Self-care in turbulent times.

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The trendy term “self care” irritates me the same way other trendy terms tend to irritate me, but it’s actually a good phrase and good advice.

I had two days off from work this week due to the snow, and I could have spent that time glued to the news, scanning Twitter for the latest Trumpian outrages (I can’t even keep up with them anymore), and making myself angry, depressed, and scared.

For a year I have struggled with retriggered C-PTSD because of this president and his abuse of vulnerable Americans, which includes myself because I am not rich or conservative.

I could have worked myself up into a righteous tizzy and returned to work feeling exhausted instead of refreshed.

But instead, I took a moratorium from the news and from the Internet.   Reading my Kindle copy of “Fire and Fury” (I’m almost done) was about the extent of my politics-related activities.   I cleaned my house (really well for a change) , organized a couple of closets, and actually cooked.   I spent time catching up with friends on Facebook and reading funny or inspiring websites, and watching funny animal videos.  I watched part of a “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” marathon, and even walked in the snow.    I read one of the novels in the list of books I posted the other day, and was actually able to concentrate on the plot.   I’m almost finished with it now.

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I have to admit I felt a twinge of guilt for burying my head in the sand and choosing not to follow the news for a couple of days.    I’ve always believed if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, but taking mental health breaks from all the chaos coming from the White House doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the dangers and becoming complacent and complicit.  It means you are a human being and need time to take care of yourself.  If you’re active in the resistance, whether as an actual activist, or just protesting online, you’re not going to be any good to anyone if you’re depressed, deflated,  apathetic, terrified, or unhealthily enraged.   All you’ll be able to do is spread negativity instead of inspiration and ideas.

So it’s absolutely imperative, especially if you suffer from PTSD, C-PTSD or a depressive disorder, to give yourself breaks from all the chaos and negative politics and take care of yourself.   It’s still possible to enjoy the simple things in life and even have fun, yes, even in the darkest times.   I can’t help but think of Anne Frank, a young girl confined in a German concentration camp, but she never let that reality break her spirit.  She was still a happy, positive person who spread joy and hope to others, even knowing she and her family were going to die.   Even today, her legacy still inspires others.

After my two days off spent staying away from politics and the news, I actually felt refreshed and ready to fight again.    So don’t feel guilty if you need to take breaks to concentrate on yourself, your friends or family.   Spend time doing things you like or that relax you — listening to music, watching a funny movie, meditating, praying, doing Yoga, reading a novel, cooking or baking, or spending time in nature (nothing is more healing than nature, if that’s your thing).   You are not abandoning your ideals or becoming complacent.   You are just refueling.

*****

Further reading:

12 Ways to Resist Without Losing Your Mind

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Pictures: 4/8/17

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Seagulls all facing the sunset.  You should have heard the din they made!

 

I haven’t had time to write much, so I’ll just share the photos I took yesterday and caption them.   We had a wonderful day.  It was a little too cold to swim, but we waded in the shallow water on the beach, spent some time relaxing in the hot tub, went back to the beach at sunset where I took most of these photos, and then went to a party at my son’s apartment where we met some of his friends.   It was a fun day!

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I found this shrub interesting.  Notice the fall colors on some of the leaves.  I have no idea what it is.

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Looking back on the beach just before sunset.

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A romantic picture of my daughter and her friend as the sun sets over the Gulf.

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I don’t know what these are exactly but since they were at the top of the beach, they appear to be the stumps of some kind of shrubs where the tides have come in and cut them off.

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Another look at the stumps.  I think they’re fascinating.

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So moody!  I love this.

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Seagulls at sunset.  They were sure noisy!

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“Cyclops” therapy at the state fair.

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My last post described the depression and emptiness I’ve been feeling with both the change of weather (because I have fall/winter SAD), and the return of painful feelings of emptiness triggered by the memory a perfect week long vacation now receding from short-term into long-term memory, its details beginning to fade and merge with other, more distant memories.

But sometimes you have to create your own joy. You have to find a way to have a good time right where you are. You have to build your own little enclave of joy within the confines of everyday reality.

All week long my daughter has been begging me to go to the North Carolina State Fair with her. I kept finding excuses: I’m too tired, it’s a weeknight, I have to be up too early, I’m too old to enjoy rides anymore, the food will give me indigestion. I sounded like I was 90 years old and ready to enter the nursing home!

Tonight I finally ceded, because she’s going out of town for four days and the fair will be over by then. She was already there a few nights ago and told me it was a blast. Why not have a little fun, especially as depressed as I felt?

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I bought tickets, enough for a few rides. I wasn’t sure I would go on any, but I actually went on three. The first one, the Himalaya, is a ride I fondly remember existing when I was 18 and used to ride on it at Coney Island, the Jersey Shore,  and Rockaway Beach in New York. I remembered it being fun and somewhat exciting but not overly intense. Back in the day, disco music was played during the ride; now it was EDM. But the ride itself has not changed at all and I found I enjoyed it as much as when I was 18, and I didn’t get sick either.

