Letting Go in a Positive Way

There is a difference between memories and physical objects

I love my grandparent’s home, I grew up here I have memories here. My grandfather built me a clubhouse in back, I used to climb a plumb tree and pick gooseberries and raspberries to eat on the spot. I remember my grandmother used to pick me fresh strawberries from the garden when I would stay the night and I would sit and dip them in a bowl of sugar to eat in the evenings before bedtime. I used to use the crawlspace under the stairs as a clubhouse, in fact “no girls allowed” is still scrawled on the little wooden doors. I remember watching Sesame Street on the color TV, one of those giant cabinet deals that must have weighed a thousand pounds!

I know this neighborhood, I listen to Revelry in the morning and taps in the evening from the nearby army base. I can hear the coal trains on distant tracks, I love this home. My grandfather always wanted a champion yard, it’s one of the best in the neighborhood and has been as long as I can remember. When I was in my late teens I moved in to get a jump start on a new life and tonight I sleep in the same room and the same bed as I did then.

Now word is they signed a year lease on a place in Arizona where they have been wintering the last two years. I think it is best for them, much better for their health as well as mobility as it’s a somewhat assisted living place. So, it’s inevitable the house here will go up for sale sometime in the future. I know they are stressed about telling me even though I already know as they are well aware of my attachment to the home. In all reality yes, I will be sad however this is the best thing for my beloved grandparents and I support that above any brick and mortar “thing”.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of “letting go” lately, today we moved all my belongings out of the home I shared with my wife for over a decade. Today was very emotional and between pondering this post and pacing the house aimlessly I’ve been stress cooking. Cooking has been a solid fall back for me to keep my mind off things, currently I am working on a soup for tomorrow with various beans, fresh veggies, and pan seared pork seasoned with turmeric, garlic, rosemary, and a little bit of Portuguese sausage seasoning. Unfortunately, now I am at an impasse waiting for the beans to soften, boil and soak… boil and soak… repeat.

It’s been an emotional week for me, and I need to remember to keep a positive mindset. My mother is in town and we have done well at mutual support. I also have an excellent support system in place by way of my online community at HipChat, everyone there has been nothing short of a god send for my sanity and most importantly my sobriety. So today I am going to re-frame, my life is in a reconstruction phase (go figure the title of this blog) and I have some flexibility in how I move myself forward. I can focus on the positive and create a better me and that is what I choose to do today.

The house going up for sale? I’ll probably get furniture and *hopefully* kitchen stuff for my new apartment. My grandparents moving out of state permanently? I can always visit, and I know they will have help when they need it from the place they are moving to. Moving all my things? Well, I need to go through them it’s an opportunity to clear out all the junk I’ve been dragging around. I will soon have a place where I can sit and not be bothered, a place of my own again. And it’s dog friendly so when things stable out I foresee a pooches in my near future!

I’m off to find something to cook,

~Joe

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Emotion, Attitude Translated

attitude-emotion-state-modificationemotion-attitude-matrix-1How a good attitude can modify emotional inputs

Recently I have been attempting to maintain as positive of an attitude as I can regardless of emotional state. To preface this I must admit that my life currently is in a state of extreme change and emotions have had a tendency towards the lesser desired. To accomplish this I have set goals to write and perform positive tasks throughout each day as a sort of self-experiment to see how it might affect the outcome of my actions and overall sense of being. This article is a part of the experiment attempting to detail the definitions of attitude and explore the interaction between attitude and overall mental state.

I must disclose that I have no psychology experience (other than that of a patient) and anything in this article should be taken only as my experiences documented as I see them. In a way, as a recovering alcoholic this article is also an attempt to maintain honesty with myself as it relates to my emotions, my attitude, and my actions through this experiment.

Digging in I feel it imperative to define what I believe emotion, attitude, and mental state are. Without correlating definition this article has no direct context and will inevitably be misread.

Emotion: For context I am defining emotion as any raw overall and direct feeling over a mid to long term meaning more than just minutes. These feelings typically last several hours or days to several months or even years. By direct I mean that these feelings are singular in nature and not a varietal combination of feelings.

Attitude: Again for context, I am defining attitude as a more immediate sense of how things are going or are going to go within the short term. Attitude is much more dynamic in nature and can change quickly. Typically, an attitude is held for hours and sometimes days or months with practice.

Overall Mentality: I would define overall mentality as the immediate sense of being or the absolute of how one is feeling overall. Overall mentality directs how we interact with the world around us and think as it relates to “right now”.

So now that we have our definitions let me begin with my overall thought process in how these interact, we will dig a bit deeper later. Again, as this is a self-experiment I will be using myself as an example for context.

The past few months I have bounced between two primary emotions: fear and sadness. More recently I have started this idea of maintaining a new attitude: positive. This is to say that I can be sad and positive at the same time. Originally. I would frame my mental state to be either one or the other however, through this self-experimentation I am finding out that they are indeed two separate items that maintain an interchangeable relationship.

