Insomnia, Anyone?

Not Again!

Lately I’ve developed a pattern of waking up at odd times of the morning. This morning it was 4:48. It’s advised not to check the time, but my curiosity overcomes my adherence to rules. 

I don’t know why I do this. I’m almost always disappointed. It never says 7:00, and if it was 7:00 I’d know because the sun would be up. Instead, I stumble into the bathroom, stare at my iphone, work up the courage to look at the time, and grumble on my way back to bed, facing another night of interrupted sleep.

Can anyone relate? 

Now comes the fun part…getting back to sleep. After all, it’s only 4:48. I have time for at least two more hours of sleep… if I can get back to sleep. That’s a big “if”.

I can’t put all the blame on my bladder. Often, the culprit is my thoughts. I can’t shut them up. It’s like there’s another person inside my head who’s desperate for company, saying “Can we talk?”

My Strategies

I try to head off this chatterbox by saying the Rosary. That way, I’m in charge of my thoughts. Since I can’t find my real Rosary, I use my fingers instead of beads. I’ve managed to silence the chatterbox and enter the spiritual realm all at the same time. 

I once timed how long it took me to say the Rosary. That’s my competitive side rearing its ugly head. 

Timing the Rosary, really…is this a 5K?

Hello, Pema

iI this doesn’t work, I always have Pema.

Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun who teaches about meditation. She has a very soothing voice as well as a sense of humor, so her CD’s are more interesting and entertaining to listen to than my own thoughts at 5:00 am. 

Each time I listen, I hear new bits of wisdom I hadn’t heard before. Last night, or should I say this morning, she told listeners to “keep coming back” whenever their own thoughts interrupted their meditation. So, that advice isn’t only for AA members. It’s for me. It’s for all of us.

That’s my toolbox…Prayer and Pema.

What’s in yours?

http://www.trowercoaching.com

Spiritual Musings

My Beliefs

It’s that time of year, Easter, and being so, I find myself thinking about spirituality. 

I’m not a churchgoer per se, but since I grew up Catholic and attended Mass at least six days a week, I’ve accumulated a quorum of prayers, incense, and sore knees.

At the ripe age of 11, I decided that reincarnation made more sense to me than any other explanation. 

In my mind, one life wasn’t enough. I could see the disparity between rich and poor, intelligent and not-so, and the many other differences between people.

 Why did some people suffer while others seem to skate through life untouched? Even at 11, I could sense the intrinsic unfairness of this. If kids care about anything, it’s about fairness. What child hasn’t shouted, “But that’s not fair!”.  

Many religious scholars claim there’s just one life. We live. We die. That’s it.

 But, if one life is all there is, where did original sin originate…in the womb? This wasn’t rocket science, just a simple if-then statement.

What Happened Next

As I grew older, I became interested in world religions. As a therapist, I was drawn to the practice of meditation. This is where I noticed a correlation between the Virgin Mary and meditation.

Interestingly, when the Virgin Mary appears to people, usually children, she requests people say the Rosary each day.

One day it dawned on me that the Rosary is actually a meditation, much like Transcendental Meditation.

Around that time, I attended a workshop in Santa Fe NM, and to my surprise, during one of the sessions, in walks the Dalai Lama with his entourage.

I quickly realized this was a once in a lifetime event for me, so I became ultra -attentive. I regarded this as a synchronistic event.

 His message was about compassion. I started taking the practice of meditation more seriously. If it was good enough for Mother Mary and the Dalai Lama, who was I not to hold it in high esteem?

But what was in it for me? 

The Remedy

Meditation is a balm for anxiety. I have always had a moderate degree of anxiety. My childhood was marked by a high degree of unpredictability, which acts like fertilizer for the development of anxiety. My counseling practice should be called Anxiety-R-Us.

 I’ve been drawn to any practice, no matter how conventional or “out there”, that relieves anxiety. Trust me, I’ve tried all I deliver on myself first. I consider this the acid test. I’m like Mikey. If it works for me, I’ll share the secrets.

