Archives for December, 2011


New Year’s ‘Micro-resolutions’ For the Anxious and Panicky

Are you overwhelmed at the thought of making a resolution for the new year?

In my last post, I wrote about how resolutions are best made whenever you feel motivated to follow through. This motivation may (or may not) occur in late December just before the new year. If you're not feeling motivated, I wrote, then don't put pressure on yourself to make a lofty resolution. Wait until the spirit of self-improvement strikes you in March. Or April. Or October.

But, even though the word "resolution" is heavy and tends to imply a difficult lifestyle change, we can lighten things up a bit with a simple prefix: micro.

Let's make some micro-resolutions, shall we? They're like teeny tiny resolutions. Like fun-sized candy or something.

Wait -- here's a better metaphor: if a full-blown resolution is a long blog post, then a micro-resolution is a 140-character tweet.

A micro-resolution, then, is a short and simple mini-goal. They're easier to achieve, and, en masse, a bunch of them can make up an entire standard-issue resolution.

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Not Making a Resolution This Year? Don’t Feel Bad About It

I won't lie: I've never followed through on a single New Year's resolution.

Despite having promised myself many times, I've never started exercising consistently. I've never followed up and joined a gym. I've never started reading more novels. I've never done this; I've never done that.

I guess I'm not one for resolutions. They're big. They're bulky. They're heavy. Even though "resolution" is an abstract concept, it carries weight. It carries mass.

And I get overwhelmed just thinking about the gravity of creating one.

Now, let me be clear: I've definitely dropped bad habits before. I've also picked up good habits. But it happened in July. And September. And March.

It happens when I'm truly motivated -- not in late December or early January when the calendar suggests I ought to be motivated.

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The Strange (and Promising) Beauty of the Winter Solstice

Today, here in Pennsylvania, the sun will shine for just nine hours, nineteen minutes, and fifty-seven seconds.
That's pitifully equivalent to the average workday, isn't it?

Think about it: today, office workers are stumbling into their cubicles at dawn and filing out at dusk, having missed the natural light of day entirely.

For lack of a better word, blah.

I can't help but compare all of this to June and the fifteen gracious hours of sunlight that she brings each day. Even if you spend ten hours holed up in a fluorescent-lit office building, five whole hours of daylight are yours for the taking after your shift! Not to mention that the air is warm! And the world is alive! And the trees are green! (And the exclamation points are plentiful!)

My name is Summer, and boy have I grown into that name over the years. (Thanks, Mom & Dad, for avoiding the trendy names back in '84 and instead picking something uncommon.)

Summertime is my natural habitat. It's when I'm in my element. It's when my mood aligns with nature and I feel like an integral part of a living, breathing, and growing ecosystem. No -- a living, breathing, and growing world. Warm weather, green grass, and sunlight make me feel whole. They connect me to the world at large in a numinous way.

Oh, the scent of the earth -- did you know it's called
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Letter to a First-Time Panic Attack Sufferer

Do you remember your very first panic attack? Was it years ago, or was it yesterday?

I definitely remember mine (even though it was years ago!). I was a college sophomore, living in a ivory-colored cell block of a dorm room. It was well past midnight on a weeknight and my roommate was fast asleep. Within just a few minutes of climbing into my extra-long bed and unplugging the Christmas lights that lit our room, I suddenly felt like I couldn't feel half of my body.

My heart started to race. I became flushed and lightheaded. It felt like adrenaline had flushed out my entire bloodstream.

I thought I was having a stroke.
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Fear of Power Lines: How I Turned Fear into Fascination (Part 2)

Earlier this week, I started sharing the story of how I spent a fair portion of my childhood trying to combat a phobia of power lines. After having daily nightmares about falling electrical lines and facing the task of walking to and from middle school every day, I started researching the what and the how of power lines.

I learned which lines carried electricity and which ones carried more innocuous signals, like telephone and cable.  After learning a few things about electricity and its transmission, I gained a small sense of control over the otherwise uncontrollable black wires strung above my head.

