A few positive steps, some Marcus Aurelius quotes, and I’m good to go

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts" - Marcus Aurelius
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts” – Marcus Aurelius

I got a good night’s rest, last night. Not as much sleep as I was hoping to get, but at least it was something. I’ll take a nap later today, when I am done with my volunteering… before I start the next “leg” of my day’s activity.

Life is filling up again for me, and in a good way. For a long time, my weekends were all about serious downtime – I am pretty much done by the end of the week, and Thursdays and Fridays are often a “wash” for me, as I muddle through the final 48 hours of exhaustion before my weekend.

But this weekend, I’ve got a lot going on – especially with the house. My spouse and I walked through our downstairs, yesterday evening, and figure out what we want to do with all stuff we’ve accumulated over the past couple of years. We both have executive functioning issues, having trouble with initiating activities, figuring out next steps, and following through. So, we end up with a lot of stuff stacked in piles, waiting for us to figure out what we’re going to do with it.

We’re not dirty. Just disorganized. And last night, we started doing something about it. We figured out what we need to do with the living room, so we can actually sit in that room again and read quietly in peace. It’s the quietest room in the house, and perhaps the most comfortable, but it’s not where the computer and the t.v. are, so we don’t spend much time there.

We also figured out what to do  with the dining room. We don’t actually use it for dining, much — we eat in the kitchen or in front of the t.v. at night — and we haven’t had company over for months and months (maybe years). So, we rarely use it, except for like right now, when I’m sitting down to write and drink my morning coffee. It’s become the place where I work while I’m waiting for supper to cook. I can hear it, if the food on the stove starts to boil over, and I can get to it much quicker than upstairs. My spouse used to keep an ear out for any spills on the stove, while working in the next room, but they’ve not been able to do that as well, in the past couple of years, so now I write and work in the dining room, while they’re working in the great room next to the kitchen.

Also, that great room — the one with the nice view of the western sunset and the fireplace, which is our sanctuary, the main place we “live” in the house — that’s slated for some changes. We have been talking about doing things with that room for quite some time, but we never seem to get moving on it. Well, now we are. We’ve got a plan. And today after I volunteer, I’ll be stopping by the local home improvement center to pick up some containers to store our stuff… and move it out of our living space.

I also need to move some stuff we’ve been storing in the dining room to where it really should be — the attic, as well as the garage. I did a massive re-org of the basement, a little over a year ago, which helps, and now it needs to continue as Phase II. Or III. Or whatever number we’re up to, by now. There’s stuff I can also move from the basement to the attic. The attic gets cold in winter and hot in the summer, so whatever I put there has to weather those elements. I’ve got some stuff I can move there.

I’m also considering getting rid of that old bicycle I have in the basement. It’s not a very good one. It has a wobbly wheel, and it might not actually be that safe to ride. It’s also a three-speed, and you can probably guess how that goes, when I’m out riding up and down hills on that thing. I may keep it around, because it reminds me of my Dad’s old bike, and it also harks back to days gone by when our needs were so much simpler.

I just need to move it somewhere that makes more sense. Maybe get some of those hooks and hang it from the rafters in the basement.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is, I’m feeling a whole lot better now than I was yesterday.

Just getting moving and doing something useful with myself — getting active, breaking up the rut I can fall into — and not getting so stuck in my head… that seems to be the key with me. Just taking action. And also getting my spouse in on the action. We both need to keep active and engaged, and we both need to live in a house that’s comfortable. I work so hard, each and every day, to keep this house and have a good life here. Why not make the most of it?

I lucked out, this morning, as I was surfing the web while riding my exercise bike. I stumbled upon some Marcus Aurelius quotes, which always bring me back to my senses. I have always really liked his “Meditations” – which you can read for free here at Project Gutenberg. Some of his language is hard to decipher, but there’s enough good in there, that it makes it worth it to sort through.

Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic Roman Emperor – and Stocism is about being able to be truly happy, when all the rest of the world is falling down around your ears. It’s not about “sucking it up” and squelching all your unhappiness down inside you, but rather getting used to life sucking big-time and being happy in spite of it. Regardless. Recognizing the pain and discomfort and difficulty, but not letting it wreck your life. That’s my kind of philosophy.

I’ve always been a Stoic, at heart — from when I was a kid, training myself to not cry or show emotion or get caught up in feeling sorry for myself, when I got hurt. In many ways, that worked against me, especially because it kept others from seeing my difficulties, so I couldn’t get any help. But my shortcomings in how I practiced Stoicism were because I was a kid, and I had a child’s understanding of it.

Now I have an adult’s understanding, and with everything happening around me, lately, it’s important that I use that understanding again. I have come back to Stoicism, time and again, but I always seem to lose track of it… just forget about it. I lose track of things, if they aren’t right in front of me, and that’s a problem. So, I think what I’ll do is actually make a little booklet of them and carry them with me to read. I can do that by saving a document as a PDF and then printing it out. Or, I might just pick a quote to think about for a day or a week, or longer. I have quotes saved to my desktop, so I can look at them anytime.

I really need to get more down-to-earth, as well as not let things bother me, so the words of a long-gone Stoic seem about right to me. I think they can be helpful for others, too, so I’ll write more about Stoicism here, in hopes it will help others be happy, no matter what’s going on.

A lot’s going on in the world that’s just awful. Terrible. Painful. Small children being killed, each and every day, in a war that makes no sense to me. Some wars make sense, but the whole Syria thing… I just don’t know. Anyway, I don’t want to get political here, just say that I see the pain and the suffering, and I wish – how I wish – it would stop.

In the meantime, I can take care of my own state of mind and not let myself be hobbled by all that other stuff. I’m not turning a blind eye to it. Far from it. I’m just also taking care of myself, in the process. And being happy, despite everything falling down around me and being excruciatingly painful, is the kind of skill I need to develop. Because things aren’t going to get any easier, anytime soon.

Ah, well.

Onward…

Good to be back to my routine

clock on the side of a building with skyscrapers in the background
Keeping on schedule makes my life manageable

It’s good to be back to my regular life. As much as I like vacations (especially ones that involve nice weather and the beach), I really love my daily routine. It centers and grounds me, and it keeps me sharp… because I don’t have to figure everything out as I go along.

It’s predictable. It’s familiar. I can do it (metaphorically) with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back. I complain sometimes about feeling so trapped in my routine and daily rut, but it’s actually the thing that keeps me stable and chilled out.

My vacation was actually pretty stressful, in some ways. I wasn’t on my usual schedule of getting up, riding the exercise bike, eating my scrambled egg, then settling down with my coffee and banana to blog or read or chat online with friends there. There was no getting ready for work, driving down the road and thinking about things or listening to music, and then spending a day in my cubicle working on data “stuff”. It was more “free-flowing”, with my spouse not feeling very well and needing some sort of attention on a regular basis.

I had hoped to spend some quality time thinking and working on some of my projects, but that didn’t happen. My spouse was not only sick, but also very anxious. About everything. And that put us both on edge. I got pretty resentful at times, especially when I was interrupted in mid-thought. But I kept it together and did not snap out more than a few times.

I did break down in private, mid-way through the week. I just felt like I couldn’t take it anymore — the constant barrage of needs and demands and having to jump up and change gears at a moment’s notice. I was really, really tired, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. It’s hard for me to sleep in other people’s beds, in rooms without blackout curtains. I had a sleep mask and earplugs, but it wasn’t the same. And it was either too hot or too cold in my bedroom, so that was hard, too.

Still and all, it was a good break. And it taught me a lot about myself, as well. I need to take really good care of myself, especially as I’m caretaking for a spouse who’s declining in terms of cognition and behavior. They’re getting on in years, and it’s finally catching up with them. We’re a generation apart, actually — and up until the past few years, it’s worked in our favor. I’ve always been attracted to older partners, and I’ve always been mature for my age, so it’s never been a problem. But when your partner starts to get “up there” in years… starting to seem downright elderly… and you’re just entering your real prime of life, well, that’s a complicated path to tread.

