Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Rants, Weekend Coffee Share

Sticker Trouble

If you were having coffee with me, I would probably talk your ear off. It’s nice strong coffee, though, and we’re having it black (unless you insist on milk).

It’s bin day tomorrow so I took the trash out. Washed things sitting around, emptied and filled dishwasher, took care of houseplants. They have greenfly again, so I took them out and gave them a good blasting with the hose. I will blast them a few more times during the day, but not too often. I asked Mum why *her* plants never got greenfly, and she wrinkled her nose and pointed at her begonias. I noticed the little lavender spriglet was drying out again, so I shot it outside after a dousing, and told Mum I’d try leaving it outside because it keeps drying out too much in the house. It will certainly die inside. Outside is its best chance.

The coriander was completely dead, so I emptied it outside and stored the pig-shaped pot in the shed. The soil was all pretty wet… it was probably over-watered.

One of the things Mum bought when she was out with a friend this morning was over-packaged pears. There were four, and I immediately pulled them out of the packaging to place them in the fruit bowl, and realized two weren’t just bruised, they had cuts in the flesh and the juice was running. You couldn’t see the damage because of all the stuff they were cocooned in. I showed them to Mum, and she frowned.

“It says ‘from Italy’,” I said, reading the front of the covering film.

I was thinking about it while emptying the coriander skeleton onto the flowerbed, and remembered how sometimes you’d buy a pumpkin or a squash, and remove a big supermarket sticker only to find a considerable dent or other blemish under the sticker. When pumpkins are intended to be the decorative centre of somebody’s festive display, it’s an mean-spirited thing to do (oowoowoowoo), but I don’t know who puts the stickers on in the first place. The supermarket or the producers?

Probably it’s not something we should formally complain about… pick your battles, as they say. Presumably most squashes and pumpkins have flaws and blemishes, and it would be like moving to the country and complaining about farmyard noises at crack of dawn. The fact that somebody has deliberately hidden flaws with carefully-placed stickers does leave a bad taste in the mouth, though. The daft thing is, if they put a blemished pumpkin in the wonky veg section and discounted it by 10p, we would rush to buy it. At least we would know about it beforehand and be pleased with our bargain!

Stickers must cost money, and ultimately the customer and the environment both pay; the real issue is probably why they put stickers on loose produce anyway.

Having mused over this during the funeral of my poor coriander, I stored the pot and headed back into the warm.

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Posted in Political and Social Issues, Rants, Technology and Software

Lost in Gmail

Me in Gmail:

“Where’s the ‘reply’ button? Not this. Not that one either. Daren’t press the other one ‘cos I’m worried it will open the garbage chute or share everything far and wide.” (Looks helplessly around). “What are these promising dots in the corner? Oh, got it.”

(Starts replying to long-lost buddy in the U.S).

The next Gmail-related quandary was, “How do I save this as a draft?” On an iPad you can’t hover over things to check them out before committing, as there’s no mouse.

“What’s that symbol?… Nope, no drafts in there. That? Don’t touch it… it looks suspiciously like SEND, and I’m not ready. So what’s that arrow in the other corner? What if that’s SEND as well?”

(Considers doubtfully for a minute).

“On the other hand, the arrow could be the back button. I might as well risk it, but I’ll copy the entire post first in case I need to paste it back in.”

Fortunately, hitting the back button does save it as a draft, but once upon a time you would never have had to make such a leap of faith. Is it just that I’ve come from an environment where you had to save every document manually before you left it, and now we’re supposed to trust in our devices to do it automatically? I used to save every five minutes or less. It wasn’t an annoyance; it was reflex self-assurance, like touching worry beads round my neck and finding safety.

I was watching something a day ago in which a guy was complaining how Google turned Gmail into something unpleasant and confusing to use. His main subject was Google’s leaked briefing ‘The Good Censor‘. By voting for Trump, Brexit and the AfD, it seems we proved to Big Tech that we can’t be trusted to roam the internet on our own. Google said the briefing was internal research only, not company policy, but it’s suspicious they should see it as a ‘problem’ that’s theirs to solve.

That long-lost buddy is a fellow Facebook-hater, and mentioned something called MeWe. I hadn’t heard of it till then, but as I don’t like Facebook-type sites anyway, I’m not sure it’s for me. I was reading about it, and it looks as though you can keep groups of people separate from each other and not have all your friends, family and colleagues jostling elbows in one big viewable list.

That’s what Facebook should have been from the start. I wonder, will we be hearing more about MeWe from now on?

