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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Honesty and Trust

I have often been accused of being too trusting.  Like it’s a bad thing.  And maybe it is.  It’s caused a lot of problems in my relationships. 

My first husband described himself as a poor, half-breed bastard.  As a result, he had a less trusting world view than I did.  He could spot a liar from a mile away.  Once when I was making conversation with his brother’s girlfriend about her studies in nursing, he told me afterwards that she was lying.  That people often lie while making conversation. 

This was a foreign concept to me.  I figured you should at least have a good reason to lie, even if it didn’t make it excusable.

Once my purse was stolen at Burger King on the way to a bowl game.  I forgot to get it when we walked out the door.  I realized it about a minute later, but in that small amount of time, they took it.  My ex knew who stole it right away and he knew that the employee who took our order was in on it.  He even went up to the guy and confronted him. 

While there were some advantages to his street smarts, ultimately, his lies destroyed our marriage.  I tried to trust him again, but he didn’t trust himself, so we agreed to divorce.  That was one of the many lessons I learned from my first marriage: be wary of people who don’t trust others, because they probably lie, too.

I wish I could say I have been more careful about who I’ve trusted since then, but sadly, I have not.  I seem to be pathologically trusting. 

I dated someone who told me straight up that he had problems with lying.  And I caught him lying several times right away.  Like my first husband, he didn’t think he could be honest, either, but he wanted to change.  I kept rooting for him.  You can do it!  I have faith in you! 

My therapist would repeatedly tell me that if the person says they can’t do it, believe them.  I guess this was the most honest thing they had said to me, but I didn’t want to believe it.  I never wanted to give up on anyone. 

But I finally get it:  you can’t trust people who don’t trust themselves.  You can’t will someone to have faith.

Some people have suggested that perhaps we can be friends down the road.  Yes, he lies, but it won’t matter in a friendship.  Except that it does. 

In the second half of my life, I want to surround myself with people who are honest and trustworthy.  I want to choose people who believe in themselves, so that we can believe in ourselves together.

I found a new art app that creates patterns using mathematical properties.  Artsy and nerdy at the same time.  How cool is that?

Competitive Latch-Hooking

When I was a kid, my mom got my brothers and me to entertain ourselves through arts and crafts. One year she bought us latch hook kits. 

My first project was a picture of Scooter from the Muppets, which she turned into a pillow. I quickly moved on to a picture of Linus. I can’t remember what my brother Jr.’s project was, but I do remember that what began as a fun activity for the 4 of us turned into a fierce competition between him and me.

My brothers and I had this unspoken code of ethics. If there were a box of 12 Fudgesicles, we were each allotted 3. Once my brother Romeo was looking for something to eat and my mom told him that there was a Fudgesicle in the freezer. He had already eaten his share so he didn’t take it. He knew better. She was confused, though.

When someone left the room, their seat was saved. This is because whoever was closest to the phone had to answer it and hunt my dad down, because it was almost always for him. We would pull in every chair possible into the TV room to avoid sitting next to that phone.

Of the 4 of us, Jr. was the most law-abiding. He never cursed. He followed all the rules. He never lied or cheated. Unless he was competing against me in something like latch-hooking.

As I reached the end of my Linus project, I ran out of yarn. Which really pissed me off. What kind of project lacks the necessary supplies to complete it? I thought it was only fair that he stop working on his rug until I bought more yarn. Since I’m the oldest, I made up and enforced most of the rules, so I took his latch hook. He did not protest because this was consistent with his sense of justice, too.

But he wanted to win so badly that he secretly worked on his project without the latch hook. Because you don’t need it if you’re really determined. He quickly gave himself away though with his guilty laughter, so he didn’t get very far. Still, I took his rug from him, just to be safe.

I don’t even remember who won. He probably does, though. But we both remember how fun it was to compete against each other–in that instance, at least.

I realize that this fiercely competitive attitude is not the norm. Yet it still surprises me when people don’t feel the same way. I don’t understand why my colleagues don’t rush to turn in their paper work first. Or why some players don’t play in tournaments or leagues because they don’t like the pressure. Or why more people don’t read my posts about sacrificing my health for the sake of my team.

It’s not that I have to win. I often play in leagues above my level, so I lose quite a bit. It’s more about being fully engaged in whatever I’m doing. Competition forces me to do this, but it’s really more about competing with myself. That’s why I do things like spend 4 months knitting a dress for my niece by Christmas.

I’m so proud of that dress that I thought I’d show you a picture of it, even though it is only tangentially related to this post.

Night Owl Syndrome, Part 2

I started this blog with a post about the stress of trying to regulate my sleep cycle.  Particularly since it was the beginning of the year and I had been off for 3 months–plenty of time to revert to my more natural night owl state.
 
I am in the same predicament this week, except that my sleep cycle is even more out of whack than usual.  In addition to the normal job stress and abrupt transition into having nothing to do at the end of the term, I was also dealing with the fallout from the student death and extended periods of loneliness and isolation.  I fell into a pattern of going to bed at 4 am and waking up at 4 pm, with a few hours of wakefulness in between.  And as usual, I was racked with guilt and self-loathing about this.
 
