Gratitude and Depression

In January 2019, I was laid off from my day job. My manager said the company’s intention was to rehire me if their workload picked up again. I had no return-to-work date. Being rehired was not a guarantee. I felt very low.

(Disclosure: While this post contains information about my experience with mental illness, this post is not intended to be medical advice. I am not a licensed, certified or trained medical professional. If you suffer from mental illness, I encourage you to seek help from licensed, certified medical professional.)

In 2004, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder by my doctor. Job losses, for me, trigger depressive episodes. During a depressive episode, negative thoughts arise which impact my behavior. When I’m feeling stable, activities such as getting out of bed and leaving the house every day are easy. Depressive episodes make those activities into hurdles difficult for me to leap over.

But no matter how I’m feeling, I enjoy listening to podcasts. Podcasts encourage my creativity and lift my spirits. After the layoff, I listened to a podcast host speak about the benefits of having a daily gratitude practice and how having a gratitude buddy helps with accountability to the practice. The podcast host was offering to match listeners with an email gratitude buddy with the intention of helping the audience cultivate their own daily gratitude practice. The rules—every day, email your gratitude buddy three things you are grateful for, and the buddy would reciprocate.

My inner voice said, “Sara, you need a gratitude buddy.” I listened to my inner voice.

Now I find that practicing gratitude every night allows me to reflect on the good parts of my day. I cannot be negative with gratitude, so I have to find the positive within the negative.

During low points, like being unemployed, my gratitude lists looked like this:

  • Grateful I got out of bed today.
  • Grateful I left the house today.
  • Grateful I went to the library to read some magazines.

These small acts feel like huge triumphs. I was jumping over previously difficult hurdles.

In March 2019, I received a re-hire offer from my then former employer. I accepted the offer. When I returned to work, my confidence rose and my negative thoughts subsided. My gratitude lists developed and now look more like this:

  • Grateful I got a good workout in at the gym.
  • Grateful I went to the opera with my mom.
  • Grateful I stayed in bed today for a chance to recharge and relax.
  • Grateful for my job.
  • Grateful for my gratitude buddy emailing me every day.

I learned how to shift my perspective from negative thoughts to positive ones while I was going through a bad situation. I continued practicing gratitude during the good times, and that practice developed a daily habit. That daily habit is a new skill I can add to my arsenal to continue living with my depression. Stressful situations have arisen since the layoff, and I keep going with my gratitude practice. I keep showing up and finding the good within the bad.

I take medication for my depression in addition to my gratitude practice. I’ve taken medication much longer than I’ve been practicing gratitude. Medication and gratitude, in my opinion, are not cures for depression. Medication helps my moods stay stable. Gratitude helps me deal with thoughts. My gratitude practice helps me find light when I feel like I’m in darkness and the medication helps me stay in that positive zone. Medication and gratitude are a good combination for me.

If you are reading this, I’d like you to know I’m grateful for you, dear reader! Thank you for reading my blog posts.

You can always connect with me, ask me questions, or tell me about you at sarathlete@hotmail.com. I’d love to connect with you!

Sarathlete

Creative Co-working

I’m a proponent of exploring new places, having new experiences, meeting new people and learning new things. When I do something new, I grow because I gain new knowledge. I believe growth is movement forward in life. As I’m writing this post, I’m trying something new today—creative co-working.

I stumbled upon a new-to-me podcast called The Unmistakable Creative one year ago. The podcast host has a creative network that runs on an app called Mighty Networks. (Note: I’m a tech-dinosaur, so, if I have my titles or app names wrong, please contact me and let me know. You deserve credit, and you shouldn’t suffer because of my ignorance!)

I joined the Unmistakable Creative network three weeks ago. The network consists of a community of creative people who encourage each other, support each other’s work and ideas, and explore new ideas of how to be more creative. A community manager hosts a co-working group that meets on Saturday mornings with the purpose of doing one hour of creative work. I’ve signed up for this co-working session three times, and I backed out twice. Today, I joined the co-working event.

