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Playing Volleyball? Wear Sunscreen. Tuesday July 5, 2016

Recently I've been feeling rather pleased with myself for developing the skill of mindfulness. In those moments which don't require any extreme mental focus, I'll be thinking away freely and then every so often I'll catch one of my thoughts mid flow, stop it in its tracks, spin it around an examine it from all angles. This gives me the chance to say, "O-oh! We know where that's going to lead", chuck it away and simply choose a new thought path. Or even, "Oh! I'm being horribly mean about that person by thinking that thought. Am I projecting current feelings of insecurity onto others?"

This mental process is definitely a new skill that I'm proud of, but, as a wise woman named Mary Schmich once said "Don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either". The funny thing is, that in learning not to do the latter I have fallen into the trap of the former, and oh what a trap that can be.

It turns out that just like enjoying a long rally in a game of volleyball, sometimes it only takes a moment of lost concentration for the thought coming towards you to start tumbling until it reaches rock bottom, and it will hit the ground before you feel like you have had any power to stop it. You may even end up face-planting the sand for good measure.

So that's what happened to me tonight, during my little evening walk outside the hotel I've been living in for a month. Things have been quite emotionally difficult lately but as always, my work has provided a much needed injection of inspiration and happiness into my days. Work can often be so all consuming for me that there just isn't time for self-reflection. This can be both a blessing and a curse.

I had a wobble a couple of days ago due to a personal relationship. I thought I was better today after getting in-the-zone with my project and then as soon as I stopped, in crowded the unhealthy thoughts. They blindsided me. So much so that by the end of my twenty minute sortie this evening I was certain that the logical thing for me to do was to end my life. It was absolutely clear and made absolutely perfect sense. Face-plant. OK. That's when I felt the metaphorical sand in my teeth and heard my new mindfulness muscle finally pipe up and say "Oops! Sorry! Missed that one".

It's now much more difficult, having let the ball drop, to pick myself up off the sand, brush it out of my teeth and hair and get back in the game again. To be honest I feel like licking my wounds and removing myself from the game completely. My knees are grazed and my shoulder hurts. I'm not going to end it but I wish I could just take time out for injury. Shut it all out for a bit. That's not particularly helpful either though so here I am. Still standing. Just.

I'll say it again: "Don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. All your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's". Thank you Mary Schmich, who was the original writer of the lyrics "Wear Sunscreen" so often attributed to Baz Luhrmann. Thankfully at least, she still gets the royalties. A wise woman indeed.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Debs Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 6:28am

Fantastic blog Anna! The face plant metaphor is brilliant! I'm going to remember that. Mindfulness and meditation have been an essential part of my recovery and I'm really amazing by the simplicity and effectiveness when they are used daily. They are like pressing the pause button so that some perspective can be gained. Thank you for such a wise and funny start to the day xx

Anna Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 9:53am

Thank you for your kind words Debs. I like the idea of pressing pause too x

Orangeblossom Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 7:23am

Thanks for the blog Anna. It is encouraging & thought provoking. I reckon that maintaining the balance between self-congratulations & self-berating is a difficult process. It is like walking a tightrope, a skill to daily practice.

Anna Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 9:54am

I'm glad it was encouraging Orangeblossom x

Hopeful One Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 8:02am

Hi Anna- wow its hard to believe that ' So much so that by the end of my twenty minute sortie this evening I was certain that the logical thing for me to do was to end my life. It was absolutely clear and made absolutely perfect sense." One should be grateful that mindfulness made you realise that was only a thought and you allowed it to pass without getting involved in it.That's the thing about thoughts particularly negative one's as they have so much traction or pull that one needs that head space which mindfulness creates to recognise for what they are.

Could you please explain to this ignorant person what is face plant?

Hope this brings in a sense of proportion too.

A linguistics lecturer Oxford was lecturing his class on grammatical rules which cannot be broken. “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a positive. Contrastingly, in some languages such as Russian, a double negative still remains a negative. However, there isn’t a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”

S Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 8:35am

I love this joke- my favourite ever! Thanks HO! Sx PS I think a face want is when you fall over forward face to the floor- I think it is a word used in snowboarding quite a lot at the beginning.

Jul Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 8:53am

Agree with S..this is my favourite or near the top. Julxx

Hopeful One Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 9:02am

Hi S - thanks for the explanation. Two satisfied clients - it's made one's ' day!

