CC Willow art store

Friday, May 20, 2016

Taking my other Blogger sites onto Wordpress

I tried posting today ... but gremlins, or maybe sprites, definately ME - kept deleting the posts before it would POST. So I spent the day with my website designs and WordPress and got my ne site pretty eniugh for people to start directing friends and visitors there. Lots more work to do ... do today by being tenacious and going at it slow, I have most of the pages added and started.
* Not my artwork. Not sure whose
but will credit when I find out.

It was easier to focus today - just living in the moments as Ariel or as CC Willow when it came time to add the images . ...

I may not get a chance to post tomorrow.  It will be Saturday - which is plein air painting and my network group meetings.

Incidentally - here are other people like me .... SLIders (Street Light Interference phonemena). They affect inanimate objects, like I do. Maybe not so tied into emotions like mine is - but it's nice to know I'm not the only one.

Still - I wouldn't mind Professor X recruiting me! <giggling> I understand mutants get a full scholarship ride, as well as trips to other dimensions. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hooks ...

" I was by this point quite familiar with men, the way they glance at you and the thoughts behind it. I knew I was looking at my next lover." - Ariel, In Defense of Tom

Today is Wednesday. Wednesday is one of those few days the past months I had allowed myself to “play … somewhat. I play along in the sharing game many writers have on Twitter called “#1linewed” – in which we share a line of our writing, based on the week’s theme. Last week was “Opening lines” from "WIPs"  (Work-In-Progress novels), either from the novel itself or just chapters.

Asian Plum Tree Against Sky
c. CCWillow

Today is the “hooks” at the end of chapters, as exampled by the one I posted above. Hadn’t made it on to Twitter yet … I need to finish this morning reflection first. But I will intersperse my tasks today with posting #1linewed and reading those others posted. It has been replacement for me of the open mic readings I used to go to.  I do get “hooked” on reading. And there is that exploratory discovery of finding something new, not yet offered to the world. It is delicious!

But it does have me reflecting on my hooks – both real and otherwise.

One of my disabilities is MHE – Multiple Heriditary Exotosis. Yes – it’s a mouthful – but shorter than it’s previously common name “multiple osteochrondromatosis”. Essentially they both mean being born with your body making “extra” bone.  And while it is true it does make “bonus shapes” on your bones (i.e. bumps or hook-shaped protrubances), it often does so at the expense of the length of your bone, resulting in shorter limbs. Hence – it is the most visible of my disabilities, it is why I am only 4’9 … annnnnnd 9/16ths. It may cause uneven growth or even irregular growth such as a bowing of the bones - as some of my “Bone Brothers/Sisters” in the MHE Coalition have.  In point of fact,my “Tiger” who I consider to be the “great love” of my life, coincidently also has MHE.

I inherited it from my father, as did two of my brothers.. My son inherited it from me – in fact he had an MHE specialist four months before he was even born, Ultrasounds already revealed bone spurs on his frame.  I have been relatively lucky with MHE; I haven’t had the profound issues with MHE bumbs catching muscle and tendon to the extent that my siblings and son have had. If the MHE causes pain, I modified what I am did to lessen the pain. If that didn’t work, a steroid shot to cushion th bone. If that didn’t succeed in making movement manageable - a quick surgery to excise the extra bone & then “back to work”.  I had my first MHE surgery at age eight, a bone spur on my thigh that was large enough to stretch the skin. Over the years I have had only half the surgeries my brothers have had.

Note – I refer to my luck in the past sense; good medical care allowed me to keep pain manageable. I lost health care & maintenance in January. Also recent research (and yes, I am one of the “subjects”) have shown, despite past assumptions) that MHE bones continue growing bumps throughout adulthood. So I have new bone bumps developing all the time. Now that I am off my pain management, I am finding I have much more than I realized, and many of them are hook-shaped. By “catching” (hooking) my tendons and muscles, they are greatly impacting my walking and writing now. This reduces my exercise and my stretching, resulting in tighter muscles and tight muscles catch more often.

My financial downturn has increased my latent depression – making it no longer latent. Incidences beyond my control had further added stress … which resulted in my first heart attack the Spring of 2013. I already knew I had the genetic predispossion – my dad suffered from heart issues twenty years before he died, my mother seven years before her, & my older brothers (all three) were getting heart bypasses. That, along with MHE, was why I was such a proponent for exercise. Immediately after my heart attack I made some changes – and was able to reverse most of the damage and get my heart back up to snuff. But the stress I was not able to relieve – it has in fact multiplied.  The health maintence I had benefited from on my job (BTW a job which played a big part in the onset of that heart attack) is gone. My heart-healthy diet isn’t feasible right now with no income and strangers providing my food. My chest pains and tightness in my chest are now back. … And the brother just four years older than me? Had a heart attack on March 6, he will have his second bypass next week.
I need to handle my heart’s vulnerability right now with kid gloves. This means distancing myself proactively from additional stress. Not putting undue strain on my body’s capabilities right now. And yes, - exercising and eating better.

Stress is also really doing a number on my eyesight. And my reading. I am experiencing a type of dyslexia on writing and reading the pst three weeks that my doctor at the free Clinic is due to being over-whelmed. My brain is doing strange things to cope; increasing or diminishing my eyesight, swapping the order of letters & words. (I thought, until yesterday) that this was a side effect of the meds). Names, faces and words that are familiar to me are now becoming unaccessible from memory. Two days ago I literally did not know how to spell my own name for five minutes; this was the second time in a week that it happened.  I am finding these lapses harder to conceal.

