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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Knitting and Relationships

I love knitting.  Some of the time.  It’s actually more like a love/hate thing. 

Last night I was working for several hours on this dress for my niece, only to have to rip out every row except one.  Four hours of knitting for one row.

I only have myself to blame.  It’s a complicated pattern where every stitch has to be accurate, and I knew I had messed up but I figured, it’s at the end of the row.  It will be at the seam.  I can make it work!  I’ve made this mistake hundreds of times, and it always costs me in the end. 

My problem is that I love to knit complicated patterns.  Most people find a pattern for a scarf that they like and they knit 5 of them.  I, on the other hand, decide to knit something like a dress, which takes months to knit, and when I’m done I never want to see the pattern again. 

I’m actually selling a few of the items that I’ve knit at The Stitchin’ Post.  Even if they sell, the best I can hope for is to cover the cost of the materials, because I’m only making something like one cent an hour. 

But that’s OK.  I’m not doing it for the money.  I just like the challenge.  To me, patterns are more like puzzles to be solved, like Minesweeper or Sudoku.  A pattern that I have already mastered is boring and no longer holds my interest. 

My relationships follow a similar pattern.  I like a challenge–someone with all kinds of issues and baggage and diagnoses.   I want to hear all about their problems, learn how they developed, and figure out how to solve them.  That’s why I became a psychologist.  No matter how messy things get I think, that’s OK.  I can still make it work!  Which is not always a bad thing.  But sometimes you  need to cut your losses and start over, in knitting and in life.

The problem is, the majority of my family members have some type of mental illness, so I have a skewed notion of what a “normal” relationship is.  Several years ago I was talking to one of my colleagues about the demise of my first marriage and she said, “marriage is hard work, but it shouldn’t be like climbing Mt. Everest.”  I thought, really?  It sounded that bad?  

But some people do climb Mt. Everest for fun, and I guess I like scaling psychological mountains.  Like knitting a dress for my niece by Christmas.  Which I will work on again tonight.

Massage: Stress relief?

Last year around this time I started having neck pains so severe that they were affecting my sleep. Because I’m used to ignoring pain, it took me a few weeks to realize that it might help to massage the back of my neck.  Once I did this I found a big lump and I freaked out.  I have a friend who had Cushing’s disease and she had a lump in the back of her neck, so I worried that maybe I had that.  Or maybe I had a tumor.  It was the weekend before Labor Day and there was no way I was going to get in to see a doctor right away so I saw my boss, who is the physician at our health center.

Much to my relief, she said the knot in the back of my neck was from stress and gave me some strategies for dealing with it.  She said that after a few days it should be better.  But it wasn’t getting better.  So I decided that I better up the ante and get a 30 minute massage.  But instead of finding the instant relief I was hoping for, I found out that my entire upper body was so tight that it would take her several sessions just to get to the deeper muscles.

The whole getting a massage to reduce my stress thing became another cycle to agonize over just like sleep.  It was clear I needed massages; sometimes I could feel my muscles tensing up later that day after I had just gotten one.  So at first I had to go weekly, and then every other week.  The only problem is I don’t have money to get massages regularly, so I would obsess the entire time about how much it was costing me.

I would try not to.  I would try to do what I tell my clients to do–focus on the experience of it, focus on where she is touching you.  This is your time to relax.  This is making your money count.  You deserve this–need this–to function.  But I’m really, really, obsessive.  In fact, somehow even though I wasn’t saying anything out loud, my massage therapist could tell that I was obsessing the entire time.

We finally worked out a schedule where I got a discounted rate since I have to go so regularly.  And I put the max into my flex spending account and have a doctor’s note saying that I need the massage for my neck pain, which has helped me stop obsessing about the money.

But I obsess about other things during my massage, too.  It’s stressful scheduling one because once the semester starts, I have appointments every hour with just 10 minutes to get things done in-between.  I would get my massage at 9 and then rush back for my 10 o’clock appointment.  And then I would see back-to-back clients.  By the end of the day I was stressed again.

The other problem is that my muscles are so tight that even weekly massages are not enough.  I need to stretch every day, several times a day.  Especially my chest muscles.  And I should be doing yoga.  I actually have massage homework.

I hate yoga.  Well, maybe that’s too strong of a word.  I recommend it to clients all the time for relaxation/meditative purposes.  It just never seems worth doing to me, personally.  I’m used to focusing on exercise that is fun, burns calories, or builds muscle.  I stretch after these activities, but stretching just for the sake of flexibility and stress management?  Boring!  Even though feeling my chest muscles release after stretching was an eye-opening experience, I cannot motivate myself to do yoga.  Not to save money.  Not to reduce stress.  Not for anything.  So I just feel guilty and stress about it every day that I don’t do it.

But I try.  I’ve always been a good student, always done my homework, so I do make an effort.

Last night I was in bed by 12:30 and did my nightly routine. I made coffee and packed food so I could save money.  I got my massage and scheduled another one in two weeks.   It wasn’t too busy of a day, but on the way to my tennis match I was so tired I was falling asleep at the wheel.  It started to rain and I was actually thankful that we had to reschedule.  When I got home around 8:30 I fell asleep on the couch and didn’t wake up until 1:30 am, at which point I had to get up and do my nightly routine.  Still an exhausting day.

