Self Care When You Feel Like You’re Living Through A Raging Suckfest Of Utter Doom

Without getting political, it’s rather glaringly apparent that many people are hurting right now. Heartbroken, horrified, shocked, grieving, swinging between seething rage and hopelessness and back again. I empathize because I’m in the same ocean liner that just slammed into a Glacier Of OMFG WTF Is Happening????

During times of great uncertainty and pain, we need self-care. As many of you know, I’ve lived for many many years with major uncertainty and fear and great pain, the details of which aren’t important right now. What is germane is that I have acquired some coping techniques and self care tips from some great minds along the way. I’m going to offer them (the techniques and tips – not the brains of those great people) to whoever may need them. Take what you’d like and leave the rest.

Breathe

Yes, I’m seriously gonna start with that one. Sounds cliched as all hell but it’s damn effective. One technique I was taught is this:

  1. Sit comfortably and no, it doesn’t have to be in the legs crisscrossed, palms up and resting on your knees position, but it can be if that’s what you’d like.
  2. Think of what you wish for in life, not material things per se, but stuff like hope, peace, healing, health, to be heard, to be seen, to be loved, to have featherless dinosaurs etc. Narrow your choices to three or four per meditation session.
  3. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a  metta* for yourself. *metta – (n) lovingkindness, the Buddhist virtue of kindness; also called maitri.  Example:
    1. May I have peace
    2. May I have hope
    3. May I have healing
  4. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you are thankful for.
    1. May (insert person) have peace
    2. May (insert person) have hope
    3. May (insert person) have healing
  5. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you feel neutral about – neither positive nor negative.
  6. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you dislike.
  7. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for everyone universally: e.g. May all beings everywhere have healing.

Repeat these slogans as needed (from al anon)

  • One Day at a Time.
  • Let Go and Let God.
  • Easy Does It.
  • Listen and Learn.
  • Together We Can Make It.
  • First Things First.

One Day at a Time

For me, this slogan means: stop obsessing about the future and all the horrible things that might happen. Stop catastrophizing. Live this day, in this moment, and quietly seek out beauty and peace. Don’t grasp at it, just let it happen. And if I can’t feel peace, then I need reach out to someone I trust and ask for their help, with the expectation that the universe will respond with love.

Let Go And Let God

I’m not a religious person. At all. I rejected the religion of my childhood (Evangelical Southern Baptist) long ago. I don’t believe in a deity of any sort. So for me, “God” means two things:

  1. The group of fellow human beings whom I have learned to trust
  2. The belief that hope and loving kindness actually do exist in the universe

When I’m thoroughly stessed to the max, when matters are out of my control, I try to pause. All this raging against the machine or frantic worrying or pacing is getting me exactly nowhere fast. I take a moment and I do one of a few things:

  1. I think back on conversations I’ve had with wise people, or about quotes that wise people have said. I gather strength from their wise words.
  2. I ask the universe to “Hey universe, how about sending some of that seemingly illusive peace and loving kindness my way? Thanks, kinda need it right about now.”

For you “God” may mean something different and that is perfectly fine. When you feel overwhelmed, try to Let Go and Let Your God and see if this helps.

Easy Does It

Basically this one means “Relax, already!”. Anger, fear, and worry make us tense. Our muscles contract, we grit our teeth, our heart beats like a crazed horse inside our chest. This is a healthy response in a flight or fight situation. But unless a rabid rhinoceros is bearing down on our ass, this biological stress response isn’t doing us a lot of good if we maintain it for long periods. The flight or fight response was designed for the quick battles, for sprints – not marathons. And as we all know, life is a marathon, not a sprint. If I spend hours getting worked up about the sucktasticness of certain aspects of life, I’m gonna wear myself out in no time. And if I’m worn out, I can’t be of use to myself, my loved ones, or the world at large.

Righteous anger and justified fear are useful and neccessary, but we can’t function 24/7 in MAXED OUT RAGEFEST or HOLY SHIT WE ARE ALL DOOMED mode. So when I feel like roadkill run over by a convoy of ten-ton stressmobiles, I stop and say “Easy does it, You can be a warrior later, self. But for this moment, park your hammer of Thor, and take it easy. Relax. Recoup your strength.”

Listen and Learn

For me this one means: Girl, you do not have the answer, alright? Accept it. You’ve been beating this dead Velociraptor for days now and no matter how hard you whack on this thing, you ain’t bringing it back to life, you hearing me? So what you need to do now is turn to sources outside yourself. Go read. Go listen to others. And I mean listen, not just sit there ruminating on shit while the other people are talking. Listen to them and you’ll be surprised what wisdom you’ll find out there.”

