Discipline

Discipline – not a word that I like; I suspect many people don’t. But I’m finding that I need more of it in my life. I need discipline if I’m going to stay mentally and physically healthy, and reach my personal goals. I need good habits.

I’ve become more consistent lately at having my time alone with God in the mornings. The Lectio Divina Journal has helped with that immensely, as do the daily devotional emails I receive and read each morning over my cup of coffee.

I’ve started Morning Pages (The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron), which is three pages of stream-of-consciousness thinking put on paper.  It’s supposed to clear my mind to make way for creativity to shine through.  I’ve only been at it a few days – even for a writer, it’s harder than it sounds! But this is another discipline to my morning routine.

Now I need to schedule my writing – for my book as well as this blog. I’m hoping I can be consistent with writing each morning for at least an hour. We’ll see how this goes, since I tend to blog at night; that’s when my blogging thoughts come together. But even that seems a bit haphazard – as the mood strikes – so I want to plan for it with more intention.

I also need to set aside time for activity. I hate to say it – exercise. I need to put it on the calendar, and walk every day, at least around the block. Slip on my tennis shoes and put on my headphones and head out the door. How else am I going to get my 10,000 steps?! Besides, all research points to the many benefits of regular exercise, for both physical and mental well-being. Indeed, many studies have shown that regular exercise is as effective as a mild antidepressant medication. So why don’t I do it? Lack of discipline.

I want to be more thoughtful about eating, particularly in the evening. As I mentioned previously, I’m using Noom to help me with my calorie intake. Unfortunately, I’m consistently blowing it every night, with after-dinner munchies.  Now to replace that glass of wine with a cup of tea, and the crackers with low-cal popcorn. And one piece of dark chocolate – not four!

I want these areas in my life where I need discipline to become habits, not chores. That’s going to require consistency and effort on my part. But the benefits will be worth it.

“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:11, NLT

Regulating Springtime Temperatures

Does anybody else have trouble figuring out what to wear in the Springtime?

The mornings can be cold – in the mid-30s. But daytime highs reach into the 70s, might even touch 80!

“Dress in layers,” they say. And I do have a couple of lighter-weight sweaters that could go over short-sleeves. But the jacket I need in the morning is laying in the backseat by afternoon.

And do I wear socks in my shoes, since my toes are cold? They make my outfit look so “wintry.” Yesterday, I put on a black T-shirt with a lightweight red and black open cardigan, and jeans. With socks and shoes, I looked like I was dressed for November!

I took off my socks and tossed them on the floor of the car. I rolled up my sleeves and cuffed my pants and – voilà! – I was dressed for Spring. Kinda.

I don’t really have much in the way of Spring colors in my wardrobe. I wear lots of blues, with some purples and grays/blacks. Not Springy colors like pinks and greens and yellows. Definitely not yellows, which make my skin look sallow.

What about sleeping in these temperatures? We’ve been keeping one window open at night, for the fresh air. But the room really cools off by early morning.

On my birthday a couple of weeks ago, I got a weighted blanket. They’re not supposed to be hot, just heavy. But mine came with a “minky” cover, which is plush polyester – not breathable. I got a second cover – cotton and bamboo – which is definitely not as stifling as the first one.

I’ve slept with the weighted blanket many nights since I got it. But I almost always kick it off in the middle of the night because it’s too hot. I find myself dropping it to the floor and reaching for my regular sheets and blankets. And then, come early morning, like 3am, I’m cold and want another layer. But I’m hot by 7am – probably the furnace kicking on.

Speaking of heat, I’ve noticed how hard it is to regulate the temperatures of rooms in this weather. It’s too warm for heat, too cool for air conditioning. Having the windows open is a nice alternative, but that doesn’t work at our office. And if it’s windy, all the tree and flower pollen is blowing around, which makes sneezing much more likely.

This temperature difficulty is especially noticeable in big buildings, like at church. It must be difficult for staff to know if they should turn on heat or AC. And it takes so long for a large space to warm up or cool off. I’m sure that’s a challenge for the property manager to regulate.

I sound like I’m complaining. And I’m really not; just observing the difficulties of this time of year.

The positive aspects of Springtime far outweigh these trivial negatives. The beautiful dogwood and Mountain Laurel trees, the greening grass, the daffodils and tulips. The celebration of Easter and new life. I stood underneath a huge lilac bush at church last night, just soaking in the beautiful perfume. I may not have anything to wear, but Spring is a beautiful time of year!

Writing in the Glory

Assignment from Writing in the Glory workbook by Jennifer A. Miskov:

Depression is like a heavy, wet, gray wool blanket, carelessly thrown over my shoulders. It weighs me down, bends me to a hunched posture. And it stinks!

