My ultra-boring life

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Addendum to Small and Simple Things

OK, so I was thinking about what I posted yesterday (tsk, you think I would think about it BEFORE I posted or something?  As if!), and I thought of another way to say it that also shows off some of my knitting. :)  

So, see this blurry yarn picture?  It's actually very nice yarn (Sweet Georgia CashSilk Lace in Wisteria, in case you're wondering).  But it's not super useful or pretty in and of itself.  It's beauty and usefulness is in its potential.  


Different yarns have different potentials, depending on their color, what they are made from, their weight, and their yardage.  Really, just about any yarn can be made into just about anything, but of course, they maximize their potential (and really fulfill the measure of their creation) when used for the type of thing they were made for.  In this case, I decided to make a lacy scarf from it.  

This takes a lot of things on my part.  It takes the yarn, of course, but it also takes the proper tools (knitting needles), know-how, and a pattern.  At least it's easiest if I have all those things.  You can try and possibly succeed without all those things, but it will take longer and be harder and probably more frustrating.  

Then, the work begins.  Just like the drive I mentioned in the previous post, or any of the analogies I used (I do like analogies), we are picturing in our mind the end product when we start out.  That is our goal.  But along the way, there are thousands, maybe even millions, of stitches.  
See all those little loops of yarn?  Each of those is its own individual stitch, that took up its own piece of time that can't be used again.  Even the holes are a type of stitch (called a yarnover, in case you're interested) and they are important and add to the beauty of the whole product.
Now, this particular scarf happens to be cursed, because I had to start over about 12 times, then learned to do lifelines to make mistakes not so costly, and I've still had to pull out stitches back to those lifelines multiple times and reknit whole sections.  It's frustrating.  But see how pretty that is?  (This phone camera doesn't even do the color justice).  Unlike other areas in my life, with knitting I have already learned that each individual stitch is a joy, because each and every stitch is vital to the end goal.  As I stitch and stitch, I am having fun because I am thinking about how wonderful the end product will be and I already know how important each stitch is, so I know I'm not wasting my time.  It helps to have a realistic but challenging goal.  It also helps to see progress along the way.  Some projects are harder to see the progress, especially at first, but because I learned to have faith in the process, and I even came to know that the process works because it worked on a previous project, I have faith that the harder projects will work out, too.

I used to do cross-stitch as well, and the faith in the tedium is similar.  I remember thinking, in a way as I create this image of a little girl, it's like I'm creating her in another dimension.  Each stitch is part of her being, and it's all important, every stitch.  She will never be complete unless I finish every stitch, and when I am done she will come to life.  OK, I'll admit that's kind of weird.  But it was another way to reinforce the importance of every stitch, every step.

Seeing that in other areas of my life has been harder.  But it's still true.  Even every step towards learning that every step is important, is important.  Whoa, that was too meta.  Time for bed!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Small and Simple Things

I tend to be a black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinker.  When I was young, I didn't realize how devilish this could be.  There was good, or there was bad, and there really wasn't much of anything in between.  This can produce all sorts of difficulties, but the one I am going to talk about today is the small stuff.

Have you ever noticed that if you travel a certain route over and over again, the route seems to get shorter and shorter?  Or if you are trying to give directions on that route, you don't realize that the time and length from point A to point B is actually much longer than it seems?  This happens to me ALL THE TIME, because my brain (and, I suspect, many brains) tend to gloss over the things that are seemingly 'not important' to the journey.  No, I didn't notice mileposts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 because I turn at NINE and that is the important one.

The thing is, you can't get to milepost 9 if you don't pass the others.  Your brain may be saying "Milepost 1, then 9," but it isn't, never has, and never will be that way.

Well I do that, apparently, with just about everything.  When I was a kid, math was easy.  So I would get annoyed with the tedious lessons teaching other kids (who had trouble with the concepts) different ways for their brain to wrap around the ideas or achieve the answer.  I just knew that 4+7 was 11, and 6x9 was 54, DUH.  TURN AT MILEPOST NINE ALREADY.  Same with reading.  Very little sounding out letters for me.  I got the words, I might need to look up the meaning once (though I could often glean meanings from context), but then I was good.  Gimme a book.  Done.  Gimme another book.  Done.  I always read the whole thing (didn't skip to the end), but I rarely savored the path along the way.

