Monday, December 27, 2010

Rethinking this holiday

I have to admit, Christmas this year has been pretty good overall. Everyone arrived on time, I got to leave work a little early on Christmas eve, a few unexpected visitors showed up on Christmas day (my neighbor and our former office assistant from work-made me a beautiful afghan!), and we're all getting along. Most of the time we do get along, but at times, usually midway through the visit, my dad will get on my mom's nerves. If you don't know, my parents are divorced, both remarried, but we all get along and care for each other. I've been quite thankful to have all this as so many children are not fortunate to have divorced parents that actually get along. My fathers always said that my mother will always still be one of his true loves of his life, but they just couldn't live together on a daily basis. My mom needed something very different for a partner. But as friends, yes, they do well in that department.

Anyway, Christmas eve wound up being last minute shopping. We had forgotten some things we needed for Christmas dinner. Surprisingly, there were a lot of people who also forgot and were shopping at the eleventh hour. My dad and I made the dinner the next day. We had to improvise as I do not have the much needed deep pan to fit a small turkey in, a platter, plastic type cooking utensils for my pans, etc. But, we managed, and the dinner turned out great. I realized two things with this dinner: 1) this was my first true, big dinner at my house with more than one person as company and 2) it is finally nice to not feel so worried about an actual Christmas dinner. Before at these types of dinner, I always had fear and anxiety that just resulted in restriction and restraint.

Though this felt great yesterday, after eating that meal, plus more than usual cookies and other food, and going out to eat, now I feel full. Full is uncomfortable but not permanent. Good mantra to keep in mind.

As for everything else Christmas wise, everyone loved their gifts. The dogs loved their new toys, Clover liked her new treats, and I received some good and interesting gifts. Today, we made waffles. Yummy! We also went to the international food market which we all enjoyed, then we went to a Korean restaurant for dinner.. With the food we bought there plus the leftovers, I have SO much food. It's daunting but 'll be okay.

I am really happy that I have tomorrow and Tuesday off. I also have a shorter hour work week. I haven't quite figured this out but for now, I'm going to enjoy it. Tomorrow, we are doing stuff around the house, I'm making some egg rolls and dog biscuits, and we may go to the zoo Festival of Lights in the evening.

Overall, I really couldn't have asked for a better holiday. Though I doubt I will ever be a happy go lucky holiday person, I am feeling satisfied and not as stressed. What more can you say to that?

Oh and I have to say, Macy's has the best sales ever! Normally, I do not discuss what clothing I get, but my mom bought me a kick ass coat today at Macy's. I was looking for a peacoat but found this magenta color coat instead. It's a little long as it is not a petite but it so cool and different looking. I'll try to take a picture of it soon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Procrastination and exhaustion are winning out

If you all remember from a few previous posts ago, Christmas is at my house this year. I'm handling it okay for the most part, however, procrastination and exhaustion have won out. I've spoken about procrastination before here and here. I was really determined to have much of what I needed to get done this past weekend. This included shopping, wrapping gifts, baking cookie for my neighbors, Christmas cards, making ornaments and treats for dog daycare dogs, and cleaning. Well, the only things that got done were shopping and the dog treats and ornaments for the daycare dogs. As a respite from all this, I did see Black Swan--a post on that later.

This week, I have only gotten my Christmas cards sent out. No gifts have been wrapped, no baking done, and little cleaning has been done. My mom and her husband get in late tomorrow evening. My father will come in Friday evening. And I still have a full two days of work. I was quite disappointed at this, because I scheduled a doctor's appointment for tomorrow afternoon, thinking it was late enough to have the rest of the day off. However, I'm scheduled to come back for an additional 3 hours to clean and do a dog daycare evaluation.

This leaves hardly any time at all to clean and have the house the way I want it simply due to my own doing. :sigh I'm really not complaining here, but now wonder why in the world I agreed to this in the first place.

All I can do at this point is what I can. In the meantime, I'll go ahead and get a few hours of zzzzs and get up early to see what else I can done. Did I mention why I dislike the holidays?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

To experience no fear

I was listening to NPR's Science Friday yesterday and came across a really fascinating discussion about a woman, known as SM, who experiences no fear. SM has a rare condition which has caused bilaterla focal lesions on her amygdala, providing very limited function. Thus, SM does not experience fear like the rest of us. Current Biology recently published a case study of her.