Here’s the format of the co-working event, in case you’re new to co-working, like me:

  1. Enter the room: I entered the virtual video chat room using the Zoom app via a link posted by the community manager in the Mighty Networks app.
  2. Introductions: At the beginning of the hour, there are introductions. Everyone in the group has a chance to state their name, where they’re from, and what creative project/goal they are going to be working on for that hour.
  3. Co-work: After introductions, the camera goes off, microphones are muted, and everyone starts working on their creative project.
  4. Final check-in: After the hour is over, there is a final check-in and everyone has a chance to state the progress they’ve made on their creative project and how they felt the session went for them.

Before I tried this co-working session, I needed to mediate to calm myself down. I was nervous. Meeting new people is difficult for me. While I was meditating my mind was simmering with questions and doubts:

  • Why am I placing my creative life in the background?
  • Why do I give the stress from my day job permission to be my excuse for putting my creativity in the corner?

Quieting my mind was not happening for me. So, I turned off the meditation app, got my iPad ready for blogging, and I connected to the video chat and used the audio-only option. I don’t look fabulous on Saturday morning!

While people were introducing themselves, I quickly wrote down my name, where I am from, and my creative goal for the hour on a sheet of paper. Writing down my thoughts helps me articulate what I want to express. I recited the words from my sheet of paper when my turn came:

  • My name is Sara.
  • I live in Northwest Indiana.
  • My goal for this hour is to create a blog post for my blog I abandoned 4 years ago.

(I get nervous around people I don’t know. When I get nervous, everything I know or want to say goes out the window, unless I have it written down.)

After the introductions, I wrote for an hour. I enjoyed getting my raw thoughts out of my head in an unedited format. I felt creative, productive, and more confident after my hour was over.

During the final check-in I wrote down and said the following:

  • I loved the experience.
  • I wrote about the co-working experience for my blog post during the hour.

I would publish the post later in the day after I’d had a chance to edit the post.

Some lessons I learned during my experience today:

  • There is a tribe of like-minded, creative people out there. I was letting fear of the unknown stand in my way of finding those people. I am not alone. I had to find the courage to reach out and join the tribe.
  • I accepted myself today. By joining the video chat in audio-only mode, I accepted my fear and knew that’s where I was at this morning. I didn’t let my fear conquer me. Although no one could see me, they could hear what I had to say.
  • I showed up and did the work. Showing up played a crucial key to my success. Showing up to do the work is the hardest step for me.
  • I had a positive experience. Having a positive experience with this group made me want to go back on the next Saturday and keep creating. Negative experiences create negative associations. Today was a positive experience and a positive association with creativity as the result.
  • I am accountable for my actions. I can’t blame anyone else but myself for not doing the creative work. Having a community of people, a tribe, is a helpful resource but it’s just a resource—not a substitute for getting the work done.

If you’re reading this post thinking to yourself, “I’m not creative” and “This post doesn’t apply to me”, then you are wrong. If creative work isn’t your skill, then there must be something else. Celebrate yourself and your skills. I dare you!

The podcast host of The Unmistakable Creative always asks people how they would define what makes someone unmistakably creative? I love that question. I want to know what is your unmistakable skill? I know you have one! Leave me a comment or drop me a line at sarathlete@hotmail.com. I’d love to hear from you! I’d love to connect with you and hear or read what you have to say! I’m an unmistakable listener! No one would mistake me for an unmistakable talker.

Keep moving, exploring, growing and learning!

Sarathlete

My Favorite Poem

I wore braces on my teeth for 4 years when I was a youngster (under 30)! For Christmas my mom bought me a book of poems by Shel Silverstein. My favorite poem in the book, still to this day, is as follows:

“The walrus got braces, and now his face is a tangle of wires and steel. He’ll sit and he’ll wait, ’til his tusks are both straight, but meanwhile, they’re ruining his meal.”

There is a picture of a walrus with brackets, wire and steel on the page. The walrus looks as miserable as I felt on days when I went to the dentist and he would tighten my braces. 

I was thinking of this poem today. It made me laugh. 

Happy Monday!

Namaste.

Sarathlete

Feeling Yummy and The Fcuk it Bucket

I took a yoga class tonight at Moksha. The teacher, Alie, told us to feel yummy in our bodies as we stretched and let go of the day. I like that idea—feeling yummy in your body.

What does feeling yummy in your body mean? It means getting the yuckyness—the stress, the negativity— out of your body and mind so you can let the yummyness—that peaceful easy feeling— in. Ultimate yummyness for me is the aaahhhh moment when it all gets let go, when my breath flows freely through me.

