Welcome back to another Geeky Self Care post here on bravelittlepufferfish! Today I thought I would tackle what geeky item helps me in my self care the topic for this one is extremely near and dear to my heart and that would be “Harry Potter”. The story of the boy who lived and the story that defined a generation of children who are now young adults. It is a tale of friendship, the power of love, good triumphing over evil, and of course means a lot to many people. I read them with my father from the tender age of about five and a half and have continued to love the book series. I waited in line at book stores for the books to come out and went to cinema premieres, I even have the knitting book and knit my own Weasely sweater(although by the time I was done with it I thought it would be a little bit embarrassing to have a large D on my chest). This is something that for me I could go on about for ages but I thought would break it down just a little bit!
1. Hogwarts will Always Be There
For Harry, Snape, and many students in the book series Hogwarts is a safe place where they are accepted. Dumbledore says himself that “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home”. This is a beautiful mantra and serves as a happy place. There are so many head canons on tumblr about Hogwarts accepting muslim students, trans students, Jewish students, and other often ostracized groups finding their happy place at Hogwarts. Collectively among the Harry Potter fan community there is a discussion around Hogwarts as it is ours. Across borders, religions, and cultures for those who love Harry Potter Hogwarts is a shared home we can all find. Hogwarts is a place where even the biggest of misfits can find their home. The Harry Potter community is made of misfits and in times of darkness it is a true comfort to be able to return home.
2. Boggarts and Dementors
Another point of Harry Potter is that there are specific creatures that manifest themselves as mental illnesses. The biggest being boggarts as a threat of anxiety and of course the dementors as a sign of depression. Too often these real illnesses are passed as “just being inside your head” but as Albus Dumbledore says “Just because it is in your head who is to say it isn’t real?” Perssonally I believe often the hardest part about recovering from mental illness is coming to terms with it. We see this with Harry and other wizarding children in the muggle world. They do not know of their magic, and in the case of the Dursely’s literally kept in the closet, so much that it is often out of control. It is only when that Harry accepts the fact that he is a wizard and learns how to use it properly is his magic under control. You can chase away a boggart by laughing at it, and finding that happy memory when a dementor is nearby saves your soul. It isn’t always the perfect advice but it is useful.
3. Complex Characters showcasing Complex Problems
There are several characters in the series who face abuse, racism, bigotry, manipulation, bullying, and other forms of extreme trauma. These characters rise up from the ground and are able to stand up for themselves. Through love, friendship, and some serious git and bravery these characters are able to better their situation and fight evil. Many have their times of doubt but more often in the books they are able to conquer Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
4. A Healthy Non Traditional Family Structure
To be honest this is a pet issue of mine. There are few non traditional family structures that operate in a healthy way so I relish any nontraditional family structure I can see.
Harry grows up in a non-nuclear family and is loved by many even those whom he would call “mom” and “dad” have passed away. For me this was big to have someone who grew up without “Mom” or “Dad” but was still loved and cared for. Of course in the muggle world he is abused by his Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and cousin Dudley but in the wizarding world he finds a support network through his school friends and the adults around him. In a maternal way Hagrid enjoys carrying for Harry inviting him to tea every single week to talk about his classes and how his week went. This feels extremely reminiscent of the way my mother would beg me to call her about once a week. Throughout the book series we also see that Harry is given multiple father figures throughout the books including Dumbledore, Sirius, Hagrid, Lupin, and even Arthur Weaseley. Of course Harry is not short of mother figures of Molly Weasely and Minerva Mcgonagall. Each of those adult to child relationships are important to Harry and each adult recognizes that Harry’s parents are important to him even though he never had the chance to meet them. Each parental figure in the books is pertinent to Harry’s growth and development into a young man. This is big and establishes healthy relationships for those who are raised in similar non-nuclear family situations.
In truth the way I describe the relationship with my father figures is that my grandfather who raised me was a combination of loving Hagrid and wise Dumbledore while my biological father was like Sirius Black, loving but through uncontrollable circumstances was not ready to be a full time caretaker. The way my anxiety manifests itself honestly feels like a demon on my shoulder. Where suddenly opening my laptop or getting in the car can feel like a nasty boggart is hiding there. Yes boggarts for the most part are harmless but the terror they cause is real. Having the language to explain my family situations, mental health struggles, and even finding the community of misfits that make up my friends truly is a comfort that surrounds me like a warm blanket
To sum up my thoughts on Harry Potter and my mental health journey, which I am sure to return to I will leave you with this quote from Dr. Brene Brown. This is from her book “Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone” Dr. Brown writes
“ Yes, we know that Harry Potter is not real, but we know that colective light is is real. And powerful. And in the face of hatred and bigotry and cruelty and everything that dark sky stood for, we were so much stronger together.”
I believe that sums up my feelings about Harry Potter, although I refuse to believe it isn’t real. Below I have also listed some resources if you would like to explore this topic further. Please let me know what you think by liking this post, sharing with your friends or any other means. Has Harry Potter resonated with you in times of darkness? Is there a particular character that resonates with you? How so? Please let me know in the comment section down below!