But on the bright side, I did fall asleep early.  And I’ve already gotten about 5 hours of sleep in.  And I finished another blog.  So that’s something.

Massage!
Olindapully Photography (olindapullyphotography.com)

Divorces

I was married once.  Ok, twice.  Twice unsuccessfully.  And I have to say, it kind of hurts your feelings to have 2 divorces. One is ok.  Normal, even.  Two starts to look bad. That’s why I have decided never to get married again. I have not gone through the legal steps to officially get divorced.  That way if I ever have the crazy notion that I want to get married, I’ll have to do a lot of stuff first.

Admittedly, there are other reasons I haven’t officially gotten divorced.  I don’t think that it’s up to the court to decide when my marriage has ended.  I felt like it ended when I bought my own place.  And at that point we no longer shared any property or bank accounts. But I do still have some of my stuff at his house because my place is so small.  I guess if someone ever moves in with him I’ll have to rent storage or something.  But I don’t have to obsess about that today.  Although I was about to.

Also, it costs money to get divorced, and despite being a professional, I am just making it month to month.  I suspect I must be doing something wrong since the average salary for an entire family is less than what I make, but that is for another post. If we got divorced I would have to pay for it all because he didn’t want to get divorced.

This last reason is irrational, but whatever. People do all kinds of irrational things. Even psychologists. Even though I already tell people I have two divorces, it’s different in my mind to actually have two separate slips of paper saying you’re divorced. They’re not even full sheets of paper. And it’s not anything important looking like a certificate. Like when Homer Simpson got a certificate and a stamp that said Not Insane after he was released from the mental hospital. I love that episode!  Maybe they should give you something like that when you get divorced so you know it’s important.

In fact, the slip of paper looked so unimportant that the first time I got divorced I threw the thing away. But then when I was getting married again I found out that you actually need that little slip of paper, so then I had to get a copy of it.  Which I did keep this time.  Although I have no idea where it is at the moment.  But that’s OK, because I’m not getting married again.

Despite my claims that this slip of paper is not important, I don’t want two of them on my record.  It’s like having two strikes against you.  Two reminders that you have not been able to successfully maintain a marriage.  And who needs that?

However, if my unofficial ex were ever to ask for a divorce because he wants to get married, I would do so. That way he would have to pay for half of it.

Night Owl Syndrome

I spend a lot of my waking hours thinking about sleep.  I have to be vigilant about getting to bed at a reasonable hour, which for me is before 1 am.  This is difficult because I am a night owl, and I have to make myself go to sleep during the part of the day that I most enjoy just because the world revolves around the early bird’s schedule.  Plus people judge me for staying up late and waking up late.  I consider this a form of prejudice and discrimination that Ben Franklin is at least partly to blame.

I read recently that night owls are more prone to feeling depressed because they are forced to conform to an unnatural sleep cycle.  I would have to agree because four out of six of the people in my family are night owls and we all have mood disorders.  To make matters worse, people with mood disorders are sensitive to disruptions in sleep because they can trigger a depressive episode. 

It’s a lot of work trying to make myself sleep early.  I have to take at least 1 mg of Ativan every night, sometimes 2.  I am also prone to anxiety, and at night I’m rushing around trying to do all these things to minimize my stress for the next day like take a shower, dry my hair, pack my lunch, set the coffee maker, pick out my clothes, pack my tennis stuff, stretch, etc. 

The problem is that doing all of this stuff to reduce my stress is also stressful, so I end up being wired before going to bed.  Kind of like when you have an exam and you’ve spent all night studying and by the time you go to bed formulas and vocabulary words and theories are still running through your head. 

So then I have to do all of this stuff to try to exhaust my brain–usually some kind of mind game.  I used to do Minesweeper, but I get so pissed off when I make a mistake that I have to keep playing until I win, or at least have to guess 50/50 on the last square, which means I end up staying up later than I intended.  Lately I’ve been doing the expert level of Sudoku because it’s still challenging and doesn’t take as long and you can make 3 mistakes and still win. 

But it’s hard to get myself to stop playing even after I win.  I am really competitive, and I have this need to train myself  to concentrate even though I’m exhausted.  Like it’s some kind of military mind exercise or something.  I have to talk to that competitive part like it’s a child and say something like, OK we agreed that you can play until 12:30 so you have to put the game away now.  I’ll tell you more about my internal family in another post.

I also need more than the average amount of sleep–more like 9 or 10 hours–which makes getting enough sleep a challenge.  Usually I can squeeze in a cat nap in at lunch, and sometimes I can get in another hour or so if I have an opening in my schedule. 

But then I feel guilty because I’m sleeping at work.  And even when I have the time to sleep late, wake up late, and take a nap and have permission to take the Ativan as needed I still feel guilty because I feel like I’m not living life correctly or something.  I’m not doing what normal people do.

My job has really picked up in the last few weeks, and it’s only going to get busier from here, so I have no choice but to try to be an early bird, at least during the week.  So far so good, though. Even though I had two tennis matches last night, I was in bed by 12:30.  And because I didn’t have a 9 or 10 am appointment, I was able to sleep until 9.  And I don’t feel guilty about it.  So I’m feeling pretty good at the moment.

Night Owl
Dreaming Heart Photography (dreamingheart.com)