I don’t want to work so much . . . . right?

I generally think that I work to much and socialize too little for a healthy balance.  And it’s not that  I’m so passionately wrapped up in my work that I just  forget or don’t get around to the social part of my life, it’s more a combination of certain tedious parts of my work taking up too much time, and a  fear of dropping the ball and losing a job. (Although I never lost a job when I was clinically depressed, I felt close to it because of how poorly I functioned, so there is a fear left over from that time in my life.)

Related to this, I had a little experience the other day that brought me up short.  I stopped by a local coffee shop to grab a muffin on my way to do some work.  No one was expecting me at work, no one else was even at work, I just needed to get this item done some time that day.  At the coffee shop, I ran into a friendly acquaintance., and the whole time I was speaking with her I was feeling anxious about getting going and needing to get this project done.  About half way through the conversation I was really really noticing myself doing this.  Wanting her to wrap up the conversation, wanting to get to away from the conversation, although the conversation was pleasant and I was interested in it.

This is not how I want to react to friendly social encounters!


Fear and comfort . . . . isolation or not?

I’ve been having regrets about a decision that was leading to lots of lost sleep — that annoying frustrating monkey brains of stewing and trying to figure things out that really gets going as soon as I turn out the light.  (So I don’t get enough sleep, which leads to a more poorly functioning brain, then  even more monkey brain and stress!   AARGH)

In this kind of situation, I normally pull more and more into  myself, and wait until I have really worked things out in  my head before I even mention it to anyone.  And as I feel rather foolish,  I have very little desire to have anyone else see how foolish I was!  However, I have talked about this with several people (who’ve been supportive) and it is interesting how that has reduced the worst of the night time screaming brain.  It so easy to believe that I am protecting myself by isolating, when really  the opposite is true!

Old friends

I’m currently in my home town, visiting my family.  About a week ago I went to a sitting mediation with a good friend.  Before the meditation, everyone in the circle introduced themselves by first names.  I wasn’t really paying a lot of attention to the rest of the people in the circle, but when a woman across the circle from me said her name, I was sure that I knew her from high school.  When she realized who I was she said “I heard you were in New England” (huh?? how did you know that?) and it turns out she had worked for the local paper,  and spoke to my Dad when he called to place a classified ad.  I remember my Dad mentioning that to me, but he hadn’t remembered the person’s name he’d spoken with.

She’s one of a very small number of people from high school who I have wondered about over the years (high school, while not as bad as junior high, was pretty miserable!).  Two or three times I’ve had dreams about meeting her again, so it felts particularly weird / surreal to actually run into her in real life.   We met up for tea a few days later and talked for a couple of hours, and we have quite a bit in common in terms of interests and life views.  It will be nice to have another friend to spend time with / get to know again

Then a couple of nights ago I received an email from a friend from when I was a young adult, doing a lot of seasonal environmental work.  He was on of my best buds at one of those jobs,  one of the folks who I would go off on adventures with during our days off, someone who I miss having in my life.  Sadly, we’ve gotten out of touch in the past years (although his wife, who I’ve only met once,  is a FB friend!).  I had sent him a couple of emails at the beginning and middle of last year, and had not heard back from him.  It turns out my emails got lost in an email account he doesn’t use much, and he sent me a better email address.  I’m pretty psyched to have heard from him!

I’m feeling appreciative of both of these re-connections.


When I was an undergraduate,  a friend of mine volunteered at the local crisis hotline.  Although it sounded terrifying (when she first talked about it, I could  not imagine doing it!), it also sounded intriguing.  So, eventually, I went through their multi-week training program and began to volunteer in the phone center.  And really ,really liked it.  It felt meaningful, it felt valuable to my community, it felt like it was pushing me to grow.  I volunteered at the hotline until I moved away.

In the years after college, I volunteered in several  natural resources conservation type projects — data gathering at natural areas, educational events at science centers, that  kind of thing.  In my 30s, I even ended up getting a couple of jobs through volunteer projects (in one situation, I did not even DO any volunteering before I got a job — when I spoke with the woman who was recruiting volunteers she told me that the were hiring team leaders and I sounded like I had the qualifications they needed).

Recently, however, I have felt challenged finding a volunteer gig that I’m really into.  This may sound a bit odd, as there certainly are a lot of non-profit organizations doing useful work that can use more help.  I have done some one day things (that I’ve learned about from my local food co-op), but nothing ongoing.

In my attempts to find a volunteer project, I’ve done a couple gigs where it was mainly me in a room with a computer screen or a phone.  I know that some organizations without a lot of funds do need someone alone in a room with a phone, so it is a contribution to the organization, but there was a level at which I felt I was wasting my time, that it wasn’t my best self /  my actual skills that were being called on in the situation. And they both felt kind of isolating,  So after each year’s commitment was over, I did not continue with either.  And then there was the fall I volunteered in an after school program.  And spent most of my time tracking down kids who tried to hide from me, managing incredible rudeness when I did have them all in the same room, and tracking down the employees in charge of the program to deal with the worst offenses.  We almost never got to the activities I’d planned, which were supposed to be FUN.  I’m not sure why the program organizers put this group of kids in the same group,  they really fed off each other.  I did a lot of work with kids when I was younger and I’d never dealt with a group like this!  So, again, not something I wanted to do again.

