and July 4th.We are celebrating July 4th at our house. We are going to bar-b-q, play out door games and watch the downtown firework display.
The following week Todd’s friends from back home will be here to visit, I have been excited for months about them coming. I love spending time with his friends, they are so fun and he is so funny with them.
The last week of July Suzie and I are hosting a girls-night-in together. Wine and games with a bunch of girls, it will be fun.
The first weekend in August in Lollapalooza so we will be in Chicago and then we will visit Todd’s family for a few days.
When we get back Stephanie will be having her baby shower.

By September things should be slowing down for a little while, at least until October.

Relational expiration date

This morning before class one of my classmates was explaining to me how he has become fed up with his current work situation due to unethical behaviour he has witnessed by other employees. I was able to easily relate, I think everyone can. There are all different kinds of people in the world so it is inevitable that we are going to work with someone or maybe multiple people who rub us the wrong way for one reason or another. This is common place but when it becomes an issue is when you start to feel that your association with these people or maybe even the company compromises your core values, that is when it might be time to reevaluate things.

I have learned over the years of employment and relationships that my expiration date is usually somewhere around the three-year mark. Something happens around this time in any situation of employment or in the course of a personal relationship (be it romantic or social) that the other shoe drops. Usually cracks will appear before this time and I will attempt to patch them because you don’t just walk away from something the second you encounter a problem, you work on it. I think a few years in though it becomes clear how things really are. All the niceties are swept away at that point and there is no more sugar-coating for better or worse “it is what it is”. The question is, once you get to the point of being able to see behind the curtain and knowing exactly who a person is or what a company really stands for/how they operate, are you still on board?

I think the answer to that question depends on what you are willing to compromise. For me, I am not willing to compromise customer service/patient care to meet a bottom line. In relationships I am not willing to compromise my self-respect for someone elses ego. These are just examples of what I have experienced in the past.

For me I think the hardest tie to break when talking about this kind of thing is with friends. Romantic relationships in my opinion are much easier to break off because you have that thought in the back of your mind “ca I see myself spending the rest of my life with this person” or “can I put up with “X” behavior for the rest of my life”? If you ever find yourself answering that question with a No, an end is usually soon to follow. The same can be said about giving notice with an employer, if you are miserable than you it is likely you are going to move on rather than remain miserable. Walking away from a friendship for some reason is much more complicated.

I have certainly done it over the years, my friendship shelf life is much longer than the typical three-year mark however. I think this is true partly because I do not have almost any casual friendships. There are the people I know from work, school, the neighborhood etc who I consider acquaintances and then there are people who I have invested in over the years who I consider friends. There isn’t much space in between. I guess I just feel like casual friendships take up too much time and energy and feel a bit superficial. I mean to me that is almost the definition of a fair weather friend, someone who is only around when things are good, they don’t know the real you I’d say.

What I have found is that you really have to push me for me to write you off as a friend. It takes a while for me to really develop that bond with someone and call them a friend so I don’t take it lightly and I hold on to it pretty fiercely. The few times I have cut off a friend were almost all related to honesty issues (major ones where trust was obliterated) or value issues. My friends are not perfect, like me, they make mistakes and have errors in judgement but I know who each one of them are at the core so a moral slip up here and there changes nothing of how I feel about them. I cannot say this about these few that I have had to end communication with over the years. I know that they are still good people on some level because I believe everyone is and I have it in them. There are just somethings I cannot stand by though and that is when it is important to remember “no reason to stay is a good time to leave”.

“Behind these emotions there is a sensible heart”

This lyric by City and Colour has always symbolized how I feel about my experiences with anxiety and depression. I want to share part of my personal story about struggling with depression and anxiety as a testament that it does get better. I have a friend who I know is struggling with a series of misfortunes in life right now and one thing that the friend says helps in all of it is not feeling like they are in it alone. So here is to suffering together. After all, it is better than suffering alone.

