Be the Change You Want to See in the World

Ok, despite the inspirational title, It’s not that kind of post.

This is a post about washing your hands.

Or, at least, that’s where it started.

I’ve been doing my best to avoid getting sick during flu season for the past few years: getting enough sleep, eating (sorta) well, and most importantly — getting the damn flu shot! And in addition to those basics, the other basic is employing proper hand-washing technique [source: the CDC]:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up with “Happy Birthday” stuck in my head at work because I’m silently singing it to myself as I lather my hands.

Anyway, yes. I dutifully go through the song twice when washing my hands… except…

Except when there’s someone else in the washroom at the same time. When that happens, I default to my previous hand-washing routine where I just get ’em wet, cover ’em with soap, and rinse ’em off. In and out, lickety split.

Why? Why am I so self-conscious about washing my hands?

Ok, I can tell you why. It’s my dumb social anxiety and my somewhat intense need to not interact with anyone in the washroom. But it’s not so strong it needs to interfere with my Quest for Health. (No shame to anyone for whom this *is* a deal-breaker. Brains gonna brain.)

So this week I resolved to stick to my song and lather lather lather until I can wash those nasty germs away — even if there is someone else there.

And that’s when it hit me: maybe other people are doing the same thing I had been.

I’ve never witnessed anyone at work washing their hands for the proper amount of time. But maybe they’re doing it when I’m not around? Or maybe they’re not, but they know they should be. Either way, acting as an example may trigger my anxiety a bit, but it does that less when I think of it as doing a purposeful demonstration for the good of General Office Health.

I am well aware I over-think things. And there’s every chance no one will even notice except maybe to be like “who’s that weird chick who washes her hands for so long?” But whatever. If I can inspire even one person to wash their hands longer just one time, it could be the time that person would’ve come down with something righteously nasty, and I saved them by also saving myself.

You’re welcome, random co-worker. You’re welcome.

Relaxing About Meditation

Apparently this week is a series about my new self care routine and how I’m handling it. Neat!

I grew up doing Transcendental Meditation (TM) with my family, so that’s always been what “meditation” means to me. I knew other types of meditation existed, I just didn’t bother trying any of them for most of my life.

Then I attended a conference that covered entheogens, how brains work, and the nature of reality. The day of programming ended with a guided group meditation. That 10-minute experience was more profound and relaxing than almost any of my 20-minute TM sessions. (This may have had something to do with the shared nature of the experience — I recognize that.)

Ever since then I’ve wanted to explore other meditation options (especially since I haven’t found a ton of benefit from my TM practice over the last several years). I did try a “beginning meditation” course, but I bounced off the instructor so that wasn’t helpful. My brother gifted me a book that’s a guide to many different types of meditation, but I found I can’t really get into meditation via reading — it just doesn’t work for me. I know there are phone apps for guided meditation, but having to fiddle with my phone doesn’t appeal to me in terms of getting in the right head-space for meditation.

Then last week while I was lying on the yoga mat getting ready to do my TM practice, I had the bright idea to try asking my Google Home to play “10-minute guided meditation”, and bam! Instant guided meditation. Cool!

That’s when I ran into my next problem: my brain. (Why does it always have to be my brain?)

I’ve been doing TM on and off for over 30 years. Doing something else, especially something that takes less time, felt a little like failure. I know that a) not all types of meditation are right for all people at all times of their life, and b) the frequency of a meditation practice is more important than the duration of the sessions (at least according to that meditation teacher I didn’t like). But tell that to my damn emotions.

I did! I did tell that to my damn emotions.

They didn’t exactly listen. I still get an uncomfortable flutter in my stomach when I even think about doing something different from my decades-long routine, but I truly feel that changing things up will be better for me. I know that right now I’ll get more out of something different and a little more structured.

I will probably keep doing TM several times a week, but (especially in the morning when time is more precious) I’ve insisted to myself it’s ok to do something different and shorter. The ability to do this feels very akin to my triumph at learning to stop doing yoga when it hurts.

As I’ve said before, I’m not really into new year’s resolutions, so the fact that all this is coming together right at the beginning of 2020 is mostly coincidental. But maybe 2020 will be a year of learning to let go of behaviours that don’t serve me. Who knows?