Together We Can Make It

I’ve felt alone in many of my traumas in life. As I look back, I realize this didn’t need to be the case. Now I know that if I am willing to reach out, I will most likely find others who are going through what I am going through. Who are feeling what I am feeling.  We humans , no matter how reclusive or introverted, are social beasts. Knowing we are not alone in our pain/anger/fear is therapeutic for us. When I’m angry/scared/worried, I now reach out to those I trust, to people who I know will empathize and listen without judgment. To people who won’t beat me up for my feelings but who will lift me up and – if I ask for it – provide me with advice or words of wisdom.

First Things First

When a great trauma happens, a lot of times our first reaction is to go “OMG LOOK AT ALL THESE PROBLEMS NOW AND OMG I MUST FACE THEM ALL RIGHT NOW RIGHT THIS SECOND OMG THE ENEMY IS EVERYWHERE AND I AM A METAPHORICAL LONE SPARTAN WITH A POCKET KNIFE  FACING TWO ZILLION PERSIAN ENEMY FORCES WITH ALL MANNER OF ADVANCED WEAPONRY AND FIGHTING ELEPHANTS AND SHIT ALL BY MY LONESOME SELF OMG! When life feels like this, I have to remember to do One Thing At A Time. AND to do the most important thing first. Sometimes that most important thing is paying a bill. Sometimes it’s putting food in my body because – hello – I can’t face the hordes of fighting elephants when my blood sugar is tanked. Do the most important thing first. Then breathe and do the second most important thing. I often put everything else ahead of me. I let other stuff, other people take priority. But I’ve learned that if I let my physical, mental, and emotional energy be depleted, I’ll shortcircuit. Now I do first things first and if that means taking time for self-care before I take on the BIG SUCKFEST OF RAGING SHIT-COVERED HORDES OF PUKE-WORTHY VILENESS then that is what I prioritize. After my tank is filled, then I can ramp up my engines and face the Suckfest Elephant Horde.

Some other things I’ve found helpful when I’m feeling thoroughly crushed by the ten-ton suckmonkeys of life is to:

go outside

play with Fang the Kitten of Destruction

watch a comedy

cry without judging myself for crying

do some small nice thing for myself

distract myself with drawing or doing a mindless craft

listen to upbeat music (music is a powerful mood alterer)

do a good deed for someone

That’s all for now. I need to get out of this chair and get some sunshine. And then I’ll be back, replenished and ready to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT AGAINST THE SUCKTASTIC HORDES OF GROSSNESS!

Before I go, I’ll leave you with some cute shiz. Go, my fellow humans, look at cute shiz, and then FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT AGAINST THE SUCKTASTIC HORDES OF GROSSNESS!

much love,

me

drawinghusky1A rare photo of a Hoppy Huskerpupper of Floofhappiness

drawinggecko2A baby GrabbyToesLoveyGazeHuggabooGecko

newfuzzykittydonetext2A tiny fuzzy kitty who loves you soooooooooo effing much

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Meditation Newbie

I’ve never meditated. Except for all those times I’ve counted down with the timer on the microwave while waiting impatiently for my popcorn to be ready. That’s officially meditation by the way. At least it is NOW. You’re welcome for that.

Those who know me know I’ve been dealing with a lot of stressful stuff in my life and have done so for a long time. The particulars of that stuff do not matter for this post. This post is The Account of a Meditation Newbie and Her First Attempts at Meditation to Ease STRESS THAT IS SO STRESSFUL ITS NEEDLE IS BURIED IN THE RED ZONE AND THE ENGINE IS SCREAMING AND SPITTING A LIGHTNING STORM OF SPARKS AND READY TO BLOW AND SPLATTER THE WORLD WITH ITS STRESSFUL STRESSFULNESS.

My new therapist, whom I saw after much procrastination (for reasons I’ll save for another post about how sometimes moms take care of everyone else but themselves), taught me this meditation technique. It’s called Loving-Kindness Meditation. In my cynical state of mind, the name immediately put me off, sounding so froo froo I pictured Snow White, head tilted, and tiny hands clutched under her chin, singing “I’m wishing for lovey-dovey kindness” in her ear-grating voice to twee forest animals. Need a reminder of the song and THAT. VOICE? Dare to click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlUbWNpg1os

At home, I read the instructions (paraphrased here) on the handout she’d given me:

  1. Sit comfortably and no, it doesn’t have to be in the legs crisscrossed, palms up and resting on your knees position, but it can be if that’s what you’d like.
  2. Think of what you wish for in life, not material things per se, but stuff like hope, peace, healing, health, to be heard, to be seen, to be loved, to have featherless dinosaurs etc. Narrow your choices to three or four per meditation session.
  3. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a  metta* for yourself. *metta – (n) lovingkindness, the Buddhist virtue of kindness; also called maitri.  Example:
    1. May I have peace
    2. May I have hope
    3. May I have healing
  4. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you are thankful for.
    1. May (insert person) have peace
    2. May (insert person) have hope
    3. May (insert person) have healing
  5. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you feel neutral about – neither positive nor negative.
  6. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you dislike.
  7. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for everyone universally: e.g. May all beings everywhere have healing.

