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.



One foot in front of another.
Look at me!  Way up in the air.
Delicate as a dandelion seed.

Each step of a dance on a wire.
Look! I’m fine.  Swinging in the breeze.
Beautiful as a ballerina.

Life swirls around with a bump.
Look ahead!  Aiming for the goal.
Pretending, as if knowing success.

Trouble lands, shaking the footing.
Looking down, the abyss below.
Steadying, breath cleansing from tension.

One step after another.
Look at me.  Don’t see me shaking.
Confident, moving forward until,

I fall, or not.


It’s the Little Things


We are in our new home, and working hard to get ourselves settled.  We have worked so hard that Hubby is on bedrest for at least a week!  I am also easing back.  My sweet daughter commented that here we are less than an hour away, and we are useless as babysitters.   In a couple weeks, for her and her husband’s anniversary, we should be ready for duty.  It makes me smile.  I am happy we are close enough to see and interact with the grandkids, before they are completely grown.

Then there are our children, whose help with moving in kept the move affordable, as well as getting our furniture into the house!   Okay, I’ll admit there have been a couple of bounced checks, but that is why we have overdraft protection.   Scheduling  payments electronically is not a skill I have mastered, and with all the disruption of the move there were a few too many dinners out.  I’m glad it was my bank account that took the hit rather than my waistline.  I have my priorities.

The house isn’t pretty, but it is liveable.  The garage is full of boxes waiting for attention.   Taking care of everyday tasks is a relief.   I love my new stove and refrigerator, and I’m happy just cooking at home.  Doing laundry, even at the laundromat, brings normalcy back to my life.

While waiting on the laundry, I was reading the Special Time Edition of The Science of Happiness:  New Discoveries For a More Joyful Life.  One new thing I learned is how to think positively.   Thinking positively isn’t just appreciating the band as the Titanic sinks.   Thinking positively is thinking about happy memories,reliving them in your mind.  It is like a mini vacation, refreshing.

Soon we will have a house warming, and I’ll share pictures of the new house.  Until then, build many happy moments into your daily life.

Happy memories.

Seeking Serenity

Maryland, photo by April E. Sutton on her Samsung tablet

It was a six-hour drive to Maryland  for my grandson’s musical, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.

The beginning of the trip was through a deluge.  Nearer my destination, the sun came out, and I took note of the early spring life.  The underbrush was dressed in early spring green, but the Red-bud Trees I knew to be along the route were not in bloom.  I hoped the Red-bud trees would be in bloom on my return trip.   At my son’s home, I noticed cherry trees and other flowering trees in bloom.

It was a long trip for a play, but my grandson’s delight made the trip worth while.  I did not see much of my grandson, because the play, the cast party, and striking the set took most of his waking hours.

On the way home, am happy to report, the Red-bud trees were in bloom.   I hope they are hearty enough to retain their blooms through the spring snow we have on the way.

I hope I was tired, but more likely I was in a downward spiral, when I got home.   (Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.) Hubby was on top of everything, so I should have been happy.  He put an ad for our mobile home in the newspaper, and got calls from a couple of interested parties.  He had a nice dinner ready for me when I got home. The neighbor got rid of most of the trash, leaving only the trimmings from his evergreen tree.   Hubby vacuumed and mowed getting us ready for the appointment with the house hunters.

After a second good night’s sleep in my own bed, I was feeling better.  I went to the YMCA for some water aerobics and out to lunch with the girls.  Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in other people’s problems, whether problems of family or friends, or problems of Syrian children in need of a champion that make my liberal heart bleed.

These are times when the Serenity Prayer is needed.

Calligraphy Complete Serenity Prayer

Listen to Your Center

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. - Lao Tzu

To someone struggling to figure out what their purpose in life is, the suggestion that, somewhere inside of you, you know is exasperating.  Everyone, at one time or another, asks the questions of:  Who am I?  What do I want?  These questions are often about finding passion, purpose, or happiness.  How do you find your center?



Proceed by sitting quietly, away from the distraction of television and radio, electronic media of all kinds, and conversation with others.  Enjoy a sunset, gaze into the flames of a fire, watch clouds drift by, listen to the rustle of the leaves and see where your mind goes.

Write upon waking.  Write three pages, by hand of anything that comes into your mind, without censorship.  After several weeks, go back and see what you have written.  Those thoughts that flit through you brain onto the page that you have forgotten as soon as you went on to the next thought, will show you what you are tolerating, what you choose to ignore, what you are struggling with, and what your deepest desires are.

Yes, the answer is at the center of your being.  Be still, and listen.

Heart Break

When my husband was so clingy and wanted to kiss all the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  Was this a part of getting accustomed to retirement?  I was busy with the final details of our move into our completely renovated house.  There were several trips to the house with smaller item.

The first time I realized there was really something serious going on was when my husband asked me if the family knew me while on our way to a family reunion.  I assured him that the family had known me for several years.  That was reassuring enough.  As we talked, I realized he thought I was just a driver.

When we got home, we went to the doctor.  I had never heard of Capgras syndrome, a form of dementia that includes delusions of those you love being replaced with identical copies.  My instructions?  Don’t try to argue him out of the delusions, it will only upset him.

My husband has told my copies how much he loves and misses me.  He is upset that after working a lifetime to give us a good life, and now being retired, that I am now gone all the time.  We are supposed to be traveling together, and enjoying the good life.  He expresses concern that I don’t trust him enough to let him help me with whatever is causing me to go away.

I have assured him I will make sure there is always someone here to help him out when I can’t be with him.  He is worried about all the strangers in the house, and wonders why we moved here. Worried about others in the house using his towel, he always gets a fresh one out of the linen closet before he showers.  At dinner, he wonders where the others are.