Last year’s back injury, often has me immobile until noonish.

The disability I have not publically shared is a brain chemistry one - inherited from my maternal grandmother and acerbated by my childhood, - is again making a re-appearance. There is much stigma and misunderstanding attached to it. Hollywood especially likes using it as an ex machina to rationalize characters doing bizarre and self-destructive actions. I’m not sure people will give me a chance to explain that it is a benefit to the multi-tasking I excel at or the accelerated trouble-shooting I perform on tech and crisises. Also - it is the reason I think "in poem" ...

Not disclosing the name, the disorder is caused by the brain lacking the chemical needed to regulates the speed of the cranial neurons; my mind can literally “race”. Too much speed on those neurons and they literally split apart, like asexual reproduction, especially under traumatic events. I now no longer have access to the medication that artificially replaced that regulating chemical. This means I am frequently having multiple thoughts at a time and they are clambering to spawn more thoughts. (When they say “more is going on under the hood than it appears” – yes, that is SO me right now). My mind does “wire” itself much differently than most people; I’m not saying it is “wrongly ordered”, just that it is a differently-abled order” While this can be advantageous to working out technical glitches (I excel at tech hardware & software); too many is like trying to think+ in the mddle of a metal rock band, comprehension gets drowned out by the “distractive noise”. Hopefully – when I get a full time job – I will get decent health insurance and can get on mediaction to regulate it again . But for now – I am unsuccessfully trying to rein in my neurons and failing. Addressing my depression can slow this process down.

I’m so grateful my son did Not inherit this one! While I have learned to be functional, even successful,   with it, it is truly my most disabling of my disabiliites, that hook that pulls me out of the water and into the frying pan. Naming it ... gives it power; but  I have had a reader notice it underpins most of my personal poems. It is a big reason, why I have repeatedly lost my “Tiger”from my life.

Well – it seems I need to call it an end to today’s blogging. Something unseen is touching my touch screens more and more often; closing documents on me and opening random applications making any progress slow going. I need to take a break anyways and get my emotions and thoughts stabilized again before doing my days e-selling – maybe I'll head outside and pull weeds. ...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Interesting reading - now updated

Not one of my paintings - not sure wosse it is
But I really identify with this one and often
as a profile pix for my personal Facebook.
I'm just quickly posting this here right now and will update this with my reflection later. I have to leave soon for a follow-up doctor appointment at the Free Clinic.

Update: My appointment went better than expected, despite the pixies hiding my son's car keys.  

My score on the Mental Health questionaire was drastically reduced form last month's visit; many answers moved from "all the time" (3 points each) to only "several days last month" (1 point each). I am crediting the steps I have taken on self-care. The "side effects" I have been are  side effects of my anti-depressant  - Dr. Space Case feels they are something new altogether, not connected to my meds. I took a little convincing; DSC was a previous primary care provider of mine - and I suffered until I replaced him. He always gave me the impression he spent his medical training years on too much of "the herb". Still - his reasoning today was sound and we decided to "stay the course of treatment. Dr Space Case  was very pleased with the proactive steps I have taken and credits them as much as the anti-depressent for my progress.

Anne Stokes' "Water Dragon"

When son picked me up, I shared with him the positive update and he suggested taking a rare hooky day in afternoon to celebrate. I didn't take much convincing. We headed home, filled out our ballots  (Oregon's voting day here) - dropped them off and headed for a river in a forest. Again - self-care - being near water is restorative for me. (I tease that I am a water fairy)   Couldn't afford gas to go to the ocean - but the valley here has plenty of creeks, rivers and waterfalls! And for Son - it is the trees that restore him.  All in all, it was a very good day.


My reflection on the above article  - and no, this wasn't the only article I read yesterday, just the only one my unreliable phone would let me post to the blog.  This article did resonate with me - because I too, llike Susan - thought I would be going right back into the work force - if not the state. I did not realize that the HR departments of the State will NOT hire someone who has been dismissed from State service - even for an unreasonable reason like I was (suspended driver's license). I did not know this would make any future State Work an impossibility. And, yes, I was applying again for the State. I have since found out different and, working with DHS HR, I am now eligible for other Departments and will be eligible for DHS/OHA in 3 years.

And yes - that desire for isolation is very strong not only because I feel "unworthy" but because I cannot pay my own way right now. I am an independant woman - and I am far from independant right now. 

While the stats seem right on target in the article - and I appreciate the emphasis on self-care - the suggestions for "filling" the period of unemployment is just not realistic for those who have already exhausted their savings cushion. I have no more charities to go to to assist in paying my living expenses, I can't afford school or the heavily-burdened school loans. I need income coming IN TODAY. 

I also read  and's. While this too has some great advice on self care - besides just the trite common ones - being on a religious site it is heavily towards the issues of unemployed men and briefly  refers to these issues also being unemployed women (usually obliquely pairing pix of business women with the written advice skewed towards men or "your man".. 

