Retraining my brain

I am starting to learn, or re-learn perhaps, that I can make up my own mind and I can choose what and how I think about things. Take laundry, for example (You have my permission to leave now, if you wish. I will understand.)

I abhor folding laundry. I don’t know why. It’s not even the stinkiest of the household chores on my plate. Really. Dishes have dried food, toilets have you-know-what, showers have scum. But folding clothes is a cinch because the clothes are clean. We’re just folding and putting away. What’s the big deal? Yet, I love folding towels. This is an odd phenomenon. There’s not much difference between towels and clothing.

So, I tried to figure out what it is about folding towels that I enjoy, to see if I could apply that same logic to folding my clothes, and thus make it more enjoyable. Or at least not something to dread. I like that for each type and size of towel I have a particular way I fold them, so that they will fit in their place. So once I’m done I have all these neat piles/groups of towels. And I still don’t know why that seems to appeal to me, but the fact that it does means I could probably be looking at my clothing in the same manner. I have different types of clothing but I can group them together and fold each type a similar way so that they all end up in nice neat matching piles and they fit into their homes properly. (If you think this is sounding very Marie Kondo-like I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you very much.) So if I remember that I have a special system for folding the clothes and make it feel more like a game, it feels much less like a chore. And therefore not something I dread and put off doing.

The other thing is that I always only ever have one basket of towels to fold at a time. With clothing this is almost never the case. However, I could trick my brain by just setting out one basket at a time, and only think of that one until it’s done and put away. Then bring out the next. I could hide any extra baskets of clothes that need folding until it’s their turn to be folded. Thus tricking my brain and not feeling so overwhelmed. Because procrastination is often borne out of the frustration of being overwhelmed, right?

I know that’s just about laundry and that’s silly and not so important, but I find it very interesting that we can train our brains to see things certain ways. I believe that’s a crucial piece of information. I have found it extremely helpful during moments of anxiety, to stop and think about how my thoughts arrived at the place they did. If you know the path they took, you can choose to reroute them. And that makes all the difference. Telling yourself something isn’t the end of the world, whether you believe it or not at the time, is the first step to convincing yourself that it’s not the end of the world.

Hey! Don’t sweat the small stuff, kid. And remember, it’s all small stuff.

Q: How much fun is doing your laundry?
A: Loads

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Hack hack, ahem ahem, cough cough

You guys. I’ve been sick for all of two and a half days and I’m trying sooo hard not to be a baby about it, but geesh. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, I just want to snuggle up in a cozy blanket and let people wait on me. The first part works alright but the second one, not so much. Because folks, I’m the mom. And mom doesn’t take sick days. Which is only kind of true. My family is really great about helping out and giving me my space. No one’s even complained that the laundry is piling up while I’m downstairs nursing myself back to health.  It’ll get done, eventually.

Anyhoo. Since I’ve been out of commission all I can do is sit around thinking about how little I’ve blogged lately. Not cuz my life is boring (though it is a little) but because I just haven’t been in the mood for blogging. It happens every now and then. Whatevs.

What’s going on lately, you ask? Well, the son has been busy wrestling, both for the local club and the middle school. This is exciting stuff folks. Now that he’s on the middle school team he practices every day right after school. He does not seem to be tired out by this, thankfully, and it’s been a huge load off for our resident chauffeur, my hubby. Now he doesn’t have to drop him off, then go back and pick him up. Just one trip per day, and he’s home by dinnertime. Which means we all get to eat as a family again. Every day!

The daughter is not in sports. Has no interest really, at least for now. That could change down the road but I don’t think that’s likely. Her two loves right now are art and animals. Since it’s -38 degrees outside these days, she did not want to go for more horseback riding lessons, so we found her an outlet for her art. A gentleman from our church is willing to give her weekly lessons and teach her whatever she wants to know. Right now she’s on a big Bob Ross nature scene kick, and it’s friggin’ amazing what she is able to create just after watching a few YouTube videos. I know I’m a tad biased because I’m her mother, but there’s no denying that she has some serious talent that will only get better with more training and practice.

It’s kind of weird but I’ve had zero motivation to write that book I had been talking about. I still want to tell my stories, just maybe not in that format. Maybe we’ll just keep them here on the blog for now. I could do some kind of kooky flashback series where I tell short stories about what happened to me five years ago. Or maybe I’ll get the hankering again to write the book. Who knows?