A pig getting his/her inner yummy on:

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I guess this is a gender not-specific pig!

Where does it all go? All of the crap? All of the stress? All of the yuckyness? All of it goes in the fcuk it bucket (another phrase I’m stealing from Alie tonight).

So try throwing all of the yuckyness in your life into the fcuk it bucket to let the yummyness in. Feel yummy inside and out.

Namaste,

Sarathlete

Finding Bliss

I found bliss today.

See…

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Bliss was waiting for me at the Cherry Avenue intersection.

There was beauty every direction I looked today. Recognizing beauty on the same street was as simple as looking left and right and up and down.

So, at the intersection of Bliss and Cherry I saw this massive view of Chicago on one side of me…

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And I saw this bird’s eye view on the other side…

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Bliss led me to beauty. I had to work (not so) hard to find the beauty.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. And I can say that beyond a shadow of a doubt because I was there!

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Keep your eyes open people! Beauty could be staring you right in the face. And you may not have to look for beauty on Bliss Street! Beauty might be on Cherry Avenue instead!

Namaste,

Sarathlete

Art Kitchen

I’ve always had a fascination with making food smile since I was a little girl. I would take vegetables, fruit, egg yolks or pretty much any food I could get my hands on and find a way to make two eyes, a nose and a smile out of the materials available. I started doing this as a surprise for my mom. Whatever materials she was using to make us a meal were the materials I would use for my kitchen art creations. When my mother wasn’t looking I would assemble the food she was using into a smiling face, leave the room and wait.

I would wait to hear my mom laugh. She would discover my creation and laugh and say, “Oh Sara.” She may have sounded annoyed on the surface, but deep down I know she loved it!

Because I kept creating kitchen art for my mom to make her laugh we decided that this smiling creation needed a name. We decided on Art Kitchen. First name: Art. Last name: Kitchen.

I kept creating various versions of Art Kitchen into adulthood. Thankfully my husband Pete, much like my mother, finds Art Kitchen humorous. The surprise is the kicker. Assembling the ingredients and leaving the room and waiting to hear the person laugh is so satisfying to me. Knowing that I’ve made someone smile and laugh makes me feel good inside!

Here are two pictures of Art Kitchen that I’ve made for my husband over the 10 years we have been together:

Art Kitchen appears as smiling pasta:

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Art Kitchen appears as a smiling peanut butter and jelly sandwich base with carrots topping the bread for the eyes and above the eyes as eyebrows and a bed of potato chips for the smile.

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In my 33 years on this planet I’ve never seen food smile on its own. Nature is a curious thing. Pete cut open a pineapple one day. He called me into the kitchen. The pineapple had its own smiling face! So I decided to dress up nature’s version of Art Kitchen with a hat and body. I had to add my own flourish to nature’s version of Art Kitchen seen below.

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I hope my kitchen art creations made you smile and laugh!

Namaste,

Sarathlete

Flip It Upside Down

My world was flipped upside down, quite literally, when I did my first headstand in yoga class last Monday evening.

I’ve been doing yoga regularly for a year. Last Monday evening was the first time I kicked up into headstand on my own. It took me a year of doing yoga consistently to build up the core strength to support my body in that upside down position.

I’ve been in assisted and spotted headstand, but today was the day I took my first steps on my own. It has taken me baby steps to get there.

My biggest fear of this pose was going upside down. It took me a year of courage building to face my fear and just let go. I realized tonight that I had the physical and spiritual strength to grow and let go of my fear of going upside down.

Flipping my world upside down has happened so many times to me since I lost my job in May 2014. Losing my job was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. The six weeks I spent without a job was a hard time because I had to face my fears and find the strength to kick up into life. I had to be willing to go upside down in order to find peace and new life.

There’s a beautiful, glorious and joyous life out there people! Flip your life upside down. Bend over into a forward fold and see how fabulous you feel. Let the blood rush to your head and enjoy whatever feelings bubble up. They will be new feelings perhaps. New is good. New is fabulous. New can be scary too. If we take baby steps we can build courage overtime to face our fears and eventually kick our fears in the face.

BOOM…..I just blew up my fears. I’m walking away from the fire to go do more headstand to get more head rushes and feel inspired and empowered to give, love and create.

