Spring Break!

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Our vacation is coming to a close. We’ve been at my in-laws for over a week now. We officially came down for Spring Break and for the annual family Passover celebration, but of course it is a lot more than that. For me, besides getting to see the family and relax with the kids, the trips down here are a chance for me to surf.

I’ve surfed most mornings, the exceptions being one day where my wife was at a conference, and some others where the waves were too small and my wife was a bit tired. We figured out last year that getting that morning surf makes it so it doesn’t matter so much what I do for the rest of the day. In the past, I would often feel frustrated that I hadn’t done anything during the day, or I would feel restless and stuck at the house and often feel a bit depressed. With surfing I feel that I accomplished something important and everything else is icing on the cake. I can enjoy playing with the kids and just lounging around the house. In addition to having “accomplished” something, I also enjoy the time to sit and just be. I tend to appreciate my kids a lot more. I reflect on my concerns and often find myself more open to different possibilities and ideas.

On my first day out during this trip conditions were a bit too big for me and I wasn’t able to catch a single wave and was initially a bit frustrated. But then I reminded myself that I hadn’t surfed for about 2 months. I ended up being okay with the fact that I made it out past the waves despite the hard paddle. Since then the conditions have been much more in line with my abilities and I’ve had a lot more fun.

The surfing highlight of the week was perhaps my second morning when the dolphins were in a particularly playful mood. One of the many great aspects of surfing here is that that dolphins are almost always present, and they come in close to shore. On that day, there was a pod of dolphins doing acrobatics, chasing fish, catching waves(It’s well documented) and just being a joy to watch. I find the animals so amazing, and I have the definite sense that they are very aware of the surfers out there, and while the don’t play with you, the seem to acknowledge you somehow. Especially when they surf waves, it seems to me a playful jab at humans for being so ungraceful in the water. I’m sure I’m personifying the dolphins, but they truly are a wonder to observe playing so close by.

Other than surfing. We had several family dinners, the kids got to spend time with their grandparents and cousins. I got to see come colleagues from grad school and got my fix of fish tacos (you can’t get decent ones where I live). I also watched a couple of movies that I’ve been meaning to catch up on, played with the kids in the hot tub, and I even had a meeting with a prospective employer! I don’t think it is something that I want to pursue, but I was practicing being open to opportunities and connections. I also sent in a cover letter and resume to a company near my home that is doing some rapid-prototyping and design work. Haven’t heard anything back, but I’m proud of following through a chance encounter(in this case with a job listing).

The one downside of going surfing early in the morning is that I tend to be a bit tired in the afternoons. However, the peace, clarity and joy I get from surfing (and the dolphins) more than make up for it. I just need to figure out how I could get more surfing in at home. So thanks to my in-laws for opening their home to use and giving us all such a wonderful week and me the chance to surf!

The Flu and going public

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I fell behind a bit in this blog this past week. As I’ve mentioned before, at least one person in the house has been sick, non-stop, since the beginning of January. This last week it was my turn. Despite getting the flu shot, I ended up with a full-on 5-day flu. I haven’t had the flu in at least 15 years and I had forgotten what it was like to have a fever several days in a row. On the bright side I got to finish Haruki Murakami’s latest book, 1Q84. It had been sitting next to my bed for months but I couldn’t seem to even open it. I had other books I was reading and I’ve been so busy recently. Since I was sick and in bed I finally had the time! His books tend to be a bit dreamlike anyways, so reading in between the spikes in my fever made for an interesting experience. It happened several times that I wasn’t sure if what I was reflecting on in the book had really happened or I had dreamt it. Several of these imagined happenings worked their way into some of my fever-induced nightmares which was kind of funny. It didn’t turn out to be my favorite Murakami book and it’s probably not the best introduction for someone new to his work but I still enjoyed it a lot.

