Category Archives: you’re doing it wrong

Do the anxiety (fixed version)

*quick apology: Sorry to anyone who experienced any errors the first time this went out. I was trying a new offline up loader and made a mistake.

Anxiety. It’s what I do.

To the people who know me this might not seem right. I don’t usually appear too anxious, apart from the fact that I talk pretty fast (but that’s also a relic of my childhood stutter) or sometimes I may seem busy. But those who know me really well know I can be a very anxious person.

I hid it well. Actually, I don’t really hide it at all- it’s similar to someone who gets overwhelmed and zones out. That’s how I deal with a lot of anxiety. I zone out. As an unintended side effect I appear to be cool.

There is a secret to doing anxiety well. That secret? Be anxious about things you can’t change. It’s perfect! By worrying about something you have no control over you will be perpetually worried, perpetually occupied. Plus, 99.9% of things in your life you have no control over anyway, so you never have to worry about running out of things to worry about. Also, shallow quick breathing does wonders for destroying any sense of calm. Try it! No, seriously, don’t.

I am in one an anxiety vortex as of late. I am stuck in a moment in time where I have huge changes coming (leaving my job, moving to start grad school again), any number of things to worry about, and essentially zero influence on any of it (at least at this moment). It’s the doldrums of anxiety – no movement in our out. Just sitting.

Sometimes I can simply recognize this happening. At that point I try to jump start myself out of it by visualizing things working out perfectly, by just focusing on doing something else that I can have control over (writing a blog works perfectly there), spending time with others, and meditation (that really works- it’s like Drain-o for your brain). But sometimes, despite my best efforts, my brain won’t listen. It’s like muscle memory movement, but instead of muscle it’s my neurons repeating the same paths over and over again. Or, sometimes I just don’t realize what is happening. Despite the familiar surroundings I just don’t recognize how much anxiety I am holding.

Then, like a curtain being thrown open, the anxiety is dissipated by an outside force. Usually different things can cause this, but a majority of the time it is music. Just a few simple notes and I am grounded. Add in a few deep breaths and it’s all good.

Today, I had one of those brain Drain-o moments where everything was un-clogged, and I was suddenly relaxed, okay with how things are going. So I will share it with you.

-ASG

Technology vs. memories

“Remember when we would get picture prints and the first print off of every roll was your ‘goofy-face’ test picture?”- Angela to me.

Yes, I do. And I miss them. A lot. How did I forget about those? It’s weird how some of the details of your own life can fade over time yet you don’t recognize that they have faded.

Wait. They didn’t fade. They were replaced. By this.

Fun destroyer.

Thanks to technology, I don’t need to take a goofy first-of-the-roll-test-pic to make sure the film is advancing properly. Bummer.

I wonder what else I am going to miss out on? Yeah, goofy pics aren’t a huge thing to miss out on, and I won’t miss the pics themselves (at least not too much). What I will miss is the 30 seconds of laughing with my wife over how ridiculous I look.

I also miss photo albums. Real photo albums. With actual photos. Sure, I have a gigantic collection of pics on my PC, and I can view them anytime. But, I never clean them out. They’re unorganized. There are just too many. Plus, I have to be logged on to my computer to have other people view them. It would be kinda weird for a friend to just pick up my laptop and start looking through my digital libraries. But somehow it would be okay if I had a photo album filled with all my personal memories and people could thumb through that.

So what else does technology accidentally replace? Hmm . . .

-Face to face conversations. Because, either they’re not face to face anymore (i.e. Facebook, which I try to avoid for many reasons) or if you are face to face with someone, they’re looking at a screen and texting someone else.

-Music. Yeah, music got a lot of benefits from tech, but it also loses something (see this CNET article). Also, anything with ‘auto-tune’ involved should not also be labeled music.

– Your social life. Especially if you are an online gamer. Especially if that game has anything involving dragons.

– Your marriage. Especially if you are an online gamer. Especially if that game has anything involving dragons.

– Seinfeld. Well, not directly, but this should explain it.

– Your memory.

Currently Angela and I are working on re-building our photo albums. I want to have something physical to pass down to my kids one day. Somehow I imagine handing over a hard-drive with a hearty “Here ya go, son.” Just won’t be as meaningful as hard-copies of pictures.

The picture I found that started this whole thing. Circa 2005.

-ASG

Dilemma of choice

Options. Choices. Alternatives. Stresses.

I love ’em. Even if I don’t/won’t use them, I just gotta have ’em. In everything.

