Thunderstorms and Alerts Systems

I got woken up by a thunderstorm at 7am.  A proper one with the cracks right overhead and lots of rain and hail.

I was wondering if I should get up and check my phone for the alerts, but its such a lovely feeling to be cuddled under the covers and have the storm raging outside. So.  Nope.

Can we talk about the weather alerts on the phones?

Is there a more clear pattern of crying wolf than the severe weather alerts on phones?  They alert you for a severe thunderstorm as though it wasn’t obvious.  They alert you for flash floods.  Again – how is that alert going to save my life?  I will see the flood.  My choices happen when facing it  and are not changed by having had an alert that flash flooding is possible.

Then to make the whole thing stupider they send you multiple alerts for the same thing.

So that I no longer feel any real threat if the alert goes off.  No one does.  When an actual tornado comes through no one will even look up at the alerts.

And the Tornado is the thing that I do need to act ahead of time for.  Utterly ridiculous system.

That thing where you don’t need something but you feel the need anyway.

It’s finally cold here in Cincitucky.  And I’ve been forced to wear my coat.

And I’m still cold.

This is because I haven’t been hardened off to the cold yet.

But today I was blaming the coat that has successfully taken me through many winters.

So I was staring at coats online.

I don’t need a coat.  Seriously.  I don’t.

But it is amazing how looking at them can make me feel like I do.

I guess that is why the economy works.  Because we all buy things because it feels like we need them.  But of course most of it we don’t.

What is that part of us that wants unnecessary things at the same level as necessary things.

Why do we want unnecessary things at all?

Do other animals do this?

Or is this just a byproduct of our fucked up human brains?

Now.  Don’t get me wrong.  I get that our pursuit of unnecessary things is why we can live in a first world economy.  Most of us have jobs that are based in one way or another on the pursuit of unnecessary things.

And indeed – some of the best things humans have ever done are the art and stories and music we create.  Utterly unnecessary – and yet so very human and wonderful.

So this is not some scolding diatribe against consumerism and trivial desires.

I get that it’s all an interconnected weave of human existence.  It’s just not always a very practical thing in my life.

I suppose if I wasn’t in a money bind with moving, I’d have bought a coat tonight.  Because I was cold in the grocery story parking lot.  And the only reason I was cold was because I haven’t been hardened to the cold yet.

In a couple of weeks I won’t even notice the sort of weather we had today. And I will still have my old coat.  And I will get a weird sort of satisfaction in knowing that I didn’t buy the damn coat today.  The human brain is weird.

My father died when he was 55 years old of heart disease.

I am going to be 52 in February.

In an effort to form some motivation to live a better life, I was contemplating that. You know, people always say that Live Like This is the Last Day of Your Life.

Presumably that feeling that life is very short makes you want to do fun and enjoyable things.

I don’t find that to be case.  If I presume that I will die at 55 I am not filled with a deep desire to get my life together.  I don’t feel much at at all.

A mild regret is there that I won’t see how the future unfolds.

A concern that I might out live Lily.  And that would of course only be for a day or two, because the sisters would put her down.  And that bothers me.

But none of that is motivating me to live a fuller richer life.

Of course I’m depressed, so motivation is not on my menu of options.  It’s been greyed out on the menu.

But I keep trying to click on it.  Despite knowing that is not the path that will work for me.  I will move because of habit and systems I use to get things done.  From sheer force of will occasionally.  But it won’t be because I’m motivated by some separate desire or emotion.

I think that doing things from motivation is an iffy way to live.  Motivation, like happiness, is fickle.  It disappears and then you are left without support.  A system, a habit, a structure that pushes you – is a much safer bet.

But those things lack that crystal clear feeling of excitement and passion.  Motivation is what gives a moment a robust experience.  The system is reliable but it rarely feels particularly good doing it.  It just is.  A robot path.

So I keep clicking on that greyed out menu option.  Hoping to find the sparkle of motivation.

Doing the Things that Work

The human brain is a lot like Alice’s Wonderland.  There are lots of things that are weird and wonderful about how it works.

Many experiments show how easily our brain can be tricked.  This week on podcast Invisibilia, they featured a story about how putting on a doctor’s coat makes people perform significantly better on attention tests.  They ran the test in a variety of manners to see if it was fabric or the weight of it on your shoulders by changing up what they told people it was or the color and they found – it was the IDEA of wearing a Doctor’s coat that made people feel more focused and attentive to detail.  The same coat described as a painters coat ruined the effect.

