Archive for the ‘sleep’ Tag

Quick Check-in

Nothing profound or exciting to report. Seems like these still, hot days at the end of summer are barren of creative content for me. But they’re not empty of busy work and responsibility at my job, which is keeping me hopping.

Yet, I have written a couple of stories and am reading a couple of books in between work and sleep and keeping up with friends. Sleep is holding steady at “better, but not great”, which is still a vast improvement over “next to none” that I was experiencing.

And this morning I had the joyous luxury of lying in bed in the still darkness for a half hour listening to the gentle rain on the leaves of my full-canopied pear trees. It was a great way to awaken.

A bit bittersweet, too. We’re losing one of those glorious trees. It was damaged in a big storm last year and is slowly splitting itself in three parts, threatening both my roof and the house next door. The arborist comes today (or he might reschedule because of the rain) to remove it safely. I’m going to miss her. She’s a gorgeous, gnarled old thing, but has bloomed beautifully every year for the 17 years I’ve lived in this house.

Good bye, old friend. You will be sorely missed.

Working on Making it Permanent

So, I’m back to the real world from vacation. It was a blissful reprieve and a truly wonderful experience.

This vacation was lengthy and expensive. It took over a year of planning and saving, some hefty cajoling of one of my brothers, and an unprecedented amount of preparation and working ahead at my job in order to be absent for two consecutive weeks without doing any work. But, oh my, was it worth it!

Foremost among the riches of this vacation is the quality time spent with my siblings. I believe this trip is the longest that my brothers, their wives and I have spent together in over a decade. It was a relaxed, congenial time full of comfortable conversations and silences, fun activities, and restful breaks. And it was free of tension and drama and negativity. It was the best of all worlds and I’m grateful we had that time together.

Also a big part of the benefits of the experience are the memories and mementos of our epic adventure. I so, so enjoyed every part of the cruise. Exciting new experiences, great food, majestic scenery, and so much fun! The excursions were great.

We went to a gold mine in Juneau, where I braved my fear of small places and being under ground and ventured all the way to the first bend of the main shaft – several hundred feet into the mountain! That’s a huge thing for me. I did turn back when the shaft took a turn and I lost sight of the daylight. I couldn’t brave it out beyond that point. But I got to wear a real miner’s helmet, see some awesome 100+ year old equipment, hear a cool story about miners’ lives in the 1800’s, and view some great historical structures. I even got to pan for gold! I think I ended up with about $0.80 worth of flakes and a million bucks worth of fun!

Then there was the glass blowing excursion in Skagway. That was huge fun! The Jewel Gardens park is gorgeous and has what the guide called “Jurassic-sized” everything growing there. The little tearoom on site serves food using vegetables fresh from their fields. And the working glass hot shop is a beautiful addition to that lovely place. My family lucked out and were the only ones booked on our particular excursion there that day. Three of us got a private glass blowing session with a wonderful, talented and friendly blower named Alex. He helped each of us make a customized globe ornament as a souvenir of our experience. I just received mine in the mail yesterday and am so excited it turned out so beautiful!

Perhaps my favorite part of the trip, though, was a day when we didn’t get off the ship. Our day’s transit through Glacier Bay was amazing! The sight and beauty of that place was awe inspiring. I’m so thankful that I got to experience that glorious place!

There were many more little things that made the trip so wonderful. Little moments of joy (the fleeting glimpse of a baby humpback whale breaching off the stern and showing its fluke as it dove) and quiet moments of togetherness (sitting on the Lido Deck breezeway teaching my brothers to wire-wrap gemstones for incorporating into jewelry) made my experience all the richer.

In fact, I got so much more than the beautiful memories and lovely mementos from this vacation. In the process of letting myself enjoy my time away, I seem to have remembered how to sleep. I think I have slept longer and more restfully in the last three weeks than I have in over a year. And I haven’t missed out on anything because of it – the sleep has come when it’s supposed to and I haven’t had to choose between a rest and anything else (like an activity or a chat with a friend) since my vacation began. I’m so glad!

And, also, plus – my relaxed, no-f*’s-given attitude has persisted into my post-vacation approach to life and my workplace. The light-touch, advise-and-release method of crisis management that I described in my last post is holding up to repetition. I have, so far, been successful in keeping myself from taking on the burdens rightfully belonging to others, without shirking my own duties. This more balanced, rationalized, right-sized sense of responsibility is so much more sustainable and easier to bear.

Oh, I know what you’re gonna say! “It’s only Tuesday of your first full week back, so maybe go easy on the glowing new-me reports?”

Agreed. Time will tell if this post-vacation glow lasts. It won’t last forever, I know. But with concentrated intention, maybe I can make it last until the next vacation. Even if that one isn’t the epic, bucket-list-level experience of this Alaska Cruise Adventure vacation, perhaps the more mundane variety of break from the work-a-day world will combine with the residual afterglow of this extraordinary experience and become more permanently etched into my psyche. Who knows?

What I do know now is that I feel better after this vacation and I’m working on making that a permanent state of affairs.

Bliss

It’s Saturday evening. I’ve enjoyed a quiet, laid-back day of reading, games, resting and chatting. It’s the last day of vacation and I’m as mellow and rested as I’ve been in over a year.

This week was a critical, essential respite from a very stressful stretch of life. Although I didn’t sleep as much as I’d hoped to sleep every day, what sleep I got was restful. Even more nourishing was the stress-free, expectation-free time spent with friends in gentle activity, peaceful relaxation, and honest conversation full of truth, validation, and so much laughter and joy.

We had amazing food experiences. Two epic taco encounters, a spectacular charcuterie adventure, and even a delicious and comforting Southern breakfast escapade. Not to mention several lovely homespun meals that really hit the spot for hunger for both food and fellowship.

Art was enjoyed. Gorgeous mountainside vistas were viewed in awe. Bookstores and their contents were explored and revered. Souvenirs were collected. And peace was discovered in the quiet comfort of a cabin in the Blue Ridge mountains with people of like mind and open heart.

I’m going back to the real world tomorrow. The early flight and subsequent quick-turn to get ready for a business conference next week will, no doubt, dull the sparkle of the shiny-new ease I’ve garnered from this retreat. But it’ll just be surface patina. I think this time away from the angst and pressure and the intentional focus on my own internal restfulness, has helped me reset and win back the relaxation and coping skills I had forgotten. At least that’s my sincere hope.

With this renewed energy and more centered outlook, I hope to have perspective enough to evaluate my job, and the sources of stress I’ve endured for so long, with fresh eyes and a calm spirit. One week’s rest is by no means a cure-all, but I do hope that the relief from the most recent stresses will be enough to make objective observations and smart, self-first decisions.

If not, I will at least still have the experience of this blissful week as a source of joy when things get rough.

More Small Things

I’ve about decided that celebrating the small, even tiny, good things is the best way to get back into active positivity. It’s kinda meta: baby steps into baby steps. Or, said another (weird and tortured metaphoric) way: one bite of the elephant in the room at a time.

Since I’m not finding a lot of success in big, ground-eating leaps and bounds, I’ll take the small wins and be happy with them. Here are a few:

  • Tulips galore! I love the color and cheerfulness of spring flowers, especially tulips.
  • Caramel in my coffee…mmm.
  • A friend sent me a care package with some stuff to help me sleep, including chocolate melatonin bits. Didn’t know there was such a thing. But I tried them last night and got nearly 7 hours of sleep! WOOT!
  • I have the office to myself this week, with the boss out of town. I’m enjoying the quiet and looking forward to my own week out of the office next week. By the time I’m back, we’ll have had over two full weeks apart. That’s a welcome breather and a good reset. I hope the reduced stress and increased perspective gives us both what we need to make a lasting change.
  • I saw Avengers: End Game on Friday, playing hooky on a bright spring day to meet a friend. It was a fun time, but I haven’t fully integrated the movie yet. I think I need to see it again to decide how I feel about it.

I hope there are plenty of little things for you to count as blessings this week, friends.

Lessons in Self-Talk

I’ve written a fair bit on this blog about my efforts at personal growth and self discovery. Some of what I’ve covered deals with the insecurities with which I still struggle, despite all of the hard, intentional work I’ve done to be the best version of myself. I call the source of those insecurities my internal critic, because it’s my own voice that’s raging at me.