Anna Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 9:55am

Indeed, Hopeful one, the traction you describe is so true with unhelpful thoughts. I think recognising them before they get really nasty is the key x

LillyPet Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 8:17am

Thanks for the reminder about balance Anna.
I am in turmoil mentally, face in the sand and wanting to get back up and attack the opposition with vengence! My innerself knows that it's not a good idea. I thought, "dont rise to it, rise above it", but that feels like "turn the other cheek" and it doesnt work for me.
Your mindfullness suggestion seems like a good idea. It's better not to decide anything when my emotions are running high. My mind needs a rest.
It's a bright warm day. I can hear the distant hum of a plane, birds going about their day and so must I. I think I'll wear a nice bracelet to remind me to come back to restful mindfulness today.
Peace to all, LPxx

S Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 8:36am

Wishing you restful mindfulness today LP Sx

Jul Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 8:52am

Hi Lillypet. I keep meaning to tell you how I am always thinking of you every time I go out on my bike and struggle to hear 5 things. Until you mentioned in one of your comments or blogs,trying for 5 (I used to listen out for 4), it was so easy but now I can really concentrate for that last noise! The sheep bleat, I can hear cars and the birds screech (usually crows or seagulls) plus my bike will bump over the grass but that 5th eludes me until a light aircraft provides that long awaited hovering sound. It's a little thing to write about here but in view of Anna's mindfulness blog, I remembered how I wanted to thank you. I know you are having a hard time with a colleague again. It will pass. Just keep being yourself. You'll get there in the end. Julxx

Anna Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 9:57am

Lillypet I am so sorry to hear this. I love your blogs and often don't get the time to comment (today is my first day off in two weeks out here). I'm glad you feel you can share this and hope today is better for you. I love the idea of a bracelet to remind you. Enjoy the small things today x

LillyPet Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 5:32pm

Thanks S x

LillyPet Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 5:40pm

Thanks Jul, I hope it passes, I'll hold on to that. Glad you've got into finding that fifth sound! LP xx

LillyPet Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 5:44pm

Thanks Anna xx

Lexi Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 6:55pm

sending a big hug from across the pond LillyPet.xoxo Lexi

S Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 8:33am

Thank you so much Anna! I find this a very hard balance to strike. I understand how easy it is to suddenly feel that there is only one way out and I am so glad that you picked yourself up from the sand. The moment where you drop the ball you described so well - it's weird, sometimes it happens fir me because I step out of a flow and into a thought if that makes sense? Thank you so much for sharing - it has really helped me, Sx

Anna Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 9:58am

I'm so glad to hear it has helped you S, and thank you for your kind comments. Yes it makes sense entirely about stepping out of flow. Hope you're doing well right now x

Jul Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 9:05am

Hello Anna. Staying in a hotel for a month must feel lonely at times. I used to stay in hotels abroad but for two weeks at a time and all my colleagues stayed in the same hotel and we went out most evenings. But I still felt lonely late at night. I find mindfulness useful for taking my attention away from the conversations going round in my head. However I don't cling onto it as a cure all. It's very helpful for dispersing unwelcome thoughts for a few minutes but I depend more on Moodscope and my instincts and friends for helping me with my problems. I used to find Mindfulness a bit like homework in that I berated myself if I hadn't practised it 3 times a day. Now I am much more casual towards it and do it when I think about it, when my mind needs a break from all its whirling thoughts. Good luck Anna. I hope your hotel stay will end soon and you can enjoy a summer break Jul x x

Anna Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 10:03am

Hi Jul, It sounds like you practiced mindfulness in a much more disciplined way than me when you were doing it three times a day. For me, after years of talking therapy and a bit of self-help, I learnt to recognise the nasty "voice" in me and separate it out from the less judgemental me. I didn't even think of it as mindfulness to start with but very gradually I think I developed new neural pathways that provided a little cul de sac off the downward spiralling thoughts that would end destructively, if that makes sense, and that was my moment of pause. My mindfulness muscle that say, hang on, wait a minute, this is leading somewhere dangerous. So it's not that I'm doing any daily practice anymore, it's just a new way of checking my thoughts. One of the other massive things that I got out of therapy was to have one or two close friends who I check in with, and who I'm lucky enough to have check in with me, about my mood. And moonscape helps too of course! Yes hotels can be a bit lonely. I have a lovely team of five and we laugh and sing a lot on car journeys but it does get a bit un-homely after a while. Thanks for your comments x

Anna Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 10:04am

Excuse typos! And just to add, clearly the new cup de sac I've made doesn't always work, hence the blog!