I was 27 when one of the most important men in my life died. One minute he was in the hospital for what seemed like a heart episode of some sort that was not serious and the next he was in and out of a medically induced coma. I carried a lot of regret after his death about how I spent his days with him. The day he went to the hospital I called out of work and went to see him. Everything seemed normal, no need to be alarmed was what I was hearing. My last words with him were about the jello he was eating and how work was going for me. I only spent about 20 minutes at the hospital that day even though I had the rest of the day off. Had I known that would be the last time I would hear his voice I would have done everything I could have to soak it in. He died a little over a week later, it may have been close to two actually. One day while I was there he was in and out of sleep, he close his eyes for a matter of minutes and does off just to wake moments later with the most terrible look of panick on his face. I knew by that look that he was afraid to fall asleep because he was afraid of not waking up again. I think he knew how bad things were and was just fighting as best he could to hold on. I wasn’t there the night he passed, I opted not to make the drive that night and planned to come the next morning. Well for him the next morning never came. I drove out as soon as I heard and even though I know that he was in a coma and would not have been aware of my presence anyway, I had regret.

Things had already begun to unravel in other areas of my life, his death was the accelerant on the fire that was my deepening depression. At one of my lowest points I went into my closet and ripped every pair of jeans I own off the shelf throwing them across my room while crying hysterically. I was so sensitive and out of control of my emotions that the slightest thing would cause me to become unhinged and I would scream and cry and curl up in a ball in my walk in behind my hanging clothes. I did not sleep, I did not go out, I avoided friends and phone calls. Rock bottom was Christmas that year. It is the one thing after all of this that I still have not been able to forgive myself for, even though I have been forgiven. Without elaborating on the details, I left my then boyfriend in an empty plaza parking lot on Christmas after a nasty fight we had on our way to my parents house. Even though everyone involved (including -miraculously- my then boyfriend) has completely forgiven me and said it was not my fault I still feel sick when I think about my actions. I know now and I even knew then I was out of control. I was hurting so much and nothing/no one could help me, or so I thought.

An amazing counselor and an Rx for Lexapro saved me from myself. The support I received from my family and loved ones played a huge role as well. None of this would be true though if I did not choose to do something about it. That is what I did not see during the worst of it, I had a choice to make. Get help, admit I am having trouble and need help or struggle through, ruining everything good left in my life along the way. It was the hardest thing I have ever lived through but getting through to the other side was worth every awful moment of it. Things did not end up working out with the person I was dating at the time but everything ended well and we still keep in touch. We had many long talks after our break up and once I was feeling better. I am so thankful for his kindness and patience through it all. He was so willing to forgive me for everything, his biggest concern was that I was OK. I am so lucky that I was with such a good person during such a difficult time.

I have been able to forgive myself for most of what happened during this period of my life, with the exception of my behavior on Christmas, I am still working on that. Most importantly I learned so much about myself and my anxiety triggers because of this experience. I am a better girlfriend, friend, daughter, sister and person because of all of this which makes it impossible for me to feel total regret about what happened. I am thankful for what I learned and how far this new self awareness has allowed me to come, I do wish I could have managed this without hurting anyone along the way though.

The hardest part during all of it was that for the first time in my life a piece of me thought, “it’s not going to get better”. I have never questioned that before. Whenever anything major has gone wrong in life that is what has always gotten me through, knowing without a shred of doubt that things will get better again, this is only temporary. The losing hope and the feeling of being utterly alone in it all is what broke me. I would never wish that on anyone but I know that even as I type these words someone out there, multiple someones for that matter, are feeling that way. To you I say, things will get better again. Life is not easy, that is what makes it so worth while. The struggle is just part of the journey and when you look back at it later you will be grateful for it if for no other reason than to be able to say, “I survived this”.