**********

Depression brings companions of anxiety, hopelessness, fear, apathy, and the desire to isolate. Nothing sounds good. Nothing tastes good. Nothing is all I want to do. To sit alone and stare into space with “nothing thoughts.” Or worse – spiraling thoughts, like a tornado swirling, repeating the condemning and negative self-talk: I’m a failure; I’m all alone; I’m miserable.

Medicine “un-muddles” my thoughts; it clears my foggy brain and reduces the accusing ruminations so that I can think more clearly. That’s when the work starts: to“take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV), and to replace it with God’s truth of who I am and how He sees me. This puts perspective back in order, and puts God back on the throne of my life.

Some days, the work is relentless. Every thought is off-base, and must be replaced. At those times, it would be easier to just rest in the familiarity of depression. I know the comfort of sinking down in my miserable-ness. It’s hard to reach for health.

But I don’t have to stay down – God will pick me up. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm‬ ‭40:2‬ NIV‭)

Thank you, Lord, that you do not leave me in depression. You are faithful to me, and You are always with me. I am not a failure – I am Your child. I am not alone – You are always with me. I do not need to feel miserable – You love me. You are good, God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

National Pet Day

In honor of yesterday as National Pet Day, I wanted to write a post that shared the furry friends who have been part of our life over the years.

We started with a stray cat we found under our car in our first apartment. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures of Jenny before she was reclaimed by the local drug dealer in our complex!

Next came Maggie, who we had before we had children. She was our first baby, and I think she thought she was human. She was with us for 16 years.

Then we had Alex – a kitten who hid in Chris’ underwear drawer, and who was an awesome companion to Maggie.

Next came Allie.

We found Bob when he’d been hit by a car. “Bob bites” might have been our daughter’s first sentence.

Then Arthur. The opposite of Bob. Our son learned to stand by pushing off of Arthur’s belly. He was so tolerant!

Then we got Abbie and Archie, who we had for 15 years.

Next came Ella, a hound dog who stopped listening whenever she caught a great scent.

Finally, we acquired Annabelle and now Henry. They have bonded well, and keep us company all day – and night – long!

We love our fur-babies!

Am I Supposed To Write A Book?

In my last post, I mentioned writing a book. And I decided that I don’t need initials after my name to be an expert – particularly since it’s my story. Who knows it better than me, besides God? (“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalms‬ ‭139:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Ted first suggested it, many years ago. He said it during several of our therapy sessions. He thinks “I have a book in me.”

While living in Florida, my then-therapist Elizabeth told me that she, too, thinks I should write a book. She said it almost every time she saw me – that I should write it all down. And she’d buy it!

Carol and Anne and Stacy have been encouraging. So has Jane. Even Dad a little. I have support from several friends who think I could do it.

From where will I get my story? I began journaling consistently in March 2008 – right at the beginning of my depression journey. And I wrote lots! Some days I wrote several times throughout the hours, especially when I was in the depths of the darkness. How do I even begin to sort through them? I’ve developed a color-coding system with 3M sticky arrows, to highlight different entries I wrote that might be significant to outlining the book. Now to read through all 17 journals and flag them appropriately!

I also began to write email summaries of my appointments with Ted, often with questions for clarification, and I kept a copy of most of them. I wrote in Docs at work when I didn’t have my journal, so I have those notes. And finally, I joined WordPress to try blogging. Maybe I should print out these things and flag them as well.

I can add to this what I learned when I facilitated the depression support group at my old church. My friend advised when I shared with the attendees, I should simply start with my current situation. “Start with where you are.”

So, is that what I do if I want to write a book? Start with where I am now? Or start with the beginning of the journey? How will it be different from blogging? How do I know to whom I’m writing – who is my audience?

I’d like to write a memoir or devotional of the time of my life when I first experienced depression, up to present-day struggles. To explain to Christian women with depression (there’s my audience) that it’s possible to have hope in Christ in spite of having a mental illness. That I am not my depression – I’m a beloved daughter of the King, and so are they. I want to offer them this hope, as I found it in my journey through the desert of depression.

There are many tools and organizations available to me to help me write this book. A friend of mine just recently published his first book, and he recommended a writing program. Perhaps I’ll use one of those to keep me organized and on-task, and to give me regular feedback in the process. I took a one day writing workshop a few months ago – I need to get the workbook out and finish those exercises. They’ll help me be disciplined, too. Perhaps these tools can give me an idea of the order in which I tell my story.

No matter what, I think I know what my next adventure is. Let the writing begin!