Monday, February 21, 2011

Facebook, Please Stop Making Me Feel Like Poop

Facebook can drive me up the wall. Of course I use it and have no plans to stop. But here’s the thing. Sometimes I can’t keep myself from looking through the “people you may know” list. That list contains tons of information about people and places I totally forgot – some of which I kind of wish had stayed forgotten. Like seeing the names of the 3 girls who bullied me through middle-school and who single-handedly led the “cool kids” charge to attack me and drive me home crying every day for over a year. No Facebook, I really don’t want to “friend” them, thanks. Sorry if that makes me immature. The girl who brought the guy I went on a few dates with to beach week to stay at the house where I was – which is how I found out, incidentally, that he wasn’t into me. I’m sure you’re a much nicer person now, but I just really don’t care to find out. And the girl who I am still pretty sure slept with a boyfriend of mine while we were still dating – not to mention the ex-boyfriend himself. Yes, this is the stuff Facebook dregs up from my far off past and wants to reacquaint me with. And then I have to have this little conversation with myself. “Why are you upset at all? I mean, that was AGES ago! And you have a great family now, so its good that all that happened to get you here, right? You should rise above, don’t let it bother you. You’re more mature than that.” And yet I still feel icky for a bit afterward. Seeing some of these names takes me right back to whatever age and emotional place I was in all those years ago – and I still want to kick them in the shins.

So despite all this, there are still people who I’ve friended who fall into this list of those who have done not so nice things to me. And when I see a status pop up for them, it STILL triggers some kind of icky feeling, even if it’s tiny. So I finally just did it. I purged my friend list. And it felt GREAT.

So onto my next Facebook issue. I know a lot of people who use Facebook in a way that works well for me – posting what they’re up to, funny things that happened, etc . But I know a bunch of people who seem to use it only as a way to force a clearly pre-thought out image to the world. I shouldn’t judge, I know. Like most people, I pause and think about what I post and wonder how it will be interpreted. “Is this funny enough?” or “Do I really want people to know that I did that/ate that/said that/etc.”? or “Do I want the people from my gym/office wherever to know that I just ate a whole cake/complained about that aspect of work, etc.?” Yes, we all do some bit of editing – it’s natural and inevitable. But it does seem like some feeds are more wholly aimed at being a resume to let me know how great and cool someone is. Again, I hate that sound so judgmental here – I mean, I’m writing a blog that is all about me and totally selfish, so who am I to talk? But I’m kind of tired of those posts that seem to have a “here’s something great I did that you didn’t” tone, or “this post shows what an expert at food/wine/music/whatever I am”. Even if you are, there is a way to write it that doesn’t rub people’s face in it, isn’t there? I’ll preemptively say that yes, I’m sure that a psychologist would have a field day with me on this. My own psyche and list of inadequacies probably imposes a lot of emotion on top of these types of things. But moving on.

So I can’t figure out how to handle those feeds. People are legitimate in writing about things they did/like/whatever. They aren’t people I’ve had a problem with generally speaking, and some of their posts give me great info/links/etc . But I wish there was a way for Facebook to “learn” about the kind of posts that I describe above and leave them out of my feed. I already know that I’m pretty much a big dork, and I really don’t need other people’s posts to tell me that they are way cooler.

So Facebook, I love you, but sheesh. Can’t you only surface up things that make me feel good? Give those IBM guys who built Watson a call. Maybe they can help out.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh, Universe.

What a crazy couple of weeks. Do you ever have those periods of time where you can tell that you’re going through some serious stuff, but you can’t really explain it or define it? Like there is something fundamental going on on an emotional level, a paradigm shift of sorts. You know it’s big, but you also know not to question it too much or try to define it until you get thru it and have some more perspective. So I’m in that now. I know it’s a good thing, but I feel keyed up, like my nervous system has been put on high gear. My sleep patterns seem to be changing, my emotions are all over the map from one second to the next. And yet, there’s a kind of relief and joy in all this – though its sitting side by side with fear and confusion.

