Meditation Distraction – Anything But Zen

***Originally posted on https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

unzen post - IG

Meditation is a beautiful way to rediscover the zen within for a great many people (and sometimes, that group includes me, too). I listen to soft music as soothing wisdom reminds me to find the stillness within. To let the noise float away as I recenter myself. I seek to allow the calm to quiet my thoughts as the divine inspiration reveals my purpose. And at times, that is precisely what happens.

But at other times… not so much.

My mind spirals out of control via a tangled web of critical questions like…

Why do people often say, “Can I just ask you a question?”

Well, you just did. Furthermore you didn’t even give me a chance to decide my thoughts on the whole question matter before you went there. I’m not sure if I’m more annoyed with the violation of the premise or the mathematical inaccuracy of the initial inquiry. However I do know that is definitely is not worthy of violating my mental meditation space.

I also sometimes get caught up on other important issues like the confusing wording in the song ‘Bust a Move” by Young MC. It’s an oldie but a serious goodie. With that said, I have struggled for years with these lyrics:

“…Your best friend Harry has a brother Larry.
In five days from now he’s gonna marry.
He’s hopin’ you can make it there if you can
Cause in the ceremony you’ll be the best man…”

Why in the world are you the best man at Larry’s wedding? Shouldn’t Harry be the best man given that he is Larry’s brother? It’s probably just a wording issue, but what if Harry also misunderstands and suddenly the wedding is left best-manless or, even worse, with a battle of the best men??? Weddings are stressful enough. The last thing you need is a best man brawl! Hopefully the hot bridesmaid will be enough of a distraction to keep the ceremony on track, but I still feel like the less Young than he once was MC should think about the situation he could be causing with this linguistic complication.

Yes folks. Clearly these are mental cogitations of an intellectual giant.

Seriously. Why does this crapfest of irrelevant contemplations bust a move straight into my noggin at the most ridiculous of times or when I am trying my hardest to be chill? ***Please note that I do recognize that the words “trying my hardest” and “to be chill” ideally should never be paired together and thus give a significant hint regarding the real issue at hand.

Alas some days are just this way. Erratic thinking, distractions galore, endless diversions from the task at hand, and an overall feeling of being out of focus. And given that the last couple of days have been rife with those moments, you are now getting this post, my not-so-subtle effort to weed out some of the noise in my mind. Hopefully I will find myself a little more on track come tomorrow, but be warned. If the next post begins with something pertaining to sporks (the cutlery bane of my existence), you can feel certain that this attempt at written therapy was less than effective.

Fingers and toes, knives and forks crossed for calmer days to come.

Hugs to all.  Jo

***Originally posted on https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

Life in the Spectrum – Feeling Lost – Destination Unknown

***Originally posted on https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

balloon - IG

I have serious trust issues. If I am going somewhere with other people, I insist on driving my own car. I struggle with surprises of any kind unless I am on the planning side of the equation. I share my deepest hurts with a very select group of people. And I am most comfortable when I can keep the majority of the world at arm’s length (or ideally much more) despite my surface smile and boisterous laughter. I have been this way for as long as I can remember, and frankly, I’m comfortable with those boundaries.

The problem that I face is that my trust issues have a terrible tendency of extending to my comfort with the unknown plans of the Universe. Although I feel an extreme aversion to pushing my faith on others (unless you share my bed or carry 50% of my genes and then you are going to get an earful regularly), I don’t question the existence of God (Holy Trinity / Divine Spirit / Universe / Higher Power / Your Preferred Term Here). Divine plans have consistently blown my own ideas out of the water despite my incessant trepidation, and I have always been cared for even in the darkest of times. I know that there is no need to worry about what will happen in my life.

Yet I do worry. Constantly.

I question what will happen next. What move I should make. What plans I should follow. What direction I should go.

I constantly seek control of this spiritual experience we refer to as being human. A huge part of me recognizes the ironic humor in my futile attempts to control the uncontrollable while the other part fails to recognize the joke. I may aim my ship in one direction or another, yet I will never have any control over the wind that will carry me forward.

Nevertheless, I will find solid ground. Even though I might not be able to read the map of my future, I will be given direction. There is a path for me even though I can’t perceive it at this point in my journey. I have a purpose. A big important and wonderfully special purpose. We all do.

The Universe’s plan for us is not dependent on our willingness to trust that it’s there. However, it sure would make the trip more fun if we could remember to always enjoy the ride, to never forget to take in the scenery, and to be aware of appreciating the smallest of beautiful moments along the way.