It’s a management issue, really. I need to manage myself more effectively and do a better job with my own self-care. It’s like I’m a vehicle pulling a very large wagon, and I need to keep my engine tuned and my gas tank filled, so I can do a decent job at this caretaking business.

Because it’s not going to get any easier for me — or for my spouse.

And the task at hand is for me to keep my act together, so we don’t both suffer. When I don’t keep my act together — don’t get enough rest, don’t eat right, don’t exercise, don’t manage my emotional state, don’t manage my behavior — and I just let everything go, because I’m tired of dealing with it, that’s not good. It makes everything worse for everyone involved. And then I need to pick up the pieces and patch things back together again.

If I can.

Some people have told me I need to cut my spouse loose. They told me that, back in 2007, when they were first having a big set of neurological problems. They told me I needed to leave. Get on with my life.  Put them in a home (?!). Not let their situation hold me back.

Needless to say, I did not do any of that. And I was really offended that they would suggest that as an option. As if I were the sort of person who just gives up on other people. I don’t. Especially my spouse, whom I love with all my heart, and is every bit as much a part of my life as my arms or legs or brain.

I’m not giving up. It’s not going to be easy, and none of us will get out of this alive. But for the time being, I’m sticking with it, hanging in there. and I’m putting the focus on taking care of myself, so I can do the best job possible as protector and provider for the amazing, beautiful life we have together.

That’s that. End of discussion.

Which means I need to take care of myself with routine, schedule, and doing as much as I can to keep my foundation stable. Life will throw what it will at us. It’s our choice, what we do with it. And I choose to move forward to the best of my God-given ability.

Onward…

Step by step… putting things in order

files and papers stacked in two columns
This is much more organized than I am … or may ever be

I had a full and busy weekend. There was a bunch of stuff I had to do for work on Saturday, since I was out all last week. And yesterday was about just getting myself back in the swing of things. Cleaning up, organizing, putting stuff back where it belongs. And getting some rest.

I got a good nap in the afternoon, and I also got a lot handled for some of my projects I’m working on. I also caught up on my correspondence – I still need to call my parents back, though. They called before I was leaving to go out of town, and I didn’t feel comfortable calling them, because they had wanted to go on a week-long vacation with me and my spouse, and we told them, “NO” because I didn’t have any extra vacation time… because we were already taking a week on our own. My parents get jealous and hurt, so rather than let them down (or lie to them, which is extremely difficult for me), I just didn’t call them back.

I’ll need to do that sometime this week. And talk about fall house repairs. Because that’s what I’m up to, these days.

I feel pretty good about the few things I did on Sunday morning. I cleaned a little bit, and I reorganized a room we use for storing stuff my spouse uses for their business. I also did some research on storage units, and I found a facility that’s a few miles from my home that has some good deals. I need to stop by their location on my way to work, sometime this week, and check out what they’ve got.

I also need to organize my workspace in my own study. It looks like a bomb went off. But it’s a happy, creative bomb. Still, I need to move things around and make a larger space for myself to move. I have trouble remembering that things exist, if I don’t see them in front of me, so there’s always the danger of losing track of important ideas because they’re hidden from view after I organize. I need to figure out how to handle that.

This is all a process, of course… A big, long process that never actually ends. The good thing is, it’s very satisfying for me, so I don’t mind it terribly. It’s just a constant thing, that I need to keep up with.

But when I do keep up with it, it feels great! So, that’s what I’ll do. Simply keep at it, steady on…

Steadily… onward…

The prison of your mind | Sean Stephenson

Depression is a disease of civilization: Stephen Ilardi at TED x Emory

Turning off the Fight or Flight

Why we procrastinate by Vik Nithy

Mind the Bump – Mindfulness and how the brain works

The Amygdala Hijack

Why is the Limbic System So Strong