The other benefit of having the flu was that I got to practice my mindfulness. I worked on just accepting the situation (I had a fever and a horrendous cough and wasn’t sleeping much) and on reminding myself that this was temporary. I had to mentally keep chanting “this will pass” several nights just to make it through the fevers. I had the naïve notion that my flu would mark the grand finale of this family’s non-stop illness this winter, but I was proved wrong when my younger daughter came down with what seems to be the same flu that I had. I’m really hoping my older daughter doesn’t get it next. Besides seeing the kids suffer and not sleeping we are leaving for the in-laws at the beach next week and I want to get as much surfing in as I can. Keeping my fingers crossed.

So what I’m really intending this post to be about is that this blog hasn’t been made public yet. That’s not to say that it’s not accessible, I just haven’t told very many people about it. I actually haven’t told a single friend or family member (other than my wife). By not really trying to reach anyone, this blog serves as a sort of diary. I have to work on it some, since I know I have at least a couple of readers(wife and life coach). My wife commented that I am much more open in these writings than I am when it comes to talking about what is going on in my life. So besides serving as a place for me to write and reflect on my life this blog also helps me communicate with my wife!

I have mixed thoughts about going public. I think the original intent behind this blog was to use my experiences to possibly help others in a similar situation. I was asked what the worst possible response to my blog would be and I realized that I didn’t really have one. I think I’ve been fairly open in this project, maybe because I know almost no one is reading it and I’m anonymous for the most part. Still, it’s hard for me to imagine that anyone could really care about what I write. I answered that I guessed the worst possible response would be someone saying that my writing was shit and that the blog is a waste of time. Even that doesn’t faze me too much. I think the person I was talking to was looking more for how my blog might impact someone or how someone might say that I was hopeless and doomed to a life of depression and melancholy. The thought didn’t even cross my mind because I have a hard time imagining that my experience could really make enough of an impact, positive or negative in someone’s life that they would bother to read it and feel strongly enough to respond.

In a scenario where I try to spread word of this blog indirectly it doesn’t seem so scary to go public. I can hide behind a veil of anonymity and keep writing as freely as ever. Perhaps someone who recognized enough about my life would realize it was me, but it still wouldn’t be as if I personally invited them to read it. What I find really scary is the idea of directly telling friends or acquaintances about this blog(e.g. linking to it on my Facebook page or something). Exposing my thoughts and worries is something I rarely do even with close friends. Thus, to imagine friends and acquaintances reading about my failings and depression is too uncomfortable. I’m afraid I would start self-editing and end up without this space to write about and reflect on the things I go through.

I also feel somewhat presumptuous when I imagine advertising this blog. I ask myself “who do you think you are that anyone would want to read what you write, let alone get anything from it?” Thinking about this some more, I realize that the same sentiment carries over into my life as a whole. If I keep my head down and not strive for anything visible then I’m safe, no one pays attention to me and I don’t set myself up for failure. When I’m in one of my melancholy or depressed states it’s hard for me to believe that my being or existence could really impact anyone’s life. Granted having a dad is probably good for the girls, and my family and wife love me, but other than I don’t see much value in me existing. I can’t even really believe that I have much of an impact in my friends’ lives. In my less depressed states, I don’t necessarily think that I matter, but I can at least focus on the benefits I provide my family.

So I end at somewhat of a conflicted place. I’m obviously writing this stuff down and part of me wants someone else to read it and get something from it, but it feels safer to imagine it’s just me writing in some sort of diary. Also, if I don’t advertise then I am not being presumptous and full of myself. So I guess I want people to read this, but not necessarily people I know and I don’t want to come across as presumptous as to how this blog could help anyone. Does a blog about melancholy and depression make a difference if no one is around to read it?

Dancing does me in

Trying to smile in photos is also something that makes me really uncomfortable

Trying to smile in photos is also something that makes me really uncomfortable

My daughter’s school just had their annual fundraiser a big auction and dinner. It was a serious production with a band, sit down dinner and all kinds of donations from local businesses and from wealthy parents. I find it sad that public schools have to go to such lengths to get enough money these days, but that is another discussion in itself. The theme of the auction was “The 80s”. I went with “business casual”: a coat with shoulder pads, a skinny tie, some amazingly bad jeans that I found at a thrift shop and slip on Vans. I even parted my hair like I used to in Junior High. Despite the silliness of the clothing, I still felt a bit frumpy looking. My wife found a fantastic dress and accessories and looked great. After the dinner and auction there was dancing, and despite all the costumes and decorations it took that to really sent me for a time warp back to the 80s.

