An Evening At The Arboretum – Japanese Week 6

DSC_0531I haven’t made any particularly exciting progress with my studies this week, so I want to talk about something a little bit different.

This evening, hubby and I very much enjoyed our walk through the arboretum. If you put me in nature with a camera, especially when flowers are blooming, I will be more than content… until I get hungry.DSC_0455Hubby particularly enjoyed finding all of the hidden painted rocks in the vicinity. They were, indeed, rather cute.
DSC_0557As we were making our rounds to make sure we had found every last one of the stones, we sat down by the fountain. I had recently learned a little about kintsugi and Japanese art in general. (Kintsugi is a method of mending broken pottery where the pieces are put back together with gold, silver, or platinum lacquer, making the damage part of the object’s history rather than disguising it.)
DSC_0496Looking at the fountain, I thought about what I had learned and ended up wishing that the rest of the arboretum had taken the nod from the Japanese section of the arboretum. The Japanese part looked much more harmonious.
DSC_0514Instead of putting down mulch to suppress the growth of unwanted plants and visually asserting dominance over the natural order, the Japanese design just had the various types of plants grow side by side, fully fulling in the entire area. Thus, the Japanese design looked comparatively organic. Even with the fountain, it was unobtrusive and didn’t look like a testament to the triumph of man. Rather, it showed balance with the natural world.
DSC_0493While I don’t see a problem with finding mulch to be less than pleasing to the eye, I quickly realized that I have become quite cynical and, perhaps, overly critical of American values in general.DSC_0451While studying French in high school, I never got as wrapped up in French culture as I have been with Japanese culture over the past few weeks. Part of it is that Japanese culture feels more foreign than French culture. However, the main reason is that I was more critical of French culture than I have been of Japanese culture.
DSC_0539For instance, my reaction to the French Revolution compared to the head collecting practices of samurai warriors just doesn’t match up.

When you are learning about Japan, it is easy to fall into the trap of skimming the surface of an idea and romanticizing it. Sure, it’s easy to love manga and anime, think the art is beautiful, love the architecture, find the folklore fascinating, etc. But you can’t separate all that from the political history of Japan.

As far as current political issues go in Japan, here’s what I’m aware of:

Yes, I will expose myself as woefully ignorant. (Typical American, eh?) But I have plans to change that and, of course, I will share my discoveries with all of you.

What Should You Do With Your Life?

The fears started creeping in during my senior year of college. It’s actually time to decide now, what do you want to do?  It’s been 3 years and 6 jobs since I graduated (2 of which I currently have). I still don’t know exactly what I want to do career-wise, but I had a bit of an epiphany, and I’m not panicking anymore.

I quit my office job at the end of March, flew home to see my parents for the first time in about 2 years, and returned a week later, telling myself I was ready to find a job that would make me happy. At the end of April, I did get a job. And it was writing-related, which is what I always thought I wanted to do. But I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was more depressed and anxious than ever.

I tried a lot of things to get back on the right path. I took a skill/career/personality quiz from my college’s career center to see what careers it matched me with. I had zero results that were a true match. That upset me a little but I looked at the possible matches. They ranged from hilarious to depressing. (Broadcast news analyst, choreographer, DJ, foreign language interpreter, etc.)

Time passed and nothing changed. One evening, I was watching videos on minimalism and YouTube recommended I watch a video on the Japanese concept of ikigai. Your ikigai is basically your purpose in life. This diagram came from this site and it sums up how to find your ikigai really nicely. If you love it, you’re good at it, you can be paid for it, and the world needs it, that is your calling.

I loved the concept, but this still wasn’t all that helpful for me. Sure, I could say that writing fits in all these categories, but getting paid for it isn’t all that easy and I needed something more reliable to get my life back on track.

A couple weeks ago, I watched a Ted Talk called “To find work you love, don’t follow your passion.” In a nutshell, the speaker made the argument that passions fade and to feel fulfilled, you should have a career that helps others. The passion will come from seeing the difference you make in others’ lives.

This talk was pretty much the exact opposite of horrible advice I was given by a pyramid scheme recruiter. Pyramid scheme sleazeball said that instead of instead of focusing on nurturing your passion and making a career out of it, you should look at the people around you and see who has the lifestyle you want. Then, you should do what they do. He shared his story about running a pharmacy because he aspired to basically be able to set his own schedule. He wanted to own a business where he didn’t have to be there all the time, in other words. (He also said some really degrading things about anyone who earns an hourly wage.)

I definitely trusted advice from the Ted Talk much more than the sleazy pyramid scheme guy, but it still seemed really off to me.