Leah Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 9:07am

This is a very honest and refreshing blog. I am glad mindfulness has helped you.
I am never exactly sure if I am doing it properly,because I am not sure what mindfulness really is despite reading nuch about it.
All I seem to manage is some deep breathing.
I have never understood why I would want to be in the moment when it is a difficult moment. Mindfulness sometimes feels contrived and artificial but everyone says that it works so well for them so I keep trying.
I liked the way you used the volley ball analogy. Anna you have managed to write another thoughtful blog.

Mary Wednesday Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 9:14am

"I was certain that the logical thing for me to do was to end my life. It was absolutely clear and made absolutely perfect sense." Oh yes - that's it exactly. How many times I have been there with you on that sand! Bless you for getting up again. I'm not a fan of volleyball - but I absolutely get your analogy of spinning those thoughts and batting them away. Great blog and - respect - getting up and spitting out sand is tough. Go easy on those grazes!

Anna Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 10:05am

Thank you so much Mary M. It's nice to feel encouraged and reassuring that you can relate to such a horrible moment x

Jennie Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 10:04am

Anna .Thankyou for your blog .These things pass ,look forwards and try to re-focus your thoughts.It can really alarm you ,and it seems particularly hard when it comes after a long period of calm.Things will settle down again xxxx

Anna Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 10:06am

Thank you Jennie. It's helpful to remember these things. I'm already getting back on track I think x

The Gardener Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 4:57pm

Relationships taking odd turns - in 'no man's land' think one is, when visiting. Talked and drank too much with d-in-lqw too much last e - a volatile character whose has gone from hate letters to extreme friendliness over the years - approach with caution - bite tongue when she overloads already overloaded son. People seem suddenly so sad - does not look as will see first adopted daughter at all - she has 4 friends she contacts every day, and that's it. My Ma had 4 sisters parked round the M25 - any suggestion of visiting them was met with a refuusal, they might be getting old! Nearly had the same regret, meeting a very old friend for lunch and her life is grim. Son lazy, daughter suffered alcoholism - husband profoundly deaf but has all his other senses. He is acting like my Alzheimer husband - angry with the world and taking it out on their wives. When I saw her I was shocked, she was shrunk, mentally more than physically. Reading Lillypet - I'm not too good on mindfulness, but it seems wicked to waste the 'talents' you have got. the 'sand between the teeth' can be brushed out, to let a gleaming smile appear, despite the inner turmoil

LillyPet Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 6:02pm

Thanks TG, you're so right. I will bounce back, I've been ok for so long, I can't let this set back drag me down. Your comment made me smile :) xx

LillyPet Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 6:03pm

Thanks TG, you're so right. I will bounce back, I've been ok for so long, I can't let this set back drag me down. Your comment made me smile :) xx

The Gardener Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 5:06pm

When speaking of the talents YOU have got pronouns confused, not personal to Lillypet. Just beginning to think of home - and whether I have regained enough inner strength to make our life as pleasant as possible in the very negative situation - I now know that I am mentally in better shape than my friend - she could do what I have just done, but what seems her misplaced sense of duty will stop her.

Lexi Tue, Jul 5th 2016 @ 7:00pm

Beautiful post Anna. And I'm so glad you got up from the sand. I'm right there, brushing it from your hair and clothes and saying in my best coach voice "Get back in there! You got this!" xo lexi

Anonymous Wed, Jul 6th 2016 @ 6:46pm

Anna thank you for this post. I hit the same conclusion myself last week, and found myself rather deeply scared and distressed. I'd battled deep depression for many years, including thoughts and wishes to end my life, and I thought I'd moved light-years beyond that. It came as quite a blow to suddenly find myself thinking "maybe I just shouldn't be here, then".

Luckily, things have been quite good for a while, and so I was able to catch the thought and give myself a handful of reasons it was nonsense. I also immediately spoke with a friend about what I was feeling. The feeling was persistent and kept reasserting itself from new angles through the week, but I kept deflecting it and reminding myself that things don't have to be black-and-white.

Lots of rest helped get me clear my head. Literally sleeping a ton for two days, watching a lot of movies, getting out into the sun. Reminding myself that life doesn't have to be big, and that there's so much to enjoy and so many ways to contribute.

I'm safe, but this was a reminder that I have a lot more work to do in accepting myself and weathering the stresses of life. While I'm really sorry for that bad patch and the scare you likely had with this experience, I'm equally grateful that you've shared your story. It helps to know that others bump into this and can pick themselves back up to carry on again.

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