That is kind of creepy.  That we don’t decide to be attentive, but our brains are suddenly and without direction, acting in that way because of the ideas that are associated with a coat. Our brains are changed by things outside of our intentional thought.  More than that – they are more changed by things outside of our thoughts than inside of our thoughts.  Because the control group in the above experiment were intentionally trying to do well on the test and failing.

How many things are affecting our brains in ways we don’t know.  How can we know about what is affecting our brain?  It’s apparently invisible.  And since there are lots of experiments that show that we do things and then make up the reason for it later, it’s possible we really don’t know.

This is also very liberating.  It’s like being handed the key to maze. Just find ways to trick yourself into being a certain way.  Wear the right clothes or create the right environment or whatever.  The key is to find the things that will make your brain act in a way that benefits you.  No matter the reason.

I live in a housing program that was designed to keep mentally ill people from being homeless.  I got this housing because I was homeless 3.5 yrs ago due to nonfunctional depression. This housing is a safety net for me.  Because for 3 years I’ve been terrified that I will fall backwards back into the hole of nonfunctional depression and I will lose my job.  But I knew that even if that happened, they wouldn’t evict me, they would just adjust my small subsidy to something that would keep me inside instead of outside.

I recently got a large raise at work and this put me over the income threshold of the housing and so I must move.  My initial reaction was a bit of panic.  But then a friend on tumblr talked me down and reminded me of doing things in small steps.  So I forced myself to open a spreadsheet and I put down all the steps and calculated how much it would cost and figured out a plan.  And the anxiety, which was on the edge of panic attack subsided.   I think it wasn’t the thoughts that changed.  It was action.  The idea of doing something in an organized and controlled manner made my brain change track into a new way of being. I wasn’t helpless and afraid now.

I’m still fully aware of all things that made my brain start toward panic on reading that notice.  But I’m no longer afraid.  I’m just on a plan toward a new home.  Hopefully one I will love.

I’m going to try to trick my brain more.  I know that my own thoughts don’t change my mental landscape that much.  But it seems that certain actions and apparently environment and even clothes will.   So.  New Plan.  Whatever Works.

 

Happy Rain of July.

7346833044_05a7b22e71_bErr.  4th of July.  If you are in the US anyway. And Happy Rain, if you are in SW Ohio.

The rest of the world – Happy Monday.

I like Mondays so I don’t say that sarcastically. Mondays are a fresh start.  When all the possibilities of goals are still energized.
When the week’s crap has not unfolded and ruined all the plans you had for the week.

Mondays are wonderful days.

Holidays are not.  At least for me.

Training obstacle courseHolidays are a sort of suspension bridge between two points in your life.  They swing about too much with all the expected potential and the disappointing reality.  No I am not a fan of Holidays.

 

Grumpy Sara’s Opinion of Amatuer Fireworks…

If I were Empress of the World, Fireworks would only be allowed in the hands of professionals.  Not to protect the idiots.  That’s just a random benefit.  This is because they IRRITATE me.

I just don’t get them.  They are noisy and entirely anticlimactic in backyards all over America.  One gets set off, and may indeed be momentarily sparkly, but now you have to wait 10 minutes while a group of boozy people huddle about and organize another one.  And let’s face it, that sparkle, that one rocket of sparkles, it wasn’t that great compared to the professional show of artistry that the City puts on.

And then there’s the noise.  Now I recognize that the noise is why a huge number of people like the damn things, but the noise is what I hate.  It’s actually not the noise, it’s the UNEXPECTED noise.  I will spend this entire weekend jumping because of the bangs and pops that will go off all around me.

Because of my Anxiety, I startle embarrassingly easily.  So when it’s a noise that would startle anyone, I move toward the precipice of Panic.

So, in my role as your Empress, I would probably just ban them from everyday citizens.  However, I would compromise by making it illegal to set them off except on pre-designated nights.

AND you would have to have a signed note from your lover that you don’t have issues with premature… firing.

If you shoot off any night prior to the night of the designated Holiday, you will be fined.  Money will be given to the local GAD society.

If you shoot off anytime on any day when it is still light out, you will be publically humiliated for being unable to control your premature firing of rockets.  And fined. Naturally.

Damn, I’m so crotchety.  It’s just a silly thing that people love to do and I’m the person telling everyone to shut up and get off my lawn.

But, really, STOP with the damn fireworks.  One just went off while I was typing this.  2pm on July 2nd.  They’ve been going off for a week.  They will go off for 2 weeks after.

grrrrrrr.