I’ve run into people who don’t know their blood type, but I learned mine during physiology class in high school. I’m Type A. The other day I read that people with Type A blood are more likely to have higher levels of cortisol, and therefore, higher levels of anxiety. I’ve also read having Type A blood increases your risk of getting Covid. I know I SOUND like someone with anxiety.

All to say, I don’t think it was an accident that I ran into the Dalai Lama, and heard his message. God must have said, “Send in the big guns for this one.”

So, it’s Easter, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection…for us, a reminder that every day is a Resurrection. Every day is a new chance. 

That’s good enough for me.

http://www.trowercoaching.com

Staying On Top of the Fray

The Fray?

What is the fray, anyway?  According to Google, fray refers to a person’s nerves, or temper, as well as the effects of strain.

 In my book, there are two ways to deal with the fray. Either learn to anticipate problems before the fray, or become an expert in problem solving.

We have daily opportunities to stay on top of the fray. As I write this, my kittens are behind my computer, frisking upon my wifi setup, and possibly doing their favorite type of sabotage, chewing on the wires. 

As anticipating problems is one way to stay on top of the fray, I could lock the cats out of my home office. But that only means desperate scratching to get back in. I could move my computer away from the wall so their little bodies didn’t have such an advantage over me.

Or, I could learn to live with it and re-read my copy of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”

IPhone Fray

Here’s a problem I didn’t anticipate. When I turned off my iPhone alarm, I noticed it hadn’t charged. It was only then I saw an alert I’d never seen before, and hope to never see again.

“Your connector is wet. Let it dry.” 

This was not good news. So, I guess the thingy has a name… the connector. 

To add to the fray, I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning and need my alarm. I remember reading that willing yourself to wake up at a certain hour can work.

 Should I put more stock in my unconscious mind, or the odds that my iPhone will dry before the sun sets? 

Choose Carefully

The truth is, you can’t anticipate every problem, so in this case, the skill called “problem solving” must be employed. I could curse the iPhone to express my agitation that the fray has fried my morning serenity, I could rush to the iPhone “fix-it” store, or I could patiently wait for it to dry.

I chose option #3.

I wasn’t disappointed. I was right “on point”. The crisis was over. The ship was back in port. Once my amygdala had left the freak- out stage, I had time to reflect on my gratitude for both the cats and the iPhone.

To quote the T-shirt, “Life is good”.

Laugh Your Way To Wellness

Tell The Truth

Have you laughed today? If I take an honest assessment, I have to admit I haven’t. 

I’ve been told I have a good sense of humor, but where did it go? Did I leave it in the glovebox? Is it hiding in my Netflix account? 

I wouldn’t care except that I keep reading articles about the power of laughter to heal, and I mean both physically and psychologically. In a research article by B.L. Seaward, she describes humor as having “long term effects that strengthen the power of the immune system”.

Worked For Him

A case in point is the story of Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness. After being diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease, he checked himself into a hotel and spent his days, among other things, watching comedies. He essentially shielded himself from stress and spent his days pursuing laughter. 

Although unorthodox, he had the support of his physician. The good news is he gradually recovered. He credited positive thinking and laughter as an important part of his cure. He even had funny movies brought into his hospital room.

LOL

A book I read eons ago still packs a punch…or should I say a punchline. Dr. Bernie Seigel, M.D. wrote Love, Medicine, and Miracles. In it, he describes exceptional patients who experienced healing through humor, positive thinking, and visualization. If you haven’t read it, it’s an empowering read!

Personally, my greatest source of laughter comes from watching funny sitcoms. I have no idea how people develop their sense of humor, but I’m guessing it’s from a relative you grew up with…probably one or both parents. So, next time you want to blame your parents for something, instead, you can thank them for your sense of humor. Tell that to your therapist.

As a 9th grade civics teacher, I once had a student who loved to crack jokes while I was conducting discussions about the government…in other words, trying to teach. As a result, I agreed to give him the last 5 minutes of class to do his stand- up routine. It was a win-win.