Just take a look around my home. Two laptops. Two types of coffee, with two ways to brew them. Two different work bags. Multiple pairs of shoes. Multiple boxes of cereal. Three MP3 players. Two external hard drives (hey, that’s practical). Two beard trimmers, four types of shaving cream, two types of razors (and one has multiple types of blades). Two types of undershirts. I even wear two types of underwear (boxers and boxer briefs, now you know).

English: A modern safety razor, based on the c...
A safety razor, which I have about 10 types of blades for. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anytime I buy a new item, I want whatever version gives me the most options. It’s all about flexibility, really. I like my stuff to be utilitarian, and usable in many different situations. I blame my parents, well, actually I blame Boy Scouts. “Be Prepared” is the motto. So I am.

But why? Why do I have 5 different jackets when I live in Georgia? Yeah, I’ll be moving to New York state soon and they’ll definitely come in use there, but that was an unforeseeable change. They’ve been essentially useless to me. Is it materialism? Eh . . . maybe. I really do think that it comes down to my inner anxiety about any new situation. Gotta be prepared! Gotta have all the angles covered! But why?

Why not just roll with it? What do all those options matter? Occasionally I suffer from option paralysis (and not the awesome math-metal album by Dillinger Escape Plan, which I’m sure many people would count listening to as a form of suffering). No, I’m talking not being able to pick out an outfit because I am endlessly going through the combinations of pants/shirt/shoe/tie combinations in my head. My wife has seen it happen.

Cover of "Option Paralysis (Dig)"
Cover of Option Paralysis. Warning: Album May Kill You

It’s borderline obsessive compulsive. It get this inner compulsion to just check, to see if there are other options I am missing out on. There always are.

Enter this blog. I spent soo much time today pouring over other themes (that is, pre-packaged design templates) for this blog. Which ones had the best gallery looks, custom headers, post types, blah, blah, blah. I got this way because I was thinking that my current theme wasn’t customizable enough, that maybe there were other ones that would have better color schemes, more readability, easier accessibility, etc. Through my search I realized that the current theme was actually pretty customizable, and just like that, *snap*, I was out of my frenzy, content with this theme.

I could easily be one of those people who hoards stuff, waiting for the “just in case” moment when I need to use it.  Thank God for my need for aesthetic simplicity. I can’t stand a bunch of stuff just sitting everywhere. If Angela would allow it my whole house would look like a Zen monastery, with clean lines and no clutter. At least that’s what I like to think. Why can’t I snap out of it the rest of the time?

I think sometimes I just need to breathe. Just take a moment, breathe, and ground myself in the here and now. Not in all these future possibilities, not in all the possible combinations or uses of something, but it the now. Not judging, hoping, or worrying, but just living.

Anyway, what do you think?  What in your life do you have trouble making decisions over?

Prevention is a car crash

So . . . I have this idea. Read it all before you get angry.

It goes like this- I am tired of having to pay the extra cost for a seat belt every time I buy a car. I mean, I know they supposedly prevent injuries, but everyone knows you can’t prove prevention. I mean, you’d have to be able to view alternate realities or something to say that, with absolute certainty, a seat belt prevented a specific injury in a specific crash.

And, for that matter, air bags too. I mean, c’mon  . . . in this nation of vanity we live in do we actually need inflatable pillows to save our precious faces? How vain. Imagine the amount of money car manufacturers could save by not including these so-called “safety” devices. I’d bet millions, maybe billions over time.

Really, the money should go into more important things . . . like paying for the bills of people injured in wrecks, especially those people who were in vehicles that did not have air bags or seat belts. I mean, these people are injured or dying . . . right now! Why waste the money on preventing injuries that, in all honesty, no one can truly predict, when we have people suffering in the present? Not to mention the years of physical therapy that car crash injuries might need. I’m sure if we just stopped putting in seat belts and airbags  we could pay off the bills for everyone in the hospital right this moment.

Phew . . . it’s a good thing we really aren’t as stupid as all that . . . or are we?

Imagine if I replaced all the above instances of air bags and seat belts with preventative measures for reducing drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, generational poverty, mental illness, family violence, depression, anxiety, etc, etc, etc. That is the reality of our present situation. Effective family interventions, individual and family therapy, and preventative programs exist for all of the above. Yet, no one supports them. Not insurance. Not government. Rarely do religious groups. In fact, most people think that these preventative measures are fluff programs, only to be used/funded when extra money is handy (and we all know that is hardly ever the case).

I sometimes wonder, as a practicing therapist, how much money would be saved if insurance, government, businesses, etc., would step up and provide preventative treatments for clientele. How much money would be saved by breaking the poverty cycle when a child is young or if a drug offender could be kept out of prison for a lifetime. I wonder what benefit our economy would have from more people being more engaged in the workplace not zombified on psycho-pharmaceuticals, not simply just getting by due to depression or anxiety.

