Nerd Club: Why I love to read

I’m cramming visual and quote together again – from my very favorite author.  In case you don’t know too much about Stephen King, he really does write books that aren’t gory or scary. Sometimes. Other times he does write things that are gory or scary, and that’s okay too. I like it all!

I think his quote is completely true, too. How else can you transport yourself into someone else’s life or world so easily? The nice thing is, you can set your book down, go take care of some pressing business, and then hop right back in. I do that a lot. Sometimes I’ll set a timer and just give myself some time to read. So there! One minute, I’m folding laundry, the next minute I’m back engrossed in whatever is going on in my book.  What, you’re hungry? Hold on a sec. One more page…

Right now, in fact, I’m such a nerd that I’m re-reading the whole Dark Tower series. If you  haven’t read this, I highly recommend it. Definitely my favorites (King or otherwise) – though if you want a stand-alone book, my favorite is The Stand.  No pun intended. But I digress.

So, I’ve been in a book club for years now – which Better Half calls “Nerd Club”.  The other moms in my club are definitely not nerds though – unless by “nerd” you mean “fabulously smart and cool”.  You know who you are!

I am pretty sure he secretly wishes he had a Nerd Club too.  It’s fun to read, of course. But it’s also fun to talk about what you’ve read.  We’re not the super-serious-read-the-discussion-questions type of club. It’s only somewhat about what we’re reading, and more about hanging out together and catching up. A lot of times we’re an hour into it and someone says, “So, who read the book?”  We are supposed to get together every month, and occasionally get a decent stretch going –  but sometimes I don’t get to the books for a while. I keep the list of what I was supposed to read, though because I figure eventually I may get to them.

The whole e-reader thing, I’m ambivalent about. I like certain books on my Kindle, but then I really like having a “real” book too. If it’s a book for work, I like to write notes or underline or whatever, and you can do that with a Kindle, true,  but somehow it’s not the same.  I know, it’s more ecologically friendly to use my Kindle.  Also, I make liberal use of the library, but sometimes I have to wait too long for the book. Then it’s thanks, Amazon!

Sometimes when I’m feeling all put-upon or overwhelmed or whatever, those few minutes feel like a lifesaver. Sort of a “reset” button. Either the book is distracting and interesting, or maybe it’s about someone who is going through a really tough time (= feel better by comparison) or maybe it’s funny, or thought-provoking. Even when I’m really busy I always find some time to read, and I think I’m happier because of it.

I got to see one of my very best friends recently for dinner, and after we were done we walked through a bookstore, both getting all excited about whatever book we’d read or heard was good. She’s in a book club too, so I get ideas from her for mine. It was a nice end to our visit and I came away with 5 or 6 more books to read. Gold mine!

I’m embracing my inner nerd.

 

A funny for your Friday: That dangerous dihydrogen monoxide!

No excuses, no excuses. I know the posts have been few and far between. I won’t blame crazy busy schedule or whatever. It is what it is.

Lately I’ve been seeing (of course) lots of political propaganda on my FB feed, as well as the ubiquitous warnings about what to eat/not eat/buy/not buy, etc. I’m sure some of this is true, and some of it is mostly true, and some of it has a grain of truth, and some of it is just plain false.

This one made me laugh, so I thought I’d share in hopes you’d have a Friday laugh, too. Because as we all know, laughter is one of the best medicines, and definitely one of the leading causes of smidges of happiness.

Why you’ll never be happy all the time – Part Three

If you can’t have it, you’ve got it. – Steve Hayes

A  while back, I asked what we were supposed to do about all those nagging thoughts yapping away in our brains – the wondering, the what-ifs, the criticism, the annoyance, basically all the thoughts we try not to have if we want to live our days in some semblance of happiness.

Because we all know we can’t be happy if we have junk flying around in our heads. Right? Or can we?

My dissertation was a lovely little number about the benefits of emotional expression in adolescents with asthma.  It took forever to complete, and many was the day I cursed myself for ever having decided to do it, but I’m so glad I finished (for many reasons, one of which being I got to graduate).  One of the most interesting things I learned about was how expressing our emotions can actually lead to physical health improvements.  Especially if expressing these emotions is difficult, and not something we often do readily – stuff we aren’t likely to just blurt out at the next social gathering.