 

When Mom Made Veggies

They were always yummy.  I grew up liking almost all veggies as a result.  The exception is brussel sprouts which I will always maintain are an evil plot by SPECTRE.  I mean who else would make such an adorable LOOKING veggie and then imbue it with such a bitter horrible taste?  It’s obvious once you look at the evidence.

Anyway, Mom made veggies all kinds of ways, from simple steamed veggies to casseroles.  I always liked them.

Just so you are aware – the premade, preflavored frozen mixes – they just don’t meet that same level of yum.

Today begins my “take better care of  your body” regime.  It has recently been made clear to me that I’m

  1. Fat
  2. Constipated
  3. Hobbled

All of which are directly or indirectly related to the food I put in my mouth.

So I’m eating better from now on.

This is going to require more effort on my part, which when you consider my depression is going to be a challenge.  So I thought – well it’s not hard to throw frozen veggies in a microwave, is it?

So this morning I made an omelet and nuked up some frozen veggies to go with it.

But frozen veggies in the microwave don’t taste very good.  I mean they’re not disgusting, but they don’t make you want to take all the bites until they are gone.

Mom’s veggies made me want to take all the bites.  Mom was good at cooking.

This healthy thing is going to be a challenge to my brain.  I’m going to have to figure out a better way, because if I don’t look forward to the food, I’ll choose a food that’s easier.

Breaking patterns.

I just watched this rather lovely video on how the ancient chinese philosophers considered rituals a way to break the mindless habits/patterns that we have burned into our life.

I have recently become very aware of how the breaking of patterns shifts my mental energy. I unexpectedly had to change my desk at work. Moving the desk meant all of my mindless work patterns had to change. And that meant that I was constantly being brought into the current moment to act on a tiny thing because my normal thoughtless reach and grab habit was not working. The thing I was reaching for was somewhere else.

On the one hand it’s annoying, but I found that I was also more… energetic, more aware of my space and my co-workers. It made the job less rote because the pattern of small actions was drastically changed. I think this idea of having a break in patterns is important to keeping me focused and positively engaged in my life, rather than wandering and reacting.

Do things up differently.  Be in a different space.  Use different utensils.  Eat different things.  It makes me more mindful.  And since the days of sunshine in my life are limited, I need to find ways to be more aware of them.  More deeply engaged in them, rather than drifting aimlessly and thoughtlessly through them.

The problem with the “do it differently” thing is that habits, ingrained deeply in my life,  are the thing that drag me through the dark abyss.  When I’m in abyss, the stillness of my life is profound.  I don’t do things no matter how much I think about doing it.  So I make habits that will push me through once I take the first step.  And most days I can manage a first step.  Some days I can’t but most days…

And so I need to make sure that while I break up patterns, that I don’t break the good patterns, those habits that keep me tethered to living a reasonable life. Because there be dragons beyond some these patterns.

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Francisco Garces – La Furia Helada

 

 

Have A Plan

I cannot tell you how deeply I think this is true.  It is advice I spew at the children who work in my office all the time.  Don’t just think of the goal.

Think about the plan.  The steps.

I also cannot tell you how often I fail at this very very good advice.

Today was one of those days.  I had a plan for the Pantry.  What would would happen in what order.

I didn’t have a plan for the chaos that now exists and so every time my timer goes off I just sort of faff about without accomplishing much.  For example I just threw a bunch of dusty tupperware into soapy water.  I want to use it for the all the pasta I have accumulated but which is all in different sizes boxes and it looks crappy and it’s harder to store efficiently.

This is actually NOT addressing chaos.  This is fine tuning the already done Pantry.  I’m doing this because I don’t have a step by step on dealing with the chaos, so I’m not doing it.

Admitting it is the first step – so, there.  It’s done.  Admitted.

Now we must create a plan.  What will happen everytime the timer goes off.  Small 5 minute tasks that can get done every 20 minutes or so.  If you are looking at cleaning out a closet or corner or room, I suggest this method.  I do it for everything in my life, but for normal adjusted people it helps with overwhelming projects.  You don’t exhaust yourself, you don’t overwhelm yourself with one task.  All of it is doable.  And usually transferable.  If you don’t get it all done today, the list of tasks remains and can be continued one at a time later.

In my case, there is no reason not get it all done today.  It’s not that big a problem.  Even without labels.  Which I think we all realize is the real barrier to finishing this project.