And heck, if you do have recommendations for meditation apps, let me know in the comments (and let me know *why* you think they’re good). At some point I might be ready/willing to incorporate that extra step in my process. Gasp! Who am I even becoming?

(Someone better. Or at least healthier. That’s who.)

Letting Go of Perfection

This is a topic I come back to often — and in almost every aspect of my life. While there are some up-sides to being a perfectionist (I usually turn in pretty darn good work!), there are also plenty of down-sides. One of the biggest for me is I let my desire to get-things-just-right and do-them-completely get in the way of doing things at all.

I know I’m far from the first person to experience (or write about) this, so I’m not here to lecture you about it. If you deal with this too (and I know so many people who do!), you already know it. Instead, I’m here to celebrate a small way I’ve managed to let go — in a way I’ve never managed to achieve before.

Yesterday I wrote about how I’ve picked up my yoga and meditation practice again. Exercise of any sort tends to be a place where I get stopped up. When I finally make myself do it, I want to really *do it*. Then I hurt myself because I go too hard too soon. This has happened more times than I can count. (And I would have had to start counting several decades ago.)

This time I decided not to let that happen. Of course, deciding something and actually doing it are two different things — I’d made that same decision before and didn’t stick with it. This time, however, I’ve actually followed through, and I am honestly kinda giddy about it.

I am happy to report that I have cut short or significantly altered my yoga sessions four times. (I’ve only been at it for a little over a week, so this is a significant number.)

I’m not sure I’ve ever bragged about quitting before, but right now I totally am. Every time, I felt a muscle twinge or a nerve being pinched, I slowly came back to centre then called it quits for that session (or rested in child’s pose until the video moved onto something I thought I could handle). Could I have forged ahead and kept going without doing damage? Maybe. (But at least one of those times it was very unlikely.)

But why risk it? Is it worth it to finish that YouTube session with an instructor who doesn’t actually know I exist? My perfectionist brain says YES.

But I’m smarter than my brain.

Suck it brain — I’m taking care of myself.

 

Small Steps

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. It’s nice to think about ways I can make 2020 better than 2019, but I’m more into continuous improvement. Sometimes having an arbitrary day to start something new helps (I prefer to start new routines on Mondays as opposed to mid-week), but I used to fall into the procrastination trap all too easily. “I don’t want to start X right now because I have That Thing next weekend. I should wait until after.” “[Arbitrary date] would be a good time to start X because it’s a holiday.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s why I didn’t wait until the new year to start getting back to my yoga and meditation practice. I’d let it fall off quite a bit over the latter months of last year. During my holiday break, I decided I was sick of feeling tired and creaky so often, so I started near-daily practice of both yoga and meditation again — before the calendar clicked over to 2020. (It was only a few days before Jan 1, but it’s the principle that counts — I didn’t let the calendar dictate when I’d start my self care.)

It’s only been about a week, but I’ve already noticed a difference. Even before I re-started the regular yoga, I’d been doing a basic toe-touch stretch a few times a day in which I’d breathe deeply, hold it briefly, then let it all out slowly. Every time I did that, my spine would crackle like a bowl of breakfast cereal. I’d keep breathing and stretching until the crackling stopped.

Now, roughly a week later, when I do that stretch, almost no popping to speak of! It’s a little thing, but it’s really neat to get a measurable result so quickly.

I wouldn’t necessarily know I had made that progress if I hadn’t already been doing that one stretch. So I’m going to keep this in mind as I move forward with this (and any other) self-improvement effort. Stuff is happening. As long as I’m putting in the work, things are getting better. I might not always be able to see or feel it, but it’s occurring just the same.

Knowing that helps.

Hockey as a Health Indicator

Me, in a navy blue Oilers jersey, in my seat at a hockey game

Hockey season is almost upon us again, and I am far more excited about it than I expected. Not just because the Oilers look like they might finally be on the right track (and yes, I know that’s the perennial chorus of Oilers fans everywhere), but because of how I feel about hockey in general.

Last season I was happy to root for my team(s), but at a bit of a distance. I live an easy walk from the rink, but I rarely took in a game. My mental health just wasn’t at a place where I could summon that much energy.

This year, I’ve already been to three live games, plus one open “fan day” scrimmage. And I just bought tickets to the home opener on Wednesday.