Ear Rape

Something I have noticed since being back in school is that the generation of echo boomers which I belong to is FILLED with over-sharers. Has anyone else noticed this? I definitely noticed it a few times while still on FB but it was never too bad. What I have witnessed at school is on another level. I notice it more with younger females than any other group. I pretty much chalk it up to an immaturity issue which for right now they don’t have a lot of control over, I am willing to bet (as much as this pains me) that at 18 I was the same way. With this in mind, I can’t really get up on a high horse with this particular topic. I have to admit though, this quality is incredibly annoying!

My first semester back in school there was a 17-year-old in my Government class that wouldn’t allow the instructor to lecture for more than a few minutes (literally) without interrupting him with a personal story of some sort. The worst part, HER STORIES HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT WE WERE DISCUSSING IN CLASS. She was so self-absorbed! I don’t think she even paid attention to the lectures, how could she? Everything she babbled on about made no sense.

There has been at least one over-sharer each semester that has made me want to stab myself in the ear with my no. 2. Last semester it was Anthropology, same deal. She was constantly interrupting with personal anecdotes that just were not relevant. I really think these girls just like to hear themselves speak. The one from first semester was also a bit of know it all who ironically did not in fact know-it-all. So that was twice as annoying.

This semester is no different. Every time the Professor starts a topic this girl’s hand shoots up. To me these people are the epitome of the idiom about not being able to see past the end of your nose. Do they really think they are the only ones in a class of 20+ people, some of whom are 35+ years old so would undoubtedly have more life experience, that are able to relate to what the Professor is talking about? No, dummy. The rest of us are just polite enough to let the Professor complete his train of thought without making it all about us.  This is not to say that the rest of us don’t interact and participate, we absolutely do, but when he asks for it not every time he takes a breath in a sentence. The other thing that bothers me about people who do this is how awkward it makes everyone else feel. You can see it on the Instructor’s faces when they are dealing with this kind of person and trying to be polite about the constant frivolous interruptions. Some of them aren’t so polite about it, that’s when things really get uncomfortable but either way, your story is annoying enough plus we have to endure the look of pain on the Instructor’s face every time your called on.

Examples of said ear rape:

– Topic of discussion is Thomas Jefferson. Topic of over-sharer’s story is her Aunt’s experience working for DCF. (No Lie).

– Topic of discussion is Stages of Sleep. Over-sharer has story about how a high school teacher would wake up sleeping students, another story about how her parents have PTSD, another about how she doesn’t need more than three hours of sleep, another about how she can sleep through her bedroom being vacuumed, another about how she can sleep with the lights on and another about how she talks in her sleep. (Not really sure how the Professor got a word in edgewise).

– Topic of discussion is Memory, specifically the effects on memory after injury to the hippocampus. Over-sharer’s hand shoots up and flails desperately until called on, shares a story about an episode of Sponge Bob she watched involving him deleting all of his memory except fine dining experiences.. “And then there were a bunch of Sponge Bob’s running around in his head trying to find the file and yea, it was hilarious”.. (I lost two minutes of my life I will never be able to get back because of this ninny).

While all of this is more of just superficial nonsense what is really bad is the over-sharers that hit you with heavy emotional baggage after knowing them for all of a minute and a half. (Or those who want to share about their sex life etc.. Ick). This recently happened to me in a public restroom, I kid you not. So, first of all the “minute and a half” thing would be an exaggeration for this story. I do not know this person well but I had spent time with her on two different occasions before this incident occurred. Keep in mind, however, that on the two other occasions we spent time together were in group settings, entering the women’s restroom together was the first official time I had ever been alone with this girl.

I met this girl out a few weeks earlier and after finding we had a few things in common we exchanged numbers to make other plans together in the future. So on this night we were downtown with other friends, we had been drinking, she more than I apparently, (I am a social drinker in that I hold the same beer most of the night to appear social). When we went to the restroom together she is in the stall next to me and starts unloading on me (in slurred speech) about how she has had a hard life and so many obstacles to overcome and her Dad is dying and Mom has a disease and so on.. How do you respond to this?! We are in a public restroom not my house or a private dinner where the flow of conversation has led to these topics naturally coming up. Nothing feels appropriate as a response in times like these. You say, “Oh I’m sorry to hear that” but it’s just uncomfortable and often sounds phony no matter how much you mean it. To make matters worse, I am pretty sure she wanted  me to reciprocate by divulging personal information about myself. Um no. I keep my cards close to my chest. I can know someone for years before revealing anything like that.