Today, I took a step back. I feel like I’ve been angsting over the same question since I first began trying to decide what I should major in. To take the pressure off, instead of trying to answer questions like “what am I good at” and “what makes me happy,” I just thought about what I want out of my life. I came up with ten things.

What I discovered when I did this was that there is no specific job that is going to help me meet my goals (aside from funding). Let me say it a different way: what I want from life is not going to come from my job.

All that soul-searching I was doing trying to find a fulfilling career was misguided. I already know what I want. I just need to go after it.

I don’t need to get the perfect job to achieve my goals. There is no entry barrier, no hoop I have to jump through to make progress, and that’s pretty dang empowering.

Happy Post is Happy

My last post was a little… intense for me to write. While I love how cathartic those “bare your soul” kind of posts are, I need a breather.

So, today, I’m going to share some funny stories about hubby and I.

A few weeks ago, hubby and I celebrated our one year anniversary… on the wrong day. How did I deduce that it was the wrong day? I looked at my Facebook timeline and realized that I was a week off. (I also got a big old, “You mean I was RIGHT??” from Jason about that one.)

This actually follows in the tradition of everything regarding our wedding being a bit of a hot mess. From the hilarity of mistakes made while filling out our marriage license to utterly failing to plan literally anything until the day before the wedding (which also happened to be the day I got a new job), our wedding was absolute chaos from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our wedding ceremony and wouldn’t have had it any other way, but there’s no denying that it was insane.

Before we got married, we didn’t know what we were doing and while we’ve learned along the way, we’re still pretty clueless.

Story from before we got married:

Jason hurt himself and since we didn’t have a hot-pack, he filled a sock with rice and threw it in the microwave… for 6 minutes. I was in the bedroom and noticed an awful smell and some smoke. Then the fire alarm starts going off. Jason yells at me to get outside, so I do. He dumped the flaming sock into the sink and doused it with water to put out the flames before bringing the melted sock and ruined microwave outside. Neighbors came by to see what the ruckus was about and I watched the grass slowly die around the remains of the sock.

The apartment smelled for about a month after that.

Now, we have a dual hot and cold pack that looks like a kitty. (This means we get to say fun things like, “Would you like me to put the kitty in the freezer?”) We know that it is not to be in the microwave for over 2 minutes and that it needs to be put inside a plastic bag before it goes in the freezer.

Isn’t it cute?

Story from several weeks ago:

Please reference this post, in which I discuss going out to explore nature at 8 PM, hiking 1.5 miles to get to the beach and watch the sunset, then realizing that the way back was 90% uphill. This ended with us realizing our car was broken into and a chat with the park ranger about why we were out so late. Good times.

Now, hubby won’t take me anywhere when it’s that close to dark and he makes sure I’m not signing him up for masochistic activities.

Some other silly things I’ve done include:

  • Before marriage: Going to the beach and wearing flip-flops when it was actually rather cold and discovering that the beach doesn’t have sand. Instead, it has a lot of broken seashells and other hard things that really hurt when you step on them.
  • After marriage: Going on a week-long vacation with my husband and limiting my footwear to two pairs of flip-flops (when I should’ve anticipated we would be hiking and visiting the zoo).

On the other hand, there have been times where I think we have perhaps learned the wrong thing. For instance, a while ago I totally freaked out while I was taking a shower because a very large mosquito almost landed on me. Jason heard me screaming and comes running into the bathroom, thinking someone is trying to kill me. When I told him that a mosquito was in the shower, he just walked away. He was so angry. “My knife was drawn. I was ready to end someone and it was a freaking mosquito!”

A couple days ago, there was a giant fly in the house. It landed on me and I freaked out a little. Later on, I spot it going in the bathroom so I shut the door and tell Jason to go kill it. While he’s trying to kill it, I start playing music from the Undertale soundtrack, so hubby thinks I’m mocking him. (I didn’t mean it that way, but once it started playing I laughed a little.)

He comes out in a few minutes and says he hit it a few times but can’t find the body. It then appears in the kitchen again and I’m like whatever I’m taking a shower. As I’m washing my hair, my earring back falls off. I call for Jason because I can’t tell if it went down the drain and regardless I want him to take the rest of my earring so I don’t lose it. He doesn’t come. I figure he can’t hear me because he’s either outside or my music is too loud. When I get out of the shower, I say, “Why aren’t you ever inside when I need you?” Yadda yadda yadda…

“Oh, that’s what you wanted. I thought you were yelling because that fly was in there or something.”

“I specifically tried to sound less panicked so you would realize I wasn’t screaming about an insect. Though you should still come if I’m screaming because someone could actually be trying to kill me.”