The writer especially put me off by alluding that more women in the workforce these days than men has contributed to the high unemployment rate we are expericening. Perhaps the author has failed to not the reality that women have ALWAYS needed to be in the workforce throughout history. Women without men to support them have had to support themselves. Mother's without partners also have had to work & work hard to feed the children. Many women throughout history has financially supported their husbands. And even "Stay-At Home" moms WORK - throughly unpaid or underpaid and under-appreicated. Not to mention those times of war when women took the place of men in factories and business when men were called away. And women have been long been a larger part of a human population numbers than men, so shouldn't that be parrelled in work population numbers. The article failed to note that those employed women were typically working for lesser pay than employed men, making it more cost-effective for companies only pro-fit driven.  

So, yeah - alluding to high unemployment being due to women working outside the home and "dis-placing "worthy" men - really pissed me off! I have needed to work since Sophomore year of high  school  - single, married, widowed - my family has always needed me to bring home a paycheck to survive. It's not selfish, it's not prideful - it was a fact of life. Listen - it is the big business & banks that caused the Great Recession - NOT me being a mere woman in the workforce. 

Also unrealistic was the amount of "rec time" the author suggested, and to limit the time spent in job search. If the income loss was the only income - what is the job-seeker to do, decide the family doesn't really need to eat, use paid utilities,  on their "rec day"? No. Will the Utility and landlord decide not to charge for services while the job seeker "searches" for him/herself? No. Work hours need to be "work hours"' - keep yourself on the productive schedule for you. Do recreation and hobbies on evening or weekend hours when employing offices are closed. Prove to prospective employers that you are willing to work, show up during business hours and prove you don't sit around all day goofing off. 

My happy discovery - many of these steps I already implemented - sticking to a schedule, making "office time" network/job search time, rewording self-talk into POSITIVE self-talk, recognizing distorted thinking, continue utillizing and refining professional skills
All in all - I gave this article a thumbs-down. And noted to myself, as a writer, once you demaen and devalue your reader, they will take away a bad opinion of your writing - even if you do include one or two nuggets of information they liked, or drew on similar experience thet are dealing with ...

My take-aways from these articles ...

1) I will volunteer more to keep my office skills current. I do already volunteer in the Salvation Army Food Pantry - but that really doesn't use any of my skills - just compassion. So I need to find a office that can use me.

2) I will sacrifice some "work-time" for some gardening time, reconnect with the Earth.

3) Recover hope that others WILL want to hire me. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Taking time to be Ariel & CC Willow ... and Co.

I am back on the subject of self-care – and hopefully this will be a shorter post.

As I stated, I’m trying to go back to basics, re-establish habits that keep my day on track.

Hostas & Bleeding Hearts at Bush House

Most importantly I am trying to re-insert my passions back into my life – art, poetry & writing, gardening, theater, home, my friends. I have been having a small success with that – but it is significant success.

This full-tilt chase after the daily coin isn’t my preferred modus operandi; Money to me has never been as important as the people around me. I have always thought of it as a means to the end, not the end itself … until it’s inflow muddied and ended, leaving me unable to care for the people around me and for myself.

As highly skilled in the office as I am, the traditional job search has not netted me a job (read: stable income) quickly. So, since mid-December, most of my waking hours are a “shotgun approach” for nickel & dimes; and my new MO does not allow myself to “break” or rest the mind. When I have attempted to, there have been notices of “dire consequence” (someone at the door to turn off the electricity, an immediate need to replace hygiene products without money to buy a replacement: reminders that my situations is desperate). So rather than take 15 minutes to Zentangle – I take 45 instead to write a listing for yet another thing to sell on eBay, I take 60  for “studio” pictures of more book to place on Amazon. Take 120 to professionally frame and wire yet another of my paintings to offer on Etsy. Hunker down to brainstorm yet other ways to market my talents & possessions to bring some money, any money in.

In Debtors Anonymous (yep, I joined as soon as I realized 0% income = 100% debt) the suggested spending plan format places one’s own needs in the first category – starting with spiritual. This isn’t necessarily “religious” spiritual; it is whatever you need to nourish your own soul, whether it be religion, education, etc – we refer to it as “the cost of BEING you”.  For me – that would be art, both written and visual. And I consistently been skipping over that category – not just financially but mentally, skipping over it to go to the second (physical needs) category of expenses” utilities, food, shelter. (I’m not even really doing shelter either; I owe lots of property taxes, living my home vulnerable).

No – I haven’t allowed myself the luxury of being “me,” It’s no wonder I did not feel like myself, did not recognize myself. No wonder I was getting morassed  in my efforts by the limits of my body and pain.

I have long known that I use poetry to process life. I’m not sure how I expected myself to process the current situation while I was unconsciously denying myself poetry; but depression does mess up one’s reasoning! I even tried talking myself out of participating in one of my favorite activities – April’s Poem-A-Day challenges; since Feb 1, I kept hearing a voice saying that April needs to be better spent “keeping” the lights on”. Yet deep inside, where my poems were silent, I knew I needed to write. So I started strategizing against that dangerous whisper; I set up commitments and promises that I HAD to write. I made myself as accountable to that as I did to job-hunting. (In spirit of honesty, I did let two fall through my fingers; there just wasn’t enough hours in the day)  …

There was even that hope – if I got Patreon sponsors for the challenges as if for a jog-a-thon – the challenges may even help keep the lights on. That part didn’t work out, no one signed up as sponsor and mid-month I had a three day scramble to pay past-due electricity. On those days, I didn’t let myself poem until about 10-11 at night. And yes – I still got hit with the “dire consequences” of taking that time to write, I just factored in the unexpected punches. Got more resilient and dug my feet in on my poet time.