I’m just really happy doing the things I’m doing now that I don’t really feel like going back to that time. It feels too heavy. Right now good things are happening. My kids are growing and changing, and I’m able to be a part of that. I’m slowing down and trying to be more focused on the most important things. Spending time with God, family, friends. It’s been a good change.

And speaking of slow, I set myself a new goal: to run a half marathon in the fall (it’s speaking of slow cuz I’m a slow runner, get it?). I have a race picked out and a friend to run it with me. I have a training plan picked out on my Runkeeper app, and it doesn’t start until March 5th. So I have time to warm up to running regularly again. I’ve not been running since before the holidays so my legs are a little rusty.

I even spoke to my neurologist about how to train safely, and was reassured that this was not too big a goal for someone with MS. If I take it slow and am careful, it’s totally possible. In fact, she said regular exercise is just as crucial to my health as is my disease-modifying therapy. So as far as priorities, I need to bump it way back up to the top. She said that running will not cause me to relapse, but will only help to keep me from relapsing. When I run, certain symptoms flare up, like foot drop and difficulty seeing, but she said that’s because those are nerves that are already damaged. As long as I’m being safe about it, I should be fine. Which is why I always run these races with friends who can be a good set of eyes and ears for me and keep me safe. So that’s on the docket. 13.1 miles. In a row!

And that folks, is all I have for an update right now. I had a funny thought earlier and I was going to post it, but now I can’t remember it. So I apologize for my foggy memory keeping me from leaving you on a humorous note. Oh wait! I can leave you with a pun… this one I choose because we bought new winter gloves for my son today…

“I got a new pair of gloves today, but they’re both ‘lefts’ which, on the one hand, is great, but on the other, it’s just not right.”

He hears me

Last night as I lay in bed I asked God for help. Nothing fancy. Just that – please help me. I’m feeling lost and unwell and discouraged, and I need your help. Thank you, amen.

And then I got up this morning and read my morning devotional from Our Daily Bread: https://odb.org/2019/01/02/its-good-to-ask/

I don’t think this could have been any more relevant to how I’ve been feeling lately. The scripture alone spoke volumes to my heart. From Psalm 143:4-11: “Therefore my spirit faints within me”, “I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” “I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!” (I love the Psalms. I feel like David and I would have been friends.)

To give you some specifics as to why I’ve been feeling down in the dumps – full disclosure is a strength of mine lol – my brain is foggy. My body hurts. I get random pains on my left side, both the sharp kind and the throbbing kind. I’m still sore from a long car ride two days ago, and I’m not sure how long that will last. I slept ten hours last night and I’m still tired. Even after coffee. I don’t remember what “feeling rested” feels like. Sure, part of this may be aging, but more likely all of this is exacerbated by the M.S. Multiple sclerosis has destroyed my nerves and while most days I look just fine, underneath everything is going haywire. And I can deal with the inconvenience, but the permanence scares me. There is no cure. It’s here to stay. But I can decide how I want to look at it. I can decide to live in fear of the unknown of the future, or I can decide to accept how it affects me today and find ways to enjoy life despite it.  I need to choose the latter.

But back to this morning’s message. What I’m learning here is that sometimes we don’t need concrete answers. Sometimes it’s enough comfort to know that we are not alone, and to know that God is listening to our prayers. I am encouraged today. Yes, I’m still in a gray sort of mood, and my body is still not cooperating like I want it to, but there is a light shining through the gray, and that is Jesus. So I’m just going to keep my eyes on Him and trust Him to guide me through to wherever it is He wants me to go. One. Day. At. A. Time.

New Year, Same Me

I’m not big on resolutions, so I don’t make them. However, I’ve been hemming and hawing the last couple weeks about rejoining CrossFit. I stopped going a couple months ago to cut back on our expenses, but I think that was a bad move. I’ve since been sliding slowly toward depression, and have stopped running as well. It’s time someone gave me a swift butt-kicking to get me back in gear. So maybe I make this decision, to rejoin CrossFit and resume running regularly, and maybe it just happens to be the new year. So you could call it a New Year’s Resolution, or you could just call it coincidental timing.