Seems like a good time to get back to learning more about meditation and such. Once again I was talking to a friend of mine who has recently been exploring meditation – the one who told me about the class I wanted to take . Each week during the session they’d leave with little assignments and guidance to work on their practice. One night this week she was showing me the “homework” and it said that during the week, in a moment when you’re particularly anxious or stressed, do this. First, pause. Then ask yourself these 2 questions:
1. What am I thinking right now?
2. Is it true?

This didn’t really resonate for me during our conversation, but that night I went home after an extremely stressful day. One of the greatest things I enjoy in life is a hot bath, and I had been looking forward to it desperately. I got the water running and started getting ready. After awhile I notice the bath doesn’t seem to be filling properly. Turns out the stopper is not going down – and I can’t get it work. The water had run so long there was no more hot water even if I had been able to fix it. I could literally feel my blood pressure going up, my frustration rising. After this crazy day, all I wanted was a stupid bath and even that isn’t working. I started to spiral out in my head a bit but then remembered the questions.

So I paused.

I asked what I was thinking right them (“the universe is conspiring against me completely.”)

I asked if this was true (Pause. Sigh. “fine, no, the universe probably isn’t devoting its energy to interrupting my bath plans.”)

And amazingly, it worked! In less than minute I felt physically calmer, and certainly had a better perspective. Instead of a bath I had a cup of tea and relaxed with a book. I can already see many situations a day where this quick practice will probably be helpful – I know I’m certainly going to try it out. I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. As I was trying to post this my computer froze up and I had to do a hard restart. Ironic, as again I felt myself starting to tense up and getting seriously annoyed. Still calming down, but the questions worked again! No, my computer isn't trying to make me insane, nor is the universe again dedicating itself to screwing with me. (Though its disappointing to realize I'm not as important as I think I am.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Sands of Time

A friend of mine and I were talking about meditation the other day. There’s a place in town that was giving a 5 week seminar, kind of a “meditation 101” series. I got really excited – I could use skills to help me calm my mind, center myself, and just relax. So I looked up the times for the 5 week session each Monday night. I figured that if I dropped off my son Monday mornings so my husband could trade off to pick him up, then I could run home, pack a change of clothes, get changed to be at my 6pm workout, bring some food with me to eat in the car, quickly switch into less sweaty clothes, and then be at the meditation class.

I like to think I’m fairly intelligent, but it took me awhile to see the irony.

Needless to say, I’m not doing this session. BUT, I would like to figure out how to work some mindful meditation into my life. The few times I’ve attempted it I sit there trying to focus on my breath. Then my nose itches. I try to ignore it. It gets worse. I move and scratch. Then resume the position. Then my hand is itchy. And my mind starts wandering. And after what feels like eternity I look up to see that about 2 minutes have gone by.

I guess it just takes practice, and it’s something I should commit to. It got me thinking about all the things I read about, or friends tell me about that are good and healthy and great daily practices. I’ll read about how you should do “x” once a day – and it only takes a few minutes, so it’s easy to make time for it! OK – except there are tons of those “x” items that I “should” do to improve the quality of my life and that of my family. I couldn’t resist doing the math.
  • 8 hours of sleep (recommended –and for me needed!)
  • 9 hours work (7-8 in the office, more in the evenings at home – that’s the nature of my work)
  • 1 hour a day commuting/school pickup & dropoff and such
  • 1 hour in the morning getting myself and family ready, fixing a healthy breakfast, packing lunches
  • 1 hour in the evening cooking a healthy family meal, cleaning up, etc.
  • 30 minutes getting ready for bed
  • 1 hour exercising (including the to and from) – not all days, but 3 days a week on weekdays
  • 1 hour quality kiddo time – playing, reading, whatever
So that’s already 22 hours a day without factoring in all the things that happen that take up more time in random ways (traffic on the way home, stops at the store, calling mom, chatting with my husband, visiting with a friend, etc.). It’s kind of exhausting just writing it all down.