And “lo and behold” – even as my reasoning continued to erode, my mind felt better. National Poetry Writing Month challenges always blast through my writers block by forcing me to consciously thinking and re-think about an outside subject (daily prompt). I was starting to see Depression’s lies as lies. I started bathing more often again, started dressing for myself again and not for the Interview That Hadn’t Materialized Yet. While my appetite hadn’t returned, I started eating again. And my brain-storming sessions weren’t just resulting in a poor self-image – I was starting to see some possibilities. Progress!

I knew summer was coming – and with that – my artists group’s Paint The Town program, many en plein air events from May until September. I could not see how I could afford it – money-wise or time-wise. Yet – it is only a $20 one-time participation fee and I learn a lot with my networking with other artists. Coincidently – my artists group (Artists in Action) has teamed up with my local poets chapter (Mid Willamette Poets Society) on this event – resulting in it becoming Paint The Town/Write the Town this year.

How could I not participate? This seemed an engraved invitation. I have been as blocked on art as I had on poetry; silencing myself. As both A POET and AN Artist, this is torture. And PTT/WTT is basically a Paint-A-Day challenge – making me climb over that mental block.

When my tenant paid part of his rent, I took $20 out and placed it in my purse. Felt like a thief doing so, as if I was betraying my son and or pets for denying them something basic – but I told myself it was a “Cost of Being Me”.  I made the commitment!

The first event ended up being Mother’s Day … oh, oh, I already had a commitment – to myself! I was going to get some social time with my family and make an al fresco lunch for us.  I didn’t want to sacrifice that necessity for the necessity of painting. Both were “self-care”  - and my only Mother Day gifts. How could I fit both? And work them into my siblings’ schedule? Son announces a two days beforehand he needs to drive our tenant to Vancouver on Mother’s Day; “when will MD Lunch be” and no, he won’t be able to drive me to PTT event that day. My brother in Portland wanted to catch a movie with family while he was down for the day. I was frustrated, I was feeling all kinds of obstacles coming up again, making my wants & needs seem impossible and unreasonable. You know – Depression’s lies yet again.

What happened to my vaulted and dependable skill of trouble-shooting obstacles? Did it only work in offices and production shoots? No. I would not capitulate YET again … as I had the past four months. It wasn’t me; I hated myself when I did so. I sat down and thought about the tools I developed in my Leadership program last year, the tools I refined on the job: THERE was a way to make it possible – impossible equals I’m Possible, right? – just had to re-think the situation. Lunch became early family picnic at PTT location, two cars instead of one so son could leave after eating, Sibling Movie Time planned after three hours scheduled paint time. We had a plan …

Then another – West Salem brother could not miss his morning church – an important announcement was expected . He could only make afternoon & evening. PTT was only afternoon. Portland brother could only afford to treat his siblings if we got matinee (read “afternoon”) prices. And son and I got a late start on making the lunch due to a miscommunication – I thought he insisted on cooking it (his M Day gift to me), he thought I counter-insisted on cooking it as it needed to hit my brother’s restricted diet. By 11 am we were both in the kitchen, working in tandem.

Revised day – making sure my needs were just as important as anyone else’s that day – Son, Ptld brother & I had a lovely al fresco, very “heart healthy” lunch on my patio – no time for that packing, commuting, unpacking shtuff. FYI – The day was GORGEOUS and I had our view of the back yard mowed and weeded earlier in the week! Before son left, he packed up a lunch plate for W Salem brother. When he & housemate left for Vancouver, Ptld brother and I headed for a movie-snack run and then PTT at the Bush House & Conservatory. Looking for art inspiration, he & I did the House tour after I signed in with AiA. Then, following my muse, we headed to the woodland walk near the greenhouse. Settling a bench, we spent some companionable time; he on his computer doing his work, and I sketching and beginning a watercolor of hostas and bleeding heart blossoms (pix of them above). We knew our departure time for the movies – but needed to revise it forwarded with new demands on W Salem Brother; 3 hours paint time became only two. After the first hour, my brother hurt too much and headed back to the car graciously to wait. After the second hour I headed back & joined him. We got to Lancaster Cinema in time for the first Avengers’ movie; W Salem brother still had some conflicts he was navigating, so we rescheduled with him for an early evening show (we WERE going to spend sibling time together somehow) and we caught an Ratchet & Clank to kill the time. Not one I would have considered seeing – but it was good very enjoyable. That ended just as we got a text from W Salem brother; he had our seats for Captain America: Civil War in the next theater. We joined him, and finally broke out our ”movie snacks” to share. After the late movie, W Salem’s brother’s “lunch” got passed over to him.

All in all, despite obstacles we had to navigate, it was one of the best days I have had since Christmas. No one suggested I “not paint”, to make a doable schedule; it was the schedule instead that needed to compromise.  And we all made compromises to make time to spend together. Son got “Uncle time” with one, prepped a meal for the other. Keith enjoyed some quality Salem time at my place and outdoors, got to witness more of my “art process” (he’s always been proud of my growth as artist, he is the one who has stated the best Christmas gifts I can give are those of my own art.) And Lee got time with Keth and I in our common dual hobbies of comic books/movies.