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But that ride was tame compared to the next one I went on. It was called the Cyclops and I would never have gone on it except I was strong-armed into it! I was not given a choice! I stared at it for awhile in horrified fascination, watching the two circular, neon-lit ends spinning wildly while gradually going higher and higher until the people in them were almost upside down. And screaming. Resigned to my fate, I insisted on having the middle seat. Once the tickets were handed over and we were inside the gate and ascending the metal ramp, I shook with terror. What was wrong with me? I used to go on rides far scarier than this during my teens and twenties: the Zipper and the Hammer came to mind–rides so intense and potentially dangerous they have actually been banned in many places.

What finally gave me a little courage was an eager smiling seven year old boy ahead of me in line. Hell, if this little boy wasn’t scared, then why should I be? I felt grateful to him and hopped on into my seat. The operator pulled down the big metal restraint down in front of me and I got a tinge of fear again when the ride began to move. At first it wasn’t too bad, sort of relaxing even, but soon it got really, REALLY intense as the circular contraption I was in began to go vertical so I was sideways, looking down and spinning crazily at the same time. I lost my sense of bearings, and shut my eyes tight. I began to scream, “Oh shit! Oh Jesus! Oh shit! Oh Jesus” over and over and over. I could hear my daughter, who was next to me, laughing hysterically. I felt like my organs were being rearranged as centrifugal force alternately plastered me against the side of my seat, then the back, then pitched me forward so I felt like I was going to go flying out of my restraints and meet my death.

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One end of “The Cyclops”  reaching maximum intensity.  At its peak, its riders are nearly upside down as the circular portion spins crazily. 

“Open your eyes!” she screamed. “No way!” I yelled back, clutching the bars in front of me in white knuckled terror. I kept my eyes squeezed so tightly shut they hurt.

Slowly the ride began to slow down, and cautiously, I opened my eyes. I saw the fair down below, all the flashing lights of the rides and game booths and the people down below watching us from an insane angle. But it was bearable now and I could keep them open and look. I realized I’d been hyperventilating and my fingers felt numb and tingly. I was grinning like an idiot as I got off my seat and drunkenly made my way down the metal gangplank.

“You want to go on it again, don’t you?” my daughter teased.
“Maybe next year,” I said, and I meant it.
“Next year you have to promise to keep your eyes open the whole time,” she said.
I know I will next time, too.

I felt victorious. Passing through the throngs of other fairgoers on the way back to the car, I spied a snack stand. I needed a soda because my mouth felt like cotton batting, but I also wanted to try a fried Oreo. I’ve never had a fried Oreo before. It was artery-clogging and delicious. Another new experience.

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These are the kinds of things that can relieve depression. Sure, great memories recede and fade, but they never leave you. And they’re not all that is. You can always make new happy memories. Riding the Cyclops tonight was something I’ll remember for a long time, and as scared as I was, I’m so glad I did it.    I guess I’m not too old after all (but I’m glad I ate the fried Oreo after the ride and not before!)

A fun day in Clearwater Beach.

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Every day of this week in Florida has been amazing, but I think today was definitely the most fun (and also the most expensive!)

My son was finally off work for a day (as a shift manager, he practically lives at the store) and the weather was looking good, so we drove south about 20 miles to Clearwater Beach.  There’s a reason (actually a lot of reasons) why Clearwater is one of the most famous and popular beaches in America.    It’s probably the prettiest beach I’ve ever been on, and there are tons of things to do there.   I definitely got that “I’m on vacation and enjoying every second of it” feeling today.

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Clearwater is touristy, but in a good way.   The snowbirds haven’t arrived yet and it’s past the peak of the summer season so it wasn’t that crowded.   The beach and surrounding area are very clean and well maintained, and the merchants are all friendly.   Parking is a bit of a pain, but it wasn’t too bad.   We paid $16 for the day because we got an $8 discount for buying drinks in the Surf shop.    It would have been $24 if we hadn’t bought the drinks so it was a good deal.

The beach itself is gorgeous.  The sand is pure white, almost as white as snow, and a bit blinding until you get used to it (or put on sunglasses).  The water is the closest to a Carribbean aqua I’ve ever seen in person.   Today the water was a very clear pale green.  Someone told me normally it’s more aqua, but there’s a hurricane or tropical storm brewing somewhere in the Gulf which is causing more wave action, making the water cloudier than usual.   I still thought it looked different than beaches farther north, the water a lot paler and clearer, and I could actually see the bottom when I was up to my neck in water.   It’s also quite warm, much warmer than beaches off the Atlantic.

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The water felt so nice I didn’t want to get out of it.  Besides, it was way too hot to sit there on the beach and cook.    My son stayed in the water too,  and we had a long conversation out there treading water.     There were waves but they weren’t very big–just big enough that they bobbed you up and down very pleasantly.   There were three people near us–two men and a woman–who had driven all the way from Michigan, and the poor woman was having a panic attack.  It turned out she had never been in the ocean before.   The two guys tried to coax her into going in further and she wouldn’t, but after awhile she seemed to be more relaxed and even enjoying herself.

