What to do When You Don’t Know What to do

You say you’re stressed, distressed, and don’t know what to do next?  Are you filled with anxiety, grief, doubt, depression and confusion?  For your own mental health, this is the time to get out an old-fashioned pen or pencil, a pad of paper, and write, long hand, as much as you can.  Long, stream of consciousness, totally uncensored writing, raw with every misspelling, grammatical mistake, and rule ignored.

Most writers are familiar with this process, because that is how we make sense of the world.  We just write.

Don’t even read what you wrote for a while.  Just write, day after day, for days, weeks, even months.  At some point you will want to go back and read what you wrote, but not until you have enough written that you will be able to see the full arc of your thoughts and feelings.

Don’t let anyone else read your journal either, or you will find yourself writing to your audience, which means you will edit yourself.  You can always share what you wrote at some later date.

When should you write?  First thing in the morning, while you are still groggy with sleep is a good time to write, as you are then unlikely to edit yourself.  Write anything.  Write how stupid it is to write when you have nothing to say.  Write about your cat getting in your way of writing, because she wants to  be in your lap.  Write about your frustrations, fears, hopes and dreams.

Some people recommend writing with your less dominant hand, resulting in a childish scrawl, and it is said, childish feelings and memories.  Write any time you are filled with strong emotion that overcomes your inclination to hold back.

As I go along, I will put a mark next to information that I consider really important to key on later.  Right now, I am looking for problems and their solutions.  Why not just make a list?  I would if I knew what problems I had.

Things reveal themselves in a very subtle way in a journal.  You might not even know how really annoyed you are with all the clutter the family leaves around your work-space, until you see you have mentioned it here and there.  This is something fixable.  That thing waking you up every night at 3 a.m. might not be under your control to fix, but maybe you can find a way to help the situation.

You will learn how you really feel about things.  Don’t jump to the conclusion that you already know.  People are notorious for discounting or minimizing their feelings.  How can you address an issue without really admitting the depth of feeling you have.

Even if you never read over what you have written, your writing will have helped to clarify your feelings and thinking.  This is why mental health professionals recommend writing in a journal.  But rather than toss it out, give it a read.  You are bound to be surprised by something you wrote.


On the Edge

NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The unknown can produce massive feelings of uncertainty.  Starting a blog was nothing like approaching the event horizon of a black hole, but it was new, and I wasn’t sure if I would get likes, or regular readers.  There were voices, some of them in my head, that said, “No-one cares what your thoughts are, no matter what shade of lipstick you put on that pig.”

I know!  Harsh! ( Note to self:  find a picture of a pig and put lipstick on it, these anxieties will hit again.)  I’ve been a newspaper correspondent!  I have had editors that like my stuff!  How much reinforcement do I need?  Quite a bit actually.

My grandson is excited about the 10 followers for his videos, and the videos the family like (his 8-year-old self doing a tie tying tutorial) are not included.  His aunt said,  “How are you going to monetize  your site?”  A  high-achiever, his aunt’s question is probably a good one.  I’ve been thinking about it in relation to my blog.

I have thought about monetizing my blog from the very beginning, if in fact I attracted readers.  Am I ready yet?  I’m not entirely consistent.  My readership grows with every post.  I have over 1000 potential readers if you include Facebook, and those I have invited to read in addition to my WordPress followers.   Friends in the area have started introducing me as a fine writer.

I know I need to invest some money into my monetized blog, but I’m not sure how  it works once I upgrade to the premium package.  Do I even know enough about the mechanics of blogging to be self hosted?

A couple of months ago I had no clue about SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  I have looked at a few SEO sites, but will stick to the free ones for now.  I’ve also been playing with customization of my blog, found some great sites for open source (free) photographs, and incorporate many  of my own photographs.

Yes, my premium blog would need all this, plus a way to make money.  I don’t have enough readers to earn much money from the ads that will be run.  No!  Something else is needed.  I need something to sell.  What I need is a book!  I’m sure a few people will be willing to pay a few bits for a book from an unknown, unproven author.

There I am coming up to the event horizon again.   Actually putting words down isn’t even half of writing a book.  Cover art is needed!  Formatting for Kindle or Amazon is needed, and there are programs for that.  Writing a book is one thing.  Getting a book to the reader is the other half.

Friends and fellow bloggers, what say you.  Am I ready?  Should I make the jump?  Do you have any advice?