My dad and two of my brothers are also night owls.  While my family was together over Christmas, my dad hardly slept at all, and when he did it was well past 2 am.  One of my brothers went to bed around 6 am.  The other brother woke up around 6 pm.  Yet they did not appear to be racked with the same guilt and self-loathing as me.
 
Which is the reason why I originally started this blog.  Accepting who I am, including my obsessive tendencies, problems with guilt, and wacky sleep schedule, takes continuous practice.  If I neglect to do it, I fall prey to depression and anxiety.
 
And writing about how I was feeling during that period definitely helped.  It was cathartic.  It helped me to remember what I tell my clients. It provided me support, positive feedback, and extra angels.  And some of the most depressing posts were among the most popular ones, so I know I’m not alone.
 
Perhaps I should start recommending blogging as an important component of self-care.  Right up there with sleep, exercise, food, and mindfulness.
 
Last night I went to bed before 1 am without having to rely on extra Ativan.  And I woke up at 7 am because I had a doctor’s appointment.  That’s as close to a “normal” sleep cycle as it gets for me.  So going back to work has been a good thing.  Still,  if I didn’t have to go back this week, I wouldn’t have.
 
Fortunately, sometimes you are forced to do things that are good for you, whether you want to or not.
 

 

Bipolar and Brilliant

I just finished Haldol and Hyacinths, by Melody Moezzi, and it is one of the best memoirs on bipolar disorder that I have ever read. A lawyer and human rights activist, Moezzi talks about how her passion and aspirations come from the same place that her mania and psychosis come from, and sometimes it is difficult to separate the two.  

In An Unquiet Mind, the gold standard of bipolar memoirs, psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison says the same thing: that she was the most productive and most brilliant on the way to mania–until she became psychotic.

From personal experience I would argue that it’s true that for some people, it’s a thin line between brilliance and mania. I have never reached the heights of brilliance and mania that Moezzi and Jamison describe, but I know what it’s like to walk that line between sanity and insanity.  Most of the time I stay on the side where I know the rules and try to follow them as obsessively as possible.

But there have been periods where I have had one foot in this world and one foot in the other.  A world where the lines between black and white, good and bad, and reality and fantasy are blurred. I have had some of my best insights at those times, but I was also the most reckless during those periods. It is both freeing and dangerous.

At those times, I pay close attention to where I’m standing and do my best to maintain my balance.

Three of the six people in my family are bipolar, and they have all been described as the kind of people who light up a room when they walk in.  But when they are manic their light is blinding, and they can no longer see how they are hurting themselves and other people with their actions.

Sometimes people with bipolar disorder don’t want to take their meds because they don’t want to dull their creative side.  And it’s true that when you’ve reached the peak of mania the drugs you take are meant to put out the fire, so they dampen everything for awhile.

But there’s a lot you can do to keep from crossing that line.  There are a lot of things that are in your control.  You can be honest about your diagnosis.  You can be compliant with treatment.  You can pay attention to the warning signs and intervene right away.

It often takes a person with bipolar disorder many years before they can reach this place of self-acceptance, as these authors demonstrate.  But they also demonstrate that you can still be brilliant when you’re stable.

In My Head

So remember how I was talking about the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty?  I went to see it because I always liked the short story when I read it in high school.  I could relate to someone who lived most of his life in his head.

All my life people have told me that I think too much.  I thought that as I advanced in my education this would change.  It didn’t.  My classmates in grad school thought the same thing.  My colleagues tell me the same thing.  Not as a criticism–just that they’re surprised that I have so much time to think.

The reason why I can’t fall asleep is because I can’t turn off my brain.  I started that New Year’s post at 4 a.m., despite my best efforts to talk myself into waiting until I woke up.  That I could get up early like a normal person, which would have been a few hours from then, so I wouldn’t even have to wait that long.  But no.  My brain wanted to write the post right that minute.  I was pissed off at it, but what can I do?  My brain has a mind of it’s own.

As soon as I wake up in the morning I want to talk to someone.  That’s one of the hardest things about being alone.  It’s not like you can just call your friends as soon as you wake up and say, hey stop what you’re doing.  I want to tell you about this weird dream I had last night.  Granted, it would be in the afternoon, but still.  They have spouses and children and jobs.  They don’t have time to listen to my dreams and random associations.

Often when I’m walking around the mall or the grocery store or even just turning a corner, I run into someone because I’m oblivious of my surroundings.  I actually have to remind myself that someone might be on the other side of the door so that I don’t freak out.

Remember that whole Waco siege that went on for 2 months back in 1993?  I was in grad school at the time and I had no idea it was happening because I spent my free time watching reruns of the Flintstones and Gilligan’s Island.  After the attack my classmates were talking about it and I was like, what’s going on in Waco?  They were appalled and I was humiliated.

So I force myself to watch the news occasionally so if something happens like a typhoon hits the Philippines or the government shuts down, I’ll know what people are talking about.

But you know what?  Blogging is actually a really good thing for people who think too much.  Even if I have to wake up and pee in the middle of the night and decide to check my stats, that’s kind of crazy, but you sort of have to be obsessive about your blog if you want it to succeed.  And writers are always coming up with subject matter at random times because they’re constantly thinking about writing.

So that’s why I’m writing this blog so early in the morning.  Now maybe my brain will let me go back to sleep.

I think this doodle kind of looks like a brain.