Though we may feel like we are hopelessly adrift, we are never lost. We are on the path during each day that we live, and every moment is a new destination waiting to be recognized and adored. You are already where you are supposed to be, and so am I.

Perhaps instead of asking ourselves what our lives will be like once we get to wherever we are going, we need to ask ourselves what we want our lives to be like at this point in the journey right now. The moment is here.

So what’s your next move? What should you be celebrating in your life and in your spirit right now?

Hugs and hope, love and light always.  Jo

The Storms That We Endure Shape Our Beauty and Strengthen Us

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

la jolla - IG

We judge ourselves with the harshest of filters when we are struggling within. We often feel like we are battered by our situations and our emotions. In those times of severe self-critical examination, we fail to notice the beautiful revelations in those moments. We can’t see that the storms that we are enduring will never define us yet they will give us definition.

Our cracked facade is never a sign of our being hopelessly broken but rather proof of our indomitable strength. The perceived faults are our true beauty and the scars are evidence of the roads upon which we have traversed and triumphed. Our lives are miraculous wonders and our stories are anything but happenstance.

Celebrate the rough patches. The sharp edges. The broken corners. The rugged beauty of our human existence is a true wonder to behold.

Don’t ever let the wind or water take you down. You can survive any storm that heads your way, and your being able to read these words proves how far you have already come.

Never give up, never give in, and always always always keep going. You have important things to do, and it’s time to let your true beauty shine.

Much love to you all.  Jo

Life in the Spectrum – Nature Photography vs. Travel Anxiety

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

black skimmer - IG

It’s no secret that I don’t do well when I have to travel solo. Despite my issues, my company is located out of state, so solo travel lands on my calendar multiple times a year. In order to redirect my nervous energy this past week, I opted for a series of random after workday adventures. A couple of those days included the coolest of activities. Happy hour? Chillin’ with my team at the bars? Dancing the night away?

snowy egret seafood - IG with logoOooooh nooooo. Think cooler. Much much cooler. That’s right.

Nature. Photography.

Aaaaaah yes. Haters gonna hate, but I couldn’t stop the unmitigated badassness that came with lugging around a lens so ridiculous that it made my forearms ache to hold it. As an added bonus, I was able to respond to inquiries from curious passersby who repeatedly asked, “Do you get incredible photos with that camera?” with my sly response of “It’s a hit and miss given that my limited camera knowledge is derived from the patient people at Canon customer support and Google.”

landing - IG

I told you. Mad. Skills. My anxiety faded away as my native nerdiness returned to the forefront. But it made me happy, and it did calm me down. I send heartfelt thank yous to the many California locals who suggested several beautiful places for capturing lovely nature shots and to those who pointed me in the right direction once I arrived.

seal in la jolla - IGKindness is so very powerful. We often don’t realize that the people around us are struggling deeply, and the smallest of benevolent gestures can mean more than we could ever know.

As is the norm, I actually had a wonderful week. Despite a few questionable moments (to be discussed later), I survived relatively unscathed. And now I’m home once more. Back to Texas. Back to my people.

Back to me.

osprey - IG

Big hugs to you all!  Jo

*My instagram ID is @texasbirdnerd for any other nature photo nerds. Find me so I can see your pics, too. Those always make me smile.  🙂

acorn woodpeckers - IG

***I would love to know what you do to take down the stress level when you are feeling overwhelmed. Feel free to tag your relevant posts in the comments, but keep in mind that this is a family show. Please keep it G / PG rated. Sorry, but I don’t need to read any of your PG-13 and above ideas.  😉

Life in the Spectrum – Travel Anxiety Overload – Don’t Panic

***Originally posted on https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

I could be scheduled for a flight to the moon, and I would be happy as a clam as long as my family was by my side. But the moment I have to take a trip by myself, I’m basically purchasing a first class ticket to Crazyville (because one should never book economy class when flying into insanity).

I blame my kids. I was normal before they came along. Clarification – I was normal-ish specifically with regard to travel (but absolutely nothing else at all). The moment the mini-Jos appeared – boom – separation anxiety mania. Again with the clarification – my separation anxiety, not theirs. My children are annoyingly chill when I’m away. Although my husband vehemently denies it, I firmly believe that he intravenously supplements their diets with a chocolate drip while I’m away. (Lucky kids.) There is also a strong possibility that’s he’s just an amazing father. (Lucky all of us.)