Now, there are many areas in life, particularly where I am less talented, where that puts me at a serious disadvantage.  For instance, I am woefully uncoordinated.  In 2nd grade, they tried to teach us to skip.  Most kids could get it in 2-3 minutes.  It took me TWO YEARS.  My feet and my brain...well...I guess they are having a feud because they don't like talking to each other.  I gave up many, many times -- but there wasn't a lot of skills you had to master in 2nd grade, and that was one of them, so I was forced to practice and practice and practice till I got it.  I think.  I haven't tried it for a while, I may have lost it.

Most things, though, are too easy to brush under the rug.  Skipping, I HAD to learn.  Most other things, people would help for a short while, then they would leave me to my own devices, and I would inevitably quit.  Because, in my mind, you either get it or you don't.  You either succeed right away, or you fail.  This practicing stuff didn't even make sense to me and seemed a waste of time.  If it was hard, forget it!

Now, I've had a lot of setbacks over the years, and most of them I can attribute to this all-or-nothing thinking.

I tried to eat better and I exercised for a whole week and I didn't lose any weight!  This will never work!

I did my physical therapy exercises 3 of the 12 times I was supposed to do them today.  I don't feel any better.  At all.  Physical therapy is dumb.  Why can't I just take a pill/get surgery to fix it?

I keep working on my book, but it's taking foreeeeeeeeeever and I'm not even done with the first draft and it's not even that good yet.  I'll never get it, never!

Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnne!  QUIT QUIT QUIT!!!

See what I mean?

But God gave me this great thing in my life called Depression.  (no, really!)  Depression does some dumb stuff, sure, but the great thing is that it put me in counseling.  And counseling is slowly, carefully, teaching me the tools I need, along with some accountability, to make some progress.  And one of the most important things I'm realizing is, just like the scripture says, by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.

It is by doing those neck, shoulder, and arm exercises many times a day, every day, that my arms and neck and shoulders will heal and strengthen and the pain will stop.

It's by watching what I eat and forcing myself to exercise a bit more every day that I will lose the weight.

It's by writing a few sentences EVERY DAY that I will finish and perfect this book.

How do I know these things?  Because of where it has worked.

It's by reading my scriptures, just a chapter a day, for most of the last 28 years, that I have gained an intense love and respect for the scriptures that enlightens my mind on a daily basis and gives me an understanding that astonishes people in church classes.

It's by saying my prayers, evening and morning, almost every day for 25+ years that I have gained a relationship with my Heavenly Father that I KNOW He is real and that He loves me.  It has given me a perspective on life and eternity that makes everything, EVERYTHING better.

It's by DAILY practice to be a better person, a kinder person, a more understanding person, that I have become a better person than I ever thought I could be.

It's by reading and constantly learning in many areas (science, art, philosophy, literature) that I have gained a better understanding of the world.  (And, conversely, it's by ignoring calculus for the last 24 years that I have forgotten it all. :P )

So don't discount mileposts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8.  Without them it is impossible to get to 9.

Friday, February 20, 2015

AAAAA!!! THE END IS NEAR!!!!

No it isn't.  I'm just posting two blog posts in one day, silly.  Don't get all dramatic.

Apologies to my Nauvoodle readers, but I'm mostly plagiarizing myself here (can you do that?), because this is something I have thought about for a long time, and I think it is important enough to get it to a wider audience.

Basically, there's a growing trend--well, I call it a trend, though it may be as old as society itself--of people identifying themselves with roles or traits that they have.  "I am a Mom," or "I am a football player," or "I am Mormon," or "I am gay."  Rather than think of these things as something they DO, or a trait that they have, they equate that thing with themselves.  I've seen this cause all sorts of difficulties.  If situations change, like you get injured and can no longer play football, you can feel empty & worthless, because the thing you identified as yourself is no longer possible.  Sometimes something will come up that shines a light on problems with that role -- for instance, you find out that you really screwed up some things you did as a Mom (and what Mom NEVER feels this way?).  That can cause all kinds of twisted states of denial or justification, because you identify yourself as that role, and if you made mistakes, then YOU are BAD, or your entire existence is invalid.  Sometimes what you thought that role meant doesn't quite mesh with reality, and when you find out what is real, you feel you must completely separate yourself from that role and completely change who you are, because the situation seems too black-and-white, so you must throw that entire role away.  For instance, you grew up as a card-carrying Mormon, believing everything about the Church must be chocolate and roses, then you find out about the Mountain Meadows massacre and Joseph Smith's plural wives and you want to throw away the entire religion despite the testimony you had received about the Book of Mormon and the doctrines.

So listen when I say: it's important to separate yourself from those things.