If I start to try to think about all the other things I could do that take just a few minutes a day, I clearly need to be pretty selective about what those are because I just don’t have the time. Gardening in the summer – just needs a few minutes of tending to a day. Meditation – just 15 minutes a day. I like to read and to write too – that’s important to me. And for me there is a lot of value in just doing nothing. Or just laying on the couch with my husband catching up.

So for now – no more stuff. No more hobbies. No more things added to my list that I’ll run out of time for and then feel guilty about not doing. And now I’m heading into a hot bath with essential oils, a couple candles and a good book. Now THAT is a good use of my time!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Outside Looking In

You know, I’ve always felt like an outsider. I guess I mean that in any kind of large group, I’m never one of the “cool kids”. I’m talking about places I frequent, where I interact with the same people repeatedly. At work, at the gym, other groups I interact with – I’m not saying I don’t have friends. But inevitably, I feel like I’m outside of the central dynamic. Or there’s people who I admire and like and want to spend time with, but I can’t seem to break into the circle. And I honestly have no idea why or how I can bridge the gap.

A few questions come to mind. Is this in fact, the reality? Or is it just my perception of things? And does that even matter, if regardless of the truth I still FEEL outside of things? I have noticed that as I get older, I’m less bothered by it. When I was younger this feeling could destroy me, make me feel like I was worthless. Now, I’m not always sure I want to be in with some circles, though I might still eye them and even be a bit envious of the bond they share.

I also find myself wondering if the dynamics really ever change, and what they mean. In middle school, didn’t cliques primarily ban together to protect their own fragile self-image? And as adults, are we much different? I know that I surround myself with people whose company I not only enjoy, but who make me feel good and appreciated. Perhaps to those who sit slightly outside of my own social centers, I am part of that “in group” and they feel like outsiders. I think regardless, I’m learning to be less concerned with being accepted by everyone. There are some people who won’t like me, and there will be people I don’t like. Not because I’m bad, or they’re bad – but because we’re just too different. Or too much the same.

Anyway, though I’ve been feeling a little on the outside lately, tonight I spent an evening with some folks among whom I really feel easy and comfortable . And I’m grateful to have the warm embrace of close friends near at hand.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Back Intact

So after over 3 days with a migraine headache, I FINALLY woke up today without it!If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know that when you wake up and its gone, it is the most amazing feeling.I’ve nursed a bit of a “migraine hangover” I’ve had today, but hey, that is WAY preferable to the last few days.

Migraines are crazy.You feel like a total loser because you just “have a headache” – but one that completely stops you in your tracks.You hope that people understand what you mean, why you’re in bed, why you aren’t in the office, why you’re skipping workouts.Yes, it’s a headache.But one that involves having little midgets behind your eyeballs drilling into the back of them with mini-power tools. If you haven’t had one, consider yourself lucky. And when someone does cop out of something because of a migraine, know that they’re probably not exaggerating. I worked from home a couple days, having to take breaks from the computer screen so my eyeballs wouldn’t explode. Finally on Thursday I just shut totally down, put an icepack on my head, eye cover over my eyes, dosed myself on pain medication and checked out. It was miserable.

So the aftermath of a migraine usually involves looking back to figure out what the trigger was.There can be so many things converging that its sometimes futile. The cause or causes can range from stress to hormones to foods to caffeine and so on. Looking back this time, I did have to face the fact that honestly, my stress level at work is pretty damn high right now. I think that comes primarily from being on call 24/7, so even when I’m not working, I’m never really not working. And that kind of sucks.

The plan, then? I have got to get approval to hire help, and get someone who can share the on-call job with me so that I can truly unplug here and there. We all need to, and we all should. Ideally, this can happen before the next migraine comes knocking on the door.