Researchers at University of Iowa have been studying SM for several decades now. They have showed her snakes, spiders, taken her to haunted houses, etc.-things that provoke fear in many people, but she does not feel fear. She does, however, know what fear is intellectually and feels other emotions like surprise, worry and some anxiety. This experience of not feeling fear has put her in dangerous situations that many of us would avoid. For example, she once approached a "drugged out" looking man late at night alone. The man put a knife to her throat, threatening to kill her and she coolly replied, "If you're going to kill me, you're going to have to go through my God's angels first." Then, the man let her go and she walked home.

It's actually remarkable that she is still alive if she has continually placed herself in these dangerous situations, but at the same time, there is something truly intriguing about this case, especially since once again the amygdala is involved.

The amygdala is a pretty unique structure in our brains. Besides fear conditioning, it is involved in other emotions such as the processing of rewards, learning, and motivation, as well as cognitive functions like memory, attention, and perception. Various studies have also shown the amygdala is implicated in eating disorders and addiction, including the processing of rewards.

After hearing SM's story, it really made me wonder what it would be like to live in a world of no fear. Though I doubt I would want to have this extremeness of fearlessness much the same way I would not want to be one of those people who never feel pain (congenital analgesia), but at times, I do think it would nice.

Much of my fear has been less with actual tangible objects but more abstract ones--fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of life, fear of recovery, fear of what people think, fear of never measuring up, etc. I know fear is much like stress with its advantages and disadvantages, and it depends on how we function and cope with it. For me, like many others, it's been in unhealthy ways. And it's only been through recovery and learning that I want and can have a different life, that I've been able to process the fear better.

There's still a ways to go. It seems every time I'm faced with a major life decision, I revert back to this fearful thinking of my incapabilities, but each bout is less fearful than the first. And for that, I am thankful as no one should live paralyzed by fear, whatever it may be.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas change of plans

Every year, my father really hopes I come to SC for Christmas. Every year, I really feel like I let him down. I've said my reasons before--logistics, time, distance, and taking care of pets. The last one is probably the one that is the hardest for me. Call me weird, but I really do have a hard time leaving them during holidays. I guess it is the whole notion that yes, they are like my "children." This is kind of ironic since for years I took care of many other people's pets during the holidays. Originally, I did think our boarding facility would be open, but it will not be for awhile. I checked out other boarding places awhile back but wasn't very thrilled with them and don't know enough people around here to take care of my animals. Yes, I am choosy and particular when it comes to this.

The last time I went to my father's house, my late Baxter and his Coonhound did not get along despite already knowing each other previously. (my step-brother originally adopted the Coonhound from a friend of mine here) I think that kind of scarred the whole holiday experience for me, even though I know all of our dogs are sociable. Then, there is also Clover to think about which adds a notch to pet sitting, especially after I learned my parents fed her dog kibble for a week while I was gone!

Anyway, for several years we (my dad, his wife, his dogs; my mom and her husband) had talked about meeting somewhere halfway. I thought maybe this would be the year. My logic was, if we wanted, we could all bring our pets--but if one did not get along, they could easily stay in their motor home. I had it all planned out, and it seemed like a win-win for everyone. But then, my father was worried about the weather.

We talked about other suggestions, and again my father just kept reverting to the idea that I should come there, demanding me to find someone to take care of my animals, that he would fly me to there. I was really uncomfortable with this idea on such short notice, so his wife jumped at the suggestion to have them all come here. She really liked this idea, because then, she could spend the time with her son and his girlfriend without any worry of conflict or argument between my father and her son. My father has what I call the "testosterone" complex. I love him dearly but for whatever reason, he does not get along well with other males in the household, despite growing up with 3 brothers.

I was a bit hesitant on this as it would make my mom and her husband drive here (they would be driving anyway) and my dad to have to get a flight. But at the same time, the last time my parents were here back in late October, I saw them very minimally. In some ways, this was good then.

However, there is a feeling of stress. It's not like I have not spent time with all of them in one place--it's been awhile, but rather not in my own home. It feels strange. There is a subconscious expectation to be merry, to have decorations up (no, I normally don't put much up at all if anything), to make sure the holiday dinner turns out right, to make sure all my appliances are working (recently, I was out of power for 3 days due to my main electrical breaker going out. This required a complete new fuse box), to make sure I don't make dumb turns in direction (I do this more often than I care to admit), to make sure my appearance is okay (it is inevitable someone will not remark about my face, body, etc.), and to make sure everyone has a good time. I realize this last one should not be on me, but as a "host" of sorts, there is that feeling of obligation and entertaining.

