To Do No Harm

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“Like any other view, non-harming may be a terrific principle, but its the living of it that counts.You can start practicing ahimsa’s gentleness on yourself and in your life with others in any moment. Do you sometimes find that you are hard on yourself and put yourself down? Remember ahimsa in that moment. See it and let it go. Do you talk about others behind their back? Ahimsa. Do you push yourself beyond your limits with no regard for your body and your well-being? Ahimsa. Do you cause other people pain or grief. Ahimsa. It is easy to relate with ahimsa to someone who doesn’t threaten you. The test is in how you will relate to the person or situation when you do feel threatened. The willingness to harm or hurt comes ultimately out of fear.Non-harming requires that you see your own fears and that you understand them and OWN them. Owning them means taking responsibility for them. Taking responsibility means not letting fear completely dictate your vision or your view.” –Jon Kabat-Zinn

Day 1 of the Not Wedding Week

It’s Monday of the week of our Not Wedding Day. The counter on our wedding website is in the single digits (I haven’t had the heart to even open it up and look at it, much less log on and KILL it.

(Here’s the skinny on the Not Wedding Day, in case you missed it: https://islandofmamabone.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/the-wedding-is-off-again/ )

I was determined to live in the now, and practice mindfulness, and try to be, if not happy, then content and not massively depressed. I pulled out my Happy Habits app, first thing and filled out my Happiness Journal for the day. I made a list of little stuff I could do through the day to stay calm and make myself feel a little better. I put my outfit together carefully so that I could add a few extra special accessories: a bracelet I received from a mentor to remind that I am making progress in a career I love–and people are noticing, a necklace from my baby sister to remind that I can find positive things in my past if I look for them and don’t focus on the negative, and a ring that my dear heart gave me early on in our relationship before his first big bipolar surge to remind me to look at the whole person, the whole experience, and again, to not focus on the negative.

I was fine through most of the day. Something maybe began to creep in around lunch–we normally meet for lunch because we work close by to one another–but when I contacted him, I found out that he was still helping a friend of ours move, because he didn’t have an afternoon shift today. I constantly prove to myself that human beings can feel two entirely opposite things at the same time. Because I was a little disappointed, but a little relieved at the same time. I settled for feeling good that he was helping a friend out, and spoiled myself a little with an americano and cinnamon roll from one of my favorite coffee shops. No, not Dutch Brothers:

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From commons.wikimedia.org

And then toward the end of my work day we did some texting back and forth and I found out he was still tied up helping with the move, and I needed to go pick our daughter up at daycare because he wasn’t going to make it on time. I think I started to unravel during the commute. I forced down the doubts and sadness and Panic that were starting to well up. Which is a bad thing, when you get to that point, because no one responds well to force. Seriously–when you start making demands of yourself, you resist that just as much as you would if someone else was making demands of you. I snapped at him on the phone–I can’t remember if he called, or it was through text. Holes in memory–another sign things are going south. I snapped something curt and rude while I was trying to get our daughter into her car seat. If anyone’s had to get a kid on the autistic spectrum strapped into a car seat on a regular basis, you already know why this is a stressor for me.

By the time I got home, my brain was trying to take off on it’s own. Why was he spending so much time at this friend’s house? (Any one who’s every moved, already knows the answer to that one.) Were they talking about our failed wedding? About me? Again, ridiculous: this friend, in particular, would never do anything unkind toward me. Did he just go home without a word, because, basically, he just doesn’t care. I’m just a the world’s biggest joke because I do care… Folks, can you spell panic? P-A-N-I-C.

I do give myself credit for not giving in to the more paranoid notions and ripping into him for nothing, but I did finally start leaking some fatalistic misery at him through intermittent texts. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I suggested we take the friend who was moving out to dinner. (Ulterior motives: cheer myself up by spending time with a good friend, have a third party present to force us both to be on our best behavior, to allay all my weird fears about gossip and so forth by personal witness.) He texted back that our friend wanted to head out now because they had a long drive to Salem ahead of them…. “but how about we all go out for dinner together next weekend?”

“Sure. Sounds a lot better than burying myself in a hole and eating myself to death which was my Big Plan A for next weekend. After all, nothing better to do.”

Yes, I was a bitch. And in the throes of angst and self immolation at the same time. It’s an art form. On the plus side, I kept enough of a handle on my PTSD that I didn’t lash out in a direct attack even though my stress level was suffocating by this point.

“Oh.” He says. That weekend.

He asks if I even want to see him at all this weekend.

I tell him, “I don’t know.” I really don’t. The one thing that I think that I will not be able to stand is if it gets treated just like any other weekend. Right now, though, as I am typing this out, is the first time I’ve been able to articulate that. And I still don’t know how I’m going to explain it to him, to anyone.

Then he surprises me. He asks if I want to see him tonight, then. Hell, he surprises me so much, I say sure. He never comes over late on Monday nights. He politely lets me know when he’s on his way. He even sends me a text to let me know he’s driving up the hill to my house now. I’m not sure why. In the old days, before his bipolar disorder became so bad, I could have seen him reasoning out that it’s not good to surprise someone with PTSD who is in the middle of stressing out and panicking. But I really don’t think he’s been functioning at that level for years. Instinct? Some other motivation stemming from one of his own mood swings? I feel bad for leaning toward the cynical choice, but these days everything seems to revolve around his own slightly detached from reality world. So I just don’t know.

Anyways, surprisingly, we spent a nice quiet night watching old Avatar episodes on Netflix, and sharing some ramen. He surprised me further, by staying the night after I put the small to bed. And he didn’t complain to me in the morning about how he was always late for work when he stayed over on week nights and how that was all my fault.

???