One last thing…

I never had a dog or a cat while I was growing up. We took in a stray kitten when she was a wee little thing, maybe a week or two old, a year before I moved in with hubby. It broke my heart to leave her behind. Ever since then, I have wanted to get a cat.

This week, we almost succeeded in getting one.

This is Panther. Panther showed up Monday and we got her to come inside. However, when we closed the screen door, Panther made the most pathetic, horribly sad sound I have ever heard in my life. We let Panther return to the outdoors.

Logic and Mental Illness

Sometimes, mental illness feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I have the worst of my worst days, it is easy to write off what I’m feeling as a consequence of being mentally ill. I am anguished, disconnected, and listless because I have anxiety and am depressed. There is no logical reason for me to feel so incredibly low. Therefore, it is just a thing that happens to me.

That is how I viewed my depression for a long time. There was just this cloud of sadness that followed me around, and sometimes it would come low and I would be forced to wait for the fog to clear to be able to interact with the outside world.

Any alternative solution seemed completely dismissive of what I was going through. If I divulged that I was having a hard time with my depression, I would get angry and defensive if someone asked me why I was depressed.

depressed

What do you mean, why am I depressed? I am like this because I *have depression* and my emotions aren’t logical. If I knew why I was like this, I wouldn’t be like this. Don’t you get it?

When I was diagnosed with depression several years ago, I didn’t think I viewed myself any differently. It just felt like a logical conclusion for my behavior/my personality. I accepted the label as an explanation for why it was always nigh impossible for me to get excited about anything, an explanation of why I was so passive about everything, and I moved on. The diagnosis was a means to an end; because I was depressed, I could receive therapy and try different medications.

A few months ago, I called my mother specifically because I knew I needed to go back to therapy, but I couldn’t afford it. Yes, I called my mother to ask her to pay for my therapy. It was embarrassing and the whole conversation just made me want to puke and punch things at the same time. I’d definitely say it was one of the lowest points in my life.

When we got off the phone, my mother had agreed to pay for one month of therapy. But I was infuriated. She had asked me, “what are you depressed about?”

“Well, I quit my job…  and now we could be homeless in a few months… and other things.”

“Don’t you think you’d be better off to spend your time looking for a job, then? If you’re stressed about money, spending money on therapy is probably just going to make it worse.”

“Mom… no. Did you miss the part where I was having panic attacks at my last job? I had to quit. Getting another job isn’t going to magically make me better. It’s so much more than that. I feel like I am actually losing my mind.”

At that point in the conversation, I completely lost control and started sobbing hysterically, so it took another twenty minutes for me to work up the nerve to ask for money.

The whole conversation just reinforced my belief that depression and anxiety make zero sense. In my mind, yes, they were triggered by the stress of my everyday life, but trying to say, “I am depressed because x, y, and z” would never be able to cover it. There was no explanation for what I was feeling, and trying to answer why I was broken felt like a huge slap in the face.

The next day, my mom e-mailed me and said I should try taking St. John’s wort. I had never heard of it, so I did a quick Google. This was the first thing I saw:

Psychosis is a rare but possible side effect of taking St. John’s wort.

St. John’s wort is not a proven therapy for depression. Do not use St. John’s wort to replace conventional care or to postpone seeing your health care provider. Inadequately treated depression may become severe and, in some cases, may be associated with suicide.

Um… thanks, ma? I know you’re trying to help, but this isn’t the right way to go about it. Just let me go to therapy.

The thing is, her suggestion actually fit with what I was thinking. If depression/anxiety is totally random, there’s nothing you can do about it except medicate and hope that it goes away. I have never thought that medication is my only treatment option, but I have always felt like it can’t be helped that depression is a condition that I have.

Something finally clicked in my brain this week. Last week, my therapist stressed the importance of allowing yourself to feel what you feel without guilt (something I struggle with). However, she also said (for probably the tenth time and it was only my second session with her) that one way I can help ward off panic attacks is to acknowledge what is making me anxious. Accept that my emotions are, in fact, logical and use my emotions as information.

What does this look like?

When I am nervous about taking my trash to the dumpster, I will remind myself that my reaction isn’t crazy since we’ve had so many car break-ins and we live in a rough area. I will try to not let my feelings hold me back.

When I am scared of going to the store by myself because something could happen to me, I will acknowledge that there are good reasons to be cautious. I will be grateful that I wasn’t at the mall when the shooter was there and say a prayer for the victims and their families. I won’t tell myself I’m being stupid or to get over it.