Investment in preventative programs is minimal. The agency I work at spends, on average $11 per client, and that is for all services, not just preventative ones. A recent quote I saw put the California spending per inmate at $47,000 per year.  I wonder what half of that type of money would do for a family in crisis, or a student from a broken home headed for substance abuse or gang life, or for a young child who has never been outside his/her impoverished community.

Not to mention the human suffering. Children neglected because of the addictions of the parents. Gang related deaths. Children suffering in silence through sexual abuse of strangers, friends, and family. The list goes on . . .

Of course I believe in the use of seat belts and airbags, their benefit is undeniable. To even say “believe in” when talking about such measures almost sounds funny because it is so concretely apparent that, belief or no belief, seat belts and air bags do far more good than not having them at all.

Yet, people still don’t “believe in” various forms of therapy, community interventions, etc., despite the overwhelming empirical and statistical evidence that they work. I would argue that they often cost less than implementing programs after the fact. Recovery is always a slow process, but prevention almost never is.

What gives? How many more children have to be sexually abused? How many more mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters have to die of an overdose?

Do we really prefer to pay for the surgeries when a simple seat belt would suffice?

-ASG

Give Google+ the finger?

I recently read an article on TechCrunch about Google+ censoring pics uploaded by users. I love TechCrunch, so it pains me to write this post. But only a little.

Let me first state that I think it is stupid that Google+ censored some pictures of people giving the middle finger. Of all things to try to censor, flipping a bird seems like weak sauce. But, Google+ has the right. There, I said it.

Everyday millions (maybe billions?) of people upload tons of user content to websites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and WordPress. Once that user content is uploaded, who owns it? I confess I have no training in internet-ethics (if that is even the right terminology) and I have no concrete facts about how these websites work on a legal level. But why should anyone expect that Google+ can’t touch their data? There, I said it.

I think of it like this- I go to my local university and post copied pictures of myself flipping a bird on the university owned bulletin boards. Then the university takes them down. Can I get pissed at the university because they took down my pictures off of their public boards, which they pay for, supply, and moderate? Is it even my property anymore once I place it in that public forum, especially if it is only a copy? Probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not pro-censorship. However, I also believe that Google+ (or any other social networking company) has the right to create whatever web environment they want (even if that includes hypocritically allowing some porn-ish pictures, as the original author Alexa Tsotsis points out).

Minus the finger.

I think the larger problem here isn’t censorship but rather identity.

When something happens to our social network profiles it feels like something has happened to us. We tend to forget/overlook the fact that our online profiles are just that- profiles. They are not us. When Facebook changes their interface it feels like it has changed something about you. It feels like an intrusion. It feels like a personal violation. However, it is far from personal. It is only digital.

If we had the same stuff posted about ourselves on a public bulletin board (that we didn’t own) as we do on our social networks, and that stuff got removed by the owner, would we feel as angry? Maybe, but I doubt it. A bulletin board doesn’t feel like me. And if you just had the thought “I would never put the stuff I have on Facebook/Google+ on a public bulletin board” then you should probably reevaluate what you are putting out there in general.

And as far as Google+ goes, is it really that shocking that they would monitor your profile pics? I mean, these are the same guys who track your location, track your browsing habits, and auto-read your mail so you get those creepy targeted ads. When I think about how much Google knows about me my profile pic becomes the least of my data worries.

Thanks for reading.

-ASG

Post-less

When I started this blog I had every intention of dumping Facebook and moving to blogging full-time. Naive and optimistic, I know.

Fast forward several months (okay, a year) and I have made one post.

One.

And I’m not sure how I feel about that. Embarrassed . . . maybe. . . Frustrated . . . meh . . . Amazed . . . that works. Amazed mostly at how distracting the world is. Notice I shift the blame to the world (that’s called an external locus of control for you non psych types). Blame it on Facebook, Twitter, blah, blah, blah, it’s true they are distracting at times.

I blame work. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate having a job especially when the economy is this bad. It isn’t what I do at work that makes blogging difficult but rather how I do it- by computer.

At the end of the day I have to do so many notes, electronic records, referrals, etc, that my eyeballs rebel against electronic screens. The thought of seeing any more electronically generated fonts makes me physically irritated.

But I have one weapon up my sleeve . . . this post.

Yes, this measly little post. It stands in blatant defiance opposite the crushing weight of procrastination and distraction that, until now, has been this blog. Success! I have overcome!

Never mind that no one reads this thing anyway . . . except for my wife who will likely comment below. (hint-hint-I need some comments!)