We’re Going on a Journey!

The last post I put up was about my new theme–The Chapter of Dots–and I wanted to first say, it’s going well. I am learning so much about myself, about how I think, and how I can appreciate the work I do.

But that structure I built up starting in January? It came crashing down in April. Maybe not crashing, maybe it slipped into the mire like an abandoned farmhouse or something, but it definitely came down. My depression and anxiety just could not cope with the structure I’d made, and piece by piece I lost it.

I was okay with that for a while–I just needed to wake up and get through the day, after all–but lately, I’ve been feeling itchy. I know there are things I’m forgetting, roles I’m neglecting, and progress I’m leaving behind. Add in a surprise puppy entering my life when I found her on the side of the road and the fact that every month remaining in this year feels packed full, and I need some of that structure back.

Knowing what I’m dealing with mentally will help me build that structure in a way it can recover from periods where the only goal is get through the day while also not feeling like I’m drowning when I try to resurface.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been focused on just getting the urgent things done. That means focusing on the little things, on the little dots. But, I need to zoom out, I need to see the whole picture. In order to zoom back in to add more dots, I need to zoom out to see what I can’t see at the macro level.

That said, I’ve started doing some introspection. I think this might be a bit of a series, maybe 2-3 posts, but we’ll see, where I walk you through my thoughts on how to zoom my perspective out, get the lay of the land, see where I need more dots.

Talk soon, be well!

July 15, 2021 Introspection Productivity

Accepts: An Anxiety Exercise

I’m really struggling today. Let’s be honest and put it all out there. I have unspecified anxiety and, sometimes, it really affects me. Today is one of those days. It didn’t take much, just a bad interaction in a meeting yesterday, and today I’m having a hard time focusing, I can feel my heart trembling, and I keep making anxious motions with my hands and body. If you’ve experienced this before, you know it can consume you. Today, though, I want to try to break out of it, so I’m going to share a technique I learned a few years ago.

It’s called Wise Mind ACCEPTS,” and it’s a technique from Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT. A wise mind, in DBT, is the intersection of your logical mind and your emotional mind. This technique is all about Distraction–distracting your mind from the things that are causing you anxiety or stress so you can calm down and center yourself. ACCEPTS is an acronym, where the letters stand for Activities, Contributing, Comparisons, Emotions, Pushing Away, Thoughts, and Sensations. The idea is that when you’re feeling calm, you write down things you can do in each of these categories, and, later, look at the list when you need a distraction, pick one, and see if it helps. I thought I’d share portions of my list so that others may have a jumping off point or use this technique themselves when they need it!

Activities

  • Color a picture while listening to music, a podcast, or an audiobook
  • Tend my houseplants, giving each of them some love and attention.
  • Bake something, preferably cookies
  • Walk my dog and give her belly rubs
  • Throw an ultimate disc around the backyard, or setup backyard disc golf
  • Sew something quick and easy, listening to only the machine whirring
  • Clean the kitchen, or the office, tidy a drawer or two.
  • Do a puzzle, or play a game on my phone
  • Paint something with watercolors
  • Crochet or knit a quick project

Contributing

  • Walk around the local pond and pick up trash
  • Find something to donate, or buy something for a charity
  • Surprise my partner with something he loves
  • Volunteer at the Humane Society
  • Collect items for the food bank
  • Fund a few micro loans

Comparisons

Note that this section does not work for everyone.

  • Look back at myself a year ago, or five years ago. How am I doing?
  • Investigate an injustice elsewhere in the world.
  • Find someone who is doing well to emulate.

Emotions

  • Watch The Wedding Crashers or New Girl to laugh
  • Watch The Decoy Bride to cry happy tears
  • Read A Desperate Fortune for the quiet joy in that book
  • Read The Collector for escapism fun
  • Listen to the Stephen Fry version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to burst out laughing
  • Listen to my Bliss playlist

Pushing Away

  • Visualize building a wall between me and the problem.
  • Put the problem in a box and hide it on a shelf.
  • Visualize the problem melting away like a spring snow.

Thoughts

  • Count to 10 in French, Spanish, or Ancient Greek
  • Count the number of stars, or tiles or slats on my blinds.
  • Count the number of leaves on my plants
  • Try to count the birds based only on their song.

Sensations

  • Hold an ice cube in my hand
  • Wrap my fingers around a cup of warm tea
  • Take a hot shower
  • Snap a hair tie against my wrist
  • Chew some bubble gum
  • Braid my hair

These are just examples, of course, but they’re things I do to distract myself from my anxiety until I can find the space to take a deep breath and face the problem. I hope this can be helpful to someone out there, too. Have a good day, friends.

June 29, 2021 Anxiety

A Theme in Review

At the end of 2020, I was feeling adrift. I’d been having a good start to the year, even with the pandemic; I was lucky enough to stay healthy, my family did too, and I had plenty to keep my hands and mind occupied.