When I am angry, I will try to stop feeling guilty about being angry and not tell myself that I am overreacting. That doesn’t mean I give myself free reign to be hurtful and say horrible things when I’m angry. Rather, it means that when I am angry, I won’t tell myself that my feelings are illogical and I shouldn’t be upset.

I won’t write off doing fun things as a waste of time because I could be making money. My happiness is important and worth setting aside time for.

When I feel like I’m going to have a panic attack, I will try to tell my husband so he can help me through it instead of hiding my anxiety. I shouldn’t be ashamed.

I will try to not feel weak when I cry. When I start feeling guilty for being sad, I will remind myself that I am trying to get better.

When I wake up feeling anguished, I won’t dismiss my feelings as a side-effect of depression.

And, most importantly, I will remember that my past failures are not indicative of my future successes.

Thoughts on Square Breathing

The basic premise of meditation is that our lives are too busy and we need to take time to slow down and smell the roses. Therefore, we sit down for 15 minutes once or twice a day, focus on our breathing, and arise, fresh and ready to battle the world again.

This might work for very busy people like overbooked celebrities and mommies that just need some time alone, but for those with mental health issues, the idea of devoting more time to sitting still and being in your head does not make sense. Ideally, we want to gain momentum, not lose it.

Instead of meditating, then, the idea is to practice mindfulness. While meditation, very generally, is about letting go and learning to dismiss unwanted thoughts, mindfulness is about focusing your thoughts – thinking more actively.

If you are depressed, the best thing you can do for yourself is chase your happiness. Of course, if you are depressed, that feels impossible. Mindfulness is like taking baby steps.

This week, I was advised to try square breathing up to 6 times a day. If that seems like a lot, I would have to agree. I’m lucky if I remember to do it two or three times a day. However, I get the logic behind it.

So, what is square breathing?

Breathe in for 4 beats, hold 4 beats, breathe out 4 beats, hold 4 beats. Repeat until completed 4 times.

Super simple, right? Too simple?

For me, I do think this is too simple. I’ve played piano since I was 5 and was in choir for several years, so I have so much practice doing this that I barely have to focus to do it. That’s why, in my very unprofessional opinion, this should be modified. If you can do this and still have room to think about other things, you’re either doing it wrong or you need to make it more difficult. Count backwards, count in a different language, count backwards in a different language, count backwards in intervals of 7, etc.

If you’re wondering about the method behind the madness, let me explain further. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, so why should I bother with talk therapy or this weird mindfulness stuff when I can just take antidepressants,” I totally get it.

Think of every thought you have as a chemical reaction in your brain. If you have a bunch of sad thoughts, your brain is going to be full of sad chemicals. In a way, mindfulness helps your brain take a break from having so many incoming “sadness chemicals” because you are focused on something else. Over time, this helps improve your emotional baseline. While you’re probably not overjoyed when you practice square breathing, it makes it easier for you to be happy every day.

Ups and Downs

Picnic Point Park

Where to begin…

Sunday morning, hubby woke me up early to go see his parents. However, since it felt like I had randomly decided to do 5,000 crunches every time I moved, I stayed in bed, not moving an inch until my muscles loosened up at around 4 in the afternoon. I thought I was all better on Monday, aside from a headache. Then at around 3:30 AM I felt nauseous. I asked hubby to clean up the puke bucket while I went in the bathroom and proceeded to puke all over myself. After that, I was actually all better.

Wednesday was a super fun adventure in the land of student loans. I was working on submitting my yearly income driven repayment certification paperwork and had to help hubby figure out his federal loan situation (because now that we are married his income counts toward my ability to repay my loans). He just graduated so he had yet to even figure out who services his federal loans… It was not a fun time. We ended up going to the park to blow off some steam after that.

Yesterday, hubby’s work truck got broken into. But wait, didn’t that just happen to me like three weeks ago? Yes, yes it did. (Total car break-in count: 4.) So, hubby got to entertain the police yesterday morning. Lovely.

While he was on the phone with what seemed like nearly every person that works with him, hubby discovered a hidden benefit and I will be going to a real, in-person therapist next week. I have three free visits, so I’m going to try to make the most of them because I don’t think we will be able to afford additional ones for a while off yet.

In the evening, I finally took my test to be a search engine evaluator and I am pleased to say I passed and will be starting in a couple weeks! Taking the test was fun, though I didn’t expect the test to be as in-depth as it was. I read the first 30 pages of the manual and was like, “I know all this stuff already!” and never got to the other… 120 pages. Most of it was fairly intuitive when you read it, but the questions were still pretty tricky. Anyway, I am very excited to have another work-from-home job that is actually paid at an hourly rate and not per task.