Blind Alleys


Florinda St Jerez by Jerezplataforma via Wikimedia Commons



Don’t follow your instinct blindly!  Why not, you ask?   How many times does your instinct scream, “Danger! Danger!”  How many times do you think the sun is shining, and the idea that anything bad can happen just doesn’t enter your head?  There are those times when the appearance of a situation does not match the reality.  Better to keep your eyes open, and behave with caution.   Mostly things turn out just fine, and our worry is needless anxiety.

Recently we considered a “land contract” on our mobile home.  There was this little whisper that just kept nagging that I really should not accept the deal.  What this simply my ever present anxiety?  For those not versed in such things, a land contract is where the seller is the lender, and maintains a lean on the property.  Research is what I do, so I got on the computer and researched the heck out of land contract.  I even wrote up a very nice contract, putting every protection I could think of into the contract.

I just wasn’t satisfied.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that accepting the offer would be great for them, and bad for us.  I know us, and I know we would treat the buyers well and not take undue advantage of the situation.  An advantage like using their home, that we would retain title to, as collateral on another loan, and then default!  My problem is, I just don’t really know them.  Will they stop paying, have to be evicted, take us to court in an effort to get back part of their down payment, and leave the place a worthless mess?

All indications are that the earnest young buyers are exactly what they appear to be, good honest people just looking for a home for their children.  They have saved a significant down payment, and my first instinct was to help them get a home.  Getting a full price offer and earning a little interest in addition seemed like a good deal.

A land contract could be a good deal, for someone who can patiently wait five or more years to see how everything turns out.  Unfortunately for our earnest young buyers, we have survived a couple of bad financial decisions before.  (Financial decisions that looked good and sucked in people far more financially knowledgeable than we were.)   I am not comfortable with this risk, when it would require that I borrow additional money myself, for my own housing needs.

I’m not saying you should never take a risk.  If I was better able to tolerate uncertainty, and not incur additional expenses of my own, I might have made the choice to accept the land contract deal.

Some risks pay off, like sleeping our our boat on a clear starry night for the first time, or going down an alley and going around the curve to find a beautiful restaurant with an outdoor area for eating, overlooking a cheerful square full of happy people.

You never know what you will find when you take a risk, so keep your eyes open for the unexpected.

*Note:  Sometimes you find a photo to match your topic, and sometimes you shape your topic to match your available photo.  Many of the photos used in my blog are my own, but sometimes I need to reach beyond my own collection of photographs.  Wikimedia Commons is a wonderful resource for open stock photos.  This is also a good place to share your photographs with others.  Have fun checking them out.


Dealing With Buracracy

Oh my gosh.  Hands shaking, I grab them in a vain attempt to stop or at least hide it.  While obvious that I’m  wringing my hands, I can’t stop.  I shiver all over, as if I’m  freezing, and I am in fact cold.  No one else is cold, in fact the temperature  is in the upper 80’s, and I can’t stop shivering.  I blame it on the air conditioning  and the fan.  An arm over my shoulders, while comforting, does not warm me.  Decisions have to be made, actions taken.  I am frustrated by excuses and apologies.  I am frustrated by lies that I am at fault.  I missed four calls, but there is no record in an age when every call leaves its mark.  Again apologies and efforts to blame others.  My voice tense with politeness as I fulfill yet another repeated request.  Finally, all is in order, I hope.   I say a terse thank you and disconnect  the call.  It takes time, but as the stress and anxiety leaves my  body, I slowly warm.  My hands are the last part of my body to again feel normal.

In a Moment

Dad and Mom carefree in Florida

When Dad awoke one Florida morning and had no voice, Mom didn’t realize it was a crisis.  Dad drove them to urgent care walk in, waited for his turn, and was told he needed to be in the ER.  My Dad was having a stoke.  The doctor wanted to call transport (an ambulance), but my parents refused.  This was the wrong decision that led to two years of painful struggle, resulting in my Dad’s death.  Dad had no obvious symptoms when he walked into the ER, except he couldn’t talk.  Four hours later, still waiting to be seen with no treatment, Dad could barely stay in the chair, and Mom called family in Ohio for help.  By the time help arrived, the damage was done.

It only takes one moment, and your life is changed. You are in crisis.  All the plans you had are abruptly changed.  If there is anything we can be sure of in life, is that things will change.  Change can be good or bad, but crisis is always bad.

We try to prepare for crisis.  We buy insurance.  We save for rainy day.  With preparation and foresight, we have the money for an emergency car repair or replacement.  If we are smart, we save enough to hold us over in the event of a layoff,  unexpected medical costs, and possibly long-term care.