But I’d still like to something . . .

I guess what I am looking for is:

  • a good chance of connections with others —  I feel like I can live so much in my head, and when I get stressed, my life view can narrow so that I mainly see ME ME ME and ugh, I want to take the focus away from me, to the larger world.
  • some kind of team effort, not a solo activity
  • something different from what I do in my day-to-day life / work
  • something that I believe makes a difference in my community — related to conservation would be good
  • and I don’t want to be in a hospital

Who has  a volunteer gig that really is meaningful to you?  what is it that you re involved with?

goals for the year

Last year, I started this blog as a way to track a couple of goals for the year.  Although as the year got busy, I posted less and less, I am going to give it a try again.

Generally, I have the same goals as last year!  Improved personal connections, and adding new or returning to healthy life- enhancing activities.

Examples of those life- enhancing activities:

  • return to avoiding processed sugar (which I did very well on up until the holidays)
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • walking
  • hosting board game nights
  • having dinner parties
  • spending more time in the woods hiking
  • learning to make a couple new and delicious dishes (mole? posole?  really good dal?),
  • find a volunteer gig that I really like
  • take another pottery class
  • going to bed by 10:30
  • quit reading escapist fiction (detective stories) and instead read books of higher quality that I’ll remember . . . .

Not that I am planning on doing these all at once.

How to make and strengthen healthy connections?

Just as it was last year, my main goal/desire for the upcoming year is improved connections with others.  I also feel stymied as to how to truly go about achieving that.

I feel like I have plenty of second and third tier friends — you know, folks to do stuff with, folks to see movies with, folks who I can have interesting friendly conversations with when I run into them in the grocery store,  Several of these third tier friends are people who I would like to have closer friendships with  And I do have friends who I can share a personal stuff with . . . . . when they have time to hang out.  But I find that it is really hard for people to have time for socializing. and that friendship can get low priority.  (maybe I just need more friends who are not workaholics?!? ha)   And because, when I send out an email that says something like “I could really use a girls’ night out!” or “Need a break from work, wanna get together tonight?” or some such, and can it take days and days to get a response, if I do get one, then I’m never willing to say something on the order of “hey, I am really feeling rough and could really use a friend to talk to right now.”

If I’m feeling really down,  feeling lonely and wishing for someone to hang out with to talk to — well the folks to call on then is lacking.

When I talked about how frequently I sent out emails or left voice mail messages that never got returned (and I this happens more than half of the time, although there ARE folks who  DO almost always respond), the last therapist I saw would yammer on about being the value of being self revealing for getting closer to people, blah blah.   I have to say that, although I see some truth to her response, I don’t really fully buy it — to begin with how do you-self reveal when folks don’t return you calls or emails??  And when there are multiple instances of lack of response, that does also lead to me feeling less trusting, less open, so then I do not try to contact that person for  a while.  There are  definitely times when reading novels seems preferable to keeping making the effort!

The always-doubt-and-dislike-myself part of me feels like it must be me, must be something I am doing wrong. Realistically, I know there is a part of this that has to do with my own lack of trust in other humans, and another part that is due to being an introvert and not being someone who gets to know others really quickly.  But I don’t think that is all of it. This can happen with people who I have known for years, and who, when I am with them, feel like we have a good connection.

increased contact with friends and family, update

Well, I haven’t pulled this goal off as closely as I had hoped, but I am making improvements.  The goal was to daily make a contact with a friend or family member that I would not make “automatically.” In other words to push myself to pay more attention to relationships.  Planning an outing to a play with the group of folks who I’ve been attending plays with for several years does not count, planning an evening of playing boche ball or croquet in the park (once we actually have warm weather!) will because that’s not something I’m used to doing.  Visiting an aunt or uncle when I’m home visiting my folks doesn’t count, sending them a letter does.

Even though the execution hasn’t been perfect, having this as a goal is a really good reminder.  I am trying to stay conscious of activities and life events that may interest friends at a distance, and sending them quick emails.  For example, several things that happened to me yesterday reminded me of my 20s, and I sent emails to friends from those days saying “hey, remember!”  I’ve organized a couple of group outings that have included friends who did not previously know each other.  I have sent one note to an elderly aunt, but have been carrying cards around in my bag for several weeks that I mean to send to other elderly relatives.  (This is an area I really do want to put more attention to, especially as there have been several family deaths over the past year, and several other family members in poor health.)

I’d like to become more conscious about doing this daily, but right now I feel ok about the progress.