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Monday, October 20, 2014

Sleep..

.. or lack thereof.

Many of my friends (and you know who you are) suffer from chronic insomnia. My sleeping patterns over the years have changed, naturally, as we get older everything changes, so why not sleep patterns. When my children were babies and growing up I, like all mothers of young children, slept when I could and generally spent the waking hours like a zombie, it is normal and fortunately short lived. Though at the time I felt no one had it as bad as I did. My first child didn't sleep through the night until he was 3 years old, and when I say he didn't sleep through the night, I mean he woke 10 or 12 times each and every night. During those three years I had two more pregnancies and two more babies who also woke at night at least for the first few months, but at least only for normal feeding routines.

As you can imagine, I have little or no patience for people who complain about lack of sleep, even now, or maybe especially now?

I remember my father talking, without any complaint, but purely statement of fact, about how as he aged he slept less.  He woke regularly at 4 a.m. and spent a few hours reading until the rest of the world awoke. He, like most men, happily indulged in what I call the great American 'Nap', though it is not just Americans who enjoy this pass time as my father was Irish, it is much more normal here, in fact it is almost obligatory, at least for men.. or so they say, at least in Texas.. at least in our house.

My sister, a self professing cat person, can survive happily on cat naps. I will be totally antisocial if I nap during the day. No matter how tired I am, I know better than to take a nap, I will regret it, as will all those around me.

I was always a morning person, I love that quiet time when the rest of the inhabitants of my immediate surrounds are fast asleep. I love to be able to think without interruption, without television. I have a hard time with television.  Why do people need to turn that thing on even when they don't intend to watch it? But that is another blog I think...

As I got older, yes, most probably menopause related, I started waking frequently throughout the night, and waking earlier and earlier in the morning. Of course, being a morning person, after a limited attempt at sleep, I got up and enjoyed the morning. I do also feel that time sleeping is time wasted even though I do know we need sleep to survive, I think it is such a waste of life. However for years I thought it was just an age related thing that I slept about 5 hours per night, waking at least 5 or 6 times during those 5 hours. Yes, I got back to sleep almost immediately, so I didn't see any need to complain. A night where I slept 5 hours without remember if I awoke was a very good night indeed.

So, imagine my surprise when suddenly I started sleeping almost 8 hours a night - with maybe only two or three remembered disturbances!? After ten years of the same sleep pattern what could have changed you ask?  Well, that was not a hard question to answer. I refer you immediately to my previous blog regarding change - I finally listened to the Universe and realized that I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing. I took life by the proverbials and changed it and here I am sleeping, not like a baby.. well, yes, maybe a bit like a baby because I still wake two or three times a night, and still on rare occasions my restless legs will trouble me, but more often it is my restless mind, but I get back to sleep almost instantly, the good thing is that I sleep for at least 7 hours each night.

How did I do it? I embraced change and I found a job where I was challenged and happy.

So, next time I find my sleep patterns unacceptable perhaps I will take action somewhat sooner. And, to my friends with insomnia issues (not related to essential medication and you know who you are) I suggest you look at your lives and make changes accordingly.

Just saying...

I did try to relate my sleep patterns to some form of research, but apparently the sleep foundation didn't consider stress as one of the reasons for sleep pattern distortion. However in the interest of full disclosure here are two links to take a look at.

The Sleep Foundation
and
Help Guide

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Change Aversion



I have a number of principles that I try to live by, some I list below:

  • Trust the Universe
  • You alone are responsible for your own happiness
  • If you are not happy with your life - go change it

If you read my book, you will see, I hope, that I have done my best to follow these principles.


However, as we get older change becomes more difficult to embrace.

After thirteen years in the same company, doing pretty much the same job I felt myself becoming more and more dissatisfied. Yes, it was a good feeling to be so familiar with the work, and the company, but while familiarity may not necessarily breed contempt, it does frequently reduce challenge and increase boredom.

Why, I hear you ask, did it take 13 years for that to happen? Well, I have to admit I went through stages of being bored during that time, each time it happened I was able to reinvent my position so that it became more challenging. But eventually that became more difficult, and then when changes I disagreed with, outside my control, occurred within the company I decided it was time to make a move. A previous blog entry deals with making that move.

I have to say I was surprised at how difficult it was to push myself to do it, and I really mean push. The temptation to crawl back into my comfort zone was hard to resist, but that was exactly what gave me the incentive to make the change - if only for change sake, but as I said, my reasons were more than just a need for change. However I do believe firmly in my husband's favorite quote
"Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative."
― H.G. Wells
And so I found myself on a 'plane to Seattle for two weeks training, a few days before my **mutter-mutter**th  birthday. Before I started training I had a serious talk with myself.  I warned myself that I would be overloaded with information, if I was lucky I would be able to understand about 5% of it, and remember about 2%.  I also reminded myself that I had started new jobs before and thought I would never be able to figure it out, but I managed then and I will manage again.

