Bad Focus, Good Focus

Last week’s post was a real downer. This week I’m feeling much lighter.  Why?  See below.  I know I will have down days; most of us do, but they will pass.

I’ve been back from the UK for a month now.  In the last few days, I have started having flashbacks of my time there.  Well, “flashbacks” is too dramatic a word.  An example: I was sitting in my living room reading yesterday and suddenly I had the strongest image and sensations of being in the living room of “my” house in Oxford.  I could see the blue curtains, feel the breeze coming through the window, and noted the objects on the shelf above the telly.  This has happened a few times.

Then, yesterday in my yoga class, I had the feeling of floating above my own body during the ending meditation.  The instructor wasn’t doing anything different than she has in the last three or four years since I started taking classes with her.

Am I just really focused on the moment these days?  Maybe that’s why I feel less anxious and am having fewer catastrophic thoughts.

I haven’t been trying, but I hell, it’s summer.  I am fortunate to have the time, so I’ve been getting out for long bike rides and walks.  Here’s a view of Pig’s Eye Lake with a train in the foreground and the St Paul skyline way off in the distance.  I stood there for the longest time, waiting as the train slowly crawled toward the coupling yard.  I can hear the smashing sounds of the coupling at night in my house, two miles away.  I wanted to get the red Canadian Pacific Railroad car in the frame.  It’s not that exciting, after all, but the point is that I stood and did nothing but observe for a good 10 minutes—an eternity in our times.

Children help me stay in the moment.  Add nature and bubbles helps break the focus on generating worst case scenarios.

Being around children usually involves laughing.  I took my nephews for a bike ride.  The nine-year-old tried to do a trick and fell sideways.  It could have been disastrous, but he sprang up, and there was this message spray painted on the wall over his head.  “I guess lord Jesus saved me!” he joked.

Finding amusement, and time with friends, helps.  I found this cache of classic BBC sets that can be used for Zoom backgrounds and played around with them during the weekly Friday happy hour I join with UK friends.  Thanks to the time difference, they are drinking G&Ts while I drink herbal tea.

(That’s the interior of the Tardis from Dr. Who, in case you don’t know.)

Speaking of things that feel silly but are really good therapy, I do a couple of no-weight arm workouts every other day.  I don’t know if they are actually “toning” my arms, but something about waving my arms furiously for even five minutes makes me snap out of any funk I am in.

I’m brushing up on my Spanish using Duolingo, taking an Introduction to Classical Music course from Yale, and looking to add a birding course. And it’s all free!

All this leaves little space for worrying.

So I totally forgot that last week, I ended my depressing post with the promise to research why people think in terms of catastrophes.  The article that came up most frequently, oddly, was from Business Insider: What Catastrophizing Means and How to Stop It.

I was relieved to read, “Nobody is born a catastrophizer … Babies are not born catastrophizing… it’s a protective mechanism, because we think ‘if I think the worst, then when the worst doesn’t happen I’ll feel relieved.”

Whew, I had worried I was wired to worry.

Catastrophizing can become a habit, especially if you’ve had a bad experience that you didn’t see coming.  That makes sense.  Every person on earth has had that happen of late.

Catastrophic thoughts need to be deconstructed with logic.  If you can’t do it on your own, call a clear-thinking friend who can help you to untwist them—preferably a friend who will also laugh at you.

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