After that day – which gave me so much more than I had planned – my sleep schedule has reverted back to “office mode”. I am falling asleep before midnight and waking up before my morning alarm goes off. Some of the brain fog is lifting.
Mission Mill Museum and Mall, Salem, Oregon

This last Saturday was PTT #2 (morning and rainy this time). I needed to be at Mission Mill 2 hours early to accommodate a ride’s schedule, which blessed me with two extra morning hours of art. The afternoon I made it to my poetry meetings (that I have been absent from) The rest of the day was the business of poetry – details we were hammering out on Write The Town, recruiting other poets for WTT, debriefing and sharing of April’s poetry efforts. In fact, all through this weekend I have had Art & poetry dovetail and demand my attention. I felt I was back in my own skin for the first time in a while. Yesterday’s creativity segued into a scheduling / prioritization of my tasks for this week. My mind felt clear, decisions no longer felt like land-mines and mazes – more like choices.

Am I still depressed? Yes, very; I’m still in a precarious situation and my disabilities are rearing their ugly heads making it more desperate. . Am I suicidal today? No. I can rationally see there will be light at the end of the tunnel. This is a journey; not a destination. And I have my game-plan for the week – back to more familiar footing of being competent. I can see some progress in the steps I have taken.

And as for DA’s insistence of placing my daily life in the hands of my “Higher Power”, my God. … I had a minor miracle this weekend. All the times the past month, I prayed for a last minute miracle to pay a pending bill and despite overtime effort to earn the money, had come up with “nil”. This weekend, I didn’t “work” – I created instead. And my only online sales this month happened the past two days, enough to cover the auto payment that hit my account this morning, with a little left over. Enough to meet my needs for today.

So factoring myself into the equation “paid” off.

I will be spending more time, not just marketing my art and poetry, but also creating it. I am also a gardener – I will stop denying myself “cultivating” time. I’m a Literary - tonight I will pick up a book – not to prep it to sell on Amazon but to start reading it. Today, Monday, is “Boxwood Cottage” work day and it has been productive. Tomorrow is “CC Willow” work day.  Wednesday … “Ariel” work day … Except for shipping orders, I will try to keep weekends free for just creating – art, poetry, sense of my life.

No – this wasn’t a shorter post at all … And BTW, I could still use Patreon sponsors  for my chapbooks …

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lessons Learned

There's a habit I am both proud of and ashamed of ... I make my bed every morning. Pull the sheets and covers straight, pull down the top edge. place my pillows like a home magazine cover.   I blame FlyLady; who I have followed for too many years. Yes, it makes me happy to look at it - so pretty and feminine - and it's one of those few things that make me feel like an actual grown-up. There is the acknowledgement that this is my own space, my sanctuary.
Lilac Bed by CC Willow
What I am ashamed of … a few things. The rest of my life is a bit of a mess right now – including the bedroom closet. And the floor around my computer corner. And my poetry corner. I’m overwhelmed and they tell the tale. Plus it seems a little shallow of me – “look how pretty my stuff is!” “Don’t go on facts; go on appearance – see I’m a “together” person.”. Mostly – and this may reflect badly on me – it’s the fact that it is the only “nice thing I do for myself “in bed”. I’m a sexual person – or was a sexual person … I should be messing the bed up with fun, not pulling it’s few sleep-induced wrinkles straight.

It just reminds me how sparse my self-care is these days now that I’m pulled back into poor mental health. I didn’t quite fall into that “didn’t bathe for weeks, living in sweatpants, eating ice cream trap. But, since I rarely leave the house these days, my 3 baths a week … usually are only 2 or even once a week occurrence. I stopped wearing daily make-up & deodorant, hoarding it for those rare job interviews. Same with my DIY manicures. Hair gets brushed – but it may be at 3 pm. Eating … often gets forgotten about. I may do two – or often just one – meal a day. I usually don’t allow myself downtime to poem, write, garden, paint; I can’t rationalize time off from (what I self-consciously consider) “chasing a living”

My habits are right now are “hit or miss”, especially my morning habits, the ones that set the tone for the day.  My “hot spots” are cluttered; more important to fix inventory pictures. I stay up way too late – more important to list just a few more books, try to squeeze a little income from the day. Housework? It’s a luxury right now and should wait for the weekend, when hiring places are closed – or wait for a time when I can afford household cleansers. Hit the snooze button and sleep until noon – “because I only turned off the computer and fell asleep – oh my – two hours ago”. I realize these are mostly excuses are just me punishing myself … “unemployed”. I don’t think I deserve nice things or things to be nice. I have been avoiding social media – what did I have to talk about? My latest conversation … with my cat? And then I just – avoid.

And yet, there is that realization that my thought processes are often a reflection of my immediate surroundings. The house gets messy … I no longer can think my way through something or make a decision. So when my thoughts hit the mud bog – I hit the housework, with a vengeance. And pay the price; my back and limbs hurt too much to move later on.

And that interior poltergeist? Those gremlins no longer confined to the computers, the phones, the clocks and are now closing doors and breaking things?  Yes, much more active when the house is messy!

I had what seem to be a minor miracle last week. In decluttering my closet shelves, I came across two jars of my Mary Kay skin cream – a Day and a Night solution. I admit, I’ve aged the past few months.  I have used anti-aging products since my early thirties, and I have been out of both Mary Kay and Avon even before being unemployed (self-employed – keep reminding myself I am SELF-employed now). I’ve been looking pretty ragged and even my morning facial scrubs get skipped. So, my dry, rough skin found some long-needed skin treatment. Two full jars. Not sure how I missed those before – I have ransacked that shelf numerous times looking for ‘scraps”. I immediately headed to the sink and gave myself a defoliation and facial. I felt human! At bedtime, I carefully wiped off my face and applied the night cream. My skin felt like skin again! The morning … more like skin.