Fast Forward To The Present

These days, I get my dose of humor by watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, FriendsFrazier, and standup on cable.

I refuse to watch murders, crime shows, or anything designed to keep me up at night. It fuels my insomnia, and life is scary enough. I don’t need scary television downloads, or scary movies, for that matter. I won’t pay to be scared!

Recently, I read a quote by Karen Madewell worth keeping. “Laughter is the key to youth.”

As a baby boomer, I say, “That quote is definitely a keeper!”

Three People I Admire

Who Was Frida?

I just read the book entitled What Would Frida Do? It’s a guide to living boldly. Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who became famous, as much for her joie de vie, as for her art. Overall, she was her own woman, doing self-portraits long before selfies came into fashion.  

Nothing stopped Frida from pursuing her passions, even the multiple health issues she encountered throughout her lifetime. Unfortunately, this included a leg amputation below the knee. But even that didn’t stop her from living life to the max.

 To quote Frida, “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” She did exactly what she wanted to do in her own passionate way without regard to outside influences or opinions, and in that way, she was a model for women today. 

I felt energized when I read about Frida. Her biography is like a permission slip…permission to be who you really are.

We Miss You, Amelia

Another woman I admire is Amelia Earhart. Aviation was her passion, and in following that passion, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She visualized what she wanted to achieve and went for it. To quote Amelia, “the most effective way to do it is to do it.”

How many times are our dreams blocked by procrastination, fed by insecurity or the imposter syndrome? If this sounds like you, channel your inner Amelia. Her life grants you permission.

He Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth

Finally, having purpose and passion aren’t gender specific. One of the bravest men who’ve walked the planet in my lifetime is John Glenn, Jr. In 1962, he became the first American to  orbit the earth. This was a first. There were no safety nets below. He was putting his life on the line while the whole world watched. I admire his wife, who supported him in a mission with no guarantee of success or survival. 

So, next time you gaze at the moon, think of John Glenn and his wife, Annie.

You Too!

Finally, how can we emulate the courage of these three pioneers of space, art, and aviation?

If your first inclination is to say, “No way, Jose”, I have news for you. Anything you desire with passion and purpose is within your reach. It may not manifest in exactly the form you ordered, but keep your expectations alive. It’s germinating. 

But first, you have to get started. So, start now. Create the steps you need to take. Don’t wait. As Amelia would say, “the most effective way to do it is to do it.”

Worked for her…it can work for you.

www.trowercoaching.com

The Enigma of Time

Einstein Was Right!

Why do my monthly bills seem to come due every two weeks, and my dental cleanings every two months? 

Of course, this isn’t actually happening. It just seems that way. 

Einstein was right. Time is relative. Fourth grade seemed like an eternity, and I liked fourth grade. 

It seems that the older I get the faster time goes. Is this even fair? When you know you’ve got less time left on the planet, time seems to speed up, as if to hint, “You’ve been here long enough. Better luck with your next life.”

I don’t mean to sound maudlin, but really? 

There’s More

If that’s not bad enough, with age and all that wisdom, you still have to deal with the two new men in your life, Arthur-itis and Charley-horse. Ok. I know there are three, but I can’t conjure up the third. All to say, old age brings health issues. Some of the things you loved to do at 30 are out of the question at 70.

Another thought I’ve pondered is this…it takes a long time to become wise. Wisdom, hopefully, is accumulated with age, the result of learning from experience. Hopefully, we don’t opt to learn, as they say, “the hard way”.

I’m not arguing with God, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could age backwards? Come into the world with arthritis and 70 years later run a marathon, but hold on to the wisdom? Is that asking too much? 

Is It My Eyes?

Even my perceptions have changed. Things don’t appear the same. It’s like I’m in a space warp. Why do the rooms in the house I grew up in look so small? 

What are the years doing to me? Should I donate my brain to science like the nuns in the study?