So to assuage my fears that this will not be a complete disaster, I've been trying to think of things to do while they are here. So far, I've come up with going to the International grocery store, a local aquarium, or the Zoo Festival of Lights. This does not feel like enough, however, so for the next few weeks, I will likely be racking my brains of other options just so I have plenty to choose from even if this may only be for 4 days.

I'll keep everyone posted on how the first Christmas in my own home goes. (I realize there was last Christmas but I mourning then over the loss of Baxter, so that wasn't really a holiday at all)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Crossroads of sorts

So I'm now at a crossroads of sorts at work. Since Thursday, I've really been struggling with what to do. I had a "mandatory" meeting with my boss which I only knew about since late that morning while checking my e-mail. It wasn't exactly what I had envisioned-more like she had a meeting with me, along with two new business partners, both of whom I knew.

Procedural questions were asked which was fine, but there was one bizarre question and one question that felt like "sandbagging" me. I did have an opportunity to ask some questions-I did, but neglected one question which I should have. But honestly, after 40 minutes, I wanted to get out of there. Though I've never had to defend a thesis or dissertation, I can imagine it might have been similar to this, except for the fact that at least with that, you get to prepare.

I left feeling like I was ambushed. I don't want to talk about fair since I know life just isn't fair. You learn that early on and how to accept it and move on. But I'm now left questions of what to do. I've gone through my head many scenarios of the whys, but again that doesn't get my anywhere really. I can think that perhaps the way my boss is treating me has nothing to do with me at all and is just stress in her life, the holidays, the death of her dad back in June. Truly, I get this and am a highly sympathetic, understanding, give the benefit of the doubt type of person. I know all this takes time to process, to grieve, to heal.

This really comes down to my options and a pro/con list of questions:

  • I could look at this behaviorally and ask what would I do with a dog that was in this situation? How is my boss like a behavior case?
    • How could I operantly change this?
    • Do I have that power to change this?
    • Am I able to become a "pest" of sorts?
    • Am I willing to ride it out until there is some miraculous breakthrough if any?
    • Am I willing to sacrifice my soul for this?
    • Is this job or her (all the reasons why I moved up here a year ago) worth it now?
  • I could ride this out as I am now, not making any real attempt to change it--kind of looking at this as a lost cause.
    • Is it really a lost cause?
    • How long can my sanity (if I have any left) put up with this?
    • This is just a job-you do it, then go home without ever feeling truly satisfied.
  • I could ride it out and also in the mean time be looking at different options, putting feelers out.
    • I get a chance to see what else might be out there.
    • This can get complicated with the non-competition clause in the employee agreement.
This is all really hard for me to consider. On one hand, I do not want to be in the same situation I was prior to this which was about stifling your growth, but at the same time there was at least a trusting factor. The lure of incentives to come here were supportive environment, paid seminars/workshops, teaching group classes, private training clients, working on scheduling/ power points, training new people, and more. However, not much of this has happened. I've taught some classes, but recently she did not schedule me for this as to "watch my hours"-mind you I'm on salary pay, and I heavily enjoy classes. I've done the power points for all the classes, workshops, and seminars.

On another hand, I see all the potential this place has to be/offer, and I'd like to be a part of that. But at what cost to me? Then, there is also the whole fear factor with this awful economy too.

This is when I highly wish I had a therapist again. I may see about referrals from my gp when I schedule an appointment with her sometime this month.

Anyway, that's the latest saga on work. I always worry this comes off as whining, it's just been hard as I had such high hopes, made a big sacrifice coming here, and it feels a bit dashed. Again, I thank everyone for their great support on blogland, twitter, (I do not post this stuff on my personal facebook account), texts, and e-mails (you know who you are). My motto of late has been, "venting is a lot better than self-destruction." (truly I've been doing okay for the most part, though there have been moments of just wanting to delve into jigsaw puzzles-always a sign of depression for me or running even though I haven't in like a year-do want to eventually though, and some loss of appetite/weight loss but trying to keep tabs on that)