Reflecting on this, I realized I needed to be my own best friend. Take care of myself again, even those days I have nowhere to go.  So I have made some changes this week. And yes, my mind has resisted and fought me on them – but I deserve them!

I have kept using my skin cream. I won’t be able to replace them when these two run out – but they are available and so it doesn’t make sense to deny myself them.

I am back to FlyLady babysteps – washing sink, Writing a action plan for the day. Before bed routine, scaled down morning routine. Dressing when I get out of bed. A luxorious soak in the bath on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Blow drying and styling my hair, rather than letting it just air dry. 15-minute Hot Spot clean ups.

I have started making it a point to go somewhere at least every other day. Last Saturday this meant participating in a plein air event with Artists in Action’s Paint The Town 2016. Well … this year it is Paint The Town/Write the Town – so it allows me both a chance to poem and paint! For my Thursday night eSeller’s group, I put on make-up.  Then skipped Roundtable and allowed myself to attend opening night of Keizer Homegrown Theater’s comedy play; this is a production with my friends and son in the cast.  Did I have the panic attacks increase? Yes – But the play had me giggling throughout it and I talked to more friends last night than I had in the past two months. The show runs for three more weekends – I volunteered!  So I’ll have a few more nights out. With make-up. My housemate’s play opens up in a few weeks at Pentacle Theater (the classic Rainmaker); I hope to work up the courage to volunteer for house for that as well.

My thinking, is a little clearer this week; it is a little easier to make decisions or to take action. I have been noticing the outside weather. I have taken less time to do some tasks. While I am still spiraling down with pain and depression, it is slowing the process.  I am more productive – and I really place my self-worth on how productive I am.

Lesson learned – Take care of Yourself!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Reflection on Lessons Learned ...

Third times the charm, right?
Yes, it is my third time today composing this. My inner poltergeist is very active today; while doing my computer work this morning, I have had frozen screens, disappearing cursers, software that has opened or closed on apparent self-whimsy.  I have needed to reboot several times.

"Message From the Wanderer" one of my CC Willow pieces. Seems appropriate for today.
Nonetheless, it is just after 10 am and my day has been somewhat productive. 
I credit the patience and resilience that this poverty and depression have taught me. My “poltergeist’ has not been my only challenge today. It seems the pixies had a few pranks waiting for me this morning; needed things that have been relocated to strange and unlikely places. My job search files from yesterday were found, finally, to be behind Sunday’s art supplies. My phone, unplugged sometime during the night, is now plugged in again and (hopefully) charging the dead battery. I am dressed and have my morning skin care on my face. I have my action plan written for today, with three tasks already checked “completed”. My documents and eResume is sent off to a job developer for review and feedback. An application, due tonight, is ready to be finalized after I get his response.  Breakfast and caffeine consumed. And I am psyched to get more inventory listed for eSelling.
That’s not to say that the rest of the day will go well.  But I will handle it.  And whatever comes up. Which got me reflecting on “Lessons Learned”.

There are many “Lessons Learned” articles on the web. And in filling up my “toolbox”, I have accessed a number of them when I needed encouragement. While I have not found Daniel CJ Grant’s "9 Lessons I’ve Learned Overcoming Depression That Can Help Anybody Succeed In Anything" truthful (my past three years have been the opposite experience than the author’s), I have found Hannah Sentenac’s "16 Things I’ve Learned From 16 Years of Dealing With Depression" and, especially, Eric Ravencraft’s "Five Lessons I Learned From Dealing with Depression" to be a voice of reason.
I KNOW my self-perception right now is difficult. I KNOW depression whispers lies to sufferers. And although I have dealt with it in the past, and gotten past it, every dip back in has gotten harder. I thought I already learned many of these lessons well enough. It has been frustrating, feeling like I keep getting sucked into this spiral – but another empath once told me “Life is a spiral, we keep coming back to the same issues – but it is a spiral that goes UPWARDS. Once you understand one level, Life takes you to the next to deepen the understanding”.

So one of my personal Lessons Learned is HAVE PATIENCE.