Prepared or not, crisis will come.  How will you deal with crisis?  You need to prepare for crisis before it hits.  Will you wail with great gnashing of teeth?  Will you leave decisions  up to others?  If this is the case, your plan includes selecting those people.  I hope this doesn’t describe me in a crisis, but I do have a list of people I know I can rely on in any situation.  My list includes: a minister, family members, doctors, financial advisers, and a lawyer. This is a pretty good list even if you are a cool-headed analytical type in a crisis.  I hope I would be a person with a cool head, but a team of supportive people could help formulate a sensible plan.

Your team will help to assess the situation, engage any professionals that may be needed. Your team will help plan your strategy to deal with the situation, and help you implement your plan.   Your team will also help with communication with others, making sure you ask enough questions, and help you remember what you need to.   A team will relieve much of the stress and anxiety of going through a crisis.

For my parents in Florida, an immediate call to family in Ohio would have motivated us into action sooner, including telling them to take the ambulance to the hospital, and calling a family member nearby who is a nurse to meet them at the hospital.  EMS personnel would have performed an assessment, begun treatment, and informed hospital staff on arrival of Dad’s condition.   My parents should have had a local doctor to act as advocate in this situation, any doctor, including the one back home could have inquired into my Dad’s care.  Mom should have had a friend to back  up Mom and make sure the seriousness of the situation was communicated to  hospital staff, and be able to help Mom to ask questions and remember what was going on.

In a moment your entire life can change, and the better prepared you are when crisis happens, the better you will whether crisis.


Now is Sanctuary

It has been a week!  A wonderful, noisy, busy, wild week.  Grandchildren were here.   We sewed, cooked, and played.  Nobody slept enough.  We were just working things out and establishing a routine when the week ended.  Each of the three children had their own sanctuary from separation and homesickness.  My grandson found sanctuary in his electronic devices.  Little sister found sanctuary in drawing and coloring.  Older sister found sanctuary doing the hair of her Americn Girl doll (practice for her own hair).

Oma (me) found sanctuary in being surrounded by people I  love.  Instead of dwelling on the frustrations of life, I focused only on them.  I focused on each moment present with them.

Live fully in the present moment, appreciate the feel of fabrics and surfaces, focus on the people and emotions of the present.  In my experience, living in the present moment is the best way to release stress and anxiety.    Maybe some examples would help illustrate.

Going into a job interview?  Put on your best smile, it’s show time.  Instead of borrowing trouble over how you will be judged wanting, spend your time really focusing on your surroundings and the interviewer.  You say you aren’t prepared. That is the past.  Focus on making that connection when you meet.  Focus on the interviewer.  Listen to each comment and question.  Save your analysis for later.

Confronted with a phobia?  Spiders?  Notice the spider’s color, its pattern, how it weaves its web, what may have been snared.  You may become so fascinated that you forget your fear.

The present moment can be your sanctuary, if you banish the mistakes and hurts of the past, and refuse to fret over the future.

(Picture  of the grandchildren playing Fantasia on Xbox.   Included with permission of Mom.)

Will IT Never End

Political stress and anxiety have some people fearing the end of the American Dream.

For his entire presidency the left says President Obama doesn’t go far enough, and the right says he goes to far.  These disagreements on the hill have caused government  gridlock, with those in favor of President Obama’s work around (executive order) being drowned out cries of presidential overreach. Now the primary season is dragging on and on leaving everyone to question whether party unity is possible.  The idea of parties actually working together and coming up with workable compromise is the impossible dream.

“Its only politics,” you say, but political stress and anxiety still strikes.  Political actions affect us in direct and indirect ways.  A government shut down, because a budget can’t be agreed upon affects the many government employees very directly.  If a budget can’t be agreed upon, the stock market fluctuates, investors lose money, interest rates fluctuate, and the bottom line is what you have to spend, and how much the things you want will cost you are directly affected.  This is only one example, I am sure you can think of some government action, or inaction, that has affected you in some way.  Many actions don’t affect me at all, yet politics confronts me with making decisions that could affect others.

Pro-choice/pro-life, LGBT rights, the plight of illegal immigrants has never been a personal issue for me.  I have sympathy for both sides.  Politically, I am a centrist, and I have proof!  I took the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, and so can you.

I’ve always called myself a moderate, while some call me liberal and others call me conservative.  I’m teased that I just can’t commit to a position.  I hope its teasing.