This is exciting for me on a much deeper level than just the hockey front. It’s a real-life indicator that I’m in a better place than I was a year ago. I started on my current brain-meds (quetiapine) in mid-May, and I really, truly am having better quality of life as a result.

Last year, the few times I went to a game, I waited until the day of to buy a ticket, just because I wasn’t sure I would be in a mental state to handle it. I’ve planned almost all of this season’s games ahead, and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of the ones that’ve already happened. (I fully expect to enjoy the heck out of the game Wednesday as well!)

I’ve also been thrilled to be talking about hockey again. Beginner’s Puck has kicked off for a third season, and it feels so good to be talking about all the fun with my cohost Deb.

If you’re into hockey, I’d love for you to take a listen. And if you’re not, but you’re hockey-curious, then I’d really like you to listen. Spreading the love to more new fans is what we’re all about!

Speaking of the love, I loved my experience at the game I attended last week. I went on my own and livetweeted the fun. (That’s another thing I mostly didn’t have the energy to do so enthusiastically last season.) If you’re curious what an NHL preseason game is like in Edmonton, wonder no more:

Time vs Anxiety

Last night I tweeted this and thought I’d follow up:

My brother had a projection alarm clock many years ago, and I was always jealous of it. Cut to almost 15 years later (I’m a procrastinator, ok?), and I finally got around to getting one for myself.

I had a few worries, but they were unfounded:

  • I worried I wouldn’t be able to position it to display on the ceiling. (I didn’t want it on the wall.) I could!
  • I worried it would be hard to read. It’s not!
  • I worried it would be so bright it would be distracting for me or Steven. It isn’t!

So it’s pretty much everything I hoped it would be — and more!

As I said in the tweet, an unexpected benefit was that I’m less anxious at night. This is simply because I can very easily see what time it is. I do wear a sleeping mask, but I can push it out of the the way without moving much (or even sometimes just tilt back my head and peek out from under it). And the time is just THERE! Right in front of me!

I used to wake up in the middle of the night (several times a night) and wonder what time it was. Moving my arm in *just* the right way to trigger my FitBit to show me the time while also disentangling my arm from the blankets was a hassle-and-a-half. Steven’s bedside clock was too hard to see—I had to sit up to get a good view of it. (I didn’t have a bedside clock before this because I didn’t want to have to move to see it anyway—I sleep on my back.)

So sometimes I did the little song-and-dance I needed to do to see the time (which then woke me up enough that I couldn’t fall back to sleep easily). But much more often, I’d just continue to lie there and hope to fall back asleep…

That didn’t work either because I’d keep wondering what time it was and how much time I had left to sleep and was it so close to wake-up time that getting back to sleep would be a bad idea anyway and why can’t I stop thinking about this and just go back to sleep?

So anyway, that’s my latest one-weird-trick for slightly subduing my anxiety. Obviously, if always knowing what time it is *makes* you anxious, I don’t recommend this!

Also, it’s worth noting that the thing that’s been helping most with my anxiety is the doctor-prescribed medication I take. And I do not for a moment take for granted how lucky and privileged I am to be in a place (physically, mentally, financially) where I can access that.

So anyway, I guess the moral of the story is that help can be found in unexpected places, and it’s important to recognize and celebrate even the small wins!

Alarm Clocks Time Projection, New Clock Time on Ceiling Wall for Bedroom Decor, Digital Travel Clock with Colorful Backlight for Kids, Adjustable Brightness & Projector Focus, DC Adpator Included

Goodbye, Grandma

First of all I want to thank all the lovely people who sent me cat pictures on Twitter the other day. I really needed it.

I lost my grandma this weekend, and due to multiple circumstances, I won’t be attending the celebration of life in Florida this weekend. I know it’s the right decision, and I think Grandma would agree, but being so far away from my family makes this extra hard.

I wish I had it in me to write the kind of blog post about her that she deserves, but I am exhausted both physically and emotionally. Again, I know she would understand and tell me to take care of myself.

So instead, I’ll just share this amazing pic that my sister found from one of Grandma’s college yearbooks. Check out Flossie Peterson playing basketball. If you can, I highly encourage you to zoom in on her and look at that sparkle in her eye. She never ever lost that sparkle. That’s the Grandma I’m going to remember.

Grandma.jpg