The cabin is the one place in the world where we have given ourselves permission to do nothing at all. We each fall into our own rhythm there. Kelly loves to putter, and so for him the cabin is handyman heaven. He can easily spend the day fixing up this or that, interspersed with one or two (or three!) naps on the couch and a good session with his book or listening to CBC radio shows. I love to read and knit or sew, and can easily spend the entire day with a good book or handiwork project. In fact, I keep a special project mainly just for the lake. For the last two summers it was making the appliqué squares for Halia’s quilt. Before that I spent an entire summer knitting hats. This summer (and probably the next one or two summers as well!) will be spent on the appliquéd orange peel quilt.
So, speaking of the cabin, we spent the Easter long weekend there last week. The weather was spectacular. It was the first day that the sun was warm enough to sit out and enjoy it.
And, since the April We Be Learning Bee block was posted, I decided that that would be my weekend project. April is Jody’s month, and she requested a scrap basket wonky log cabin. So I grabbed my scrap bag and took it with me. I decided that I would make this modern wonky block in a very traditional fashion – hand pieced! So I sat out in the sun and sewed one strip onto the next with needle and thread. I even put my antique iron on the wood stove and used it to press the seams. That was very cool. My stitches are neither the smallest nor the straightest ever made, but I think the square will be sturdy enough. At least, I hope so.
I read two books at the lake as well: Round Robin and then The Runaway Quilt, both by Jennifer Chiaverini. The Runaway Quilt is what inspired me to try piecing the wonky log cabin square by hand. I need to go back to the library and see if they have any other books in the series, as it’s a good one!
We had the telescopes with us, and got in some good viewing of a pretty active solar corona as well as sun spots with the solar scope. Here he is – what a beautiful day!
And he also got three clear nights in a row stargazing with his TeleVue. Sorry, I don’t have a picture of that since it was night and I’d be in more trouble than I can imagine if I snapped the flash at him!
Every one loves coming to the cabin. There’s Spooky in her favourite place…the middle of the bed.
Here’s Misty in her favourite place. Can you see her hiding there?
I think Samson loves the sun more than the rest of us.
When we got home on Monday, I finished a half-triangle square that I had started last week. I’ll need more than the 12 that we’ll be making in the In Color Order half-triangle squares BOM, so when I saw this pattern, I thought I would add it to the collection.
An amazing thing happened while walking Sammy this morning. I set out to walk our usual 5km route, which takes about an hour when you factor in the P-mail and canine message board checking along the way. It was a beautiful morning, not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind, and a deliciously crunchy minus 6 degrees. But I was feeling the slight edges of “broken-ness” creeping into my day. I don’t know why. I could just feel it encroaching – my balance beam was narrow this morning. Recognizing the signs and determined to turn it around, I grabbed the leash, put on my gear and out we went. I tried to puzzle out the why & how as we walked along, but the feeling only got worse. Finally I gave up and mentally called on my balance checklist for help. “What have I done on my checklist today”, I asked myself? Well, I haven’t done anything for the house. I haven’t taken my supplements. I haven’t taken a bath. I haven’t told my husband how I am feeling…wait, wait! Stop!
Let me try that again (standing in the middle of Falcon Street.)
“What have I done on my checklist today?” I asked myself. “I did something creative (I spent about an hour working out a new square for Nora’s quilt), I had a piece of fruit (a healthy food choice) for breakfast, I communicated with someone (made an inquiry about a depression skills workshop that was recommended for me called Changeways). I am getting some exercise. I recognized my beam was narrow and took action by going out for a walk in the fresh air and sunshine. I reframed negative thoughts.
Much better! Okay, now I will continue my story!
An amazing thing happened while walking Sammy this morning. Instead of walking our usual route, we turned left part way along and explored some new streets. There is only one reason that this is amazing. And that reason is…time. Usually when I go for a walk, it is for a pre-determined amount of time or distance. I will walk 5K, for example, or for 30 minutes.
Why? Because, like most people, I always have something else to do, and going for a walk has to fit around everything else. For example, I can only walk the dog for 20 minutes and then I have to make dinner because we have band practice right after that. Or, I can only walk the dog for 30 minutes in the morning, and then I must be home to get ready to go to work. Or, I cannot walk the dog at all because I just got home from work and I am hungry, and after dinner I cannot walk the dog because I have to leave to teach a class. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons that determine how long I can walk for. It is true that I have to be home in time to make dinner because one or both of us have band practice/dance class/ground school/pool league as soon as dinner is over. Because of that, I have created an artificial need to put boundaries around the amount of time I can give/spare for taking a walk, even if (as happened today) there is no reason.
“I can only walk the dog for an hour and then I must go home and… and… finish the quilt square?” (Really? Is that the best you can come up with, Nita?)
The amazing thing is that for the first time, I realized that I did not have to be home at any time in particular, for any reason in particular. I could just walk. And so I did. We turned left and explored a whole new neighbourhood. As we walked along, my mind wandered and wandered. How luxurious!