I have found that emotion itself is merely an underlying constant and attitude is more of a current modifier that acts as a catalyst to create overall who I am at any given moment. Over the course of the last few weeks my attempts to maintain a positive attitude has directly affected the outcome of multiple aspects of my life:

  • Despite numerous setbacks I have persisted in my forward progress
  • I have been much more approachable
  • My overall routine has become more enjoyable
  • I have been able to maintain solid productivity
  • Etc.

I find myself examining this dynamic and piecing together a somewhat “aha” moment as it relates to my propensity to sometimes fall into periods of depression or anxiety. If I examine periods of say, depression and work backwards treating the depression as my overall mental state things get even more interesting. Working backwards, I can see that during my most recent fit of depression I had a pessimistic attitude combined with emotions of either sadness, fear, or guilt.

In the middle of the spectrum I have had times where even with a happy emotional state moments of negative emotions change the dynamics resulting in a less than desirable emotional state. What I find more interesting about this is how quickly an attitude can change due to external influences.

I can describe the times when I find myself moody by this effect. I may have the same emotions however my attitude will bounce up and down like a rubber ball. Others then describe the outward appearance of my emotional state as “moody”. Examining this personal trait illustrates how something so simple as maintaining a singular attitude can have a profound effect on day to day life.

So, I begin to ask myself a whole new question entirely, how can I maintain a consistent attitude towards the positive regardless of external influence? If I insulate myself entirely from external influence I cut myself off from possible inspiration. Opening the flood gates to let everything in allows for poor circumstances to directly change my mental state.

The goal here would be to establish some sort of effective filter allowing external influences that reinforce my target attitude, while denying other unnecessary influences. This water gets muddied when I examine how external influences and growth of intelligence are directly tied together. As part of human nature; we often associate our own opinions to be factual (or at least semi factual), when those opinions are challenged there exists opportunity for intellectual and emotional growth.

By filtering out any challenging thought, we tie ourselves to perceptions that may be one sided or inherently wrong. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that drives me nuts when counselors say it to me: “What does that look like?”. If we were to erect such a filter how many layers are we building around ourselves simply to maintain an attitude?

Consider for a moment the option of “practicing” a positive attitude. If I make the conscious effort to relate maintaining a desirable attitude during an assault of undesired external influences with perhaps military boot camp; it now becomes a training exercise. With this idea in mind I can reduce the smothering nature of so many layers of filter and allow for open dialogue to change views or increase intelligence.

This is not to say that I will not be filtering at all, there are many instances of extremes both to the minus and the plus that should be avoided. Becoming overzealous and overly optimistic can often be just as damaging as having a “woe is me” vision. As far as the intensity of the need for a negativity filter, simply spend 5 minutes looking at the news and the reasoning should be directly apparent.

To avoid beating a dead horse I will close this article at this point and attempt to illustrate attitude training in a future article. As always comments and suggestions are welcomed and this article as well as its accompanying diagrams will be available for download via pdf.

~Joe

A Saturday sluffing off!

Why you should take time to *plant?* the roses!

It’s the Saturday before Easter Sunday and getting anything done outside of the home will most likely be a chore for some (depending on area of course).  Here, we have decided to start planting some things in several large garden boxes that were built last year.  The boxes were originally built for my Aunt to grow whatever she desired, and then of course later she decided to go to Saudi for contract work.  Of course we’re early in the season as well so are we jumping the gun?

No, I don’t think so… Lets look at the situation really the planters are set up on the automating watering system so barring weeding there really isn’t much maintenance to be done should we select the right plants.  And naturally if we select things that can be planted early season or rather “cold varietals” we should be good to go.

So these planters happen to be in my grandfathers backyard, granted I will be moving within just a couple of weeks but I will still be within a half hour of the place and of course, my grandparents arrive on the same day I receive the key for my new place.  If we make sure our selection doesn’t require a lot of maintenance it should provide a little bit more of a reward than it will a requirement for work.

I’m a huge fan of cooking; as such I love my herbs and vegetables, while it is too early for most herbs there are a lot of cold variety vegetables that we can drop into the soil with very little effort.  Also our season this year has been uncommonly warmer than usual.  I bet we get good results with the following:

  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Radish

So off to the shop for some seeds, most of these seed packets are less than $2.00 so worst case scenario we’re out a little bit of money and time.  Well, today my goal is to keep my hands and mind busy so I don’t dwell on things so really I don’t think I would say I’ll be out time.

 Am I happy today?  No, not really.  Am I positive today?  Absolutely.

Of course my mother picked up some flowers to plant in the pots outside for my grandparents return so we will be playing with those as well, should make for a good distracting day.  Am I happy today?  No, not really.  Am I positive today?  Absolutely.

I think it’s something to remember, just because life isn’t perfect and you may not be happy it does not mean that you are negative.  I believe attitude and emotion are separate things entirely, both combined make up overall how one is “feeling”.  I can be incredibly unhappy and still be positive about the future.  I can be incredibly depressed and still be surrounded by support and hope.  I might explore this dynamic a bit more in the future.

Right now it’s time to prep for planting.  Remember Fraggle Rock?  The Doozers farmed radishes to make beams so they could build structures?  Some will some wont.  I’m hoping to provide some resources for the Doozers this year.

Time to distract myself in a positive way,

~J