Posted in Reblogs

The Loneliness of the Long Suffering Turtle

Absolutely topical! 😁😁 I like this cartoon.

Over the Hedge

Hedge100818This is a personal week for me. Verne is a proxy for my issues with anxiety.  With therapy and medication I’m mostly okay. But not always.

I hope this silly little effort at empathy is helpful to any of you struggling with mental health problems. Remember…

You’re not alone.

It’s possible to be happy and productive.

It will get better.

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Posted in Life and Family

Blaming the Ghost

After her lunchtime siesta, Mum stumped into the room with a bit of a frown.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Somebody threw my bottle down the stairs.”

I felt slightly guilty as I remembered an empty plastic water bottle falling off the bottom few steps where it was sitting. It was accidental, but I didn’t pick it up, feeling rushed, sleepy and out of energy. I figured I’d get it later and throw it out.

I didn’t admit to anything but said, “Maybe it was the ghost!” I can’t remember her response, but then I asked why the bottle was on the stairs, and M said she was intending it to go upstairs to water her plants.

Later my sister emailed. “Should you find a fridge magnet through the door — it is a present for me.”

“If it disappears, it will be because of the ghost.”

“I’m sure the ghost would love a fridge magnet.”

Owoo woo woo.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Health Issues, Life and Family

Fear Stands Behind

One of the things that bothers me about panic, agoraphobia and similar anxieties is that they are never far away. Even if you recover to a stage where you’re generally relaxed, feeling comfortable out and about, and you have been okay for a long while, you know it won’t take much to bring the bad feelings back. You are constantly alert, avoiding situations that might bring on a panic attack.

Well, today I had the worst attack for a long time, and still feel ‘off’. I was out with my mother and sister for coffee and shopping. The coffee shop was crowded and noisy, but that was OK. I found myself describing last night’s dream… in a crowded gathering, Boris Johnson approached and said “I noticed you and your mother both like word games!”

After coffee, I felt vaguely ‘unsafe’ as we walked in the streets. Perhaps the people round us were walking too fast? I wasn’t sure what was wrong.

We went into a brightly-lit Boots, and the feeling of unease increased. They had a ‘3 for 2’ offer on vitamins, so I picked up magnesium, Vitamin D and cod liver oil capsules. I recently watched a video saying calcium supplements are not only unnecessary, they’re potentially harmful, so I was irritated that the magnesium in Boots was mixed with calcium. I would have been stuck if my mother hadn’t found a small pot of plain magnesium. If there’s any calcium in it, it’s not in the label; it just says ‘contains sodium’. It was quite a bit cheaper than the other two supplements, so that’s what I got free… sigh.

Stop Taking that Calcium Supplement! (YouTube video)

But I digress…

Having chosen my supplements from the massive range in Boots, I was dismayed to find a long queue at the cashpoint. Other experienced anxiety sufferers will know why this is a problem. They used to have tills dotted all round the shop, but now the individual till points have been amalgamated into a single group of tills. You have to stand in one long queue, and by the time you reach the head of it, there’s a long queue of people standing behind you… which is worse than having a long queue of people in front, because they’re probably all staring restlessly at you and wishing you’d get a move on.

While waiting, I couldn’t even stand neatly in the queue… I stood to one side of it, which was kind of awkward. Why did I do that? It makes me stick out like a sore thumb, but I felt joining the line properly would somehow trap me. I considered putting the supplements back and getting them another time, but suspected I’d just find long queues again when I came back.

I won’t put up with panic any more. I want to do what I’m there to do, and get on with it even if I become visibly upset. That way perhaps I will learn to push through things, and the anxiety will finally go away and leave me alone. At any rate, that’s the idea!

I was shaking when getting my change and putting my shopping away, but I survived… and I don’t think the girl behind the till even noticed, as I was just scooping things up rapidly and bobbing down to my shopping trolley. Later I asked Mum if she realized I was panicking in Boots, and she looked surprised and said ‘no’!

I calmed down when we were walking around town and into other shops like H&M, but I still wasn’t happy. I think town was more crowded than usual and I instinctively sensed the change.

A day or two ago I was talking to Mum about calcium while in the middle of watching the video on the subject. She got hissy and annoyed, and I laughed out loud when Dr Berry said, “your mom is probably still taking it. Women have the habit of getting into the habit of things.” Yes, she is. She’ll probably keep taking calcium because she believes in it, but I’m happy with Vitamin D. I wasn’t taking calcium in the first place, or any supplements at all, but it’s true there isn’t an awful lot of sunshine around here. So Vitamin D it is!