So I’m just poking my head up to share that. I’m still here, and I’m doing fine. I’m just hibernating. I’ve been hunkered down at home, enjoying quality time with the family, and secretly looking forward to the kids going back to school so I can find a routine I can stick with. We’ve had a really great Christmas break so far, and we still have several days of it left. I pray you are all enjoying yourselves around these holidays and I wish you all a blessed and memorable 2019.

Frustration

I’m frustrated today. Frustrated and grumpy. It’s not anything specific, really. Just more of a general feeling. I was trying to crochet but it’s a challenging basket weave pattern and I just didn’t feel like messing with it anymore. This frustration makes me very unpleasant to be around because I’m a major grump. So I’m upstairs with a beer and a laptop, and I’m hashing it out on the keyboard. I was working on my book for awhile, with my cochlear implant volumes turned way down, and my son came into the room and scared the living daylights out of me. I didn’t hear him come in!! It’s a good thing I wasn’t holding my beer at the time. I was at a stuck point with the book anyway so the distraction was nice. He read some parts of the book and then we got to talking about what he remembered from when I first lost my hearing. It’s always interesting to hear it from my kids’ perspectives.

I think what I’ve learned today, or was reminded of, is that writing calms me. That frustrated feeling has almost completely left me, and I don’t feel like such a grump anymore. And I appreciate that you are willing to read all the silly things I write. So thank you, reader. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I’m a professional napper, I guess

It’s December. My 40th December on this planet, so I am not so surprised anymore when I get all gloomy and just want to stay holed up in my cocoon (i.e. blankets, sweaters, recliner). I’m reading through my old journals as I’m trying to write my book and I’m noticing a common theme: I nap a lot. I don’t remember ever being much of a napper, and was always a little envious of people like my husband who could nap with ease. But now I feel like I’ve really mastered the art. Seriously. Y’all, I nap like it’s my JOB.

And that’s all I have to say for now, because, of course, it’s time to go back to bed.

ZZZZZZZZZZZ……………

Distraction

Can I just be honest right now? Because of course, everything else I’ve written on this blog is completely made up.  Just kidding. But seriously. I want to be lazy. I want to abandon my responsibilities and sit, curled up on the couch all day crocheting or reading or playing Farmville. But there’s this nagging voice, and my hunch is that it is the Holy Spirit and I don’t want to admit it, that says I was made for more, and that being lazy is not God’s purpose for me. I know that God places value in rest, that He commands it even, but how do I know when I’m taking it too far? I wish I had a cut and dried prescription that says you need ‘x’ amount of rest on these days, and ‘x’ amount of time you ought to be working. It’s probably true that I need more rest than the average 40 year old woman, since I have MS, but that doesn’t really make this dilemma any easier to solve. I’m in better health than your average woman with MS, so there’s no template for me to go by. Not that I think there should be one. I’m just thinking out loud here.

Journaling is very helpful. It helps me focus, and especially helps because I treat it like a prayer. All of my journaling is really just a conversation between me and God, and He often speaks to me through my journaling. He probably speaks to me a lot more often than that, of course, I just don’t hear it because I’m distracted by everything around me. But when I’m typing, there’s no distraction. I’m entirely focused on the conversation.

So what I feel like God has been whispering to me over the past several months (yes, I’m a slow learner) is that I am too distracted. So I asked for His help and guidance with life and time management and finding a balance between work and rest and all the other stuff I want to do, like writing my book, running, baking cookies and crocheting.

This is so silly, but the biggest distraction I’ve allowed into my life is a little game called Farmville 2. Heard of it? It’s super addictive because there are always things to do, missions to complete, challenges to meet. And it’s fun, but it sucks the life out of you. Or at least it does for me. I’m sure there are people who are able to balance games like this with real life, but I’m not one of them. I am the demographic they built this game for. I know they devote lots of money into research to know how to keep people addicted to their games in the hopes they will spend money, but I never spend money in the game. I am firm about that rule. So the joke’s on them, right? Wrong. Because I have still let it steal hours and hours, days even, of my life. I’ve decided I’m done with it. For good, I hope. Please.

Romans 7:15 ESV “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Hebrews 12:1 NIV “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I feel better, I think. Last time I uninstalled the game I think I made it a full three days. We’ll see if I can make it longer than that this time. The last time, I hope. Gee whiz.