Harry Potter Self Care Resources.
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text
This is a 30 minute podcast series in which two humanist ministers form the Harvard divinity school, the wonderful Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, read Harry Potter using sacred reading practices they learned in divinity school. Each episode focuses on a different chapter through the lens of a specific theme, they will use a specific sacred reading practice often from the Christian or Jewish tradition, and close with a blessing upon two of the characters. They also take voicemails from listeners about their own thoughts and interpretation of the texts. Whether you belong to a faith and actively participate in your religious community or are an atheist who would like to be more spiritual I believe there is something for everyone in this podcast. It is a loving community and you are able to pick and chose what theme you may want to focus on. I have friends who are actually reading the books alongside the podcast which is another great way to listen. Please go check them out as they are wonderful!
Harry Potter Therapy: An Unauthorized Self Help Book from the Restricted Section by Dr. Janina Scarlett
The author of this book is both a self proclaimed nerd and registered psychologist. This is a book where many common and uncommon mental health topics are discussed through the lens of Harry Potter including but not limited to anxiety, depression, body image issues, bullying and much much more. There are shared stories of other Potter Heads and how the story of harry helped them through their journeys or tough mental health situations. There are also techniqtues for mindfulness and coping that are focused through the lens of Harry Potter. They are the same ones you would expect to learn in a therapy but with a nerdy twist. I bought my copy for about $8.00 on Amazon so go check it out if you have the means. Or if you don’t perhaps ask your local library to order it.
A Geeky Self Care Post
On this blog I thought it would be fun to do a little mini series of posts about some of “guilty pleasure” Self Care Loves. It will focus on potentially all things geeky, originally I wanted to write this as one long post but then I realized that it would probably be about the same size of a novel. This series while discuss how each of the things I am obsessed with helps me on my journey of anxiety. In turn how potentially you can find comfort through these geeky loves of mine as well. Since the Incredibles 2 came out this past week and I also saw Frozen on Broadway(which was amazing btw) I thought why not start off with the fact that I am a twenty something and completely obsessed with Disney.
The Disney obsession started early with my father taking me to see Toy Story as a mere infant in the movie theaters. I think from then on I have seen nearly every Disney movie ever. Even when I was in high school and Tangled came out I tried to ignore it but when I inevitably saw it I became obsessed. Soon after I even wore a Rapunzel style braid to my high school graduation. I even did a project on Walt Disney’s role in shaping the American Dream. I think you can say that I enjoy Disney a little. . .
It’s important to realize why the Disney way draws in so many people to it’s love and adoration. Part of their signature trademark, besides the famous mouse ears, is that everything they create is “Magical” and all of the theme parks offer to be “the Happiest Place on Earth”. The movies and environments they create are aimed to provide a sense that “dreams come true” and provide a “Happily Ever After”. In this scary world where issues are extremely complicated it is comforting to think about a place where there is a Happy Ever After. An important factor to the Disney model is how it treats the past. Everything the company strives to do is through the lens of creating Fairy Tales.
Whether it is through the films of Disney Princesses, Frontierland, Main Street USA, or even films like “Old Yeller” Disney paints a picture where the past is as beautiful as it could ever be. Even if the scenery is not that of a specific “Fantasy Land” where there are fairies, and princesses the focus is often in a similar light. With the painstaking attention to detail whether you are watching a Disney movie, tv show, Broadway Musical, or visiting one of your theme parks Disney transports you to the Fairy Tale World.
The key difference that Disney creates in their storytelling is that they always have a direct message and key points to establish that message. Often Disney films will have multiple themes with the overarching theme that “Love Conquers All’ but each movie has their own specific messages in addition to that. In “Frozen” it is the True Love between sisters and stay true to yourself. In the “Fox and the Hound” is that true friendship will conquer all odds. Dumbo learns that what makes him different is his true power. “Finding Nemo” looks into the lengths a parent will go to for their children and also sheds a beautiful light on those living with disabilities through the characters of Nemo and Dory. In Pixar’s “ “Inside Out” the film explores the necessity for different emotions, even sadness.
The themes and even subtle messages of these films resonate through and at their core is the belief that dreams can come true. Through the array of different messages people are able to connect with the characters when they are in times of trouble. Each story is so carefully crafted with the overarching message kept in mind at all times that in times it is comforting to see your pain reflected in a story. So how does Disney help with my anxiety?
Well glad you ask. In times of darkness all things Disney become a source of comfort. Being able to see a fantasy version of the past or a different world brings me comfort in times of panic. When I am in the midst of an episode of anxiety that is excruciatingly terrifying it is nearly impossible to find a happy place. However by watching a Disney film, listening to the familiar music, or even scanning through pictures of my last trip to Disney world I am reminded of the sense of comfort Disney brings to me.
