Sunday, June 22, 2014

Snapshots: What makes us happy, what makes us sad

1.  Where did she go?  She was here just a minute ago.
That's me, first row, far left.

When people say, "I can't help it," meaning they can't help the way they feel, considering how they are wired and what they have experienced, I get it.

Easy for therapists to say, "Sure you can change how you feel, it's all attitude. And we have all of these techniques, you see."

But there are autonomic emotional reflexes that merely kick in when we hear things, see things, and as much as we would will them away, biology rules. Not that it isn't worth the fight. Most of us beat depression eventually, but winning and timing depends upon what kid of depression it is.

Grieving is one that isn't worth the fight, not in the first year of a loss. Just feel bad and accept it, the general rule. I'm coming to the end of that first year, following my mother's death. It will be almost four years since my father died, broke us in a little. There is still a certain amount of emotion, sadness and also reflection, that simply isn't going away. I don't want it to go anywhere.

It' s good sadness now, stops time, keeps us connected, keeps them very much alive. It only takes a word about either of my parents, and whatever else is going on recedes. I'm back to another place, another time, with thoughts not only of my parents, but aunts, uncles, grandparents, my brother, too (the cute kid above).

Just today I gazed at that photo and saw how much one of my sons resembles my grandfather. Never made that connection before. So you see there is value in this gazing, in the trance. With the right. . . attitude.
Don't even try to bake after this happens

2. You have to break a few eggs. . .

What's the rest of that proverb? To make an omelet?
Here's something I don't think my mother ever did, but it came pretty easy to me Friday afternoon, trying to make a quick cake before sundown.

The first thing you do after the splat hits the floor, is grab for your camera, not the paper towels. The zucchini bread fell, too, by the way.

3. The new fish

Have we discussed my aquarium lately? I don't think so. Since we've talked, Blue, my main fish, the large six year-old Niger trigger, the fish that inspired FD to buy me a 120 gallon aquarium, passed away in February. I popped him in a sandwich bag, naturally, put him in the freezer, and when the snow thawed, gave him a proper burial.

The powder blue tang below is a replacement.
Powder blue tang
He cost far more than a co-pay, and so far is a little aggressive, channeling Blue, I suppose.

4. Independence

As long as we're talking about the aquarium, tonight one of my LED lamps stopped working. Aquarium lights are a big business, and I did my best to keep it conservative, setting up this tank. But the lamps cost at least $40.00 each, and a person could buy a very nice table lamp for that. So I found a tiny screwdriver to unscrew the tiny screws, oiled up the contacts, got the switch to move, and put it back together again. It works and I'm feeling pretty good about myself.
Aquarium lights

On the same order, but so much better, my eleven-year old grandson called me on Friday afternoon.

"Bubbie, do you have a bike pump? I'm outside your house and I have the key. Can I come in and use the pump? Are you home? Maybe I should walk over to a gas station instead."

"I'm not home. Let yourself in, find the pump, pump up your tires, put back the pump and lock up after you leave."


"Call me after you accomplish this."


He calls to say he's done it, the delight in his voice difficult to hold back, even as he tries to be cool. Later on I see him and it is high fives all around.

5. Recovery from loss

We do it so predictably that it is heartening. It is good to know that when I tell patients that the depression will lift, but it will take a year, that I'm usually right. The cycle of loss is definitive for most of us, in much the same way that the cycles associated with bipolar disorder are predictable. (Even rapid cycling is predictable cycling.)

I'll bet if you look at posts from October 2010, about 11 months following the death of my father, it shows, the start to feeling pretty good. After a year of dedicated grieving, dedicated grieving being the active ingredient here, most of us do begin to really laugh, smile sincerely, feel the wonderment of living.

That's how powerful the rise of that cycle can be.


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