One thing that has caused quite a...lively...discussion on the internet and elsewhere is the subject of gender identity/sexual orientation and how it fits into civil rights and religious freedom arguments.  There's a lot of hate behind both sides of the argument, and it needs to stop.  Now, I am not arguing whether or not homosexual acts are sinful.  If you believe that Christ loving everyone means he doesn't believe in sin, then maybe you should read the New Testament again.  One does not cancel out the other.  If you don't believe in the Bible or sacred texts which enumerate what constitutes a 'sin,' then this discussion will have some things assumed as common ground on which we will disagree, and without that foundation to build upon, it will go nowhere, so you might want to skip the rest of this post.

The thing that gets me here is that there are two things being smooshed together that should not be smooshed together. Support of gay marriage, and support of people who identify themselves as gay. Are there antis who smoosh them together? Absolutely. Are there pros who smoosh them together? Most certainly. But there are many fair- and moral-minded people (whom, I believe, would include both the prophet and even Christ) who object to the one while loving the other.

When it comes to bakers and photographers, I like to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that in refusing to provide services for a gay wedding, they would not refuse other non-ceremony-endorsing services to a person who identified themselves as homosexual. It's not the people or even the state of being to which they object at that level, but the ceremony which attempts to legitimize the union (both physical and societal) of 2 homosexuals. Do you see the difference?

I think one of the problems with this whole movement is that Satan is trying to push the idea that the sinner is indistinguishable and inseparable from his sin. Therefore, if you reject the sin (or even label an action as sinful), you are rejecting the person, when that is oftentimes the furthest from the truth. I have no doubt in my mind that Thomas S. Monson has a greater love for any gay individual that most people on this earth. As PART of that love (not opposed to it, as many would have you believe), he wishes that person to be eternally happy, and while protecting his rights AS A PERSON, he does not wish to cloud the issue and, honestly, make that person (and possibly others through example and mixed messages) far less happy in the long run by making that person think that their sin is not a sin and should be celebrated. He wants people to turn FROM their sins and gain eternal life.

Here is an example: Say I'm a kleptomaniac. I steal things, and rather than trying to stop stealing things, I decide that it is 'fun' and 'legitimate' because I 'can't help it.' Instead of feeling shame or remorse for what I do, I seek to do it more, and get angry at anyone who opposes me in word or deed. Satan, the enemy of MY soul, has convinced me of many lies:
1. Because people are opposed to what I DO, they are opposed to ME.
2. Because stopping what I am doing is hard (and it gets harder the more I do it and the more I make excuses for it), it is 'unchangeable' and therefore stealing=me. Satan tells me I cannot stop because it is WHO I AM and I shouldn't change WHO I AM.
3. Because stealing is therefore 'impossible to stop doing,' people who want or ask me to stop are asking the impossible and are therefore 100% wrong.
4. Anyone who does not support me in my stealing, by turning me in or not turning a blind eye to it or trying to stop me in any way, is a bigoted, judgmental hater of kleptomaniacs.

See the dichotomy? I HAVE to see it, because I struggle with a label myself. I have major, chronic depression & anxiety. I have had it since I was very small. I cannot make it completely go away. I have two ways I can approach it: 1. I can embrace it as 'who I am,' not fight it, and call anyone who doesn't support the negative actions I do because of it as bigoted haters of depressives. OR, 2. I can realize it is NOT a part of my eternal soul but a weakness of the flesh and as such I can fight it. While acknowledging it may not completely go away in this life, I must endure to the end and fight, fight, fight, knowing that I WILL make SOME progress against the symptoms and that Christ, my Savior, will make up for the rest (though there are consequences in this life that simply cannot be avoided). It's super hard. It can be discouraging, especially when, no matter how hard I try, I still show some symptoms.

But I also know that Heavenly Father and Christ will not only make it okay, but that they have given me the EXACT trials and weaknesses I needed to strengthen the parts of my spirit that are weak. I don't remember them being weak -- that pesky veil thing -- but I have faith that it is so, because I have already learned and KNOW that my Heavenly Father and Christ love me and will do anything and everything for me. That includes not letting me 'bow out' of the fight because it's hard. Heavenly Father wants me to know I can do hard things.

It has been brought to my attention...

That people actually READ this blog sometimes, which makes the lack of a new post in four months rather boring.  Go figure.

So, first, the obligatory life catch-up bit: I no longer volunteer at the Discovery Center.  This was a hard decision, as I really love it there, but I have been most pleasantly surprised at the amount of extra time I have now.  I'm actually getting other important things DONE!!  Well, some.  Mostly knitting and napping.  And some writing & research on my book.  (Hooray!)  Some research involves watching rather long Regency-era BBC productions, which leave me unable to think in American accents for days.

