Good News: People are Figuring This Out Younger

An artistic rendition of a giraffe, made up of many different colored shapes.If you are facing a crisis of livelihood | identity | values | reality orientation, check out this article: How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)

It pleases me to see a 29 year-old figuring out what I didn’t figure out until 59. I kinda thought I sensed a cultural paradigm shift, but I feared that was just wishful thinking. I am reassured.

So, why is there a psychedelic giraffe in this post? I thought it was because I saw it on Pixabay today, loved it, and was too impatient to share it to wait until I wrote some post for which it is a relevant visual analogy. But maybe it’s a relevant visual analogy for THIS post after all…

Teachings of the Bubble Shooter

Screnshot of a half-finished bubble shooter gameLife lessons can come from unexpected sources – snippets of overheard conversation in a public place, serendipitous discoveries while channel surfing, surprising insights from acquaintances who didn’t seem to be paying that much attention.

And then there’s the bubble shooter. Bubble shooters have everything I like in a game – color, shape, matching. And they avoid most of what I don’t like. Despite the shooting, nothing gets hurt. The bubbles don’t even break.

But the best thing about bubble shooters is that they cut right to core truths that should have been obvious but weren’t. Here are a few things bubble shooter games have taught me.

That deer in the headlights is me.

I wasn’t really conscious of just how disabling time pressure is to me until I started playing with bubble shooters. It stops me cold. I become flustered, make mistakes and miss opportunities. When I ended up stuck for months on levels where decisions must be made 100% swiftly and accurately to advance, I realized I hadn’t paid enough attention to the impact of time pressure on the rest of my life. I switched professions (and found some non-timed bubble shooter games).

Some things in life are harder, and that’s OK (within reason).

Check the reviews of any bubble shooter game, and you’ll find people complaining about how the bubbles don’t go where you point them. This is intentional, of course. Easy levels are fun and affirming, but if they were all easy, there would be no sense of achievement. After awhile, success without effort would become boring. On the other hand, if every level was difficult, the game would be arduous and dispiriting. I have sometimes wished for an obstacle-free “rest” life when the scales were tipped too heavily towards adversity, but I ultimately discovered I need a balance of accomplishment and challenge to be happy.

Get your priorities straight.

What bubble shooters revealed about the randomness (and ineffectiveness) of my tactics shocked me, but it did explain a lot. I have spent most of my life feeling confused about priorities. Or so I thought. Actually, my priorities were fine, I just lacked the confidence to follow through on them. I never realized how badly this messed up my life until I noticed how frequently I chose an action that would end a game instead of one that would continue it, even when I could easily predict these outcomes. This was not so much self-sabotage as cognitive dissonance between my behavior and my goals. Bubble shooters taught me to become conscious of my top priorities, and properly weight them to take precedence over everything else.

The ad-free version is worth the 99¢.

I played a favorite game for years, fuming at the distracting, annoying, and sometimes outright offensive ads, ranting about them in reviews, even downloading other apps to try and suppress them. The ad-free version was only 99¢, but I was damned if I was going to be harassed into buying something. Finally, I really looked at that decision and realized how bizarre (and more than a little control-freaky) it was to view paying a buck for something that gave me hours of pleasure as losing a power struggle.

Sooner or later you will conquer even the hardest levels.

This is the most telling lesson of all. I have been stuck for weeks or even months at the same level, playing it hundreds of times, often with steadily diminishing hope that I would ever make it through. And yet, I always did, eventually. When I learned to regard failure as an essential stage of generating new strategies, I finally found one that worked.

Overlapping circles of color against a pastel background

Looking Up from the Bottom of the Year

A closeup of the sun against a dark sky showing solar flares, and a silhouette of long grass at the bottom.
When poets refer to the “dark night of the soul,” or gasp “more light!” with their dying breath, I know exactly how they feel. As a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder, my personal objective each winter is:

Just get through it.

So it will probably not surprise anyone that today, the Winter Solstice, is my favorite holiday. Last night was the longest night (and shortest day) of the year. Starting today, each span of daylight gets a little bit longer for the next 6 months. There is another month or more of chilly weather ahead, but I made it through the bottom of the year, a very heartening milestone.

