From the Bottom of a Well

digital illustrationThere are wells whose bottommost dark can hardly be imagined, let alone reached, abysses hidden in all of us that emit no light and rarely give up answers. There are parts of each of us that we can scarcely understand ourselves. Places in which no one else seems able to make sense of us. It does not diminish us, singly or as a species, but it makes living life a greater and more delicately convoluted adventure at every turn.

For me, this means that I need to find the positive in an assortment of inner oddities and personal distinctions that most often remind me of their presence in random, unpredictable and even annoying ways. The unusual synaptical dances that cause me to read upside down, backwards and sideways instead of the particular direction in which my peers and comrades read make me a very slow reader since texts around here are designed with the literate majority in mind. But I think that reading things four times through just to make sense of them does sometimes immerse me more thoroughly in the text if I let it, and it can help turn a mere reading requirement into a commitment. Drawing, when my hand tremors are being pesky, demands that I become more than ordinarily focused and deliberate as well. There are lots of frustrating nuisances that can be turned into usable stuff with enough thought and effort and patience and, well, acceptance.

I still have a mighty tough time scraping up that attitude, though, when it comes to getting a handle on anxiety. That, my friends, is my bête noire. Most of the time I work around it fairly well. My medication and years of learning coping skills and the support of family, friends and health professionals have made much of my anxiety mostly manageable, especially the social anxiety that long made it a near impossibility to meet new people or have conversations with any. But there’s this lousy aspect that keeps on lounging around in my psyche and popping out like a jack-in-the-box at the most inopportune times without so much as a how-d’ye-do, and I have yet to discover a single upbeat way to dress it up and take control of this fiendish pop-up and its ghoulish torments.

The particularly loathsome aspect, to me, is how utterly ridiculous and tiny my personal bane appears to my rational mind, yet how entirely paralyzing its power remains over me whenever it rears its nasty clownish head. It’s not especially complicated to explain, just seems impossible to me to solve; the parts of social anxiety that I’ve never been able to undo or conquer thus far have to do with any kind of business or personal transaction that seems to me to have any chance of including a need for me to request or require help of any sort. Add to that my continuing pointless yet persistent horror of using a telephone or communication forum of any kind for those needy purposes, and it’s a peculiarly potent combination of fears that can keep me from getting the littlest and quickest things done for days or weeks on end while I try to summon the nerve to move forward with them.

Sometimes I can persuade myself over a long enough period to make the call or write the email or knock on the door to ask for information, make a transaction, or schedule an event, and sometimes I just remain stuck in the grip of that inertia that neither solves the problem nor lets me forget that I am in its power. And believe me, I know how abysmally foolish any attempt to explain my terrified reluctance to any sane person sounds: it sounds beyond childish and outlandish to me. But that rational part of me has very little sway over my phobias, so only once in a wildly long while do I get up the courage to do that unbelievably little thing that others can, and I should be able to, do without batting an eye.

The good news, and yes there is plenty of it to get me through the day, is that I have lived a good long time visiting the bottom of this particular and soggy well without losing my ability to see the light up at the top end of it or even to experience a truly happy life by keeping my trips down there as separate from the rest of my existence as I know how to do. And strangely, I have found that the same rain of frustrations, frights and fears that occasionally pelt down the well around me can also lie at my feet like a watery mirror, reflecting enough of my better self to remind me to come back up into the brighter world and leave my fears behind. Even if I have to wait for the rising tide of it to carry me back up and out of there for respite.digital illustrationMeanwhile, I can remember that having Spasmodic Dysphonia tends to make me not merely a prisoner of my halting speech but also more conscientious about conserving, preserving and rehabilitating my voice. More importantly, it gives me yet greater admiration for those who use their voices in extraordinary ways, both those with SD or other speech anomalies (i.e., Diane Rehm and James Earl Jones) and those without (Angela Meade, Colin Balzer, Morgan Freeman). And while I may not have perfect pitch or infallible hearing, there’s nothing notably wrong with my ears. Sometimes I even suspect that being at the bottom of a well gives me a better appreciation for good acoustics!

Silence may not be Golden, but Control of Noisemaking Keeps Everyone Safer

photoPractice as though Your Life Depended on It

Two singers strolled into a wood, and I

Followed the one less skillful; why?

Starved beasts will flock to an anguished cry,

As they did that day; in the wink of an eye,

I was on the road less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

[With sincerest apologies to Robert Frost]photo

Foodie Tuesday: Guess My Weight!

photoI’ve always thought of those who focus on weight as being a little bit mean and, no pun intended, narrow-minded. There used to be people at the State Fair whose sole skill was apparently to guess the weight of passersby, and I could never imagine what purpose that served, most particularly what positive purpose it could possibly have. There are still plenty of places, notably supplement, nutrition and ‘health’ stores, that keep scales around for customers’ use, and again, that strikes me as unfriendly, since the aim seems to be to make people aware of their ‘improper’ weight so that they will purchase all sorts of cures and rescues from the proprietors. Yet another cruel use of the scale: humiliation and robbery. All perfectly legal and, the perpetrators would likely argue, well-meaning, as of course their goal is to save lives and make people healthy along the way. Sorry about the miserable portion of the transaction, y’all, but it’s necessary.

Well, yes, sometimes intervention’s the only tenable solution. But not nearly so often as one might think, if only when guided by the popular imagery of skinny-as-beautiful, as successful, as admirable, and anything other than skinny as not so. I’m well aware that to help one achieve and maintain good health over a long life, generally speaking it’s advisable to keep one’s weight in a range that is proportionate in a fairly specific way to one’s height, bone structure, and/or other physical criteria. But it’s also true that not only are there plenty of variables besides weight that are significant parts of the health and longevity puzzle but many people outside the ‘norms’ strictly in weight also survive and thrive and even live very long lives doing so. An additional truth: that beauty is widely, wildly variable in its manifestations, and in how we perceive it.

There is still the business about how my weight makes me feel, emotionally yes but more especially so, physically. I’m one of those fairly despicable people who never struggled with trying to weigh anything but what I did by simple default, but like most people (at least most of the privileged people I’ve known), I find that’s changing little by little as I age. So now, what little my weight changes has a more noticeable effect on how I feel. The bad news is that at long last, I do find it takes a little bit of effort to keep my weight in my own comfort zone. The good news is that, so far, it does take relatively little effort, because two small changes are starting to make it easier for me to predict what will or won’t work for me, in dietary terms.

Two small things: one, that I eat less heavily processed [‘junk’] food and see that more of what I do eat is thoughtfully prepared (i.e., not ‘junked up’ in preparation); the second, that I eat more thoughtfully. I simply don’t need to eat the quantities I eat, nor as often as I do so. Simple. Yet not. Because, of course, I’m your typical habit-ridden, easily tempted, food crazy creature, and I have grown up eating what I wanted, when I wanted, in whatever big batches I wanted, and without many consequences. Now that I’m subject to consequence it’s not quite an instantaneous transition to being smart about my eating, least of all about only eating when I’m genuinely hungry. I’m working on it. I feel better when I stick to it.

And I’m still not going to go hopping on the scale to weigh myself. How many pounds I weigh has nothing to do with whether my clothes fit the way I’d like them to or whether I feel attractive, and less than nothing to do with whether I’ll feel well and be healthy or I’ll survive for many years to come. So many factors play a part in that equation. I just want to help tip the odds a little in my favor if I can by eating a bit less, and a little bit less often, and when I do eat, eating things I really, truly enjoy, with mindful pleasure. More fun, and I hope, for a much longer time.photo