All of this politics causes a lot of stress.  Me yes, but many others.  While learning about the use of SEO “search engine optimization with Reji Stephenson at Digital Dimensions4u   I tested the process using political topics and learned that people dealing with political stress and anxiety fear the coming election will lead to civil war, or just want to get away from any ramifications of the upcoming decisions by leaving the country if the opposition candidate should win.  When the SEO of Political Stress came up, I knew I found my topic.

Living in “enemy” territory, holding the minority opinion is particularly stressful, at least for me, as the urge to speak out arises . Speaking out has changed, maybe aborted, some budding social relationships.   When you don’t speak out, people assume you think the same way they do.  During a campaign season where the extreme positions take the spotlight there is a lot of eye rolling.   Each candidate has its following and their supporters are coming to physical conflict.  There are the Never Donald Trump and Never Hillary Clinton camps, and many will simply refuse to vote at all.  Then there is the Bernie “Burn” camp who want to vote in a new congress.

It is all very exciting to follow the reality show of our United States politics, but for all of us politics is stressful.  Stress that can affect the workplace, social settings, the future makeup of our countries leadership, and our lives.  A feeling of bad choices will cause some to drop out, and if those people are the centrists, then government gridlock will remain for the foreseeable future.

(Thank you Reji for teaching me about somethings so useful!)



Spinning Plates

Just when you think you have everything in life going smoothly, everything goes sideways.  Things still look normal to anyone outside, but the internal turmoil obliterates peace and focus.  You keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You do all the normal things, not as well, but you struggle to keep going forward.  Everything becomes hard.

Without focus, intention becomes mist and goals become far away dreams.  Operating in the dreamy mist things are dropped, misplaced, forgotten, broken, and daily life becomes a nightmarish prison.   You may call it the blues, being out of sorts, anxiety, or  depression.  Others may call it being negative, or wrong thinking, while you call it being realistic, and seeing things as they are.

How it starts can be mysterious.   One day you feel okay, and you are keeping all of your plates spinning.  Then an unkind word, a thoughtless gesture, a demand that requires immediate attention and external pressures cause distractions, and the plates start to wobble.   For awhile it looks like you will get all your plates spinning again, but there is always another plate to get started, and always another plate starts to wobble.  Until finally, you either stop the plates one by one, or the plates come crashing down.

Fortunately, all things come to an end, and rest goes a long way to setting things right again.  Yes it is cliché, because it is so true, but what you need to do is relax, let go, stop trying to control everything, and give it time.   You may need a little separation from those emotional issues, so take some time, let go and regroup.  Some things must run their course, and all your effort to force an earlier resolution will only add to your troubles.  Some plates need to be allowed to drop.  Some things are beyond your control, no matter how much effort you expend.

Once you are rested life won’t be such a nightmare.  You will be able to see things in a more realistic and focused  way.  Your anxiety and frustration won’t dominate every situation.  You will stop reacting to every wobble as if it is a terrible disaster.  You will have perspective, and renewed energy.

And I will be able to read this very good advice over and over again the next time I feel things are spinning out of control.



Medicated, meditative, and decaffeinate and still I spend some nights searching for that which is lost, forgetting where I have to be next, and missing those important tests.  Buffeted by storms, and naked before the world, I struggle against every obstacle.  It is enough to make me miss the haunted mansion with rooms full of furniture of every time period and every style. The ghosts aren’t so bad, once you get to know and understand them, and I get to shop their furniture for my rooms (the ghosts are usually willing to share).

It could be nothing more than my worry over the problems of my grown children.  These problems are not my problems and I can’t solve nor prevent their problems, but I am still concerned for them, as I always have been.  Or it could be the misunderstanding at work over the dress code, where I volunteer, for no money.  It could be the uncertainty of trying to envision and create the next stage of my life, which is full retirement and about 18 months away.   It could be watching the news, full of hate, with violence entering into places we should feel safe, as in our churches, schools, parks and movie theaters.

I don’t think I am all that unusual.  The heightened anxiety of Americans is driven by international tensions as well as conflicts at home.

We worry about our privacy, our safety, and we don’t know how to protect ourselves.    This is not making us more thoughtful, and polite to each other. This heightened level of anxiety is making everyone suspicious, and trigger happy. Our schools treat our children as if they are all potential assassins, and lock downs are not just for prisons anymore, but something our children must cope with in their schools.   Those who prepare for the apocalypse, are preparing for themselves, not their neighbors.

We need to look out for each other.  Which means we need to get to know each other, and help each other before trouble strikes.

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