Being the squirmy, not-patient-when-bored person I am, my first session went like this:

Session One:

I sat down. I breathed in 5 seconds, exhaled 5 seconds and said a metta to myself. So far, so good.

Time for the next metta: I breathed in 2 seconds… and wondered if there’s a Captain Antarticta because Antarctica isn’t actually a country like America so, although there’s a Captain America, that doesn’t mean there’d be a Captain Antarctica because it would be more like Captain The Forty-One Countries That Acceded To The Antarctic Treaty Including The Twenty-Nine Consultative Countries And The Twenty-Four Non-Consultative Countries. I shook my head and tried to focus. Exhale 3 seconds… and wondered why I love my Fang the Kitten of Destruction so much when he wakes me up every morning by biting me on the shoulder and slapping me in the face – and if this means I’m in a dysfunctional relationship with my cat, but then again hahaha isn’t everyone in a dysfunctional relationship with their cat?

And then I felt squirmy-hungry so I got up, opened the fridge, stared into it for about two minutes, and then decided that was pretty much the same as meditating.

First meditation session – I’m calling it a success. More or less.

DrawingSlothMeditatesText

Session Two:

Made it through the metta to me. So far so good. Yay, me. I’m being all meditatey and stuff.

Next up: Need to metta for someone I feel neutral about. Uhhhhhhhhh. Who the hell do I feel neutral about? Do humans ever even feel neutral about anyone? Or do we either ZOMG LOOOOOVE people, like them pretty much as long as they’re not, you know, talking to me, tolerate them even though they are annoying beyond all reason, or UGH THIS PERSON JUST NO THIS PERSON IS HORRIBLE AWFUL ABOMINABLE AND ALL THE OTHER YUCKY ADJECTIVES. This question seemed rather philosophical and now I needed to go jot down some notes on this topic to potentially analyze in another post or incorporate into a book or who-knows-what. The notes led to other notes and more deep philosophical thinking and I forgot about finishing the rest of the meditation session.

Second meditation session – I’m calling it a success. Because why not?

Third session:

I made it through the metta for me.

Next: I chose that old guy that walks our neighborhood with huge headphones on and stares only at the pavement as my neutral subject and said mettas for him.

Next up: Say a metta for someone I dislike. Hmmm. Got one. “May that yucky person – who is very yucky, so yucky in fact that I do not wish to visualize this person, but crap, I have a very visual brain and now, EW, the yucky person’s image is in my head – have peace…”

Finally: Say a metta for all beings. “May all beings everywhere – big, small, animal, human, plant, mineral, slimy or fuzzy, or extraterrestrials so alien that I cannot comprehend, all colors, shapes, and sizes, and whether they like awesome dinosaurs with no feathers or lame-ass dinosaurs with feathers – have peace…”

I started to climb out of the chair but Fang the Kitten of Destruction made an exceedingly rare visit to sit in my lap (He’s like Liz lemon – not a lap sitter) so I sat in the chair a while longer until Fang decided he’d had enough, slapped me cutely, and left.

LizlemonlapSit

Third session: TOTAL success!

Okay. But did the meditation sessions help my STRESS THAT IS SO STRESSFUL ITS NEEDLE IS BURIED IN THE RED ZONE AND THE ENGINE IS SCREAMING AND SPITTING A LIGHTNING STORM OF SPARKS AND READY TO BLOW AND SPLATTER THE WORLD WITH ITS STRESSFUL STRESSFULNESS?

Yes. Yes, they actually did. And this is saying a lot for someone as stressed out AND impatient with anything boring as I am. I felt less stressed immediately after meditating and was able to tap into this less-stressed state at times throughout the day.

Will Loving-Kindness Meditation help you? I dunno.

Do you even want to do Loving Kindness Meditation? I dunno.

If we all did Loving-Kindness Meditation could we make feathered dinosaurs lose their lame feathers and become bad-ass, rad dinosaurs once again? I DUNNO DAMMIT BUT WE SHOULD TRY.

ChickForBlog

Because one of these is a dinosaur and the other one IS NOT.