I just don’t get it. I think it just goes back to our generation being so egocentric. We think everyone wants to know everything about us. Wrong. I am no more interesting than the next girl and I am well aware of it. The things that I have experienced in my life have been experienced by countless numbers of women before me and will be experienced by countless numbers of women after me, I am not unique or special in this way. I am not against sharing though, I think it is important to be able to be vulnerable and trust others with your feelings. I think it is important to tell your story, it can be therapeutic if there is something you are trying to work through. All of these things are good, it’s just a matter of appropriateness. Your therapist is an appropriate person to share the gory details not a class full of people who are unsuspecting and unable to leave if they do not want to hear. At your home with your boyfriend would be an appropriate place and person to have these personal talks with, not the public restroom with a new acquaintance that doesn’t even know your last name yet! Or even something as simple as a Blog over FB. This is my personal Blog a much better platform to share than on FB that is intended for pictures and reconnecting with friends from high school etc.

You know, I laugh as I write this because it’s silliness really. This is not a serious issue by any means, it is more of a faux pas. Ear rape happens to all of us at one time or another.

How to Die in Oregon and other titles

This weekend we painted at the new house and started moving our belongings over. Our official move date in next Monday but I will spend most of the week moving boxes.

Thursday night Todd and I watched Religulous. It is a documentary Bill Maher did in which he interviewed members of different religious organizations asking them why they believe in the absence of proof.  We liked it. For me it’s not about believing or not believing I just cannot get behind organized religion. It’s just a product I can’t buy no matter how they try to package and sell it.

I have been watching a lot of documentaries lately. I have had a little more time on my hands this summer since my course load is lighter than a normal semester and I have found that day time television is for the birds. I never knew this previously, given that I was always working or at school. Evening television isn’t anything to write home about either for that matter but it’s really of no consequence because we don’t watch a lot of that either.

Here is what I have been watching:

First Circle, which documents specific examples of the inner workings of the Foster Care system in selected parts of the nation. Although I found this documentary to be limited and highly subjective I still enjoyed it.

Lost Angels, this documentary follows different members of the Skid Row community as well as the Social Workers and volunteers that help with aid in the community. I really enjoyed this one. It’s easy to become attached to the individuals as they tell their stories. I think so many people get caught up in the stigma that is associated with the homeless that they forget that the homeless are people too. Citizens of this country just like the rest of us.

Though my favorite documentary of late is How to Die in Oregon. Awesome film about Euthanasia. I have been a supporter of legalizing Euthanasia for years. To me the issue is similar to that of abortion, I understand it’s not for everyone but medically speaking I think it’s always good to have options. You don’t like it? Then don’t do it. But who are you to prevent someone else from dying a peaceful death if that is their wish especially if they are faced with a very grim alternative. I cried through most of it but to me that is the sign of a good documentary, make me feel something. It’s hard not to be impacted by this one, especially if you are socially minded like myself. It was sad to watch what some of the people in this documentary had to endure but I was also angered that in some cases it could have been avoided had euthanasia been a legal option for the patient. You hear people talk about whether it is moral or ethical, I feel like hiding behind those words what is really being said is “this is against my religion”. The blurred line between religion and state drives me crazy. I believe in religious freedom but it is not fair that those religious beliefs should have so much influence on the political process. We give our animals and convicted felons who have death sentences a more humane means to an end than we do terminally ill patients just looking for options. All these patients want is to die with dignity. I can appreciate that, if I had my way I would want to go out on my terms too.