On the subject of anxiety, I’ve been thinking about whether or not it’s affected by diet. If it is, how does the right diet stand between you and anxiety regardless of the personal stresses you undergo? Perhaps the wrong diet weakens you and you are less able to stand up to ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’? Perhaps the wrong diet puts you more on edge so that even small things stretch your nerves? If there’s a correlation, I’ve no idea what it is, but the following two videos made me wonder:

Jordan Peterson — The Carnivore Diet Changed My Life! — Joe Rogan Podcast

Mikhaila Peterson Diet (Arthritis & Depression Success Story)

I’ve been feeling pretty blue over the past while, along with an unfortunate tendency to eat things like Maltesers, swede & carrot mash, fruit and chocolate biscuits… Maybe if I cut those things out, the anxiety would disappear! Dare I put these chocolate biscuits in the bin? I hate wasting things, but should I…?

Posted in Lost in Thought, Quizzes and Memes

Processing Skills and Moods

22 September? Don’t tell me the month is already nearly over… feels like it only just started.

What was the most astonishing thing that happened to you within the past 352 days?

I imagine a lot of surprising things have happened over the year, but the most powerful happened in the past three days… our household was briefly joined by a pigeon. It was a very quiet little bird, but I still feel I’ve been hit by a wrecking ball.

Do you have a skill you know you couldn’t get much better at than you already are?

Skills? I feel reluctant to think about this, partly because I’d end up writing a list. I seem to write lists for everything. It would get longer and longer, and I’d add every little thing I could possibly class as a skill, even natural (breathing) or something I’m terrible at (singing). Then I’d rate them out of ten, and re-sort the list so my best skills were at the top, after which I would look outside at the darkness and wonder what had happened to my day.

Since I would have gone to such a lot of trouble to work out my best and worst skills, the list couldn’t possibly be deleted, but must be stored in multiple back-ups along with everything else I’ve ever written down. After all, I might feel the need to refer to it again… some unwary idiot might ask the same question five years from now.

No, I don’t think I will do it, having thought it through!

What was your question again…?

What time of day or night best suits your most frequent mood?

This is a really tough question!

‘Now’ is often a good time, provided I don’t have something stressful to do like going to the dentist or cleaning the bathroom. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with the time of day; it’s more the content of it. The worst time of day tends to be very very early in the morning when you wake up fretting and can’t go back to sleep. Strangely, the best time can be bedtime, because you feel (hope) you’ll be safe from the rest of the world for a while. It’s a time to celebrate your own personal bubble by pulling close all the things that make you most comfortable. Book, drink, cosy blanket, long-suffering bear. Something to write in or watch (your journal and a YouTube video). Maybe a little iPad game that doesn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes for a couple of levels. I don’t mind the fact that I’ve played these same games over and over for years… it’s nice knowing what I’m doing, and you can’t be more than mildly addicted because you’re not paying for anything, interacting with anybody or striving to gain a new level or badge. You’re just enjoying the flow of the game, and you know you can pause it then pick it up again, or restart if you’ve made a bish of it this time round, and it doesn’t really matter.

My favourite games for this purpose are Trolls vs Vikings, Roads of Rome and Northern Tale. I also have Adelantado, but each level can take about 40 minutes, and some are pretty tricky… so I only play that if I have time and energy.

Having rambled on, I’m not sure I answered the question correctly, because you sneaked in something about mood. My most frequent mood. What’s my most frequent mood? Do I have to write one of those lists I described above?

As it happens, I don’t have to, as I’ve been keeping a mood spreadsheet for the past couple of months! It’s not very good and I keep meaning to design a better one. It’s the best I’ve got, though, so I’ll have a look once I’ve climbed the stairs and retreated into my personal bubble for the night. Perhaps while I’m doing that, the person asking all these questions should answer this one himself. Either that, or explain his thinking behind the question… was there a reason to wonder?

For what it’s worth, the ‘moods’ that seem to score highest over the past two months are:

strength
full of plans
creative
pretty worried
angry

It’s annoying to feel ‘creative’ or ‘full of plans’ last thing at night, especially as both impulses have usually been wiped out completely by morning. I hate to be worried last thing at night, especially ‘pretty worried’, which is mid-range intensity.