The more I researched, the more my fear transformed into fascination.

By high school, I was hiking on what I'd affectionately termed "power line trails" that run up and down the hills near my parents' house. High-voltage lines ran from a substation at the bottom of the hill up to the hilltop, and then down into the next valley over.

The rocky gravel beneath the power lines, once used to truck the lines and their supporting pylons up to the top of the hill, made for an ideal walking path. While hiking, I could look up at the lines, count the insulators, and throw out voltage guesses. And at the top of the hill? A gorgeous view of the valley as my reward.

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Fear of Power Lines: How I Turned Fear into Fascination (Part 1)

Earlier this week, I told the story of how I developed a power line phobia.

Today, I'm sharing the story of how I killed it.

I'd be going a little bit overboard if I told you that my life changed after the power line fell. It didn't, really.

But my dreams sure changed.

Night after night, for days and weeks on end, I had the same nightmare. The scene and the characters usually differed, but the story was always the same: I heard a buzz, I knew a power line was going to fall, and I had to get myself (or friends, or family) the hell out of the way.

And you know how dream-physics works, right? Whenever you try to run, you run in slow motion.

That said, escaping the wrath of the falling power line every night was both difficult and exhausting. In each nightmare, I'd have to concentrate my absolute hardest on pushing my little feet hard enough into the soft and unreliable dream-ground to kick my running into motion.

Sometimes, I would escape. Sometimes, I wouldn't. At age 8, these freakishly realistic dreams of electrocution were troubling. Troubling enough to leave me thinking about power lines for much of the day.
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Fear of Power Lines: Is There a Word for That?

It was November of 1992. I'd just finished my second-grade homework at the kitchen table when a thunderstorm, strange for that time of year, rolled in. I was a short and mousy-looking child whose pigtails whipped around like propellers when I zipped around my parents' house. (I wish I could have bottled up my boundless energy to save some for adulthood.)

When the power went out that evening, I excitedly ran to every window on the second floor to catch a rare glimpse of north, east, south, and west sans streetlights.

It was neat-o (a word I very likely used at the time), but after two minutes I was bored with the dark. An avid fan of Full House, I made my way downstairs into the TV room so I could prep the VCR to start taping the show at 8 pm. (Yes, I loved the Tanner family and I taped every show until 5th grade. Go ahead; judge me.)

And then I re-realized that the power was out and no such VCR-taping could occur.

Bored and a bit bummed, I wandered out to the front porch after the rain had stopped. My father was out on the sidewalk, passing the time by chatting with some neighbors who had congregated in front of our house. I joined the sidewalk party and blabbed to all the grown-ups about how sad I'd be if I missed Full House.

After a few minutes, I looked up at a nearby telephone pole and saw a blue light sparking. Yay! A streetlight was coming back on! Power was being restored! I could watch the Full House episode where Stephanie and her dance class perform Motown Philly!


But then, I realized that the telephone pole I was looking up at didn't have a streetlight attached. Wait...if there's no streetlight, then what's glowing?

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Agoraphobia As-It-Happens: Live-tweeting My Panic Attack at Target

Earlier this week, I ended up inadvertently live-tweeting my attempt to overcome a bout of agoraphobia.

I tried to go to Target. All I needed to do was drive there, walk to the pharmacy area, and transfer a prescription.

It sounds so simple, doesn't it? But the second I pulled into a space in the parking lot, I had a problem. I don't have a smartphone. Yes, technology-obsessed me. I have a clunky Samsung with a slide-down keyboard, but I can still tweet via text message -- but I can't receive any incoming tweets. I tweet into the great void.

It was raining, and I was feeling panicked. The sky was dark. Target's front doors, let alone the pharmacy counter itself, were uncomfortably far away.

For a few minutes, I sat in silence with the car running, unsure if I should even attempt to walk inside or if I should play it safe and drive away.

Then, I ran through the rain to the front door.
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