There are many times it feels that no matter what I do, I am hitting a brick wall (sometimes literally) – that may be true. But I realize it is my choice if it will stop me, or if I will bounce off and try another way. I’m becoming an expert at finding alternative approaches!
Take this morning’s “Easter Egg” hunt for example: I was at the point where I was ready to email documents to TS this morning. He is a recent acquaintance/resource & is helping me apply for a position that closes TONIGHT. He just gave me his email yesterday morning, and I placed it in my file with the action items for this particular opportunity. I am fairly conscientious about this file folder: it is my main tool for job hunting and gets accessed everyday. As such, it has it has specific “spots” on each room.  I recalled bringing it in from my appointment with TS  yesterday, could recall the weight of it in my hand. I KNEW it was here. But … could not find it at the dining table, near my “office” couch nor in its home in the computer corner. Yes – I was panicked  - nothing new there, I  have been in almost constant panic of varying degrees for months now – it is my new “normal”. But if it wasn’t where it should be – I then realized I needed to search where it shouldn’t be. So starting from the car door, I searched methodically, entering the house, going room by room.
I finally found it effectively hidden behind my Plein Air paint supplies in the den. Physics and rationale said it shouldn’t be there - it was hidden completely by an item smaller than it, it is a room and location it does not belong in - an area I did not go to yesterday. (I blamed the house pixies!) Yet – when the POSSIBLE proved itself impossible this morning, I then knew the IMPOSSIBLE must be now possible – ipso facto – “Not where it should be? Look where it shouldn’t be!”
People say “Expect the unexpected”; now you and I know this is not possible.  Expecting a thing makes it “Expected”. And this then sets you up unreasonably to predict what is unpredictable. My parents were good at this unrealistic belief and therefore expected me to be responsible for knowing anything and everything about anything and everything. It was okay for others to be “ignorant”, but not me. Not knowing a single piece of information that might be used to predict an outcome of … well, anything … was “irresponsible” and “derelict” of me. (Even today, still, I hoard random facts and stats I come across) Life has enough demands on us as it is, I needed to stop expecting myself to be omniscient. I cannot control others - I am human; while I can and do act on situations, situations can and DO act on me.
Instead I suggest acknowledging that something unexpected and unwanted may come up (If you are like me – an Evans – this is your modus operandi)… and I tell myself “I will deal with it if and when it comes”.  And when it comes … I take a deep breath and walk myself through it, step by baby step. If one approach does not work, I then try another.
I have done the traditional “job search” now since mid-December. It has netted me a total of THREE interviews in five months and no job offers for this highly qualified go-getter. Highly discouraging – all that daily push and it does not result in any income coming in to pay monthly bills. So – I have had to get creative to bring in what little money we have. I already had previously sold my jewelry and stocks just to survive two previous demotions. We now have recycled anything that can be redeemed for money – which meant going through what was stored in the attic and the garage. I purchased “inventory” of used jeans and am selling it on eBay. Previously unfamiliar with the concept of down-sizing books – I am now selling used books on Amazon. An acquaintance gave me boxes of Avon collectibles to sell. And I have set up an Etsy shop to sell my own art. I am constantly trying to brainstorm new ways to re-market it. I accepted an infrequent job as an art model. I even opened my home up to a tenant. I lobby local charities for assistance. No – all these efforts do not bring in a livable income – but it is enough to deal with the frequent crisises that come up. And today I have water and electricity and internet. For today … it is enough so I may get done what I need to get done.
And if I do lose my patience – easy for someone already overwhelmed to do – I clamp down on that outburst wanting to burst out. I don’t break anything. I don’t spew those profanities. I don’t plash out. All these will make the current situation even worse. I pause instead. Take a deep breath. Acknowledge to yourself – or aloud to another person your frustration. Ask for help. And figure out just one baby-step you CAN take to rectify the situation. Then the next. Then the next.
 It may or may not get better. It may even get worse – but at least I know the situation itself is responsible, that I personally was not responsible for making it worse. I have the assurance, that every day, successfully or not, I am attempting to be a positive force in my own life.

Listen – I know this is not the best written article. I acknowledge that it is not my best writing. But depression and desperation is scientifically proven to decrease a human’s abilities and reasoning pathways and I am just human.  But my hope is that, just in writing & reflection, I will work past that paralysis that depression has had on my thoughts, recover my writing and processing skills. This is one of those baby-steps to get me around one of those brick walls.  And while it did take me  - what, Two hours! – to write 15 minutes worth of thoughts, I think this piece today is done … finally. A fourth item to check off on today’s list.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Writing today - This time for myself ...

It has been a while since my last blog. Let me post a caution here. I will not be actively promoting this blog for a while. I am going to go very personal here and there may be triggers for those in vulnerable spots. When things get more positive -I may tweet and post links to this site – but for now, I am willing to expose myself only with my active readers.