Some research involves learning waaaaaay too much about how people (particularly women) dressed in the 18th century, which makes me rather afraid that I will be waxing academic (i.e., with faaaaaaar too much detail) on the subject in my book, and it won't actually give the reader a much better sense of the era I am trying to convey.  How DO you convey that your fantasy-type book takes place in a world very similar to Regency England?  Everyone automatically assumes fantasy is in some sort of medieval environment, so I already have difficulty trying to overcome that stereotype.  I have mentioned balls, and gowns, and carriages, and post-chaises, but alas, this merely brings the reader to a confused "Um, maybe this isn't medieval" state of mind.  So, work, work, work.  It is getting better, though.

One thing that has helped is reading quotes and adages from other writers.  Knowing I'm not alone in my struggle has helped a TON.  One of the best quotes came from my former writing professor and award-winning author Alan Heathcock: "Writing a novel is the process of building the capacity to write a novel.  I can manage tomorrow's work because I'm stronger from today's."  In my life, where fighting the depression is constantly a matter of building my capacity to function, this was most apropos.

As to other life-happenings: I still am unable to go a full year without some sort of surgery. :b  Considering that there is now some scientific speculation that general anesthesia causes a bit of brain damage every time you go under, this does not bode well for my goal of avoiding dementia until I die.  So, if I ever forget your name, it's the anesthesia's fault.  At any rate, here's what I have going on:  in late November/early December, I started having some pretty serious pain in my wrists, particularly when I knit.  So I went to the doctor, who gave me braces.  After over a month, the pain was mostly gone, but only if I wore the braces, so I went back to the doctor, who then prescribed physical therapy.  I've been in physical therapy for about three weeks now, and it seems to be helping some, but undoing 44 years of holding WAY too much tension in my neck and shoulders, as well as trying to undo the ulnar entrapment (a pinched nerve near my elbows), is proving to be mighty difficult.  So a possible surgery to un-trap the nerves near my elbows is possible surgery #1.  Add to that the tension from newly-severe ankle pain, and I'm pretty sore.  Oh, what ankle pain you ask?  Remember that broken ankle last year?  Well, it was getting better.  A lot better.  Still a little sore if I worked it, and I would get occasional jolts of intense pain, but the limp was mostly gone and it was mostly normal.  Till last Monday around 9 p.m.  I had a jolt of intense pain, but it wouldn't stop.  Hasn't stopped.  Has decreased in intensity somewhat, but simply won't go away.  I went to the orthopedist, and he said that was weird (go me!) and maybe if I take NSAIDs on a regular basis it would reduce inflammation and help with the pain.  Except...of course...I can't take NSAIDs that often because of a) the drug interaction with the cymbalta that turns my platelets off and makes any bleed (particularly internal) into a scary situation, and b) my history of ulcers.  So, poop.  He can take the hardware out (possible surgery #2), but that only has a 50/50 chance of solving the pain.  It might also have something to do with getting off of Abilify.  What, I didn't tell you about that, either?  This is a GOOD thing, mostly.  I was taking Abilify to supplement and enhance my anti-depressants.  I used to be on 20 mg/day, which is quite high, but the depression was so bad, that if I didn't have both, I had trouble.  But the last few years, we've slowly been decreasing my dose.  15 mg, then 10, then 5, then 1/2 of a 5 mg tablet per day.  Finally, in December, I stopped taking it.  It was hard for a couple of weeks as the last of it left my system.  I found myself irritable and having difficulty sleeping -- it felt like my nerves were RAW.  Even now, it's a little easier for things to put me in a 'funk.'  But my blood sugar is better.  I don't have to pay for that expensive drug anymore.  The tremors are gone.  And, mostly, I feel a little stronger because I am able to deal with my depression better with mental & spiritual tools rather than so much with chemicals.  I still have my basic antidepressant -- I don't know if I will EVER be able to get off that -- but it's enough for now.  Related to that, I refilled my prescription for alprazolam (an anti-anxiety medication).  Getting off the Abilify has made me a little more vulnerable when 'bad things' happen.  The alprazolam can help calm the anxiety on those rare bad days.  Yes, it puts me to sleep and makes me a little 'woogy,' but I can deal with that.  Plus, it is a muscle relaxant, so it helps with the pain from physical therapy.  :)  As to possible surgery #3, that's just a probable hernia.

And another year of meeting my medical deductible before March!  They may raise my deductible every year, but they'll never catch up with me!