But I have no chocolate I.V. and am therefore significantly less copacetic about the situation. I just worry about… (insert any random / statistically improbable / impossible occurrence that your brain can conjur here). Burglaries (I can walk to the police station from my house), plane crash (stats don’t support that), car crash (my being there won’t change those stats), pool accidents (we have no pool), illness (and on the 8th day God created pediatricians), flash hurricanes preventing me from returning home (yeah so that’s not a thing in the Gulf of Mexico but there was a tropical storm that actually did appear overnight in Houston several years ago – Tropical Storm Allison – huge mess!), or alien invasions (of the off planet kind that will probably necessitate a space wall courtesy of our new space army).

And then there’s the whole general social anxiety thing. I fake it damn well, but I am actually completely overwhelmed when I am out of my personal zone and away from my people. The littlest thing will send me into an internal panic, and I become particularly nervous when I have to go into the office for the first time in months. As an embarrassing example, I typically try to fly in the evening before I need to be there because I dread having a ton of faces turn my way when I walk onto the work floor unexpectedly mid workday. I feel like Norm in that old show “Cheers” when everyone greets me except I have zero comfort with finding myself in the spotlight and wish that I could do a sneaky army crawl and pop up unnoticed behind my computer screens. But even that spotlight doesn’t hold a candle to the discomfort I feel with regard to the hug gauntlet I must traverse if I’m not there before most of the team arrives.

There are ten thousand people en route to my desk (give or take about ten thousand people), and I feel obligated to hug them all. It started years ago with a small group of people and has since grown to comical proportions as the team has become very large. Ironically I actually am a total hugger and genuinely love my team members, so it’s not the actual hug part of the show that unnerves me. I just have no interest in perfunctory hugs for the whole work floor and get seriously weirded out when I feel like everyone is watching (which in reality is not actually happening). In addition I am acutely aware that some people don’t like to be hugged ever but then they will look weird, too, if they don’t join in on the team lovin’ so bring it on in here big guy! Eck.

As I have made it to town already, I should be there early enough to evade the excessive team P.D.A. lovefest. There will be a hug here and there, but I will be able to skip out on the over-thinking of my emotions and whatever additional emotional story I create in my mind for the non-huggers. Crisis aversion TBA.

The world will keep spinning. It will be fine. I will be fine. And so will my kids and my husband. We always are.

Hugs to all! Jo

**I will update you on my wacky Jo work trip tales because they always happen regardless of my plans to the contrary. They work out every time, but I never seem to have bland travels. If you have any funny travel tales of your own, I would love to read them. Feel free to tag me and post a link to it the comments on https://lifeinthespectrum.com/. 🙂

Life in the Spectrum – Breaking the Silence About Mental Health Struggles

***Originally posted on Life in the Spectrum.

I keep quiet about the pain because if I reveal the truth, people will judge me. I fear the stigma that will exist once someone sees the me – the real me. I don’t want other people to view me differently, to recognize how dark my shadows can run, to know how lost and alone I often feel. I say I’m fine when I’m not, and I put on the smile. But behind the mask of happiness that I wear on the surface, I have spent years struggling with mental health challenges.

The irony of this whole charade is that I now know that countless people around me and around all of us are just pretending that they are okay, too, even when they are clawing to just hold on. Every single time that I write about depression, multiple individuals post comments or send me messages telling me how they feel the same way but don’t talk about it.

We stay silent in an effort to maintain a facade that allows us to assimilate with society. We want to blend into a world full of people, but those same people are playing that “fake it till you make it” game, too. I’m not suggesting that you display every colorful detail of your life for all to see. More to the point – don’t do that. Big time no to that. Your whole story should not be the world’s business. But you should be able to be honest with people whom you trust. You need a genuine support network, and I guarantee you that they need you more than they are saying, too.

I don’t typically delve into my personal experiences with depression, anxiety, or OCD nor do I discuss my sadness regarding people who lose their lives to suicide or my own survival stories. The nightmare stories of my personal mental health challenges aren’t conversations I would ever have at work nor would I bring those topics up casually or at random with anyone else. I am selective about my audience for those kinds of discussions. Admittedly in this moment my selective audience consists of the entire internet, but the odds are high that you can relate to my words if you are still reading. In truth, the odds are high that almost everyone can relate.

Life can be a seriously rough ride at times, and we don’t always know how to react or even how to feel. We don’t receive a “How to be a Human the Right Way” when we are born, but we spend our lives trying to figure out what that even means. There’s no set answer, life is not black and white, and every person you know has struggled with mental health in one form or another at some point in his or her life.