I don’t know if Loving-Kindness meditation will help you but there’s research to say that it IS beneficial in a number of ways:

Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Nov;95(5):1045-62. doi: 10.1037/a0013262.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18954193

How positive emotions build physical health: perceived positive social connections account for the upward spiral between positive emotions and vagal tone. Psychol Sci. 2013 Jul 1;24(7):1123-32. doi: 10.1177/0956797612470827. Epub 2013 May 6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23649562

Loving-kindness meditation for posttraumatic stress disorder: a pilot study. J Trauma Stress. 2013 Aug;26(4):426-34. doi: 10.1002/jts.21832. Epub 2013 Jul 25 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23893519

A wait-list randomized controlled trial of loving-kindness meditation programme for self-criticism. Clin Psychol Psychother. 2015 Jul-Aug;22(4):346-56. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1893. Epub 2014 Mar 16.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24633992

Now go be awesomely you and take care of your awesome selves, fellow humans, and if part of that self-care process is Loving-Kindness meditation – coolyoolio.

Much love,

 

me

 

 

 

 

Writers and Empathy

Empathy – (n) the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.

Cambridge English Dictionary

Empathy – (n) the capacity to understand or feel what another being (a human or non-human animal) is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy

Empathy – (n) FEELING ALL THE THINGS FROM ALL THE THINGS EVERYWHERE ALL. THE. TIME.

The Unabridged Dictionary of Sonya

DrawingEmpathNewType

I’m empathetic. Ultra empathetic. Supermegamajorlyexpialadociously empathetic.

If you’re a writer, there’s a good chance you are too.

Being an empath is great for writers.

Empathy makes us able to put ourselves in another’s place, feeling what they would feel under various circumstances. It allows us, therefore, to write great characters.

Empathy propels us to write. All these feelings we experience? We need a way to process them, to understand, and maybe even heal some of them. Many of us turned to pen and paper, a keyboard and a screen, 1s and 0s to harness our tsunami of feelings and use it for good – like hydroelectric power, but it’s word power. And instead of generating electricity, we generate stories, stories that can hopefully have great power to entertain, to educate, to broaden minds, to heal, or make people laugh.

Empathy is a gift.

It can also be a beautiful affliction.

Those who know me know that I have a daughter in immense pain. I care for her as best as I can. I also have another daughter who is still trying to heal from an attack two summers ago. I cannot take away either of my daughters’ pain and trauma. I can only be here to love and support them and share their tears and hold them when they cry. Maybe you too have people in your life in pain. If so, you understand the toll that being an empathetic caretaker can take on one’s energy reserves and soul. To be able to function, sometimes I find that I must limit my exposure to any pain beyond that of those I’m fighting to keep sane and quite literally alive.

Sorry this post just took a sad turn didn’t it?

Anyway, the point I wanted to make to you, my fellow empaths, is that yes, being an empath is a gift. But sometimes we must protect ourselves from the world’s torrent of incoming bad feelings.

Especially on social media.

Especially during 2016, this exceptionally tough year.

I love the beautiful parts of social media: my friends, the beautiful souls in my writing community, the support, the love, the creativity and humor.

I abhor the dark parts of social media.

And I don’t know if I’m the only one who feels this way, but to me, social media feels darker and uglier this year.

Tens of thousands of disturbing, sad, horrifying, angry, angsty tweets or FB posts bombard us every day. The barrage of terrible news seems endless. Gruesome images are tweeted and retweeted (or shared) thousands of times.

We’re exposed to the ugliest sides of humanity. Racists and misogynists and bigots and bullies plague the timeline, spewing streams of hate and poison.

Some days, it’s all too much. Some days, we have to step away and recover from what feels like a prolonged, violent attack on our psyche.

Empaths need to practice self care and some days that means avoiding social media. It can mean blocking hateful people. It can mean muting negativity. Some days it can mean ignoring certain hashtags. Some days it means cuteness therapy in the form of cat gif retweeting. Some days it means coping by engaging in unadulterated silliness.

And that’s okay.

Sometimes I feel guilty for turning off the news or for muting a pessimistic rant. I’m getting over feeling guilt though. I try to keep myself informed on current events while avoiding being beaten upside the head with them. Protecting oneself is important. When I’m feeling strong, I actively engage. When I’m exhausted or heartbroken or deeply troubled or battling depression, I give myself permission to raise my shields against the onslaught of darkness. I give myself permission to retreat. To recover. To recoup my reserves. I go outside. I play with Fang the Kitten of Destruction. I draw. I write. And I leave the internet for a while.

And that’s okay, empaths. Self care is important. You are important. You take care of you, then you’ll have the strength to take care of your loved ones, your writing community, your readers, and your fellow humans on this tiny beautiful marble we all share.

DrawingEmpathHappy3

 

Sleepy kitteh floof therapy for anyone who may need it…

FangBabyDesk

And irrepressibly happy Fang the Kitten of Destruction therapy…

FangHappyGrass1

 

Much love to you,

 

me (and Fang the Kitten of Destruction)