Can they peer into my 9 year- old brain and figure out why one thin sliver of glass suddenly brought my entire world into focus? 

According to Science In the News, a Harvard periodical, there’s an explanation as to why time seems to speed up as we age. Professor Adrian Bejan presents an argument based on the physics of neural signal processing. He hypothesizes that, over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, and this is what makes time ‘speed up’ as we grow older.

I’m not sure I like that explanation, but here’s my response…Carpe Diem!

The Real Difference Between Men and Women

I get that there are many differences between men and women, but the one that has my attention at the moment can be boiled down to two words…prep time.

I have several morning rituals that give me pleasure, like eating breakfast, reading the newspaper and drinking my one and only cup of coffee…black. 

But, there’s another morning ritual I consider not so pleasant. It’s time consuming, and needs to be at least acknowledged, and given the credit it’s due.

I’ve started to regard getting dressed with the same distain I feel about those order- out delivery meals that take 45 minutes of intense prep before you can eat. 

There’s considerable prep-time needed for the simple act of getting dressed and making myself even bottom-line presentable. It’s occurred to me that this is a major difference between men and women. 

Ready For Your Close-up?

For a man, it’s maybe 15 minutes…shower, dab of styling gel, dress, and out the door.

As I’ve said before, hair is extremely important to women… men, not so much. Some men would argue with me, but they don’t seem to have the same issues with hair. Even in the most extreme wind conditions, I don’t recall ever looking at a guy and thinking, “He’s having a bad hair day.”

 For women, it’s more like an hour and 15 minutes. Shower, apply makeup (or what my great aunt used to call “putting on her face”), blow dry your hair, and decide what to wear. This may include several wardrobe changes before a final decision is made. Regardless of your feelings on this issue, for working women, presentation is queen. I long for the simplicity of my school uniform days. No decisions. If it’s clean and hanging in the closet, put it on.

 If a woman likes makeup, she’s likely to patronize several brands. I remember, during my garage sale, a friend sarcastically suggesting I have both a Clinique and an Estee Lauder counter. 

The Time Factor

So, how many hours is all this prep time setting me back? Let’s just say I spend 265 hours a year prepping. What else could I have done with that time…written a sequel to War and Peace, learned to play Dueling Banjos, become fluent in French?

But, truthfully, prepping is my choice.

All things considered, it’s time well spent.

My Take on Feelings

The Purpose of Feelings

I’ve been thinking about the purpose of feelings.

Actually, having feelings is a gift, an asset, a blessing. It’s our inner GPS…our personal game of “hot” and “cold.” It delights us and warns us. It’s almost like our Guardian Angel, and it never sleeps. It’s your nocturnal BFF.

It’s what separates us from our furniture. Although I’ll admit, a few times I’ve moved my table and I can almost hear it saying, “I liked my old location better.” 

Animals have feelings. If you’ve ever been adopted by an animal, you know what I mean.

We, as humans, tend to categorize feelings as either good or bad. Actually, it’s what you do with those feelings that makes them good or bad.

Ew…Anger

For example, anger is often considered “bad”. But what if you lost your ability to feel anger? You’d turn into a doormat. People could walk all over you.

Even Jesus got angry. Remember the incident in the temple with the tax guys? And Jesus wept. I think that’s the shortest verse in the Bible, but it illustrates his humanity on top of his divinity.

Feelings are our divine legacy. I was recently reminded how much words affect our  feelings. Now, I’m not blaming my mother. She sang a lot of beautiful songs to me as a baby. But I had a light bulb moment about one of those songs. It’s called “Rock-a-bye-baby”. I emphasize the word “bye”, and here’s why. 

Brace Yourself

Have you ever really listened to the lyrics? They were supposedly written by Effie Crockett, a relative of Davy Crockett, who wrote the lyrics in 1872 while babysitting a restless child.

Ok…here goes.

Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetops,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Did you catch the last line? “And down will come baby, cradle and all?” I can’t tell you how many times she sang me this lullaby? This isn’t just a lullaby… It’s a doomsday scenario!