Someone near our spot on the beach had left a bag of chips open, and the seagulls descended like vultures.   People kept trying to shoo them away, but the birds kept coming back, trying to get at those chips.   They certainly aren’t afraid of people!  I love this photo I got before the owners came back and put the food away.

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My son and I ate dinner at a nice restaurant overlooking the beach called Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe, which serves seafood and things like burgers.   The food is very tasty (and you get a lot of it) but it isn’t exactly cheap.   Fortunately I hadn’t spent much money this week, so I was able to afford to buy us dinner.  Our tab came to $62 but it was worth it.  We skipped dessert there and went to an ice cream place instead and ate it outside.

We browsed around the surf shop and I bought a small souvenir mason jar which I filled with some of the white sand and a few tiny shells I’d found–a nice keepsake to bring home and remember this day.

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Just after sunset there are performances out on the pier.   It was a bit of a walk to get there, but along the way, we saw a postcard-perfect tropical sunset so of course I took pictures.   There were a lot of boats too, including a pirate ship.  I liked the way the post-sunset clouds still reflecting the sun looked behind it in this photo.

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There were all kinds of performers on the pier, including a guy dressed like Spiderman who gave us fist-bumps and another guy dressed like a Transformer with glowing electric eyes.    There was also a performer dressed like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and he pulled me out of the crowd and made me fake-dance with him!  I was so embarrassed but it was fun too.  My son was in hysterics the whole time!

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The first of the two main attractions were a father and son escape-artist team.  The son was wrapped up in a straitjacket and then two other guys picked at random out of the crowd wrapped him in heavy chains but he still managed to free himself.   The other main attraction were husband and wife acrobats.  They were very good, but the husband was also extremely funny.  He’s 41 years old and I told my son that when he got too old for acrobatics, he could turn to comedy.

This will probably be the last of the vacation posts.   Tomorrow is my last day before I start the long drive home on Saturday,  and it will probably be a fairly quiet day.  I’ll probably go over to Rees Park again for an hour or two, then my son is taking me out to lunch (he just got paid).  After that, I’ll probably just relax by the pool and do a small load of laundry so I don’t have to bring dirty clothes and towels home with me.

It’s been a fantastic week. This was the first real vacation I’ve had in eight years (the last one was to Myrtle Beach in 2008). If I’d known this trip (including gas) would be so inexpensive I wouldn’t have waited this long. I’m planning a shorter trip there in late March (hopefully things won’t be too crowded with the spring-breakers) and I’ll be bringing my daughter with me. I’m seriously considering moving to Florida at some point when I figure out how to make that a reality. Until then, visiting isn’t nearly as daunting as I’d expected.

I hope all of you are having a great week too.  I really needed this time away and to be with my son.

Gals’ night at home.

My daughter and I had a nice time girl-bonding tonight.   I’m not the type that gets into female bonding in general ( most of my platonic friends have always been male), but every once in a blue moon, I can get down with it.

So we shared a bottle of chardonnay and got just a little goofy.   She decided she wanted to give me a makeover and do my hair.    I rarely have my hair done professionally; usually I do it myself, which means either a blunt, easy cut (if I’m ambitious) or a ho-hum parted down the center boring 1970s look.

I did have my hair done by a real hairdresser back in March (you might remember that post), but it’s expensive, and my hair was getting boring and lifeless again (and worse, frizzes in the high humidity, so I told her to be my guest and have at it.

She used a color called Soft Black Violet in the deepest layer of hair(near the scalp) and and after letting that sit about 20 minutes (rather than 40 like the box said–I didn’t want it  BLACK because I remember about 20 years ago when I dyed my hair jet black and I looked exactly like Morticia from The Addams Family, with my pale, almost redhead type of skin crashing into the blue-black of my hair like a cargo of black and white linoleum floor tiles after a truck explosion.

I asked her how much gray hair she could see (I have no gray where I can see it in the mirror).  She told me just a little in the deep layer near my neckline in the back.

“That’s it?” I marveled.  One thing my family did right with me was give me good genes. I hate sounding narcissistic, but I always thought I looked pretty good.  Most other people did too.  Hardly anyone on either my mother’s or my father’s side looked anywhere near their real age (until age finally caught up with them, usually around 70 or 80).

“Yup,” my girl confirmed.   Then, “Mom, you’re done.  Wow, you look great!”

The result is a color a little deeper than strawberry blonde, but not really red either, sort of a dark mauve (the mauve must be from the “violet” in the haircolors’ name). My medium blonde hair on the top layer remained intact, and the effect makes my hair look thicker and with more 3-D depth.

The choice of color might seem a little eccentric for a woman my age, but I never pretended to be anything but a bit off the beaten path.  Besides, my daughter picked it for me.  It’s true,  I’m not much of a risk taker in much of anything, but when it comes to doing weird stuff to my hair, well…

“Bring it on!”

It will always grow out if you hate it.

Here are the final results, after the blow dry and the hair straightening my daughter did.   I think I just saved about $80.00.

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One last thing that made everything perfect.  Here’s the song we cranked up and sang at full volume so it reverberated against the white ceramic tiles that cover most of the bathroom walls.  It’s one of her favorite songs ever and it’s grown on me too.