Archives for Nature
Yesterday, I wrote this: a post about how it's okay to feel crummy sometimes. It's okay to feel crummy and to write about feeling crummy. In a way, I was responding to commenter Reader547 when s/he left this message on a recent post about how I was feeling the post-holiday blues: “While it is all too true that the lights come down and everything is put away in January, I feel the writer has no helpful perspective in her article on how people can think differently about it all! How about trying to view January as a “new start into the fresh and unknown future”? Now, I'm back -- to explain my rationale for refusing to tie a shiny bow around my woes.
I love my blog readers. (Hey, that's you!) I read each and every one of your comments -- even though I don't always reply to each one. Your comments are very meaningful to me -- I empathize with your stories of shared suffering and shared recovery. I truly love reading them -- they make me feel far less alone! One recent comment on my blog post called "The Post-Holiday Slump: The Presence Of An Absence", became a bit "stickier" than most -- and I found myself thinking about it quite a bit over the past 24 hours. The blog post was about how January and February basically suck and feel super dreary in comparison to the brightness and happiness of the Christmas season. Putting away the tree and the lights creates a weird void in not only my living room (where the tree stood), but also in my gut. The commenter pointed out my lack of positivity.
Every spring, I start refilling the bird feeder on my back deck with seeds. As the birds (and, ugh, squirrels) flit around during their meal, they accidentally scatter seeds everywhere. They fall down onto the grass, onto my deck, and occasionally, into some of my potted plants. Birds are messy. (I should know; I own a parrot who enjoys whipping food – from seeds to fresh veggies – right out of his cage and onto my living room carpet.) Thanks, birds. BIRDSEED WEEDS But this post isn’t about birds. It’s about what happens to the outdoor bird seed when it lands into the fertile soil that surrounds my potted plants. And, in fact, this post isn’t even about that. But humor me for a moment: the seeds fall. They land in the soil. And, frankly, I don’t know enough about cheap outdoor bird food to visually distinguish between the types of seeds. But I do know this: when they fall into dirt, they grow into something green that resembles crab grass. A short, green, stocky stem emerges from the soil surrounding my marigolds or my tomato plants. And I pluck them. To me, they’re weeds. Birdseed weeds. Here’s the thing about pulling out these weeds: above the soil, they’re small. They look delicate and easily pluck-able. But when I grab one and yank at it? I unearth a complex and gnarly root system about five times as large as the weed itself. And now, to the real topic of this post: anxiety and its hidden depth.
It's like any normal Sunday evening at home, really. The clothes dryer is humming hypnotically. My husband is playing a video game and occasionally shouting stuff like "Get the sniper!" and "He's shooting an orb!" into the headset that he uses to talk to other players. My pet parrot is all fluffed up and happily beak-crunching beneath his electric heating lamp. And I'm putzing around on the internet, as usual, oscillating between Twitter and Facebook. But I'll admit it: I've got a little twinge of nervousness in my gut. After all, if Hurricane Sandy hits Central Pennsylvania hard, then I'm sure tomorrow evening in my apartment will look quite different from tonight. No internet. No heating lamp. No video games. No appliances.
As an adult, I definitely understand the logic of how small things sound like big things at night. It's the Contrast Principle in effect: during the day, there are so many sounds in nature that we're unlikely to hear a tiny mouse scurrying near our feet. But at night, with its absence of light, dull orchestra of crickets, and an imagination open wide, tiny sounds get amplified by our minds. As we learned in my last blog post, in a tent full of scared eleven-year-old Girl Scouts at summer camp, a field mouse scurrying through the leaves = a big hungry bear searching for a late-night snack. At the right (or, well, wrong) thoughts and a tiny mouse becomes a big bear. It doesn't necessarily need to be dark outside for our mind to amplify the wrong message. When anxious, small things sound like big things. When sick, small things sound like big things. When depressed. When overwhelmed. When tired. I mean, think about it: when's the last time something small -- say, washing a load of dishes -- seemed like a gargantuan task? Maybe it was yesterday when your nerves were already abuzz thanks to your colicky little one screaming her head off.
If you're new to my blog, I'll let you in on a little not-so-secret secret: I have panic disorder. With agoraphobia to boot. Simply put, I get panic attacks. Sometimes they're frequent. Sometimes (like right now!) they're not. And, sometimes, I find it difficult to leave my apartment and stretch the boundaries of my "safe" radius -- the area around that apartment that doesn't feel threatening. I'm happy to report that my safe radius is ballooning these days, folks. A year ago today, I could barely make it down the street to Walgreens to buy a roll of toilet paper without feeling faint and shaky. And now, I'm camping in the middle of the woods?
(Note: this is the third post in a short three-part series about my upcoming nuptials.) Not exactly the best talent to brag about, eh? Sigh. At least I recognize it for what it is. I guess that's the first step toward undoing this bad habit...but, admittedly, I've been stuck on this first step for quite a long time now: The first step to dealing with Catastrophizing is to recognize when you’re doing it. The sooner you do this, the quicker you’ll be able to start focusing on stopping it. It may be helpful to start recording your negative thoughts to yourself on a pad of paper or little journal (or your PDA or such) that you carry with you at all times. [Source] Or recording them on my blog...an entire laundry list of them, all related to my wedding, all related to a single day in time! So, here I am, trying to both acknowledge the above Things That Can Go Wrong and transform them into Things That Can-But-Probably-Won't Go Wrong...but my mind isn't having it.
(Note: this is the second post in a short three-part series about my upcoming nuptials.) Only a few days left, and I'm still ruminating about everything that could go wrong on the big day. Let's see how many of my worries I could formulate into a list or two: THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG: CEREMONY It will rain all over my outdoor wedding. It'll be so humid that I'll feel sick and unable to breathe. I'll get panicky during the ceremony, feel the need to sit down, but be unable to. I'll trip while walking down the aisle. Some crucial part of my dress will snap off. I'll cry and find myself unable to stop. I'll pass out at the altar. I'll throw up at the altar. Everyone will be looking at me when I throw up and then pass out at the altar. MORE THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG: RECEPTION
(Note: this is the first post in a short three-part series about my upcoming nuptials.) I'm getting married in eight days. (Ahhhh! I'm getting married in EIGHT DAYS!) Am I excited? Of course. Am I nervous? YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES. (And I know that was an incomplete sentence and poor grammar to boot. But when we get nervous, proper writing convention gets gently nudged aside.) I mean, there's an entire laundry list of Things That Can Go Wrong...especially when my wedding is not only outdoors, but also practically in the woods and about 15 miles away from civilization. As a panicker, all three of the above factors generally scare the crap out of me.
(Missed the first half of this post? Check it out here.) I don't know why the sound of rain was (and to an extent, is) so painful and jarring to me -- I mean, to others, it's pleasurable. It's soothing. To me, I suppose it represents just another fake danger that us panickers so commonly concoct: the danger of eliminating access to the only truly "safe" place for me at my office -- the back patio. If I panicked at work in the rain, where would I go? I'd get drenched on the patio. And if I tried to escape to my car, I'd get drenched on the way there and transform into a miserable and soggy heap of humidity. And of course, if my car was warm and humid, I surely couldn't open the windows in the rain to cool off. So, the car wasn't an option. No patio; no car. What was left? Nothing, I concluded. There wasn't a single place I could go during a rainstorm and feel safe. There wasn't a single place in that damn office where I could allow my panicky feelings to de-escalate. I couldn't escape to a safe place, I felt. And of course, just knowing that I didn't have a safe place available made the panic strike more harshly. It went something like this: Sound of rain. Fear of not having a safe place just in case I were to panic. Rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, dizziness, shaking. Panic.