I realized how tightly I hold control over time, how everything has always been so scheduled in my life in order to fit it all in. For all of these 5 weeks that I have been away from work, I have walked the dog almost every single day. For only 30 minutes. For only 60 minutes. For only 5K. Only because of that artificially self-imposed sense of urgency around not having enough time. How glad I am that after (only!) 5 weeks it has finally clicked into place for me! And oh, how I enjoyed that walk! In fact, as we were walking down one particularly lovely street, we passed a house that had the most beautiful quilt airing over the railing. I stopped and admired it for the longest time. It was a hearts & checkerboard pattern in red prints on a white background. I had the biggest smile on my face and felt utterly delighted at discovering this treasure. It seemed to be waiting just for me to walk past. It was A Sign of Good Things to Come.
Walking for pure pleasure is definitely going to the top of my priority list (as soon as I find time to make one – just kidding!)
Anyway, I feel like things finally have the potential to start coming together for me. Like I am standing right on the edge of something truly awesome and immense and GOOD. Today, walking along, I had the sense that I will be whole again, that I am well on the road to getting there. Like bones slowly knitting together, it all takes time and I don’t really have any control over that, it just is what it is and that’s okay.
I feel sorry that I am returning to work next Monday, because the luxury of having the time to embark on this (very slow) journey of discovery and healing will be over. I’m a bit worried about that.
Here is an example of only one small thing that I am afraid will happen: I will find myself saying, “I can only walk for 30 minutes and then I have to make a quilt square.” When that happens, both the joy of the walk and the joy of sewing both become chores.
Forewarned is forearmed, so let me see if I can reframe that into a positive:
“With all of my evening obligations currently off of my plate, I will have the evening after work (and after supper) to take a walk or do something creative such as writing a new blog post or sewing.”
I would like my next task to be getting rid of that mindless urgency and guilt around time and never having enough of it. I can give myself permission to do only one thing each evening and let the rest go where it will.
I went out to a pub on St. Patrick’s Day. A friend was providing the live entertainment for the evening with his guitar and a fun selection of Irish songs. I went with three friends and met up with other friends once we got there. The place was packed. I was really enjoying myself. It was nice to get out of the house, socialize, have a glass (or two) of wine, listen to good music. You know, all that normal stuff people do when they get together. I felt happy and relaxed. Then I noticed that there were an awful lot of people there from my workplace, sprinkled throughout the crowd. My supervisor was there. An HR person was there. I started to feel uncomfortable, and I wondered if they were thinking, “Hey, she’s on sick leave but she sure doesn’t look sick.” It started to bother me. Were they judging me? Did they think I was lying? Should I not be laughing? Should I not be drinking wine and having fun? Should I not be there at all? I had been so pleased to be invited, but maybe I should not have come.
But then I recognized these thoughts for what they were: negative, broken thoughts. And I know what to do about those. Reframe, reframe, reframe. Turn that frown upside down.
First of all, the people from my workplace were also there to listen to the music, socialize and have fun. They weren’t thinking about me at all, and if they were, they shouldn’t have been. And, if they did wonder about me being there while on sick leave, what did they actually see? They saw a person on the road to good health, actively working on recovery. Hopefully they would have been pleased to see me out and about as opposed to sitting at home, alone.
That’s the trouble with your brain being sick as opposed to your visible body – or any illness that doesn’t show. People do judge. Of course they do, it’s human nature. So in addition to dealing with your invisible illness (whatever it may be), you also have to deal with the crazy-making comments and judgemental looks that come your way from people who don’t know what’s going on. And of course you have to deal with your own perceptions, assumptions and self-judgement, too. You have to develop a surety of self at a time when you are least able to do so. That’s part of what makes you stronger. You heal stronger because you are forced to develop (or re-learn) a healthy sense of self-awareness and self-confidence as part of the healing process. You learn to re-frame the negative.
I saw a quote on Facebook today, taken from “The Four Agreements” by M. Dasek-Larcher: Always do you best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.
Its important to remember that phrase: “your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.”
On broken days, I have my balance checklist to keep me on track. On broken days, I am doing my best by following that simple plan and checking a few things off of the list. Even if it is one thing, it is doing my best, and I cannot judge myself poorly for that. As I recover and regain my health, energy and vitality, doing my best may be going out to the pub with my friends. Or having a busy day like I did on Sunday, baking a batch of muffins, helping my kids unpack their new house and then taking them out for dinner.
Under any circumstance, simply do your best and give yourself credit for it. Isn’t that what balance is all about?
I woke up feeling panicky and anxious today. I’ve learned to accept that this is not stupidity or weakness. There is always a reason for the panic, I just have to sit for a minute and figure it out. It usually isn’t a world-shaking reason. It’s usually something that might seem quite trivial to someone else, which is why I had been calling it stupid. But really, and obviously, it isn’t stupid or trivial because it throws me off balance and affects me physically.