My world was turned upside down today was amazing. Newness is fabulous! Keep learning and doing whatever it is that makes you uniquely you! You are fabulous and glorious, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Life turned upside down is a beautiful thing!

Namaste,
Sarathlete

The Gift of Movement

A wiggle. A waddle. A bob and weave. A hand stand. A walk in the park. A bike ride. A foxtrot. A cartwheel. It doesn’t matter how or where or when but we were made to move.

Dancing and yoga and walking in the city and biking down paths and country roads are the forms of movement I’m most into right now.

I am sarathlete! I’m on the move!

I’m so grateful for the ability to be able to move. I was inspired to write this post today by my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law can barely move. I had lunch with Pete’s side of the family today. My mother-in-law is in her early seventies. She’s so overweight she couldn’t walk from the booth to the front door of the restaurant today without being out of breath and having to sit down before she walked out to the car. Her back hurt. She was out of breath. Want to know why? Because she barely moves. She will tell you that she cannot move. She sits in a chair all day and chooses not to move. Instead of trying to to things for herself my mother-in-law chooses to order her husband around all day having him do simple tasks like getting her food or whatever.

I don’t feel sorry for my mother-in-law. I’m not taking pity or making a judgment of her. This is my observation of her.

Watching my mother-in-law today made me so grateful for the gift of movement. I don’t envy her choice not to move at all. I’m also grateful, as a friend once said, that I still have all of my original factory parts! My mother-in-law was such an inspiration to move that I came home and went on a fast 20 mile bike ride. I pushed myself harder on that ride than I ever have when I’ve ridden in the past. Why? Because I could.

I can move. You can move. The choice to move is up to the individual.

For me movement gives me freedom, provides a means of transportation, gives me a form of emotional and physical expression. Movement fulfills me and helps me sustain my life. Movement makes me joyous.

I hope you choose to move because movement makes like so beautiful and interesting, in my opinion! I love it!

If you choose to move then honor yourself and your movement by moving right now. Get up and do a happy dance. Do tree pose. Go jump in a lake. Make a joyful noise. Why? Because you can. You made your choice. Relish in that fact.

Life is a gift. Live it. Move it. Shake it up a bit! Get out of breath once in a while! We can’t choose to move when we die. So move now and celebrate the wonderfully fabulous gift of life!

Namaste!

Sarathlete

Me after a glorious 4 mile walk in Chicago! So happy!

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Selfies

Selfies have been around for years. Why do you think old fashioned cameras had the timer on them giving you enough time to get yourself into the picture.

I realized why selfies are so important this morning. Selfies are important because they humanize a photo and make it more relatable to people.

For instance, here’s a picture I took on my lunch hour in Chicago:

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To me, it’s a gorgeous shot of downtown Chicago. But to you, my fabulous reader, it’s just another picture of downtown Chicago that I happen to think is gorgeous. But you may not view it that way.

I’ve been practicing taking selfies this week. I’m not the best selfie taker! I’m getting better.

Here was my first attempt on my iPad before I figured out that pressing the button on the tap screen only put my fingers in the way of the camera.

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My husband says I look happy-scared! I was just glad to take the selfie. Even the picture of me looks goofy, in some ways, it’s more fun to look at because there’s a human in the photo. I took this picture at work (when I probably should’ve been working—ssssshhhhhhh don’t tell!!!!!!).

Let’s go back to Chicago and the downtown shot. Here’s a more improved selfie in the same location:

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You can see Chicago in the background. At the same time you also see me. Maybe not my best photo in the world, but there’s still a human in the picture. The human part is cool because it adds another element to the picture called emotion. There’s smiling going on which usually means happiness! That smile is darn right genuine because I was in a location I enjoy and also because I figured out how to take a selfie properly on my iPad! You press the right volume button (the button closest to the ringer on/off button). Aaaahhhhhh that moment when you get it right! What a relief! What a happy moment!

Be happy! Be sad! Be mad! Be whatever you want to be. Take photos and put yourself in them sometimes. The photos are more interesting because you can and other people can connect and relate to them more easily. The photos and selfies reflect you living your life and how you felt at that moment in time. The photo itself becomes its own interesting story!

Namaste,
Sarathlete