It is often hard for me to write these past few months since I lost my job with the state.  As you know from previous blogs, I was at poverty level before with my job, paying bills but not enough money to be able to buy food or to pay debts – like traffic tickets. All the while applying for jobs that would help me recover my past income level.
Ironic – or plot twist - the unpaid traffic tickets becoming the cause of my December dismissal! Not the cause of my downfall – I have recently found the truth of what (or rather WHO) caused my “fall from grace”. But the final nail was my inability to pay the traffic tickets & my loss of my driver’s license due to their status.
I now have a monthly income of $124. I have food - but no money to pay anything.
That said – I have been spending almost all my waking hours scrambling for another job or a way to bring in enough money to keep the utilities on. Time spent “hat in hand” begging at the local charities for their assistance. Charities I donated freely to in the past. Scrambling to pull up records and find vital info to qualify for their grudging help. It has not left much time for self-care – like creating poetry or art.
One of my desperate ventures to bring in money has been to start selling online.  This requires an initial outlay for “inventory” – the used blue jeans are still my “best” – if infrequent seller. I have other items besides clothes on e-Bay & Amazon and the like (designer clothes, collectables, Avon, books) but they have not sold as yet - though my eSeller mentors insist they are a more guaranteed income/sell than the clothes are.  These sells are occasionally just in the nick of time – to keep the lights on, the internet. (water is a lesser priority).
Then there is the daily job-search – fortunately it is mostly internet based these days. Most places only have online applications now. This is good; I can’t afford a bus pass and my VocRehab hasn’t come through yet to supply me with one for job-hunting and interviews.  Without medications, most days, my body hurts too much to allow me to do extensive walking. But interviews are rare and too much time in between.
But the biggest reason I have not written is because it is difficult to – mentally.
I get tired of my “updates” being only negative news and I haven’t had positive news to report.
Mentally, I am going “silent” again. I feel like I am crumbling. Not only is my self-esteem returning to its lowest points – it is returning to its lowest functioning. I am having near-constant panic attacks, which shreds my short-term memory. The panic makes it almost impossible lately to make decisions – I am too sensitive to the negative impacts of any action.  I am “losing” time – developing gaps in my memory. 
An empath – right now I have no defensive walls. Not only does this mean I am sensory-overloaded when I am near other people; as one who also “transmits” I am impacting those I come in contact with. Full-disclosure, seeing my impact on others has started making me agoraphobic. This means, when near other people, I really need to “clamp down” on my depression and negative feelings.  If you have met me in person lately, this is why I seem withdrawn, stand-offish. And, yes, I am coming off a little “fake” right now; it’s for your protection. Trust me – you do not want to really experience the current depths of my depression and pain right now.
That is a massive effort. This overload is effecting my home and environment; while I am now used to my emotions causing glitches and sabotaging my electronic (most common cause of my technology fails) , I have now become a actual poltergeist. I am affecting the inanimate objects now, especially at times I am home alone.  It has become common for me to be hearing crashes and noises from a room behind me, when I and my cats are in a room together after my roommates have left the house. I no longer run to see “who” caused it. I believe in scientific theory; the correlation between the intensity of my moods and the increase in “supernatural” noise cannot be denied.  I work with trying to resolve the issue currently stressing me when I can; work with isolating myself and calming myself when I cannot.
I am off my maintenance meds – so my physical and mental conditions are becoming quite diabilitating.  My Voc Rehab caseworker noticed it right away when we re-met; she said I am NOT in a condition to work. Some conditions I have previously shared. Some I am not yet ready to admit to publically – too much ignorant stigma still attached to them. I am not my disabilities; I do not want to be lessened down to only them. (I may have to, here, later. But I choose today is not the day)
With my caseworker’s advocacy, I did finally get approved for medical this past month – but have not yet located new doctors to accept me with this new state-offered medical insurance. I’m working on finding new ones; but it’s robbing sleep time to do so. But I am finding years of therapy and work-arounds unraveling. I am suicidal again. Don’t worry overmuch on this last disclosure! I WILL NOT suicide; it is not an option I will allow myself!  I am just being honest and acknowledging it is again a daily struggle, reshaping that internal argument that I am not worthy to live. I KNOW I am – but, what can I say – my parents really did a job on me as a kid. And your parents voices always stay the loudest ones in your head as an adult. You can relearn healthier ways of thinking – but they still stay there.
I am grateful for the skills I learned last year in the Leadership Program I attended – they have allowed me to hang on – but it is hanging on by my fingernails. I am constantly re-wording thoughts in my head, restructuring the negative ones into positive ones. I am not ‘unemployed” – I am self-employed”. I am not a “failed” career – I am an e-seller, artist and poet. I am not poor – I am relearning to do more with less resources.  I am re-branding myself. Sure – it is partly forced due to circumstances – but I am also making it intentional.
I used my government jobs as “therapy’ – a way to compartmentalize myself and to bring out my best functioning on a daily basis. With a daily audience, I had to bring my A game to the table every day; be in control everyday. Sure, I would allow myself lapses into “Poet’ or “Artist” – but I took pride in serving as “Public Servant”.  
Now I am learning to function without that parachute. In fact – without any of my tried & true therapies and coping skills. In light of this, I really shouldn’t be surprised I am currently a full-blown poltergeist. This is essentially like a pop essay-final, I have been stripped of every coping mechanism and it is sink or swim. It is a rough lesson; sometimes I think I am getting it, sometimes not.
But today – I am awake. I have electricity and internet & have e-work to do. I actually allowed myself to participate in a art event on Sunday – so I have a painting I am now committed to finishing. (I hope this to be a step in a positive direction). Today I will allow myself an hour at my Sunday spot to make further study sketches of my piece, something I denied myself fir five months. I may even do a Zentangle session. Today I will allow myself an hour to edit April’s poetry. And maybe write a piece for today. Today I will venture outside my imposition.

And today, right now, I will write.

Bear with me, as what I write will most likely not be pleasant. But it is a need can no longer deny if I am to live. Writing is how I beat my past suicidal thoughts and demons, how I recovered my voice and with it my self. I need to start putting my SELF back into my daily life. April’s Poetry-A-Day challenges that I participated in helped some, as I knew they would. My imposed isolation was not good for me as it encouraged my silence. Silence, for me, is a trigger; I start living only emotionally and reactively. I am not only dealing with the absent silence of friends and past co-eorkers, but a silence from my thoughts as well. In February I had even stopped writing to myself; it was bad how I shut down. And as I process things/experiences through writing – it hobbled me. And, by extension, it has hobbled my electronics, freezing up the computers and phones in my house. So allow me to share some of my frustrations – so I may stop other frustrations from being born. 

Perhaps, one of you reading here also is dealing with high depression. Please, don't give in. It doesn't always get better ...
But the ONLY way for it to get better is to not give in!