Moods of the Moment

Today really sucked.

I knew it would.

I was already on the thin edge of my patience when the alarm went off. Since I can no longer blame things like that on PMS, menopause, or even the possibility of hair dye leaching into my brain, I decided the planets had aligned themselves in a manner guaranteed to twang on my last nerve; ergo, this day was gonna suck, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Mood Beams, by Adam Foster

The same outfit that seemed so great when I set it out last night looked like sackcloth and ashes this morning. My hair adamantly refused to do what I wanted.  The writing that looked really good last night now was utter drek. I took it as a personal affront  that the internet was down when I wanted to check the weather. The items on my List of Hates were multiplying like loaves and fishes before I’d even finished my Cheerios, and I heartily cursed my lot in life.

It wasn’t until I’d mentally cussed out the fifth dumbass person I encountered that an old saying began to tug at the back of my mind–something like “when you meet five flaming morons in a row, maybe it’s time to take a look in the mirror.”

I’ve always hated that saying, probably because it’s true.

My day didn’t suck because of my outfit, my hair, the balky internet or the other people. It sucked because I chose to put on the mental equivalent of corpse-colored glasses. Everything I saw took on that tint, and I was too wrapped up in my angst to yank the damned things off.

Moods just come and go, if I let them. It’s only when I decide to set up housekeeping in a particularly ugly one that things get out of hand.

I’m basically a harmless little critter, but today I remembered that I do have one super-power: the ability to make myself miserable with just a flick of my mind, and, with another flick, completely reverse the process. The decision is mine.

PS–The stuff I wrote last night really is good. Take that, corpse-colored glasses!

Photo credit: Adam Foster | Codefor via photopin cc

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway–4 helpful tips

closet monsters

I’ve always  been a scaredy-cat.

As a wildly imaginative kid who devoutly believed in Closet Monsters and their equally nefarious cousins the Monsters-Under-the-Bed, most of my childhood nights were spent with the covers pulled over my head (monsters can’t see through covers) or curled up on the foot of my big brother’s bed (monsters are afraid of big brothers) until sunlight restored peace to my universe.

As an adult, my fears changed from monsters to everday things such as driving, crowds, and unfamiliar places. After a particularly stressful time in my life, those fears gave birth to a legion of others, and functioning normally became increasingly difficult. Counseling helped, as did a support group, but certain things can still be challenging.  Here are a few coping mechanisms that work for me:

 1. H.A.L.T.

When I find myself floundering and the whole world seems to be closing in on me, I ask myself if any of the H.A.L.T.s might be coloring my world.

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

If any (or all) of the above are in play, there’s a good chance my perspective is skewed. Once I address the neglected component, I can push a mental “Reset” button and look at the situation with fresh eyes.

H.A.L.T. isn’t my own invention. Many twelve-step groups have included it in their programs for years. It’s simple, direct, and it sure can’t hurt.

2. Is the game worth the candle?

Back in medieval times, candles were expensive–not unlike today’s electric bills! After-dark games required the use of at least one candle; if a particular game was deemed “not worth the candle”, this meant it wasn’t worth the expense of the light with which to see it.

So what’s this got to do with fear?

Example: Social occasions scare the daylights out of me and leave me absolutely drained. When I’m feeling pressured to attend one, I ask myself if the game (social occasion) is worth the candle (my limited store of energy). Often the answer is no; when the answer is yes, I can utilize H.A.L.T. and other coping skills to get me through it.

3. Transitioning

Not too long ago, I developed a sinus infection so severe my husband had to drive me to the health center. Besides feeling awful in general, I was so dizzy and light-headed that when we arrived I had to lie down on a low pallet in the examining room. When the doctor came in, my husband helped me climb onto the raised examing table. Diziness overwhelmed me when it was time to get off the table and I went into panic mode, certain I’d never be able to make it out of the room, let alone to the car.

Luckily the doctor, who was “on loan” from a local E.R. and suffered with sinus problems himself, was prepared.  With my husband standing close by, he said, “Okay, we’re going to transition. All you have to do right now is get both feet on the step-down shelf.  Good! Take a breath. Now, feet on the floor, first one, then the other. Attagirl! Breathe.  See? You can do it! Remember, transition!”

Transitioning has become one of my favorite coping mechanisms.  I use it whenever I’m confronted with a task that seems overwhelming at first glance, but looks much more doable when broken down into smaller increments.

5. Panic attacks– A.W.A.R.E. to the rescue!

Panic attacks are awful. I don’t get them nearly as often as I used to, but I’m all too familiar with the sensation of being trapped, and the feelings of dread and utter helplessness.

I came across a neat little self-training device that I was glad to add to my bag of coping tricks. It’s called A.W.A.R.E, which stands for

  • Acknowledge and accept
  • Wait and watch
  • Actions (to make myself more comfortable)
  • Repeat
  • End

and it reminds me what to do when a panic attack hits.  Check out this link for details.

photo credit: xtopher42 via photopin cc

Six Ways To Change Your Life Without Spending A Dime

1. Forget about trying to be perfect

We might as well try to be unicorns–there ain’t no such critters.unicorn sketch

Fear of being less than perfect kept me at the starting gate more times than I care to think about until one day I finally asked myself, “What’s my real goal here?”

For example, I’m a writer. What’s more important to me: getting my work “out there” where it has a chance to sell, or keeping it safely tucked away on my computer because it might be rejected?

For someone else, it might be, “What’s more important to me–having a get-together with the people I love now, or keep putting it off until my house is exactly the way I want it and those people are no longer in my life?”

2. Realize that saying “no” is an answer

Whether we’re dealing with a stubborn two-year-old or an adult who’s trying to guilt us into compliance, “no” is an answer all by itself. If we weaken it with excuses and justifications, we provide inroads for the other person to wear us down.