Today, hubby and I took a few things down to the pawn shop and made $200. (We also took a few things to Half Price Books on Wednesday and got $30.) Not bad.

We also had to go to the post office so I could have a notary electronically sign that I am who I say I am for the job. The notary was amazed at how simple it was and didn’t even charge us when the fee is usually at least $10. Thank you, kind stranger.

Another thing that happened today was nearly all of the images broke on the site. That was just grand. Apparently Photobucket does not do third party image hosting anymore (I used Photobucket for years when I was still blogging on LiveJournal), so I got this email saying parts of my account were disabled and it was all around not good. So, after a wonderful morning, I got to come home and upload all of my images on Flickr and fix all the broken parts of the site. Yay.

Once all that excitement was over, I started working on my Japanese studies, but you will hear about how that is going tomorrow. For now, I need a break!

Learning Japanese

As of last night, hubby and I are working as a team to learn Japanese. So far, we have excelled at the gathering resources stage. We have books, apps, videos, websites, etc. Lack of tools will not be our downfall.

Learning Japanese will hopefully go better than my French studies. After 3 years of French in high school, my teacher retired and was not replaced, so I had the option of either starting a new language or using Rosetta Stone. I didn’t think it would make much sense to study any other language for a year and I didn’t want to be in a class with a bunch of freshmen, so I did Rosetta Stone, and it was painful. I think if you are going to use Rosetta Stone you need to be starting from nothing. Otherwise, it really isn’t going to do anything for you because as long as you know the nouns, it is easy to get the right answer.

Since high school, I have not used French at all. I don’t listen to French music, didn’t go to France while I was abroad, and don’t read anything in French. I don’t think I will have that issue once I learn Japanese because there are already a million things in Japanese that I want to read.

I think it will be fun to document our progress on the blog. Writing as a “waifu,” it only makes sense to learn Japanese and learn more about Japanese culture and history. So, I think maybe once a week I will make a summary post showing what progress we have made with our Japanese.

Of course, last night we went to a Japanese restaurant to kick off our studies. I had never been to one before. I grew up in a small town and there was just nothing like that. It was only when I moved in with my hubby that we could have tried new things like this. However, I really don’t like much seafood (though I am branching out more and more), so I didn’t think it would end well if we went to a Japanese restaurant.

I am very glad to say I was wrong. Every single food that I tried I loved. Watching the chef make everything was great, too. It made me feel like I was behind the scenes on a Food Network program. Also, I have no idea what was in the sauce they gave us for our rice, but it was addictive.

That’s all for now. Since it’s day two of our studies, there’s not much to say about what we have covered so far.

また来週

(See you next week!)

Everything I’ve Learned About Blogging (Without Actually Blogging)

I’ve made blogs. A lot of blogs. So many blogs that I feel like I should be an expert on the subject, but I still have a lot to learn. That’s why I’ve spent the last few days reading a lot of articles, “Pinning” a lot of infographs, reading a bunch of helpful blog posts, and designing (and immediately deleting) a lot of logos. I even attended a Webinar. Super fancy, huh?

If the people of the internet are to be believed, then here is what you need to do to be a successful blogger. Continue reading “Everything I’ve Learned About Blogging (Without Actually Blogging)”

Death Note

A name and a face – imagine if that were all you needed to kill someone.

When I watched Death Note for the first time, I didn’t think I would be like Light if I found a death note. I didn’t think I would ever be able to bring myself to kill someone, even if I could control exactly how it happened. No, I would never bring death upon an enemy (not that I have one), even if I could specify that they would die peacefully in their sleep after having a fulfilling evening with loved ones and a chance for all of them to have closure.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Justice is meant to be impartial – you do the crime, you do the time. And how does having more than one person decide your fate make the process more impartial? And even if the law is carried out as directed, that doesn’t mean the punishment is necessarily just. If a father murders a man that abused and killed his daughter, most juries would let him off easy, but the father would still go to prison and would still be a felon for the rest of his life. The reasoning is that it wasn’t for the father to decide that man’s fate. Instead of the father killing him, the court should have decided to either sentence the man to life in prison, rehabilitate the man so he can become a productive member of society upon release, or assign the death penalty. How is that more fair than the father getting revenge on his own?

Let’s change the example. Let’s say the man was a serial rapist and killer. Is it more just for a victim’s father to kill the man then?

Or let’s say the man was a terrorist and would kill many, many people if no one stopped him.

At what point do you switch from “playing God” to being a hero for taking out a public enemy? At what point does it become morally reprehensible to not kill the murderer when you can do it easily and painlessly?

Maybe your answer is different from mine. But I think Light may have had the right idea from the start.