Archive for the ‘personal life’ Category

It seems like the mantra stuck in my head last semester was, “I’m not doing enough.” This semester, I’d like to try to shift it to: “I’m doing what I can, and it’s good enough.” Maybe it seems like I’m only striving for mediocrity, but if you ask me, that is all I got out of last semester anyway. So what good did all the berating of self accomplish? This shift in thinking goes along with the idea that we are “human beings” not “human doings.” We all need some time to just “be.” If I keep promising myself that I will make room for that this semester, then maybe it will actually happen. This also reminds me of the new year’s resolution that I forgot to put on my list, but which is seemingly most important in shifting my way of thinking: meditation. My goal is to meditate five days a week.

Quick resolution check-in: Not doing so well with the limiting sweets. Had a chocolate chip cookie at the local coffee shop and then baked apple cake last night. Yum!


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A little over two weeks ago I discussed going off my meds with my psychiatric nurse practitioner. We both a agreed that the holiday break would be an ideal time to experiment with this. I titrated and have been med-free for a week and two days. I’m in a very bad place mentally, but I’m determined to give it two weeks and see if I start to feel better. I am hoping a regimen of meditation, talk therapy (have to find a good cognitive behavioral therapist first), spiritual/self-help reading, exercise/yoga, and regular massage might be able to take the place of the medication. As I strive to put all of this into the written word, it feels so complicated. My depression and anxiety are very deeply attached to my career, and yet, I know that I have a “dream job.” If I describe my 2011, it seems that it’s the year that I got everything I have ever wanted and worked so hard for: I finished my PhD and got a tenure-track job at a local liberal arts college much like my alma mater. I share a cute little house with my wonderful partner–white picket fence and a cute dog included. My life is very close to how I envisioned it when I started out on my graduate school journey back in 1998 (except for the fact that I’m not in Vermont and have a different life partner). So why am I so unhappy? Why am I paralyzed with fear and anxiety? Currently I have myself convinced that it is all because of my job. My anxieties about teaching and my lack of confidence over what I know (and don’t) in my field(s) are overwhelming. I have two weeks until the semester starts, and I am wasting time in state of dysfunction where I spend LOTS of time worrying about the coming semester and feeling like a failure and NO time doing anything about prepping and doing the work that I promised myself I’d get to over break. These two weeks will pass in a flash, and suddenly I will enter into semester number two on the tenure-track filled with the same (or worse) feelings of inadequacy that I had throughout the first semester. I spend a lot of time obsessing over whether or not a career change would truly make me happy; however, my goal is to find happiness free from anxiety and depression DESPITE my current career situation. I need to surrender more to the universe and to God. This is all very difficult to do while in the state that I’m in. It’s hard to get myself going each day and when I don’t accomplish anything work-wise, I beat myself up terribly.

My last therapist had this mug that I loved. It read simply: Where’s the evidence? At this moment I do not have evidence of my failings as a teacher (of course I have not yet read my student evaluations–frightened as I am over the tailspin that they could very well send me into). At this moment I actually have evidence of my success as a teacher: overall strong evaluations from the Dean and colleagues who observed my classes this past semester. And yet, despite the evidence (and lack) I cannot seem to convince myself that this is where I should be and that this is what I should be doing. I hate the erratic scheduling of higher education: 15 week sprints followed by a month to three months of recovery, while I’m more a slow and steady kind of person. I cannot seem to balance the work/life thing at all. And so begins the spiral that I am spending nearly all of my time stuck in these days. I don’t feel that I deserve a break, yet I’m giving myself one anyways and not enjoying it all at the same time.

As I watch, read, and listen to stories of leaving behind 2011 and resolving something new for 2012, I struggle to be part of the merriment and to be filled with the kind of hope that others seem to have. I am, however, resolved to hang on med-free for a bit longer and see if it gets better. That is how I enter into this new year–with a hope that I don’t yet feel in my heart. I enter into 2012 simply waiting….

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I have four new year resolutions. One of them to get back on my spiritual path. That entails (most importantly) meditation, maintaining this blog, doing yoga, and staying on top of daily (or at least) weekly spiritual readings. I’ve been feeling very out-of-sorts lately — uncomfortable in my own skin. I know that it doesn’t help that I “fell off the wagon.”

For me I know that without a regular spiritual/meditation practice, I am not as solid a person in this world. It’s the equivalent of an alcoholic’s relapse. I am not conscious of being a caring, attentive person. I just lose my grounding.

Another resolution is to get and stay organized. I got an awesome new book, Sorted: The Ultimate Guide to Organizing Your Life Once and For All!, and I’ve been working my way through its many “recipes.” I’ve been obsessed with eliminating any and all clutter. Trying to clean outside of myself as a way of feeling better inside myself. While I do think that the external environment in which we live is important to our inner well being, I also know that ultimately I need to find inner peace despite chaos. It’s a fine line, and I’m trying to find the balance.

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In the November 2009 issue of Real Simple magazine there was a series of short columns by writers describing the most meaningful moment of their day. As someone who loves reading about other people’s lives in the form of blogs and memoirs (recently read Hurry Down Sunshine and The Sharper your Knife, the Less you Cry — both of which I recommend), I found these short columns about one moment of the day appealing. There was sense of calm and peace to be gained from reading about each writer’s one moment — even when some of the moments were slightly chaotic themselves. The fact that the writer’s could appreciate a range of instances that are both meaningful in obvious and not so obvious ways gave me a sense of being able to find that in my own life as well. And so, I decided that I would attempt to write about my own favorite moment of the day, which is this one.