I know, it sounds awful that I’m expecting the worse here, but part of living with someone with bipolar disorder–especially when its out-of-control and untreated–is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here’s what I’m thinking: if he actually feels bad enough about the wedding to modify his behavior in a way that is cognizant of another person… that’s gotta be bad. I mean he’s gotta be feeling really bad. And last time he felt really, really bad, he tried to jump off the St. John’s Bridge.

Any here you thought I was always posting pictures of that thing because it was pretty.

This is what optimism looks like.

Sometimes, to discover something new, you have to get lost first.

Sometimes, to discover something new, you have to get lost first.


I made a wrong turn on my way to teach at an unfamiliar location. First, you have to deal with the irrational thinking: Don’t panic. You are early. You have time to turn around and get back on track.  And what if you were late? Is that a catastrophe?  Is it life or death? No seriously.  Will anyone die if I’m late? No. Of course not. So it’s not a catastrophe; it’s an inconvenience.  My GPS will get me back where I need to be. And hey, (here’s the second part of this optimistic thinking job ) isn’t it great that GPS is so available these days? Right here on my cellphone.  I remember how much stress getting lost cost me back in the way back, before I had that. It’s nice to be able to let that particular stresser go. And look, there’s one of my favorite restaurants. Now I know where I can go for lunch in this unfamiliar city. How cool is that? Oh, what’s that? A restaurant with “all organic Japanese salads ” What is that?” I’ve never eaten any place like that before. Maybe I’ll try that for lunch. Trying new things makes me feel pretty good -I like adventures.  It’s a good thing I took that wrong turn back there.

Yes, I really think that way. No, it does not come naturally.  Does it for some people? I can’t help but think so. In fact, I tend to feel thus kind of optimistic thinking comes naturally for almost everyone else but me. That statement has some key words in it that makes me think I may have some irrational thinking in that area, but that’s a job for another day. Right now, the important thing for me to is to carefully practice my optimistic thinking. Two things happened there just now. First, I avoided the downward spiral my PTSD wanted to toss me into that was going to start with panicking over getting lost, and spiral into unfounded conclusions like, “I’m going to get fired!” and probably shoot off from there into doubt of my self worth. Second, I practiced the habit of looking for aspects of my situation that might actually be positive.  That’s really, really hard. If it sounded a little forced there, especially at the beginning,  it’s because it WAS. You don’t start off naturally brushing your teeth regularly without someone, you, mom, your girlfriend -working on it. Reinforcing the habit. And until it becomes a habit, it doesn’t feel natural. Ever tried to diet? You have to consciously practice those good eating habits. It doesn’t just magically happen. For some reason, people don’t realize you can apply the same principles to you thoughts. You can consciously practice optimistic thinking. Until it becomes a habit.

I can’t wait to find out what an organic, Japanese salad tastes like.

Love.

One of the things I explain to people when they are trying to understand why someone would stay in an abusive relationship is that your experiences and environment growing up can be a factor.  I would quip, “I listened to the little pope in my head!”
Now I have Deepak Chopra in my pocket:
“Love doesn’t need a reason. It speaks from the irrational wisdom of the heart.”

Hello World.

I used to work a lot more in the tech industry. That was a thing.

“Hello World.”

When you learned a new programming language, that was your first “program,” to do something to print out “Hello World.” I’ve since heard people–a rather younger generation, mostly, put this down.

“Say something more interesting.”

“I can *see* how to do that, I want to do something exciting.”

I admit to anger issues, so naturally, I want to smack them.

First of all, because there is a lot of value –no: a lot of grace— in a strong simple foundation. Just try to take that on face value from someone that’s spent a lot of time balancing a lot of spinning plates while balancing on one toe on top of a mountain of junk which, it turns out, has had everything underneath it eaten out, leaving a big gaping hole. A strong simple foundation is to be desired.

But also, there’s the words. They are beautiful to me. And powerful.

A computer screen is a double edged sword. I wonder if K&R realized that. It can connect you to the World, or completely cut you off from it. Here is my first, by the way. I hope it comes out all right and doesn’t “break” this post:

print “Hello World!\n;

I don’t get to do that stuff for a living much any more, but I do play when I have time (which isn’t much these days), so I made myself a little android app. I press the app icon on my phone and a black screen comes up that says, right there in the middle in bright, white letters, “Hello World.”

Okay, here’s the important part. After I made that app, I didn’t take it off my phone right away like I expected. Instead, I found myself opening it up again and again throughout the day and staring at it. Why? I decided at first that it was because I was kind of proud of myself. Look, Ma! I learned a new trick! And it worked! (I mean, it actually even worked the first time!) But this excuse wore thin fairly fast. I would stare at those words and think.

What is this “World” today? Am I feeling the ground beneath my feet and the hearing the wind rushing through those scrubby parking lot trees and thinking I can almost feel some person standing on the other side of this ground, in China, listening to the wind in their scrubby trees too. Or is it just that stack of papers on my desk I have to get through and my co-workers and clients, another cup of coffee, and don’t forget to get cat food on the way to pick up the baby from preschool? Is it immediate? Is it far away? Can I feel it at all?

Which brings us to the “Hello,” part: something which implies some kind of engagement. Is it a good thing to be thinking about that guy in China today? Am I practicing my mindfulness and staying calm? Am I even aware of my feet? If the world is my co-workers, and clients, and family today–Am I “saying Hello” like I should be? Am I keeping track of my time (or missing some?), and thoughtfully speaking and interacting with and helping them (did I remember to have the baby brush her teeth?). Do I need to say Hello to myself today? (Can you say disassociate? Or, chronic fatigue?)

So. Hello World.

If you wanted to find out more about me and this blog, from this first post…well, it’s not here: It’s in the “About” section, which you will find a link to up there at the top. It may be more interesting.