My good friend B has been helping me with my memoir. She was telling me that I need to make it more personal in places, and suggested there needs to be a section where I talk about myself and how I deal with the world: what my patterns are that help me cope with things.
Well, I have a pattern of retreating when things get too intense. I had too much input when I was growing up, and now I just can’t tolerate too much of it. I don’t do well in large crowds unless it’s something I’m really into, like a Rush show or a fireworks display. Even then I might need pharmaceutical assistance to deal with the intensity of it all. If life in general is stressing me out, bed is my retreat. I’ll head there as soon as I can to read or watch television, and have a hard time getting out of it in the morning.
Another part of retreating is getting angry, because it pushes people away, increasing the space around me. Sometimes that’s the only way to get the space I need. I suffer from the strange dichotomy of being a lovable hermit, which means people like me and want to be around me a lot, but I don’t necessarily reciprocate the feeling. Not as often as they do, anyway. I can tell my nine-year-old daughter that I need space to myself, but since she’s nine, she’s self-centered and doesn’t always listen. Sometimes the only way I can get what I need is to get angry with her when she’s not respecting my boundaries.
Another pattern I have is being controlling of my environment. I need things to be particular ways in order to feel comfortable and happy. Things need to be in certain places. Things need to be organized in specific ways. Calendars have to be kept certain ways. I have my systems, and they must be followed. It’s the only way I feel like I have some sort of control over my world, even if that control is an illusion.
That’s another coping pattern: I’m totally willing to submit to a fantasy or an illusion to maintain my sanity. I may know intellectually that what I’m doing is ridiculous or pointless, but if it’s serving some purpose in the moment and isn’t hurting anyone, I’m down with it.
Perhaps my biggest coping pattern, or tool, is music. I would have gone insane long ago without music. I cannot work in silence, and if forced to do so will quickly get wired up into a ball so tense I can’t do anything. Every tiny tic of noise will stand out in my ears, distracting me from my work. Music can distract me from any mood I’m in except for the very darkest, which nothing will quell.
There are other patterns I would like to instill into my life that would make me a happier person. Exercise is one. Exercise and sleep are the two things a bipolar sufferer can do that will do the most to mitigate their illness without the use of medication. I’ll always need the latter, but it won’t be as effective without the first two things. Fortunately, better exercise leads to better sleep, so I really only need to work on one of those things. Like most people, though, I find it extraordinarily difficult to get any kind of exercise routine going. I enjoy it (mostly) while I’m doing it, but making the time to do it seems to be a huge problem I can never get around. If I knew why, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing about it and would be making millions of dollars getting lazy Americans off their asses.
I have to figure out a way, though. I’m at the end of where pharmaceuticals will help my disease. If I want it to get any better, and it still needs help, I have to get it the rest of the way myself.
Meditation is another pattern that would do me a world of good, although the thought of sitting alone with my thoughts makes me want to crawl out of my skin. That doesn’t sound peaceful or calming at all. I keep getting it from all sides, though: meditate and you’ll feel better. There must be some truth to it, too, because my mind resists meditating more than it resists exercising. Anything I resist must be good for me, it seems.
The third pattern I’d like to instill is yoga. It’s a combination of exercise and meditation, and I suppose if I were to pick just one thing to work on, it would be this since it encompasses everything. Yoga doesn’t give me hard exercise, though, and that’s what I need: an hour or more of breathing hard and sweating hard. There are types of yoga that will give me that, but I’m not balanced or coordinated enough for them yet. Still, a good yoga practice would be awesome. The times that I’ve managed to go to yoga even twice a week have been peaceful times in my life. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I went every day.
If I imagined my ideal life, it would be like this. I’d get up at 6:30 every day with my family and get my daughter off to school, and then I’d spend the first part of the morning in meditation and enjoying tea. Afterwards I’d either exercise or do yoga, then get myself cleaned up for the day. The middle part of the day would be spent working, either at my job at the dojo, or at home on my book or other project. In the afternoon, I’d pick up my daughter from school, then prep for dinner while she did her homework.
Here’s where the day gets tricky and always gets screwed up. Both of our karate classes are in the late afternoon and early evening, but that’s smack in the middle of dinnertime. The only way I can think of to work things is for me to prep dinner things, take us to class while my husband makes dinner, and then have him come to pick up our daughter from class so I can go to mine. That means the two of us have to eat a snack or drink smoothies before our classes. It also means they don’t eat until at least 7pm and I don’t eat until at least 8pm, which I suppose is fine as long as everyone has had a snack beforehand to prevent The Crankies, which will ruin a nice day faster than anything.
After dinner would have to be kitchen cleanup, which is another area where we always fail. We both detest washing dishes, and we don’t have a dishwasher so it all has to be done by hand. No one wants to do chores after dinner, either, so it sits there until the next day, ruining the next day’s dinnertime because we can’t cook in our tiny, dirty kitchen. So we eat out, which ruins the budget. All of these little things connect to one another to either make a well-run machine, or a freaking mess. So far, we’re a freaking mess, and I can’t seem to get the well-run machine going.
I worry about this not just because of my own life, but because we’re teaching our daughter to be an undisciplined slob. She has no routines of her own and I know it’s our fault: she has none to emulate.
I’m worried I’m too old to instill new patterns into my life. I’m worried I’ll be stuck in these unsatisfying patterns for the rest of my life, or that it will take something potentially life-threatening to make me change them. Of course, I worry about a lot of things these days. That would probably be the best pattern of all to instill into my life: stop worrying so much.