Hello darkness, my old friend

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Sometimes it sneaks up on me. Depression, that is. Sometimes there's some sort of triggering event, like the anniversary of Moe's death, or continuous emotional stress for long periods of time. But sometimes, it just sneaks in through the cracks of my life and settles in.

I'm not really sure why this happens. If I knew, I suppose I could try and apply some sort of prophylactic behavior to head it off. But I don't, so the best I can do is try and recognize it early when it comes, and do the things I know I need to do in order to get through the episode.

Some of these things are obvious. Getting enough sleep. Trying to eat well. Getting more exercise than I normally would. Removing emotional stresses from my life to the extent possible. Attempting to keep my mind in the "now." Practicing gratitude.

But mostly it's just a waiting game. I have to wait for it to pass. This was much harder before I was diagnosed, since I had no idea why I felt so shitty all the time. But now I know, and that allows me to apply some emotional maturity and intellectual discernment to the process. I know this will pass. I know I won't always feel this way. I know when I come out the other side I won't be as emotionally raw and fragile. I know this in spite of the lies depression tells, and I know this because people who care for me tell me it's true, and I choose to believe them.

Not believing them, or believing depression's lies, leads to a dark, dark road, and many people get lost. Their depression is so overwhelming, so consuming, the only thing they can hear is the lies it tells. I'm not valuable. I can't make it on my own. People are better off without me. This is just too hard.

In spite of my occasional episodes, I am very lucky to be able to wait it out. And I'm grateful.

Feeding the Elephant's Child

Monday, June 4, 2018

I went back to school last week.

I have a couple of certificate programs I'm interested in, as well as a bunch of general education classes I never got around to before graduating. Since I don't really have a plan, I enrolled as an enrichment student, and signed up for Database Design and Development.

So I've spent the last week reading the required texts, participating in discussion topics, and doing the assigned exercises. And a funny thing happened on the way to the database.

When engaging in my studies, I was taken by how much I've missed school. Even while scratching my head over relational algebra, I found myself in a profoundly happy state of mind.

I stopped taking classes right after Moe died. My ability to concentrate and focus was minimal at best, and I just couldn't do the work. After that, I just never went back, as I had other activities that kept me engaged.

However, as noted last week, some of that other activity has turned into a swirling black hole of emotional labor, and I want an opportunity to focus my mind against a topic in a structured way. If something is going to suck away my intellectual and emotional energy, then it's going to be something that makes me happy instead of making my stomach hurt.

So I'm going to continue to feed the elephant's child, for as long as I can afford it and my brain is capable of supporting the work. It sure beats the alternative.

Eighth Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program Kick-Off

Monday, May 28, 2018
Today's the day! Today I'm kicking off the Eight Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program, benefiting the Douglas County Library Foundation.* 

You can find all the deets here, and that's also where you'll log your books for the contest. I'm closing comments on this entry to avoid confusion, since book entries should be logged on the contest page (available at the link above titled "2018 Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men Read!").

Get to reading, y'all, because you know you want to force The Smart Man and I to donate even MORE money to libraries and literacy.

READ! READ! READ!

_____________
 

*Full Disclosure: I am the President of the Douglas County Library Board of Trustees, but this project has nothing to do with my duties there, and is a private endeavor on my part.

News from HCDSM HQ

Saturday, May 26, 2018
Hey there. Long time, no see.

Which is entirely my fault, of course. I haven't been a very conscientious writer for some time, nor have I been a very conscientious reader, having given up on my RSS feed and most sources of news except the Washington Post.

The reasons for this should be obvious, and I'll leave it as an exercise for the class.

So what's been going on here at Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men HQ?

One of my volunteer gigs has devolved into something of a political shit-show, and I've been stressing over it. I'm unsure how much longer I'll be interested in serving in this particular role, because crap on a cracker, politics make my teeth hurt. And I can't see losing sleep (literally) over a volunteer gig.
__________ 

I joined my local Rotary Club for about six months. I ended up resigning due to a cultural misfit, i.e., Rotary Clubs tend to reflect the communities in which they reside, and we all know I, as an individual, represent about 10% of all liberals in Douglas County. Which isn't a problem in and of itself, except when the majority assumes you hold the same views as they do and some of them feel free to express their opinions without discernment. Or kindness.
__________

I started a new assignment in my day job in April. The move was non-optional as there was another team who needed a skill set I happened to have, but the change has been good, and I believe I'll have a greater chance for sales success in the new role. Go, me.
__________

It's Spring! You know what that means: GARDENING. While I thought I was about done last Fall in terms of getting things growing and where I want them, I was wrong. So it's been back to Lowe's and Gardner's Supply Co. for new containers, plants, etc. Growing things when you live on a hill and the soil is basically 100% clay is a pain in the ass, but I also suspect that gardening is like laundry in that it never, ever ends.
__________

I've been reading a lot. I've finished 80 books since January 1st, and while I expect I'll be slowing down a bit for the summer, that's a pretty good clip. 
__________


I've decided to go back to school (again). Once I graduated, I stopped going and started to listen to the Great Courses so I could continue to learn new things, but that hasn't worked out the way I wanted it to. I enjoy the lectures, but it's a pretty passive activity, and so doesn't engage my brain in an active, focused way the way actual coursework does. So I've enrolled in the local Community College to take enrichment courses starting after Memorial Day. First on the agenda: Database Design and Development. Chronic school attendance is good for my brain, and the longer I go without it, the more I feel my IQ points dribbling out of my ears. Bonus: I can acquire skills that might be valuable in my current day job as well as future volunteer gigs.
__________

That's about it here at HCDSM. I'm trying to re-engage in my on-line communities, but on my terms, rather than being victim to the time-suck.