It turns out that when we don’t express ourselves, it’s work – it takes energy to suppress all those thoughts and feelings.  This might not surprise you, but the extent to which this could tap into various body systems and affect health was really intriguing to me.  There’s actually a term alexithymia that refers to people who (among other traits) really struggle to identify and express emotions in themselves and others – and this leads to a higher association with medical and psychiatric conditions.   Dr. Mark Lumley at Wayne State has a research lab that focuses heavily on stress reduction through emotional disclosure, and if you are so inclined,you can check out what his lab is doing now. Yep, I was one of his students.

So, what to do with all those thoughts? Wrangle friends, relatives, random passers-by and unload?  Write about them? Talk to yourself in the car or when you’re alone in the house? Well, we can do that. And the writing especially may have some benefit, particularly if we can come to some better understanding of the situation that’s troubling us.  But then again sometimes we feel we’re just buying into all the problems and worries and giving them even more attention. Sometimes we feel we’ve hashed it out aplenty, and now what?

Should we shove the thoughts we don’t like in a mental box?  Have you ever tried to shove thoughts in a box? I have. Let’s try it:

TRY NOT TO THINK OF A WHITE ELEPHANT

What did you just think of? Uh huh.  Now try not to think of a lemon. Or whatever. As soon as you think “Don’t think about X” your brain makes all sorts of connections to X.   It’s just how our brains work.  They are wonderful meaning-making, connection-creating machines.  No white elephants. Okay, what about gray elephants? They’re not white ele…oh crap. Okay, how about a rhino? They’re different from elephants because…darn it!  Pretty soon you’re thinking of white elephants or lemons or what a loser you are (you’re not!) even more than you would have, had you not been trying so hard.

Talking back to the negative thoughts sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?  And sometimes it works, but as we are refuting the statements we’re still attending to them, just like when I said I thought of a rhino which clearly isn’t a white elephant…and I just thought about a white elephant again!  The Steve Hayes quote above sort of fits into this idea – the thing we say we can’t have or handle in our lives…we’ve got them. The more we fight against them and say we can’t be happy until they’re fixed, the more they stay.

But we don’t want to just embrace the crummy thoughts. I’m not saying buy into all that garbage.  What if there’s another alternative?  What if we can let the thoughts come and go, and just observe them? This is the essence of mindfulness and nonjudgment – and it’s VERY hard to do at first. We tend to get dragged into evaluations and “fusion” with (to use an ACT term) these thoughts and feelings. We even start calling ourselves the feeling or thought: I’m anxious. I’m mad. I’m depressed. I’m elated. I’m curious. Whatever it may be.  No, you’re not mad. You’re a person who is feeling angry feelings right now.  See the difference?  The hard part is to put some distance between ourselves as the person noticing the thoughts/feelings and those thoughts/feelings themselves.

One way to make some space between you and your thoughts or emotions, after noticing them, is to name them. I’m noticing I’m worried about getting the budget in on time, etc.  Right away, that creates a little distance.  There are more activities and ideas to try, but that’s a good start.

I picked this picture for today’s post because it looks so simple and it’s actually so hard to do. But bit by bit, we can get there, at least some of the time!

Feeling Grand, or Insignificant?

I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor. –D.H. Lawrence

Time has been short lately for blogging, but just for fun, here’s a link I think you’ll like (how’s that for alliteration?)

The Scale of the Universe 2

Some guys a LOT smarter than I am (namely Cary and Michael Huang) created this little adventure. Starting at human-size, you can zoom in to all sorts of magically tiny bits, or zoom out to scales unimaginable. My personal favorites are the bacteriophage and the disclaimer “lengths shorter than this are not confirmed.”  Come ON! Who figures this stuff out? I can barely figure out the tip at a restaurant.

So on the one hand, you can feel quite grand and huge, knowing all these tiny amazing things are inside you. And then you can feel ridiculously insignifcant, seeing how you stack up to the length of a light-year and such.

This is the stuff that keeps me up at night, sometimes. Other times, it’s to-do lists. I’m not sure which is worse.  I guess when I’m feeling like things are too big, I focus on the little things, like making sure the laundry is done, and scrubbing the kitchen countertops. I’m with D.H. Lawrence on this one.

Anyhow, enjoy your day and ponder what all is inside and outside of you…