We need to accept that it is okay to not be okay all the time. We can’t keep pretending like nothing is wrong when we need help. We have to speak up, and we need to be honest with each other. The day you reveal your struggles to others is the day that you will discover that you are anything but alone in this.

So even though I do fear the stigma, the judgement, and the misunderstandings, I know that I can’t live my life hiding the person I really am – good or bad, dark or light. I fall down, but I get back up, too. I sometimes feel like I’m drowning, but I know that I will find my way back to the surface again. My lowest points have been the most revealing moments in my life, and while I would not wish those experiences on anyone else, I wouldn’t eradicate them from my personal history either.

Own all parts of your journey. Learn from the falls whenever you find your way back to your feet once more. Search for the meaning in the madness and the calm in the storm. Discover that brave voice within you, and speak up when you can. And if you can’t find a safe place to speak your truth, I’m always happy to listen. Others have been lighthouses to me in my darkest times. I would love to be yours in return.

Much love to you. Jo

***Before you even ask, I promise you that I really am all good. Like everyone else, I go through waves of feeling like I’m crashing and burning, but I’m not in that place now. Nevertheless I have been there more times than I can count. When we feel that way, we need to find the courage to seek help. Figure out who you want in your inner circle and let those people into your world – all of it. You will be surprised once you learn how many others are struggling in silence as well. You need them, but they need you, too. Be brave and speak up. Always.

https://lifeinthespectrum.com/2018/06/30/breaking-the-silence-about-mental-health-struggles/.

Life in the Spectrum – Depression is Not Black and White

Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

chickadee - soft (greys)

The use of black and white filters can be striking in the world of photography, but in the world of depression, black and white is nowhere to be found. Everything is shaded with countless shades of grey. I have spent decades attempting to figure out the right way to handle this or respond to that. Hoping to learn how to be more likable and more normal. Searching for a better approach to maintaining fulfilling relationships. Trying desperately to just be okay.

However it isn’t that cut and dry. Life is unpredictable and has a fierce habit of jerking the emotional rug out from under us when we least expect it. And when that happens, we hit the ground. Hard.

For someone with depression, an emotional takedown can be utterly debilitating. Maybe your energy drains to nonexistence and you find yourself unable to move or leave your bed. Perhaps you become enraged and begin to actively push away anyone who cares enough to try to offer support. Some people physically hurt themselves or try to anesthetize the pain away with alcohol or drugs. Others lose hope, give in to the pain and the lies their minds tell them, and give up altogether.

I genuinely understand the indescribable heaviness you feel when you are facing that dark night of the soul. I promise that I truly do. But I also know that no matter how dark it is in that moment – even if that moment feels like it has gone on and on – it does not stay like that. It always get better. Ironically it will go back to crappy again, too, but the good news is that the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth. As always, just remember to wait it out whenever that happens.

The truth is that this is how life goes for everyone. You don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the mental health diagnosis club to feel like an outsider, to believe that you are lost, or to be in a place of tremendous sadness or hurt.

We may focus on our weaknesses, but the heaviest of times often reveal our greatest strengths, too. If you can’t get out of bed today, that’s okay. The weight of that kind of emotional exhaustion can be suffocating, but the world will keep spinning for now. But get out of bed tomorrow.

If you are being offered genuine help from someone who loves and wants to be there for you, open the door instead of slamming it closed.

Avoid trying to mask to pain with alcohol or drugs. I get that it feels good in the moment, but those will tear you down on so many levels. The numbness won’t last, and you are left with a deeper emotional hole with every further attempt to hide from your life.

Open up to others in your life who will help you find your footing again, and seek professional help.

Above all, don’t ever give in to the pain, and don’t ever lose hope.

I don’t believe on any level that suicide is an indication of cowardice. Rather I see it as an act of absolute desperation and total confusion. People who take their lives become tremendously lost regarding what seems real versus what actually is real. They can recognize the absolute truth that every new day holds a promise of something better. Now I’ll admit that that doesn’t mean that the better whatever will come along today. But then again, it definitely could. If not, that greatly improves the odds for an even better tomorrow, so it makes practical sense to keep sticking around.

Although it might simplify our days, a world of black and white would be tedious and dull. We may perceive endless shades of grey in our lives, but we are also blessed with an endless array of other colors to brighten our days. Don’t forget to notice them in their innumerable forms, and don’t ever hide your own colors, your brilliance, or your beauty in an effort to blend in or be normal. You are so much better than normal, and you are so much more than mere black and white.

Much love to you always.  Jo

chickadee - soft (color)
Life is more beautiful with a splash of color.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: