It just so happens that I am still here.

I wake up every morning and plan my day. My day, however, often has other plans.

My absence from BME is pretty representative of the way life is today.  How many of us have stopped watching the news, or more importantly the stock markets?  Sometimes it’s OK to just check out, pretend that the real world is far, far away.  In fact, I recommend it.

All good things must come to an end, and better things await us when we are ready to jump back into reality – ready to work, ready to remedy the past that ails us.  Running indefinitely away takes us only farther away from what we need to be doing, and it makes us really, really tired.  Taking a jog, on the other hand, is good for your heart, health, and mind.

We live in a chronic state of fatigue, with seemingly no end in sight. Checking out may seem like a luxury, but only if you are reading “sleep all day” in that directive.  I still have to work to pay my bills, my kids still need to have their meals made, laundry done. My bills demand attention, along with the dogs.  I needed to check out, so I did. I stopped reading the news, perusing blogs, and writing my own blog.  I can’t afford to run away, but I can stop doing the things that eat away my time to relax, despite being things that I enjoy.  Even if I enjoy something, it doesn’t mean it is relaxing.

The news was making me panicked, the stock market was making me sea sick.  Reading blogs just nagged at me to get back to my own, despite being cleverly written gems that deserved Huffington Post publication.  This precious space, BME, seemed more deserving of quality versus content, and I just got too tired to marry the two.  So I took a break.

If you find you need to check out, take a look at your time.  Other than the bare necessities, what are the things that eat into your day? Do you really need to cook a full dinner every night or can you dial it in for a few days – or maybe a week? Even if you love cooking, sometimes you just need to sit on the couch and rest. If talking to friends and family on the phone is fun, but you end up involved in more drama, take a week off.  Maybe your social schedule has gotten a little to packed, or your golf game is so far off you are just practicing your hazard shots, whatever it is, it  maybe not giving you the pleasure you need to feel rested and happy.

Work and responsibility take a toll, don’t let your “free time” become anything other than what you need, even if it’s just sleep.

My hiatus is over, and I am ready to play again.

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PTSD = Pretty Tough, Sad Deal

I've had a migraine/headache for 6 days straig...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you read the news at all, you know that PTSD is actually Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but what does it really mean? I don’t think the general population can truly understand, and it becomes a diagnosis, a thing that soldiers get, a Pretty Tough, Sad Deal.  We all agree we should help those suffering with it, but since we don’t get what it is, it’s hard to say just how much tax-payer money we want to invest or how many days of leave this disorder deserves.

I took my oldest to swimming lessons yesterday and was enjoying conversation when I looked at the pool.  We all keep an eye on our little ones since the instructors work with each child individually, and the waiting students don’t always stay on the step as directed, goofing off as kids will do.  I realized I had not been very attentive in the last few minutes, and looked to where my daughter was dutifully hanging on the wall.  It was then I noticed the little boy swimming in circles away from the wall.  It took me a minute, but when I realized that I was watching a child in distress, things moved quickly.

The child was quickly assisted out of the water, clearly scared, but seemed to be fine. As a precaution the mother was asked to take him directly to the doctor in case he had inhaled water, which causes dry drowning even when things seem fine.

The mother thanked me as she left the pool for being the one to spot the serious trouble, and we all left the lesson. It was our last day, and we will probably never see each other again.

Last night, as I lay watching the LED lights of my clock, I was haunted by the image of the boy. Swimming, lost, in danger. I thought about my reaction, which seemed delayed, in retrospect, given the seriousness of the situation, like a delay in a television program when the mouth moves, but the words come out later.  I worry about the boy despite knowing that he went to a doctor.  I worry about the mother, who will worry well past this day.  I worry about the swim school, comprised of an amazing group of people, and what it might mean for them.  I worried for hours, running the scenarios of what might have been if my reaction had been faster, or slower, or if the child had been mine.

I rose this morning, neither rested nor in a much better place than the night before.  It was in deliberation that I came to the conclusion that I was having post-traumatic stress.  Not the same as PTSD, but I think it gave me greater insight to what may be going on in the disorder, particularly in the case of our military.

I had done everything right, but I still felt like there was more I could do, or that I could have done things faster or better.  We ask our military to do things in the name of right, and we train them to do it better than the rest.  But does telling them they did the right thing well take away the nightmares and sleepless nights when they return home to their beds?

I do not compare my experience to theirs as equals, but simply as a moment of insight. It may not take more than a few days for my adrenalin and stress to abate, but this experience has made me more compassionate to those that have seen and done things I cannot even imagine.

There is no perfect plan for recovery. You cannot count the number of sessions it will take to restore order in a person’s life.  There is no perfect pill that exists that wipes away memories and leaves the spaces full with rich and rewarding experiences.  There should not be a limit set on how far we will go to help our returning military restore a balance in their lives. If faced with a decision to extend the military benefits, allowing for more treatment, extending coverage to families and loved ones, we should not hesitate.  PTSD is hard to understand, but it is real.

Using the stock market like a mood ring is dumb.

English: Phillippine stock market board

English: Phillippine stock market board (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mood rings were all the rage in the decade before I was old enough to really appreciate fads. Future generations, after much research, determined they were nothing more than body temperature indicators and novelty items.  Imagine looking at your ring, seeing red, and thinking “Wow, I must be really angry.  I don’t feel angry… but wait, now I am really MAD!!”

I think the mood ring is a good analogy for the stock markets today.  Most of us know how we feel about the economy regardless if the market number is red or green.

If I don’t have a job, haven’t found work in a long time, downsized to the point of meager existence, the markets jumping up 200 points in one day doesn’t really have a direct effect on my life. I still have to pay my bills and hit the pavement the next morning, like millions of others.

If I have a small business, I know if I have more customers this month than last.  I can look at the average amount of money customers are spending on items or jobs, and determine if I am growing, shrinking, or remaining exactly the same.  If I am in a growth cycle, I will hire. If I am shrinking, I will fire.

If I am lucky, gainfully employed, and the markets will affect my portfolio, then I will rejoice. I can provide the basics for my family, keeping food on the table, and roof over their heads.  I may not be able to retire when I want, or provide the Disney Christmas experience, but I can provide.  A market drop may be a reminder to simplify, but it won’t destroy me.  I will work hard every day at my job to make my company better and be the best asset I can.

If I lose my job, I will face the harsh reality of being unemployed. But I still need to get up every morning with the optimism that today is the day I will find new work.  I may need to look for assistance, face under-employment, or adjust my life to make my family my priority.  I won’t need the market to tell me that I have fallen on rough times, the bank will do a good enough job at that.

The only barometer I need for my life is me.  If I lose everything tomorrow, I will still have my family, true friends, and my ability to work hard to make a future life for myself.

When I see the headline, “Stocks see worst day of the year after weak jobs report”, it should only be a reflection of life as I am living it, not something to set my mood.  Journalists shock you, make you want to read more, incite feeling to elicit the “click” on their headline.  My advice, don’t freak out until your life tells you to. And if your life tells you to freak out, try to make tomorrow a better day, despite what the markets do, because at the end of the day, it’s all you can do.  That, and vote.

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