Technology Zombies

I realize that at times on this blog I post more about my daily life than I do about actual school and school related topics. As the whole purpose of the blog is to keep a record of my experiences as a returning college student ten years later I would like to use this post to point out some observations I have made about the younger generation of College students. (And society in general)

*Disclaimer: Prepare for a bit of a rant. You have been warned.*

It appears to me that the zombie apocalypse has already begun. Case and point:


Let me begin by acknowledging that some of my friends lovingly tease and refer to me as a bit of a grandma for being “anti-technology”. This is not entirely true but here are the facts.

– I don’t have a Facebook account
– I only text when I need a quick answer on something and my first reaction to receiving a text is annoyance especially if it is frivolous

– I am next to impossible to reach by phone as I rarely have it on my actual person
– When I go out I rarely take my phone
– I hate checking my voice mail so I rarely do, once a month at most
– I also hate bothering with my email, however I do check it at least once every few days

I don’t feel like any of this is that abnormal though. Am I really the only person  that finds it annoying when my phone goes off while I am involved with something else? To be clear, when I say text messages and phone calls annoy me it’s not the person on the other end I am annoyed with, I just don’t like to be pulled away from whatever is going on. Whether I am spending time with someone or doing school work or art or having dinner etc. When I hear my phone go off it just feels like a whip is being cracked. It is hard to explain this without sounding like a hermit. It’s not an anti-social thing, I just like to be present in whatever it is that is going on at the time. This is also why I do not like FB. I realize some people are balanced about it but for the most part I think FB is completely ridiculous.

Examples of said ridiculousness:

 – Posting pictures of puppies or kittens you do not own every 25 minutes.- RIDICULOUS.

– Posting where you are going and what you are doing at all times.- I mean maybe it’s neat if you are currently visiting the pyramids but do you honestly think that anyone cares that you are going to the gym or to target to buy socks? RIDICULOUS.

– To accompany the last example, tagging yourself all over town. – Again, if you are meeting Obama for coffee at Barnes and Noble, that I think could be deemed worthy of a tag but your average Friday night downtown? What are you trying to prove, that you actually have a social life? RIDICULOUS.

– Posting to your FB as if it is your personal diary. – This is particularly gag worthy to me. RIDICULOUS.

– Inundating everyone on your friends list with your political views and closed-minded (often un-researched) opinions on social issues.-  Barf. RIDICULOUS.

– Constantly posting “selfies”. – I hate that our culture has become so self-absorbed that there is a term for that. RIDICULOUS.

– Posting EVERY 30 MINUTES how much you love your life and your kids and your husband and your dog and how everything is magical and perfect and life is nothing but rainbows and ice cream cones.- Ok, we get it, your happy. But you know what that makes me really think? Your on the verge of divorce and your kid is going to grow up with a complex because you spent more time glued to your phone posting to FB than actually engaging. RIDICULOUS.

There is so much more I could say but I am sure I have made myself sound like a cynical harpy so I will step off my FB soap box and digress.

I will say this though, it is apparent that we as Americans (especially the younger generation) are becoming zombie-like. We are hypnotized by TV and internet for hours on end. We walk around in a trance like state glued to our phones and other technological devices completely oblivious to anything.

Since being back in school I cannot count how many times before a class starts I have heard mindless chatter about this or that on FB. Professors have to lay down rules about cell phone usage during class. You paid to be here, tune in and disconnect from your phone for 90 minutes. Is is that hard? Really?? On more than one occasion a professor has asked the class “if you left your cell phone at home would you turn around and go back for it?” A simple Yes or No would suffice but every time I hear responses like “Oh I can’t LIVE without my phone”. Really? So you are telling me that your heart would stop beating and your entire body would shut down if you go more than  ‘X” amount of time without your phone? And you don’t see this as a problem?  OK. I mean, to each their own I guess. Who I am to judge? (Although yes, I am aware that this entire post is seeped in judgement).

I have elaborated more than I typically would on such a silly topic. But that’s just it I guess, I find all of this to be a bit silly. I guess I just find the current state of things to be a bit discouraging.