The head of a roaring bearWinter with SAD is an endless round of rediscovering, when I notice that I have become snappish and utterly unmotivated, that I need to tend to my light therapy, get my sleep cycle back on a reasonable schedule, and/or spend more time outdoors. I don’t even try to curb my carbohydrate consumption. With the limited energies of the season, I have to pick my battles.

What would it be like to live on the equator, with 12 hour days and 12 hour nights year round? The consistency would be a relief, but I’d sure miss the 16 hour days at the other end of the year.

I have tried to calculate what shape and orbit and tilt would be required for a planet with my ideal weather (58-72 degrees, 365 sunny days a year and rain only at night), but my limited knowledge of astronomy fails me. And honestly, if it’s impossible, I don’t want to know. We all need our winter dreams.

Plant-covered stone sculpture of woman sleeping stretched out on the ground as if she is halfway under the earth.

In Which, At Last, My Ship Arrives

After six years of integrating a new understanding of my own character, the last three of which were focused on an agonizingly slow career evolution, things are looking up. My new profession finally gelled, and a lot of other things that were on hold along with it are finally flowing too.
An old time sailing ship on a calm sea
I started this blog hoping for such an outcome, and also hoping that sharing my process along the way would be useful to others. It didn’t quite work out that way, especially for the past couple of years. The things that were getting in the way of my working life also got in the way of my blogging life.

And the Answer Is…

An elaborate old metal key on a rusty chainI’d give you the magical life-fixing key, but it turns out I had it all along, and you probably do too. The trick is having enough faith to try it in the door.

If there is a secret, it’s self-acceptance. Reconsidering personality through the prisms of introversion, sensory processing sensitivity, and Clifton Strengths helped me give myself permission to be who I am, and to build my life around my own physical and emotional comfort, without drowning in guilt or shame.

It still feels a little daring just to write that. What’s so horrible about needing to feel respected at work, anyway? No one would find that excessive in a man. But the female role monster lurks in corners, ready to pounce on me for my unwomanly egotism.

This is Your New Life

My new life is a lot like my old one. I still have to stick to my depression management program. I still struggle with internalized critical voices, and the stresses of being an HSP introvert in a mostly unsympathetic culture.

And yet, it feels different. Things I have been visualizing for years (if not decades), are finally coming to pass. I followed my own drummer, and it turned out OK. It seemed like every other decision was waiting for that affirmation. I was afraid to let go of other things, even when they were weighing me down, whether unneeded possessions or short term jobs I hated. My backup plan was failure. Some security!
A dirt road through an open savannah curves in the distance towards the clearing sky and a lone tree
This isn’t the end of Sensitive Type, because it isn’t the end of a road. More like another twist on the spiral. Progress is so incremental, and there will be other challenges and other deepenings, I’m sure. See you then.

DissStress

For anyone who is still thinking that stress is an attitude, and you just have to get over it, this article discusses the surprisingly extensive research on how traumatic childhood experiences impact lifelong health prognosis. The effects are pretty dramatic and apply to a lot of people. Certain interventions are also dramatic in their effectiveness, yet the findings have not been well-integrated into treatments, much less into prevention. What are health and human service professionals waiting for?
The head of a statue lies on the ground. It has cracked vertically down the center of the face, and one side has slipped downward so that the two sides are skewed.

The truth is, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps will only take you as far as your ankles. For a list of traumas, open the Data and Statistics tab on this page, and click on ACEs Definitions. When you’re done with that, check out ACEs Prevalence, and then ask yourself whether we are really focusing on the right problems in our political lives.

I Know I’m an HSP Because… I’d Rather Be Barefoot

I’ve always hated restrictive clothing – clothes that cling, clothes that bunch, clothes that bind, lady shirts with sleeves set so you can’t raise your arms above 30 degrees from your side, tight cuffs, and shoes. Especially shoes. I lose the shoes the minute I walk in my front door, and shed additional uncomfortable clothing all the way to the bedroom.

Luckily, the Asian/hippie-inspired 70s, and the mysterious popularity of fragile water-based floor finishes begat a new convention of leaving shoes at the door in many American households, so my barefootedness isn’t weird anymore.

A middle-aged woman in a business suit and bare feet sits and reads a book at the beach

Depression is Not a Personality Type

Depression is not a personality type. It is a painful, confusing, exhausting, and PREVENTABLE impairment of the most important organ in your body.

A statue of a sensitive young face. The statue has been broekn and repaired, so that there are cracks, and small pieces missing from the face.