Around August, things changed. Some personal tragedies and circumstances cast me adrift, making me feel listless and unfocused. I searched about for a theme, and–with help from some kind friends–settled on something around January that I felt could guide me: The Year of (Just Enough) Structure.

In short, this theme was about moving forward on projects while streamlining my routines to give every single day a good foundation with room to improvise and experiment. I had learned that if I tried to enforce too much structure on myself, I would feel claustrophobic, and, conversely, if I didn’t have enough structure, I would feel lost. So the goal was to find the best middle ground.

It worked. I put systems in place, wrote more than I had in years, learned new things, created, read, grew. Then… well.

The thing most people don’t seem to realize about depression, about anxiety, is that you can be okay, you can be great, and then one day, you’re not. It’s not even something I realized until I was facing it. I thought I was fine, thought I was okay, until I looked back a couple weeks and realized Oh, something’s gone wrong.”

I will be the first person to say, You need to talk to someone.” I have that someone, as well as a good support structure made up of my partner, friends, and family. I’m okay. But something had gone wrong, and my theme was acting more like a guilt machine than a guiding light.

I floundered with that for a while. My theme had been going so well and suddenly it wasn’t. Did that mean I abandoned ship? Did I try to get back on track? I want to say I had a blinding flash of insight and everything turned around, that I went back to normal–whatever that is–but I can’t. That’s not my story, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s truth. Instead, I had to live with myself, to explore what I felt and why I felt this way.

I’m still doing that. My theme, The Year of (Just Enough) Structure, was cast aside. I learned a lot about myself during the four months I worked within it, and it still guides me right now, but I realized I needed a new theme.

A friend advised me not to focus on a whole year; it’s just too long of a period of time. Instead they suggested a Chapter,” as this next step, this next theme, is just turning the page, exploring a new scene, a new phase of my life. I love that sentiment. I thought about what felt off, what I felt I needed in this next phase, and yet another friend encouraged me to remember something I’d once adapted from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist and Mike Schmitz’s review of that book:

Creativity is connecting dots in ways only you can. If you don’t have enough dots, find more.”

That sparked something within me. It was something I needed to hear, but it also triggered a lot of thoughts within me about the smallest pieces, the little things, the steps that add up. I had visions of impressionist paintings and wildly colorful mosaics, where each individual dot or tile looks inconsequential but adds up to the bigger picture. I even thought back to Atomic Habits, one of the books that changed my life, and about how each tiny habit added up to a bigger day, a bigger identity.

So, I settled on a new theme, and it fits so well. I’ve entered The Chapter of Dots, the chapter of my life in which I’m focused on doing the little things that add up to the bigger picture, like the dots in Monet’s The Artist’s Garden at Giverny. I also want to take this time to remind myself, too, that it’s okay to spend time collecting dots–inspiration–to bring back my creative spirit. It’s already helping.

June 18, 2021 Productivity Themes

Learning SwiftUI - Day 48 of 100

Hello again. Let’s just jump into this. Day 48 was a 45 minute video about Swift, and focused on change, code, and community. I watched 12 minutes of it; I couldn’t get into it. It may be worth it for some people, and I may go back one day, but today is not the day to watch it.

June 3, 2021 100 Days of SwiftUI

100 Days of SwiftUI - Day 47 of 100

I have started the habit tracker challenge, but nowhere near finished it. I think I’ll likely spin on it for a couple days, in fact, but will be moving on as I do so. I’m anxious to get to the end, and I’m not even halfway through the course.

A lot of this project is me cobbling together things from the Astronaut project with other little bits and pieces. Feels a bit hacky, but I’m going for it.

Hope you’re doing well!

May 26, 2021 100 Days of SwiftUI

Spotify Playlists

I’ve been meaning to find a good way to share my music. Every month, I make a new playlist. I’ve been doing this since May of 2019, collecting the songs I’m listening to into one playlist and just leaving that on repeat for the month. Turns out, if I do that, by the end of the month I’m ready for another one. Some are incredibly short, some are long, some have repeats, and all range across my music tastes, so be warned that they may give you whiplash.

So, without further ado, here’s every monthly playlist for the past two years.

P.S. If you’d rather just follow me on Spotify, here’s my user profile.

2021

May Away - May 2021

April Showers - April 2021

March on - March 2021

February Flight - February 2021

Dancing in January - January 2021

2020

Full 2020 Playlist

December Freeze - December 2020

New November - November 2020

One October Morning - October 2020

September Out of Time - September 2020

August Rain - August 2020

Oh My, July 2020

Junebug - June 2020

Maybe May - May 2020

April Alone - April 2020

Merry March - March 2020

Frisky February - February 2020

Brand New January - January 2020

2019

Full 2020 Playlist

Decembrrrr - December 2019

November Frost - November 2019

October of Forever - October 2019

Remember September - September 2019

Burning August - August 2019

Flyby July - July 2019

Hey June - June 2019

Mayday Mayday - May 2019

May 24, 2021 Music