That’s probably why I play short iPad games over and over — it’s my way of temporarily switching off. I didn’t think anger would feature so highly, as I’ve been pretty easy-going and haven’t had shouting matches with anyone other than the ex-friend. That’s not a measure, though. I’ve sometimes felt angry at individuals for reasons I won’t reveal here, and at things said or done in politics and science. It’s better not to be angry last thing at night, as pacing back and forth can sometimes take the edge off, and you can’t pace back and forward in bed. You can kick the blanket off, I guess, and I’ve done that too.

‘Strength’ was the biggest scorer, though, which was a shocker! A lot of times I felt I had to just get on with things, carry on with chores even when distracted (cleaning kitchen and taking trash out when panicking about a baby pigeon!) and not be an attention-sucking drama queen even when upset. I don’t know if you’d call strength a mood, but it’s a mood-regulator, so why not make a note of it? If I’m playing Trolls vs Vikings a bit too much, I realize there’s something I’m not wanting to get to grips with, which means strength is low. If I’m drafting difficult emails and getting on with routine chores in the middle of life dramas, strength is high.

Strength is of little practical use at bedtime, when I’m probably going to wrap myself in my cocoon anyway.

OK, final answer! When I’m feeling strong, mid-morning is the best time. That’s when I’m more likely to deal with things, especially if geed on by worry, plans and creativity.

Today’s ramble is now at an end. 😛

Questions by Paul Sunstone.

Posted in Blogging, Lost in Thought

Facing Change

This morning I found myself typing the following into a search engine: “when you’ve changed so much you don’t recognize yourself.”

I didn’t find much relevant in the results. They were mostly by people talking about something else entirely. They have fallen in love and are suddenly no longer interested in their old friends; they have lost trust in someone and wonder if they should give second chances; they regret their own actions but are no longer trusted by those around them. These are not what I’m talking about.

What came closer to it was a page about how major episodes of depression can change you; people think recovery is going back to their old selves and feeling the way they used to, yet it’s unlikely you’ll be exactly the same person you were. I know that feeling too, but it’s only part of the story here.

Surely most of us have these dizzying shifts in perspective as we go through life. It can happen quite quickly, over a few days… you go through a hard experience of some kind, and one morning everything looks permanently different. We might not understand what has happened, but our way of thinking has changed for some reason. What we are upset about is probably the realization we were mistaken in some way, are not who we thought we were, or don’t have something we thought we had or would have.

I miss that old comfortable groove where I could see the world in one particular way, rain and shine, day in and day out… but it was also a bleak groove, and was becoming bleaker as the years rolled by. I may have blamed myself sometimes, but have not been solely responsible for the growing chill in the world I thought I knew.

I said I changed, and I have, but it’s more as though I was lost and sailing in a mist, then the mist lifted and I could see my way and set a firmer direction. I always had contradictory views, but some started to make more sense and I stopped ignoring them.

My point is that these big changes in our perspectives don’t have to lead to loss of self and resulting depression; they can clarify and confirm parts of ourselves we didn’t understand before, which is beneficial and even healing. I would argue that they are always beneficial if we accept that such changes can lead us to a terra firma we would otherwise not have found.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog here, and I guess that the longer I’ve been blogging, the more distant I am from some of what I’ve written. Yet the old posts still describe how I was at a certain point in time. I’m not sure I can even blog the way I did before, because so much in me has changed. This is part of why I felt I couldn’t recognize myself any more.

I’ve talked about big changes, but small things also have the potential to affect our outlook. Not all do; you might be drifting placidly from day to day, thinking “I’ll have to try this thing, and change that particular habit,” then totally forget, and nothing happens. Then somebody or something comes into your life and upsets your boat, and you find yourself splashing about in the water for a while, spluttering up at the sky and thinking “I never noticed before how blue it was!”

Even if it’s a very short-lived thing, it’s not just a temporary experience… you learn something new from it and remember, and it’s all part of the change in your thinking.

As an example… two days ago, Storm Ali blew a baby pigeon out of its nest and into my house. That is, it fell from its nest and one of the cats brought it in. I tried to care for it but it died after two days — died earlier this afternoon. I tried to remain impassive about it but it was impossible. Yes, I knew I’d be upset, but was startled how hysterical I became.

Perhaps the pigeon tapped into something in me that was already there — an old grief as well as new. I had a similar experience when one of my cats died some years ago; normal grief overlying something much deeper.

Grief is about loss, of course it is, but there’s something more to it. There’s a cold wind blowing through the gap, and you’re reminded of the vast emptiness where we all end up. The heights of a cliff or a great bridge are terrifying enough, but petty when compared to the great void ahead of us. How can this happen? We must always be safe… and yet we’re not.