I’ve never really been comfortable dancing. I enjoyed my junior high dances (in the 80s of course) because in addition to the dance floor they had an adjacent room with ping pong and other table games. I would hang out on the dance floor a bit, only dancing if at all during slow songs, otherwise I was up against the wall somewhere, talking with friends or in the game room. I think I kind of identify with the nerdy guys/wallflowers in Sixteen Candles. Having something to do other than just stand or sit by yourself was a salvation. I didn’t attend many school dances once I got to high school because there wasn’t a game room to escape to.

Anyhow, the dance phobia came roaring back at the auction. I didn’t even try to get on the dance floor, as soon as our table of friends got up to dance I found some excuse to go upstairs so I could watch and not look completely idiotic sitting at the table by myself. I was the only person out of the group of friends who wasn’t dancing. This has happened before, but hearing some of the same songs that used to be played at my junior high such “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock.

and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard (BTW, the lead singer’s jeans are awesome in that video)

and being so unable to dance made it worse. Here I am, almost 25 years out of Junior High and I still freeze up when it comes to dancing. I still remember a large group of students in junior high all dancing to “It Takes Two” throwing their hands up in time to the music, just having fun, and even way back then feeling bad that I didn’t have the courage or freedom to join the huge circle and have fun. At the auction I tried to entertain myself by watching the band play, but I felt pretty exposed and stupid. I really longed for a game room that night.

I could distance myself from the emotions and realize that I was older and not in junior high anymore. I have danced at times, I have a wonderful wife and even if I wasn’t dancing with her I felt comfort in that she was still there. I didn’t have to worry about never finding someone to be with that would understand me. I think she was still frustrated with me but she didn’t make a big deal out of it, she’s been with me long enough to not be surprised about my avoidance of dancing. Despite my tendency to avoid dancing, the desire to dance with some skill or freedom, to be able to really have fun on the dance floor is really strong. It’s not as if I’ve never been able to dance, but the times are few and generally I just feel too self conscious and uncoordinated and try to get out of doing it. I can’t even do it when I’m alone in the dark, the feeling of awkwardness and embarrassment is too strong. The thoughts that go through my mind are a constant awareness that I don’t know what to do with my body, mostly my upper body. I can shuffle my feet, but the arms just feel useless and clunky. The sole exception to this fear of dancing was when I took salsa classes at the Y during college. Having a choreographed routing made it okay to dance, I didn’t have to come up with what to do with my body, I didn’t go out dancing in clubs, but I loved the classes.

As the night ended we carpooled back home with the friends from our table. No one said anything about me not dancing and they probably didn’t care, but I still felt awkward. The next day I was in a foul mood. At the time I didn’t associate it with the party the night before, but I’m pretty sure that was the cause. The night served as a reminder that I am so unable to participate in groups or fun activities at times because I get so self conscious. My mood finally lifted when I found the charger for my Bluetooth speaker phone that had been missing for about 6 months. I had given up hope of ever finding it, and since it’s one of those silly proprietary connectors I didn’t want to spend the money on a new cable(I really don’t like talking while driving anyways). I had been really annoyed for losing it along with a head-mounted light around the same time. Losing things really bugs me for some reason, so finding it was a nice feeling.

Now a few days out, I’ve been in a relatively constant low state for awhile. My wife is getting sick again, and it turns out that my older daughter tested positive for Mononucleosis(hence the seemingly never ending cold), and I may be getting sick again as well so all that is factoring in. However, I still think coming face to face again with that familiar inability to dance really set the stage. It serves as a reminder about how little progress I’ve made in that area over my life and it also easily morphs into a much bigger statement about my inability to do anything in life. I’m trying to remind myself about the successes I have accomplished, but it’s been hard to do, much more so if I try to believe anything I’m telling myself. So, to end on a positive note, cheers to my charging cable for showing up! And I have to say it was kind of fun seeing these videos again after all these years.