That internal critic isn’t easy to slay. It rears its poisonous head and spews the most shocking invective into my tender, impressionable psyche when I’m at my most vulnerable. Stress, sleep deprivation, nervousness, performing in unfamiliar circumstances, exercising new skills — these are some of the things that leave me exposed to the inner jerk’s most insidious evil. And when I’m in that state, I have very little ability to overcome, silence, and escape that internal saboteur.

A perfect storm of those conditions formed this week. It was the culmination of weeks of hard, frenetic, hugely significant executive lawyering, in preparation for depositions in a litigation matter for my company, all while battling my first real experience with insomnia. I’ve been working 11-15+ hour days for weeks on end on the shaky, unsustainable foundation of an average of 5 hours or less sleep per night. And everything I’ve been doing at work has required intensely critical thinking and application of new and old legal skills to meet the challenge of this unfamiliar litigation activity. So my defenses were kind of low by the time I showed up for my 30(b)(6) deposition – where I was testifying on behalf of my company, rather than in my individual capacity – yesterday.

I expected, and had prepared for, a very challenging experience. Litigation isn’t a joke and the stakes in this matter are high for both parties. I fully expected to be pressed hard and to have to be on top of my game. But even as prepared as I was, I had underestimated how hard it would really be.  Here was my raw, unedited reaction that I posted to a different platform last night:

So here I am, just getting home after my third consecutive 15+ hour day this week (4th consecutive 11+ hour work day) more than 10 of which were spent giving sworn testimony in a deposition conducted by a class-A asshat of the most egregious kind. I’m mentally, physically, emotionally, and intellectually exhausted. I know I did an incredible job in this depo – another day of undeniable Butch Boss Badasserry. Still my traitorous brain only lets me see the one momentary slip when, after over 9 hours of grueling questioning and countless repetition of futile questions, I lost my composure and was forced to go off the record and leave the room before I dissolved into tears of angry frustration on camera and in front of that jackass. Suddenly weeks of work and two long days of testimony are reduced to: “yeah, but he made you cry” by my overly critical brain. Damn.

So, yeah. The internal critic got me hard and sharp. That whole reductive reasoning trick is dirty and underhanded and has a really devastating bite to it. All the true, positive, celebratory thoughts get rendered ineffectual in a single blow: it doesn’t matter that I knew more than anyone in the room, including the other side’s attorneys and my own counsel, about this case and had a smart, cogent, legally significant answer for every question and didn’t fall into any of the verbal traps the deposing attorney lay in front of me, it only matters that he was able to break my composure and made me cry.

But, thankfully, a wonderful friend, who also happens to be a rock star Butch lawyer, too, reminded me of something important: the nature of depositions, the rules that apply to their conduct, create an environmental pressure-cooker that often results in the witness being reduced to tears and I did well, in spite of the tears. In other words, I need to give myself a break.

Not only is that timely, supportive reminder a deeply kind gift at a critical point, it has the virtue of truth. After a few hours of sleep and a short work day this morning, I was able to put a bit of distance between my wounded pride and the critic’s barbs. That let me have room to think about the overall problem of the internal voice. Here’s what it comes down to, for me:

Self talk is a dangerous thing.  Like a blade, it can be both a tool and a weapon, and both functions can have both beneficial and damaging effects. Balancing the utility of such a volatile thing is a critical skill that requires constant attention to detail. When one aspect gets the better of the other, whether weapon or tool, damage results; too much of either yields an internal voice with a skewed world view< The imbalanced voice will be either irrationally confident and blind to flaws, or overweeningly negative, drowning out all accomplishment and confidence. Without the confident self-discipline to manage the internal critic, spiraling negativity takes over.  But falling too much in love with your own voice, logic, skill, position on any issue – self delusion of even mild degree – and you get a big head and lose sight of your biggest opportunities for growth.

Ultimately, it comes down to mental discipline, being kind, yet firm, with myself, taking care to feed my mind the right mix of messages that can build healthy confidence while starving the internal critic so that it can’t have strength enough to sabotage the positive with unwarranted negativity.  Simple enough to say, Exceedingly difficult to maintain.

It certainly would help if I could sleep more…

Rejection Totally Blows

Jeez, this week was brutal, a mixed bag of jangling anxiety spiced with tiny moments of joy, wrapped in a sleep-deprived haze and topped with a glittering bow of flaming rejection.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve felt this disconnected from logic and rationality. I’m a logical, linear thinker and careful planning, meticulous language and precise action are my safety. When I get outside that realm, into areas where impulse and emotion appear to be the rule, I have a hard time coping. That kind of spontaneity, even chaos, stresses me more than any long work day or serious decision ever does. The disorder is unnerving and makes it hard to think and breathe.

So when I found myself in this situation, a nearly constant state of distress resulting from sleep deprivation-induced anxiety, desperation pushed me to do something entirely out of character: I asked for help.

Ignoring the cautions and warnings screaming in my head, I signed up for an online counseling service to get help with my insomnia. Normal people do this without compunction all the time. Surely, the millions of people relying on mental health professionals to assist with these challenges can’t be wrong, I reasoned. Surely, I told myself, there is nothing shameful in reaching out?

Still, I battled a heavy load of shame – you’re almost 50 years old, how can you not know the basics of how to be a person, how to get adequate sleep and deal with common work-induced stress? It can’t be that hard, what’s wrong with you? You’re so inept that you can’t sleep without instructions?

But I knew that most of that invective was simply fear. So, swallowing my pride and steeling my nerves, I looked for and found an LGBTQIA-supportive counseling service online. I did a little reading on it, and on counseling options in general, and decided to take the plunge. I knew I’d have to be a little vulnerable, letting an anonymous stranger into my head where I hardly let anyone before. But, I reasoned, if I was going to resolve whatever is plaguing my peace and preventing my sleep, I’d have be brave and face it head on.

So I filled out the forms and answered questions and logged my sleep activity and did everything I was asked to do without complaint or reservation. When my hands shook and my mind rebelled at the feeling of exposure, I forced it down and pressed on, telling myself that changing what I didn’t like required getting out of the cocoon of safety that my reserve and privacy have afforded.

Then, after nearly a week of uncomfortable logging of nearly every aspect of my daily activity, revealing an unprecedented amount of my private life, I was asked to give candid feedback on the process to date. I guess where I went wrong was in the assumption that it was safe to be frank. I guess I thought that because I had been required to be so vulnerable and open, I would not be ridiculed for being honest about my reservations about the process and method.

Not so.

It didn’t matter that my comment was politely and professionally worded, honest and offered without any hint of accusation or rancor. The counselor’s immediate response was to fire me as a client, telling me I clearly wasn’t a good fit for her service and that there was no need to even respond to her message, just to go somewhere else.

Ouch.

So, not only am I so abnormal that I can’t even take care of a basic need like sleep, but I’m so inept that I can’t even pay someone enough to help me cure that weirdness. Jeez, loser much?

Sarcasm aside, I have to admit that the rejection hurts and its potential consequences scare me witless.

I had let myself hope that with a professional’s help I could be back to a regular sleep pattern quickly and that the erosion of my thinking and communication skills, that have already begun to impact my work, would be set to rights before it becomes a serious problem. I can admit that my sense of self worth is very much tied to my professional success and the respect I’ve earned among my colleagues. The prospect of losing that respect and the reputation of being the go-to leader and problem-solver makes me quake with anxiety. And I have no doubt that will be the result if I can’t get my head back in the game. To do that, I need to get over whatever this mental block is and get regular, restful sleep.

So being fired from the one thing I thought would help has me reeling. And I’m fairly pissed off that someone I had paid to provide that help fired me, not the other way around. But even worse than the anger is the humiliation of realizing that I and my problem aren’t worth the time and effort to help, even for a fee.

I’m feeling pretty low, so I’m having a really hard time finding anything positive in this experience. But at least I got to see a bunch of cute small humans in cool costumes come to my house and beg for candy on Halloween. The sparkly princesses and fierce miniature Black Panthers were a bright spot in a rough week. I may not be sleeping, but at least there’s super heroes and princesses in my neighborhood.

29 Days: sleep 

So, whether it’s from the conference, the plane home or something else, I woke up in my own bed this morning  (not a hotel room) with a raging cold. It hurts to swallow, even to breathe. But OGT is that I have not yet lost the child-like ability to sleep whenever I want. I’ve slept nearly all day and, now I’m awake, I am going to take some cold medicine this time and go to bed. Gotta kick this by Monday. I am determined. 

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