Perhaps ultimately we are, though, and we don’t know it. I was oddly comforted by a passage in a book I read years ago. I can’t remember the title and am not sure how accurately I’m remembering, but someone said he was dying out on the cold mountainside, and it felt as though he was becoming one with the stones. He was rescued, but I thought to myself it’s not so bad if we do become part of the world we’re being released into.

It’s small comfort at the moment, as I still want to protect and keep that brief little soul safe and warm, and have still not sent him out into the cold. Maybe his mother is grieving too… well that makes two of us tonight.

Posted in Lost in Thought, Poetry and Verse, Quizzes and Memes

Brief Thoughts on Mind and Society

About how many hours a day do you typically sleep?

Under eight hours. I never seem to manage exactly 8 hours or over.

Which food most tempts you to overeat?

Chocolate peanuts… I like Tesco’s. Even better, flapjacks! Or, if we’re not talking about sweets and cakes, I like Christmas dinner (I know that’s rather an obvious response!) I also hate waste, so have a bad habit of eating things just so they are not ‘wasted’. Perhaps I need to change the way I look at that!

If you were to retire, what would you do to keep your mind from losing its edge?

I’m not sure I would even think in that way… “I must do crossword puzzles every day to keep my mind sharp.” No no. It would probably be writing things down and reorganizing my pictures and data. I have already tried writing a haiku a day, but that becomes annoying and I just dash something random down to get it out of the way.

An example from the past:

have to get up now
am writing this the next day
morning flutters by

There’s also a casually-written one about one of Gretchen Rubin’s books:

happiness project
connect to deepen your bonds
never demanding

Can you see yourself planting all your flowerbeds with the same species and same color of flower — assuming you had a few flowerbeds?

The most I’m likely to do is have all the same bedding plants as edging, and even then they’d be in different colours.

The smell of a newborn, the smell of leather, or the smell of your best friend?

Leather…

What is the single best thing about society today?

The internet. I realize things are changing because of it, but there are good things as well as bad. Not only that, but I think the good things outweigh the bad. Take this as an example… we no longer rely on a limited selection of newspapers and TV channels for our news, or on local libraries for information — the selection of books in our town library is sparse.

Thanks for the queries, Paul. 🙂

Posted in Books, Lost in Thought, Music I Like, Quizzes and Memes

Headaches, Hate, and Self-Improvement

What anniversaries do you mark on your calendar and keep?

Birthdays. Halloween. Christmas. Passing reference to Easter. That’s it.

What is your favorite genre of painting: abstract, impressionism, cubist, surrealism, etc?

I don’t think I have a favourite — I like a variety. My mother likes Klimt, and I have a huge Escher book in the house — it’s beautiful.

How do you deal with a headache?

Drink water, open windows for fresh air… lie down if it’s bad enough. Occasionally I take a paracetamol. Usually, after a little sleep, the edge of it has gone. Also don’t eat too many nuts at once, as an excess of those can bring on headaches!

Is there anyone in your personal life that you profoundly hate?

Hate seems a pretty strong emotion — I don’t have that consistent a feeling about anyone, though there are those I dislike.

About how often does a catchy song get stuck in your head?

It’s a permanent setting! There’s always something playing in Radio Me. The two songs bothering me the most tonight are Why Does It Always Rain On Me (Travis) and Every River (Runrig).

If you were going to read just one self-improvement book, what would the specific subject be? That is, in what way would you most want to improve?

I don’t know about the term ‘self-improvement’. I’m more inclined to think “perhaps my life will be better if…”, which is not the same. Or I look at a self-improvement book and feel annoyed, and think “why do you think I need to change?? I’m not changing for other people!” It depends. I feel more of a need to understand human nature, most of the time, so, anyway… rambling aside… if there was a very new, important and life-changing book about anxiety that was taking the world by storm, that would be the one. Otherwise, it would have to be one about … wait, have just looked on Amazon for a range of choices. I could read books on mindfulness, happiness, self-esteem, fitness, assertiveness, ‘not giving an eff’, kindness, freedom from various addictions, self-care, self-discipline, anger management, positive thinking, wisdom, time management, dealing with stress, success, effective communication…

You know… I think it would be Gretchen Rubin’s next book that I’d read, whatever it may be. Although her main focus is on happiness, it’s a subject that covers a lot of ground and there’s so much in there that I find interesting.

The questions were from Café Philos. I could get used to these. 🙂