Speaking for myself, I’d rather deal with the momentary discomfort of being considered the bad guy than seethe with resentment at wasting time I don’t have on something I didn’t want to do in the first place.

3. Do a daily gratitude list

I used to blow this one off as being too Pollyanna for words until somebody asked me how well I thought I’d function if things like

  • good health
  • a husband who loves and understands me
  • a car that runs
  • money to buy food

suddenly disappeared from my life. My answer: not bloody well at all!

Doing the gratitude lists this way has given me a whole new focus on life. It also shines a spotlight on the things that are really important when I get myself in a tizzy over inconsequentials. (I can hear my husband saying, “You? Never!“) Give it a try.

4. What’s-Right-With-Me?

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who has raised self-criticism to an art form. It’s so easy to expound upon “what’s wrong with me,” especially with the media, certain relatives, etc. ready and willing to lend a helping hand.

Lately I’ve been trying to give equal time to “what’s right with me”, and it’s been a major eye-opener. When negative self-talk crops up, I immediately counter it with a positive statement.


Negative: Boy, you really screwed up this time!
Positive: Yup, I sure did. But it’s fixable, I’ve learned from it, and I won’t make the same mistake again.

It was difficult at first because there had been a certain macabre sense of power in dissecting myself and stomping on the pieces before anybody else could. I fought some pitched battles with deeply-entrenched negative self-images, but I kept at it and, to my immense surprise, I discovered it’s far more productive, not to mention pleasant, to build myself up than to tear myself down. (Duh!)

5. Clean out a closet

I don’t know why, but every time I work up the courage to take on the wilds of my bedroom closet, good things seem to follow.

Sometimes it’s as simple as being able to find things easily as I stumble around getting ready for work in the morning. Other times I come up with wardrobe items I forgot were there–kinda like shopping in my own closet.

Other times, it’s almost like I’ve signaled to the universe that I’ve made room in my life for the Next Good Thing. It’s happened too many times to be just a coincidence. Closet-cleaning has been followed almost immediately by:

  • moving into my own big-girl apartment (at the ripe young age of 47)
  • meeting my husband
  • getting a new job

Give it a try. When you’re ready to put things back in the closet, check out this handy little tip that will greatly simplify the next purge.

6. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

I’ve always been one of those people who don’t just get in a rut; I move in, lock, stock and laptop. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the status quo isn’t really comfortable so much as it is familiar, and it’s good for the soul to shake things up from time to time.

It doesn’t have to be hang-gliding. It can be something as simple as taking another route to work or trying a daring (for you) new hairstyle. Just something different that shakes things up in a good way and invites new people and experiences into your life.

photo credit: merwing✿little dear via photopin cc

Bye bye (Gall)Bladder

I’ve often moosebeen told I have the pain tolerance of a moose.

Sometimes this is a good thing, like when I need to get blood drawn, or do battle with an overgrown rosebush.

Sometimes it’s a not-so-good thing, like when I find blood all over my keyboard because I didn’t feel the killer paper cut I inflicted on myself earlier, or when the “slight” (to me) nasal congestion that’s been tugging at my attention for weeks turns out to be a five-alarm sinus infection.

And sometimes it’s downright dangerous, like this past April when my gallbladder decided enough was enough and I ended up having emergency surgery to yank that sucker out.

For weeks I’d been blowing off the relatively minor (to me) pain in my upper right side as punishment for hauling something too heavy, sleeping in an awkward position, yadda-yadda-yadda.  The lack of energy I blamed on stress (of course) and a highly active dream life. The increasing bouts of indigestion I attributed to getting older and needing to watch what I ate. Nothing to worry about.

Until I woke up at 2:15 one morning feeling like I was being ripped apart from the inside.

The trip to the hospital was ungodly, with every bump in the road providing its own exquisite torture.  When it was time to get out of the car I thought I’d die, and I will always have fond memories of  the wonderful person in the E.R. who set me up with my first IV drip of morphine. After the laparoscopic surgery, the doctor told me my gallbladder was in such incredibly bad shape she couldn’t believe I’d been walking around upright for so long.

Before this adventure, I had never given much thought to my gallbladder. Being me, now that I didn’t have one anymore, I suddenly became vitally interested in just what was that little gizmo’s place in the the scheme of things, and how (if?) I would survive. So I cruised the internet and discovered that the gallbladder’s main function was to store bile from the liver, and I would be just fine and dandy without the pesky thing.

Once I got past the post-op fun and games, I felt better than I had in years. Getting rid of all the pent-up bitter bile and hard stones did such wonders for me physically that I wondered if a similar, albeit non-physically invasive, procedure might do the same mentally.  So one day I went out to the battered marble circle that serves as a picnic table at chez Frahmann and conducted a small ritual.   I won’t TMI you with all the details, but here’s part of what I said:

“Just as I was physically rid of my gallbladder
Which was filled with stones, bitterness, and bile,
So by this ritual I rid myself of the bitterness and bile
of resentment
And the slow, seeping poison of self-doubt and self-sabotage.
By this ritual I banish resentment of:
–my past and current circumstances and my place on the path;
–other people, their circumstances, their behavior towards me and their impact on my life;
–frustrating and unfair world circumstances which are beyond my control;
–obligations which I see as infringements on my freedom
–myself, for my mistakes and errors in judgment, and my ever-appalling, eternally frustrating lack of perfection.

By this ritual I banish:
–Perfectionism that makes me afraid to leave the starting gate.
–Whatever it is that makes me afraid to color outside the lines
in my creative and everyday life.”

Life didn’t instantly become perfect, of course, because nothing ever is. But after giving the heave-ho to all that mental sludge I carried around for far too long, I’m feeling better than I have in years.