Not letting things get to me

If you want to know how to stop letting things get to you, I am not the person to turn to for advice.

I didn’t have a good week. It started with a visit to the neurologist because I’ve been having weird seizures at night. At least I think they’re seizures – they might be spasms, which I gather are from different causes – but I really don’t know because I’m asleep when I have them. And as the neurologist said, if I gave you medicine for them, how would we know it’s working?

But just the mention of the word ‘epilepsy’ had me heading off down the Rabbit Hole of Doom. The neurologist had to warn me against driving and taking baths (I think he’s legally obliged to say those things, but without an official diagnosis he can’t actually pull the pin on my driving licence). So naturally I was imagining life without driving, and what this would mean for the Rest of My Life. What would it mean if the epilepsy turned into daytime seizures. And on and on.

Because I was so het up about the possible epilepsy, I went into something of a tail spin and ended up sick for a couple of days. I have had bad chest pains for the past 4 months or so, sometimes so painful they wake me at night, but I am pretty sure they are related to the rheumatoid arthritis and not a heart attack (and my GP and rheumatologist concur, having examined me). I got a bad case of the chest pains, and generally felt completely miserable.

So where am I going with this? Only to say, I should have controlled my thoughts and not let them run off down these dire paths to nowhere. The chances of this being epilepsy are very slim. That’s definitely the worst case scenario, but that doesn’t make it the most likely scenario. In fact it’s the LEAST likely scenario.

I got to thinking that if I lived with someone, they could provide a counterbalance to my catastrophising and bring me back to earth. But it’s not fair to place that burden on someone else. It’s not someone else’s job to make me behave like a rational and sensible human being. I need to just get a grip. It’s okay to get a fright, to feel worried, to feel sad or upset. It’s not okay to start believing I’m on death’s door and the world is falling apart when it’s not.

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Self respect or self indulgence?

It can be hard to tell the difference sometimes. 

When I’m really tired, I have endless debates with myself about what I should do. Should I go for the walk that might make me feel alert again, or should I acknowledge that I’m worn out and lie on the couch with a book?

There are never “right” answers to these kinds of questions, there is only what we decide in the end to do. Sometimes I walk, sometimes I read. 

I figure that as long as I’m not doing too much of one and not enough of the other, I’m probably balancing the ledger in the long run. At least, I console myself with this reasoning. 

I’m conscious that, without someone else in the house to notice that I’ve become very self indulgent, I could slip into a life of indolence. 

… And sometimes I just sits

That title is from one of my favourite Leunig cartoons, of a character sitting on a fence, with the caption,

Sometimes I just sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits

Today was a beautiful sunny day so I opened all the windows to air out the house, and sat on the porch in the sun with a cup of coffee reading  some design magazines. 

While I was reading, a neighbour walked past, looked up at me and said, “that looks like perfection”. And I replied, “you know, I think it might be”. 

It struck me that, until she said it, I hadn’t even thought about it.  

Which got me thinking a bit about how much I fail to notice the great moments that make up much of my day. Sitting in the sun, reading, drinking a cup of coffee — that to me is a state of bliss that during the working week I yearn for. And there I was in the middle of it and not aware I’d got there. 

That’s not all bad though, I decided. I was enjoying it, and that was probably just as important if not more so. I was immersed in the pleasure of it. It would surely be worse to have yearned for it all week then failed to enjoy it.

Alone on vacation

I had a lovely 5 days by myself on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. The weather forecast said it was to rain all week but mercifully it was wrong and it was in fact sunny all week, with temperatures in the mid-high 20s. A lovely change from the 10s it’s been at home.

I had booked into a resort and managed to upgrade my room to one with a kitchenette and a balcony. This worked beautifully: I could eat breakfast on my balcony in the morning sun, and avoid the $20 buffet fat-fest that is a resort breakfast staple. Similarly, dinner was a light supper in the fading light, and lunch was a treat out somewhere depending on where I was exploring.

I was surprised how many people asked who I went away with, and did I meet anyone while I was away. No-one and no, are the answers. I went on my own, stayed on my own, spent every day on my own, ate 3 meals a day on my own, and came home on my own. It was bliss.

During the day, I would go for a walk somewhere. The resort was a stone’s throw from the beaches and there was a wonderful walkway that went for miles north and south so every day involved a walk along that. The shopping wasn’t up to much but I wandered the town centre idly looking anyway, and managed to find a good bookstore which always makes me happy (I bought a couple of books to show my appreciation for its existence).

I had made up my mind to sketch while I was away, and sketch I did: 3 per day. Generally one was of my breakfast, although that got very boring as it was the same every day. I sketched from the cafe or restaurant where I had my morning coffee or lunch, and of course the waterfront itself was ideal.

The rest of the time I spent sitting by the resort’s pool, reading and having an occasional swim. I almost always had the pool to myself, as the resort was very quiet the week I was there (perfect timing/luck on my part). I took a nap in the afternoons, not a long one but enough to revive my flagging energy for the remainder of the day.

And that’s what I did on my vacation. It wasn’t exciting or newsworthy, and it was a clear loser in the  “Who Had the Best Vacation” one-up-manship competition back at work, but it worked for me. I didn’t force myself to engage in any kind of social interaction beyond the usual pleasantries with staff in stores and cafes, and I came back feeling refreshed, relaxed, and more importantly my health was improved by the break. Perhaps it was the naps, or the warmth, or a combination of these and the lack of social stress, but I have more energy than I have had in a long time. For me, that’s the point of a vacation.

I really should do it more often.