I’m not scapegoating the song. My life has turned out pretty well. No damage done.

More Creepy Stuff

I know robots are being used more and more for surgery, and programmers are now trying to develop robots with feelings.

Maybe you’re thinking, “How cool!”

” I’m thinking, “ Creepy.”

I can just imagine you and your robot in therapy for your roommate issues.

It could even have global implications, like another Star Wars, and I doubt we’ll be the stars.

Bottom line, I’m thankful for my feelings…all my feelings. They make me a lot of things, but mainly they make me human.

http://www.stressbustercoach.com

Time Is Money


The Joy of Emails

You’ve heard of the million- mile marker? Well, I’m nearing the million- email marker. 
 
Every morning my routine includes feeding the cats, feeding myself, making coffee, and deleting 80 emails. 
 
This takes time. 
 
Isn’t there an old saying, “time is money.”  It’s almost as if whoever said this had a glimpse into the future of the email world… maybe Nostradamus.
 
They’ve Got To Go

The solution was simple. I decided to delete all my old emails. It seemed efficient. However, it appears the window on this idea has slammed shut.
 
 Gmail was easy (fewer emails), but Yahoo…not so much. I waved the white flag when I realized my deletions had only progressed to 2017. This is 2021. I could see the trend. My finger was tired.
 
I recently joined a service that sends out automated marketing emails. The problem…no one opens my emails. I’m one of the 80 they delete every morning. I feel a little guilty for even sending them out. If time is money, I feel like I’m stealing their time.

A Light Bulb Moment
 
Here’s an idea. Maybe instead of putting people through the drudgery of deleting email messages, emails could be recorded subliminally. You could listen to them in your sleep, or even take a email messages “power nap”.
 
Another time-eater is the batch of computer glitches I sometimes endure. Yesterday the printer wouldn’t print. Today Microsoft Word wouldn’t open. 
 
Where is a seventh grader when you need one?
 
I actually get the most bang for the buck from my To-Do list. Once the items are checked off, it’s siesta time. I have time to spare.
 
Yes, it seems the adage is true. Time is money.
 
How are you “spending” yours?
 

Clutter Is Us


The Problem

I’ve had the same mission for at least a year. I’m trying to de-clutter. I’m not talking about a room. I’m talking about my house.
 
I totally believe physical clutter becomes mental clutter. It’s like a sneaky morphing process that silently takes place as your clutter grows. 
 
At first you don’t notice. Maybe you’re a little more stressed, but by the time you’ve reached the diagnosable “Generalized Anxiety” stage, you may (or may not) have figured out the connection.
 
My entire body is like a lightning rod for clutter. The more clutter, the more teeth grinding and muscle tension arises. It’s like the 2 x 4 that finally gets my attention…definitely a “Surrender Dorothy” moment.
 
Vacuuming has a way of disguising the clutter. My serotonin level is higher on the days I vacuum. It doesn’t last long, however, because my athletic shoes leave noticeable tread marks in their wake.
 
The Kittens

Then there’s the bathroom…oh, not my favorite room to clean. One reason…my kittens consider it their spa. My bathtub is their meditation space. I’m just lucky cats don’t like water. My shower is safe. 
 
 By the way, is there a Feline Mensa Society? I know dogs have Dog Parks, but cats need Mensa Meetings. If you don’t believe me, google the articles on how to pill a cat. When I’m feeling down, I read those articles. If those don’t make me laugh, nothing will.
 
But Don’t Call Me A Hoarder

I’m not a hoarder. A friend recently described me as a minimalist. Although a lot of my stuff is hidden inside drawers and closets, I still claim and cherish that moniker.
 
If I ever want to move…let’s not even go there. I’d have to hire two moving companies…one for my necessities and furniture, and the other for my “stuff”.
 
Stuff, meaning clutter, seems to stick to me like Velcro. Regardless of how many times I clear it, it reproduces like kudzu.
 
Can you relate?