Nobody Told Me

Monday, March 12, 2018

I'm in my 50's now.

When I was in my 30's, I couldn't even conceive of being "middle-aged," in spite of the warnings provided to me by older friends and relatives regarding weight gain, wrinkles, gravity, superfluous hair, memory loss, etc., ad naseum.

And yet, here I am, in my fifties, and all of those physical outcomes are happening to me. I have bags under the circles under the wrinkles under my eyes. I struggle with my weight all the time. Various body parts are losing their battle with gravity in alarming ways, and I can't remember shit. All of that is irksome, of course, and mildly horrifying in the "I'm still 30 in my mind, what the hell is going on here?" kind of way. But the physical deterioration of my body is far from the worst thing about getting older.

Nobody told me the absolute shittiest thing about getting older would be burying those I love.

First it was my dad, who died when I was 26. Last year I realized he's been gone more than half my life, which freaks me out a little. He died when he was 55, only 2+ years away from my current age, which freaks me out more.

Then my Gram Winky, followed by one of my Aunties, then the Smart Man's Grandma and one of his Aunties. All of these were hard enough, but then we lost our Moe-Moe, which stopped my heart and my world, and introduced a level of fragility to my well-being that I'll never get over.

Then we lost the Smart Man's mother, which was devastating for entirely different reasons, and then last year, my beloved Auntie Kris, both from the scourge that is cancer.

All of this sucks, and there have been times when we've been so overwhelmed with grief that we can't help asking the universe to give us a fucking break, already.

And then yesterday, I found out that we had lost a friend and colleague whom I've known for over twenty years. Over the years, we helped each other through some rough patches, both personally and professionally. He was funny, smart, generous to a fault, and loved his kids more than anything. I'll miss him in this world, and my heart is breaking for his kids, one of whom is a minor, and the other who is barely into adulthood.

And he was my age, a member of my cohort. And he died of natural causes, a cardiovascular event.

So now I'm not only burying my older relatives (which, while painful, is still the natural order of things), and my daughter (which is as far from the "natural order of things" as you can get), but also my friends and peers.

Even though I have no choice, this change in my status is something that I'm not really emotionally prepared to accept. Perhaps it's the the fact that I have to face my own mortality. Perhaps it's the fact that every time someone I care for dies, I lose a little piece of my heart, and I don't know how much more I can afford to lose. Perhaps it's just that the last ten years we've had more than our fair share of grief, and I'm just tired.

And honestly, even if someone had told me about the accelerating pain of burying the people I love, I don't know how I would have prepared myself. In my mind I'm still in my 30's, and my emotions just don't understand how the hell all these people keep leaving the world when I'm still here.

Getting older blows.

Random Thoughts and Words to Live By, Part 24

Friday, March 2, 2018

If someone claims their First Amendment rights are being abrogated by a corporation, then I must assume that all of their arguments are equally specious and I can confidently disregard them.

The Great Social Media Experiment

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I've been on hiatus since December 18th.

Not just from Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men, but from Facebook, Twitter, my RSS feed, pretty much everything on-line with the exception of e:mail, SMS, my reading apps, and Google.

And aside from a mild itchiness of habit for the first week or two, I've been surprised at how little I've missed it. So here are the pros and cons of my two month experiment:

Pros
  1. Reduced the "noise" in my life.
  2. I feel more present in my life. 
  3. I feel more generally focused.
  4. I'm angry or upset a lot less.
  5. The time suck is gone.
  6. I read more. A LOT more. 
  7. I'm no longer exposed to people who will say the most hateful shit imaginable in order to make some sort of point against me in an on-line disagreement. 
 Cons
  1. I'm missing news from my friends and family.
  2. I'm not staying abreast of the news, which I consider my civic duty.
  3. I've had some interesting things to share or write about the last two months, and no where to put them. 

The Verdict

Obviously there are far more "pros" to giving up social media than there are "cons." But they bear similar weight within my own value system. The "pros" relate to my mental health and sense of balance, but the "cons" relate to my duty to people I care about and to myself.

What I've decided is that I need to find a balance between both. I want to spend some time on Facebook and such, but not much. I want to spend some time reading the news, but only once a day, and from only reputable sources (rather than links through FB, blog entries, etc.). To help with my peace of mind, I need to MAKE time to engage in meditation, as advised by Sister Stacey and the 10% Happier folks.

I'm going to try and reintegrate some of these things into my daily life. I'll be hiding, unfriending, or outright blocking people with reckless abandon (see pros #1, #4 and #7). I'll be limiting my FB time by not reinstalling the app on my phone (see pro #5). And if if social media starts infiltrating my new serenity with its redunkulousness, polarization, nasty-ass people, and lying liers of lies, I'm fully prepared to force it out the airlock with few regrets.

So I'll see you on Facebook or Twitter. Occasionally. In short doses.