My husband will call me, when my copy is with him.  He got very upset when my phone rang at home during one of these calls, so now I turn the ringer down.  He also send text messages so I can call him back.

There is hope.  There are drugs and behavioral approaches to treat this syndrom.  The main goal is to make him as happy as I can, for as long as I can.

Note:  This is a fictionalized account.  I do have a friend who was recently dianosed with Capgrass.  I had never hear of this condition.  



The Maddening Way

It is just infuriating!  It doesn’t matter what else happens, the judgement is made, the conclusion is reached, the outcome ordained.  Spending time on trying to figure out why is futile.  At some time in the past, a conclusion was made, and fate was set.

The really maddening thing, is that the conclusions reached may actually have little to do with objective reality.  Each judgement is entirely subjective, and may be based more upon a preconception, a bias, or a prejudice, than anything verifiable.  Conclusions often have more to do with what is happening in a person’s head, than in any actual actions.

People have a unique ability to create whatever story suits them, and ignore whatever doesn’t fit, and are constantly on the lookout for anything that supports their viewpoint, true or not.  Even knowing this, believing this, is not enough to change a mind.

When this type of thinking is directed at yourself, the only choice is a suspension of believe.  Rather than believe the victimizing story you have been telling yourself, you need to stop judging yourself, and act like you really are the person you want to be.  The way to good mental health is to challenge your fears, and assumptions.  Believe other people when they say good things about you.

When this type of thinking is directed at you from others, you may never be able to change their minds, but you do not have to accept negative judgments.  Stop wasting time analyzing and worrying about the judgments of others.  Instead of wasting your time worrying about what others think about you, use your time to live your life the way you want to, to accomplish what you want to do.

Tragedy Strikes on the heal of Thanksgiving

Outside a Mosque in Huntington, West Virginia the morning after the Presidential Election.

Freedom of religion doesn’t exist in every country.  Most Americans take their religious freedom for granted.   If Americans participate in a religion, it is their business.  If they want to drape snakes across their shoulders while they pray, or kneel before a cross or not before taking their seat in their chosen house of worship no-one really cares.

There is a very small minority of Americans who see it as an attack of their religious freedom to be forced to tolerate a Christmas tree, and a Menorah side by side in a public display, but even worse is to be denied these displays of faith.  (I know of no Islamic High Holy days that occur near the time of Christmas or Hanukkah.)

American freedom of religion is the bedrock of our American culture.  The first school lessons on our history, is of people coming to the Americas for religious freedom, and joining in prayer with the native population in Thanksgiving.

A country may not be able to prevent its citizens from quietly following their religion under the radar of authorities.  Most American residents can’t imagine living in a country where they can’t freely and openly worship in a manner of their choosing, and would be outraged at such treatment.

We have just been through a very divisive political season.  Muslims, a religion, not a country, was named as the enemy.  Harassment of Muslims has reached an all time high.  What difficulties Ohio State attacker Abdul Razak Ali Artan may have had is not the point.  He lives in a country where religious freedom is promised, and Artan felt he could not pray without fear.  Eleven people were injured, and the country is frightened.

Deportation and confinement of Muslims are methods of control that have been promised. The candidate that wanted to partner with Muslims in America has lost the election.  President Elect Trump has asked for the violence against Muslims to be stopped the news reports, but many more tweets are coming from President Elect Trump regarding the voter fraud that has resulted in his loss of the popular vote.

Obviously Artan was a very disturbed young man, but does not meet the definition of a warrior.  My friends and I watched the news of the Ohio State University tragedy with sorrow while having lunch.  Thank God it wasn’t worse.

ISIS is taking credit for this tragedy, but I don’t think they had anything to do with it.  How about you?


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.)


Living Nightmare

I had a dream last night.  First I was at a party, talking to another guest about how working in her shop must be fun, next thing I knew my friend, our hostess, was called about me not showing up for work on a Saturday.  The next Saturday I was walking with my friend while moving into a new house, when she got another call from the shopkeeper.  Again I had apparently not shown up for my shift, on yet another Saturday.  My dogs were pulling at their leaches like sled dogs, and I mentioned that sometimes I worry they are going to choke themselves.  Once at the new house, I put my dogs out on their leashes outside so I could unpack.  Suddenly my friend called the shopkeeper, because I lied to her about my worry that my dogs would choke themselves.  Yes, it was past time to wake up.

I guess as nightmares go, it wasn’t such a bad dream.   It is not really known why we dream.  It is believed that dreams help us to process information, incorporate memories, even solve problems.  Throughout human history we have searched for meaning in our dreams, and yet some scientists believe they are only random firing of synapse that have no meaning in and of themselves.  Maybe the firing of synapse has no meaning, except that the brain is working, but humans have searched their dreams for meaning, inspiration, and prophecy throughout time.  Maybe the stories we tell ourselves about these random firing of synapse are the meaning, and a guide to our mental health.

There are many books and websites that are devoted to unraveling the mysteries contained in our dreams.  I have read so many of them that I thought I should hang out a shingle, “Dream Interpretation.”  I mentioned this to a family member, who made it quite clear that she would be ashamed of me running such a scam.   But if I believe dreams have meaning, is it really a scam?  A place where you can talk a little about your dreams, what’s going on in your life, in the world, and what it could mean for you.  That isn’t fortune-telling or even astrology. Hanging out my shingle for “Dream Interpretation” is closer to unlicensed psychotherapy, and that is something you can get from any well-meaning friend.

So what do I make of my dream?  I think about a paying job, but don’t want the schedule, as in working Saturdays.  I am a year out in my prep for a move, so it is on my mind. My dogs act like they are going to choke themselves on leash, but I have no fear of putting them out on their own, as long as I’m near.  And I worry about how I come across to others.  My social anxiety extends to:  my friends, my family, ….

Sweet dreams.



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