I think of it as walking a balance beam, which is something that we all navigate throughout our lives. When I am not ill, my balance beam is very wide. When I am not ill, I’m a natural multi-tasker who thrives in a busy environment and always has lots of things on her plate and on the go at the same time. My balance beam is generally very wide and I can walk around on it from side to side without fear of falling off.
Everyone walks this balance beam, and everyone’s beam is a different width. Sometimes stress builds up and the balance beam gets narrower. We don’t have the latitude to walk around from side to side. We have to walk carefully to keep our balance. We have to work harder to juggle everything in our lives. Sometimes, we have to take things off our plate in order to deal with the stresses (whatever they may be) until our balance beam gets wider again and we can navigate safely. We all do this.
Depression narrows the beam until you are literally teetering on it. Flailing arms and grim determination is all that keeps you from falling off. When it gets really bad, the beam disappears altogether and you do fall off. However, when you start to recover, the beam gets a little wider and after awile you find that you can stand on it without constantly windmilling your arms. Eventually you can take a step forward. Sometimes a little stress will blow you off balance and you find yourself flailing as the beam turns into a tightrope again.
In the beginning of recovery this happenes several times a day. Then only once or twice a day. Then you notice you had an entire good day. And then several great days in a row. And then wham! you’re flailing agian. It doesn’t take much to overwhelm you ME.
So why did I wake up this morning to a broken day after two full days of feeling relatively normal? Friday and Saturday were great days. Energy filled, productive, happy days. What happened to narrow my balance beam and cause this panic and anxiety today? Are you ready? Here it is: the time change. The clocks sprang ahead last night. I got up at 8am, but it wasn’t 8am, it was 9am. And now, as I write this, it isn’t 9:30, its 10:30. The negative thought in my head is that I don’t have time. That’s it. I don’t have enough time. This is the thought that has completely immobilized me this morning.
I recognize this morning that I have time issues. More blogging on that later!
When my balance beam gets this narrow, my strategy is to recognize, identify, and accept it. Then I take everything off my plate and go back to the basics. Early on, I made a plan to get me through these broken days. On a broken day, I check things off of this very simple list:
take a bath (for some reason, having a shower is overwhelming but a bath is do-able),
take my supplements,
get some exercise (which can be as simple as walking on the treadmill while watching a TV show or taking Sammy around the block, or as complicated as taking Sammy downtown to walk the river loop),
do one thing creative to use my brain (which can be as simple as playing scrabble on-line or as complicated as sewing something),
eat some fruit (healthy food = right eating)
do one thing for the house (which can be as simple as scooping the cat box or as complicated a cleaning the floors)
identify one thing I am proud of or like about myself (usually this is being able to identify the stressor – I am proud of my ability to do that)
connect with a friend or put myself out there in the world somehow (as simple as writing comments on Facebook or as complicated as writing an email to a friend or doing a blog post – attempting to initiate personal contact is not on the list on a broken day) or else go to town and be around people in general (grocery store, main street etc.),
tell my husband how I am feeling.
Having this plan automatically widens my balance beam. By the time I’ve checked off several things I will feel much better, stronger and happier. I am feeling lighter already. See? It works!
Yesterday was a discombobulated day. Don’t you just love that word? Dis-com-bob-u-lated. Ta da!
Anyway, I spent yesterday morning on the computer, updating the website and changing it all around, including deciding on a new name! My website URL is now nitadances.com!
And, you will notice that the blog is now the main page, with a tab to Celebrations Bellydance instead of the other way around. Later on I’ll add a gallery tab, too.
Now, I am not a computer-savvy person and so it took me all morning to do what my friend George could have done in 5 minutes. But that’s okay. I’m learning, and that’s a good thing! I’m sending great big thank you to George at Tutshi Web Solutions for changing the URL for me.
I’m very happy to have settled on a new name. And really, it’s the most obvious choice, isn’t it? Even if I am taking a break from dancing right now because of illness (and I stress the “illness” part, because it sure isn’t by choice!), there are many ways to dance through life and my job at the moment is to discover them.
Yesterday was also what I’ve been calling a “broken” day. Days where the depression is more overwhelming and getting through the day is more challenging. So working on the website was probably more frustrating than it might have otherwise been. After I had done as much as I could do at the computer, I sat down with the spectre of housework staring me in the face. The floors really needed to be vacuumed. I felt near to tears because suddenly I couldn’t do it. Why? Because in order to vacuum, I would have to take the machine out of the closet. Suddenly this felt like two things at once on a one-thing-at-a-time day. So what did I do? I had a cup of tea and then I did something that I didn’t HAVE to do. I made a quilt square!
Don’t ask me why, but doing something for pleasure first did the trick. (A “want” instead of a “should.”) After that, I took the vacuum out and did the floors and felt much better. I even took Samson out for a walk. So, I guess I danced my way through that one with a little creative mind-over-matter trickery. (and a phone call from a friend was also a happy thing). Take THAT, you nasty depression gremlin!