It is the moment currently around 7am every moment (though it used to be much earlier) when I sit down at my computer with a mug of coffee. My boss likes to say that “coffee is sacred in the morning,” and my Shiatsu practitioner told me that coffee is her “joy.” I think many people feel that sense of ritual and importance around their daily cup of morning coffee. At our house we like hearty, oversized mugs that are generally painted in bright, primary colors. Our favorites are the “cats in love” mugs (though we are actually dog lovers) that we found in a small local gift shop at a tremendous discount. There is great comfort in having that weighty, warm mug in my hand. When writing, sipping coffee is the moment of crafting — the moment when I pause to consider what I’m working on, what I’ve produced and decide to move forward or back-up, as necessary.

Giving myself this morning moment is a little like giving myself the time to meditate — my life – my body and mind – feel “out of whack” without it, as they are both centering activities, and yet too often I don’t “give” myself this time. My former massage therapist used to always tell me that I make time to brush my teeth and that these things are equally important and deserve the same regularity in my life as teeth brushing.

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Two years ago I was promoting meditation as the best form of medication. This was all part of years spent trying every possible method of “alternative” methods to quell a problem with generalized anxiety and panic attacks. I have been firmly opposed to medication on many levels, but primary out of the belief that it is over-prescribed and/or prescribed after a too short evaluation ending in a possible misdiagnosis and out of a fear of long-term and side effects. I find the pharmaceutical industry to be almost as corrupt as the financial sector of our economy. And so, after experiencing my first panic attack during my Junior year of college (that would be…um…14 years ago), I have read myriad self-help books, including the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook; I’ve learned and practiced a great many breathing exercises; I practice yoga; I’ve had acupuncture treatments; I’ve tried reiki, shiatsu, and swedish massage; I started meditating; I’ve tried Chinese herbs; I’ve done talk therapy. All in all, I’ve tried nearly everything to deal with and change my anxiety and panic attacks.

This summer my anxiety seemed to be reaching a new level. I had made a decision to leave my office job and return to teaching, which has, for years, been one of my primary triggers around my anxiety. I also felt that I was falling into a mild depression — life just didn’t feel the same to me anymore. For example, I could rationally and objectively tell when it was a beautiful summer day outside, but I didn’t feel the beauty. I wasn’t connected to it in the way I’d always been when it came to the outdoors. This, coupled with the impending Fall semester and my return to the classroom, pushed me to the point of seeing a psychiatrist.

I am now doing meditation and medication, and this blog might be taking a different direction than I had originally intended, but I’d like to begin documenting that now altered (chemically) spiritual journey. I still have many mixed feelings about the medication part of my life, and I want to explore through writing how the two mesh (or don’t).

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After a long period of spent in bed, not meditating, overcoming mono, I am returning both to meditation and to this blog.

For the moment, I just need to post this insane ad that I saw on Facebook just now:

Meditate like a Zen monk literally at the touch of a button. Its true. This is meditation on steroids. Guaranteed.
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“Meditation on steroids”? Who wrote this? The absurdity was too much for me. I had to share it. Meanwhile, the accompanying picture was of a women dressed in pale pastel yoga clothes, sitting crosslegged, and apparently meditating, which is what I’m going to do right now. Minus the steroids of course….

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I stopped meditating for a period of almost three weeks; hence the lack of blog entries. It wasn’t good. I lost myself. I let my emotions run me.

I started again yesterday — committing myself *again* to daily meditation. Day number two today, and I can say that it has been quite a struggle, but that is understandable.

I don’t know a lot about meditation, but I’ve learned enough to know that when a person starts meditating (and I suppose this also applies when a person starts meditating *again*), the number of thoughts that arise are abundant and frequent. I know also to be kind to myself (but this part is much more difficult than the realization that the arising of thoughts is the norm). I’ve experienced much anxiety and have done much obsessive planning while on the bench.

Still, at least I’ve done it. I’ve focused on more breaths than I would have if I hadn’t sat there at all. And I’m slowly rebuilding and reconnecting with the discipline and awareness involved in meditation (and that is necessary in life).

I received a zen alarm clock for christmas from my parents. I’m using it primarily as a meditation timer, as my partner tends to be my alarm clock. That change is also talking some getting accustomed to (it’s very different than programming the time on the microwave). My mother’s close friend nearly spit out her coffee when she heard the term “zen alarm clock.” She thought it sure sounds like an oxymoron, which it does. Now every time I hear it chime I picture her choking with laughter on her coffee!

Besides the ringing of zen chimes, we have just rung in the New Year! I have many resolutions this year, but they can kind of all be summed up with the word “balance.”

In particular, I want to try to keep my work life and personal life/down time very separate this year. I am rarely able to keep those boundaries, because my work as a teacher can easily be a 24-7 occupation. (Certainly it is one of the main thoughts that occupies my meditating mind). In the evenings when I sit down in the living room with my partner to relax and unwind and move toward bed, I tend to run and grab my laptop for that last e-mail check. I don’t want to do that this year. I want to create more distinct and clear boundaries — the goal being that when I am not working, I don’t still feel like I’m working and/or I don’t feel the guilt that always accompanies the not working moments of my life.

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