It took a lot to not panic those first two weeks, and possibly even more the following month when I was no longer training, but had returned to Austin and was actually doing. At first I felt like I was driving unfamiliar roads in a thick fog. The fog is letting up some now, but still very much in evidence. And while I am still drinking from a fire hose, the pressure is reducing somewhat.

What was unexpected was my inability to pay attention to any of my normal pass times, my embroidery machine sat idle for weeks, this blog has been totally neglected and my next book has been given only a few fleeting thoughts. However, I think I am back on track again.

Now the important thing to remember is that I still don't know very much and all I can hope for is knowing enough to ask the right questions - and more importantly - direct these questions to the right people.



The great thing right now is, everything is so challenging, even what will eventually become tedious contains a challenge. As has always been the case before, I am so glad I made the change. It was hard, and though I didn't go to the moon - I do believe JFK's quote works - and I do love so many of his quotes:


"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
― John F Kennedy 
And here are a few quotes from Project Life
"Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change. The Universe is change."
― Marcus Aurelius
"We must be the change we want to see."
― Mahatma Gandhi
"If you do not create change, change will create you."
― Unknown

Saturday, October 18, 2014

No Smoking



When I was growing up smoking was not just normal, it was cool and the tobacco companies would have you believe it was glamorous, even sexy! I can't think of anything less sexy than smelling of stale smoke and that awful early morning hacking smokers cough, not to mention the stained teeth and foul breath. But almost everyone smoked. Even while pregnant, and as bad, while nursing. In our defense, we didn't know it was bad for the baby. We didn't even think it was bad for us.


When I was twenty I worked as a secretary in a financial services company. I shared an office with my boss, glass walls so he could keep an eye on the workers in the main office, and a closed door so they couldn't hear his dictation, or telephone conversations, so no air. And he was a chain smoker. The office, everything in it including me, reeked of smoke. I don't remember now, but I am sure that the walls and ceilings were stained.  By the end of the day there were ashtrays on his desk filled with butts and ash, and the ash was scattered over the desk and papers and wherever it happened to fall from his always present cigarette.


People smoked in cinemas, theatres, restaurants, on 'planes and on buses (though I do remember when you could only smoke on the upper deck of the bus, in their own homes and in any  home they happened to visit and of course in bars. No one had come up with the idea of going outside to smoke. The movies and billboards were filled with smoking. Cowboys struck matches on their pant legs to light up - very macho and cool and I never could figure out how they did it.


Even in hospitals! Here is a classic photo of my beautiful mother. This was taken when she went to visit my sister who was in hospital, you will notice my mother is smoking. She used a cigarette holder not to be glamorous, but by that time the suggestion that tobacco was bad for your health was being bandied around and someone came up with the idea of using what was then ( in the '60s) very popular, the cigarette holder, to take a filter, just a small plastic tube filled with silica gel, through which the smoke was drawn, the idea was that the silica gel would absorb the tar and allow the smoke through. It definitely trapped a lot of the tar, because I remember being fascinated by the filters she threw away - they started out filled with white crystals and finished up a deep brown mess.

What is particularly scary about this photo is that my sister was not just in a hospital, she was in a sanatorium - a tuberculosis sanatorium. That is a lung disease... right? But in the '60s it was OK to smoke anywhere, even in a ward full of tuberculosis patients, most of who were a lot worse off than my sister whose illness was caught early.




Back then pregnant women smoked and drank alcohol, that is to say they didn't stop doing what they were doing just because they were pregnant. Today the sight of a pregnant woman with a cigarette in her hand is just unheard of - thankfully!



Now smoking is considered anti social, one of the very few place I have seen where an exception is made for smokers is at Atlanta (and I know in a few other airports) Hartsfield Jackson Airport. There there is a glass enclosed room, with an automatic door so you don't forget to close it, filled with people, mostly standing, puffing away between flights. The room is thick with smoke and when the door opens to let someone in or out, the smell is awful.







Offices have designated smoking areas - outside - and I notice that the distance from the entrance has been increasing over the years. In many areas smoking is not allowed even in bars.







We no longer see the Marlboro Man on billboards (a good thing as it is said that four of them died from smoking related diseases), no more TV or Cinema ads and you won't see your favorite hero lighting up on the screen. I have to admit, Marlboro was my choice and I am sure it was the rugged cowboy that drew me to it. Then I moved on to Lucky Strike, definitely these ads were designed for me.





The awful addiction to tobacco has spawned a whole new business, quit smoking aids. From prescription medication (and that really does work - my husband is a testament to that) gum and lozenges laced with nicotine - swapping one addiction for another, patches and hypnotism. As far as I can see, one of the biggest incentives must surely be the cost of a pack of cigarettes today!