Coming back to the films I am someone who has often had trouble verbally expressing myself, which I know may be odd coming from someone who calls themselves a writer. But for many of the emotions running through me or my anxieties seeing that reflected in Disney films help me. In certain situations, I can empathize with the characters and in moments of distress almost reference certain scenes from the films so those around me have an idea of what is coursing through my head. I am also a musician so I find myself turning towards music when I cannot express myself. The familiar music I know and love bring a sense of comfort that I can physically feel coursing through me.
The main thing that Disney helps me with is the nostalgia factor. Connecting with Disney, for me, makes me feel like I am connecting to the people in my life who I have lost. I even found a postcard from Disneyland my grandmother sent to my parents around the time when it first opened! My parents loved Disney and I went a few times as a child. My biological father even ran the Disney marathon in 2007! On the weekends I would spend with him we would frequently watch Disney movies, our favorite was Bambi. So when my demons have taken over my brain or I am feeling immense grief over the loss of my parents turning to Disney helps ease the pain. It was something that my family shared. After I saw the Incredibles I couldn’t even help but think about what my father would have thought about the film. Being immersed in Disney is a form of self care and helps me articulate my feelings.
If you enjoyed this earlier in the year I wrote about how thinking about Winnie the Pooh has helped me meditate the link to that post is here( https://bravelittlepufferfish.blog/2018/02/02/starting-to-meditate/ ) . Feel free to check it out.
Does Disney do this for you? Do you use Disney as a form of Self Care? Please let me know if you like this sort of content as I would love to write more of it. Please feel free to share with all of those who you think would be interested.
Until Next Time,
This past weekend was a rough one for both myself and my anxiety. It was father’s day in the US, and honestly my anxiety was at an all time high on a personal level. In addition to this the news of what is happening with the DHS at the Southern Border of the United States. The treatment of families and children at the border is abhorrent and paralyzing. I personally have contacted my representatives pleading with them to get rid of the doctrine that is causing all of this. After this it is hard to know how to devote my time. After being left in this paralyzing fear what is left for me to do?
I must create. After all of the good and necessary deeds I have taken as a citizen all I can do it share my thoughts on how to express myself in the world. All there is left for me to do is to write, to paint, to play music, and to continue teaching my students. I can volunteer. I can contact my representatives and voice my concern. I can register to vote but no matter what I must push on with my life. So should you. It does not help people to just wallow in the horror. There has to be a way to push.
The past year of recovery for me has been rough since my anxieties have paralyzed me at times. Now I am working on using the same anxieties to push me forward for action. In the darkest of times art is the truest savior. Even if it feels a little frivolous at times you must continue to push forward. Ideas have power behind them and expressing them are what makes the world special. Despite the pain leave the world a more beautiful place than you left it.
Part of the art I do is painting on seashells and I still think that it is important. I believe it to be a noble craft of creating something. At the moment I am working on a novel, I knit, paint seashells and keep this blog updated. What are the projects you are working on? Is there anything you like to keep updated. Please comment below as I would love to see what this community has in store!
Until Next Time,
The watch I wear on my left hand wrist every day has a small elephant reminding me to be “Calm, Cool, and Collected”. As those around me will testify in a heartbeat that I am not one of those three. It has sat on my wrist as a reminder to be one of those things. Looking down I can pretend that I am the young professional that is completely “Calm, Cool, and Collected”. In times of panic I will stare at the golden hand of the watch illuminated by the moonstone backing and remember to breathe slowly sometimes as my eyes wander to the small golden spade at the top.
Last week unfortunately the fashion designer and business mogul Kate Spade committed suicide. A few days later the chef, writer, and tv host Anthony Bordein also committed suicide. Both of these celebrities were known for their love of life and their work. The brand of Kate Spade is based on providing colorful but professional handbags and accessories for the working woman with the tagline “Live Colorfully”. The brand is all about celebrating life.
Anthony Bourdain was a tv chef personality being famous for this book “Kitchen Confidential” which discussed the true life of a cook. He was also known for his television programs and exploring foods from all over the world including cuisine that no one else was talking about. His work included a love for life, people, and sharing food.
Both of these people had wonderful lives and loved their life but both lived with depression which ended in their untilmely death by suicide. Both of these wonderful life loving people struggled with a very real mental illness. This is not to even mention the thousands of people across the United States who committed suicide within the same week.
There is a serious mental health crisis across the Unites States. Even though as a society we are becoming more aware of mental health there is still a large stigma. Just like diabetes mental illness has to be constantly monitored and in check. Kate Spade was regularly seeking treatment and taking medication. People swore that Anthony Bourdain loved life but clearly his depression was severe for him to take drastic measures.
Over the past year personally I have sought out treatment for my generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and PTSD. I see a therapist weekly and take a daily low dosage antidepressant but there are still days when it is hard for me to get out of bed. It still means alot to me when people make an effort to reach out for me.
So what can we do to help? Check up on your loved ones. Ask them how they are doing? If you have children then talk openly with your child about mental health? Use power at work for chances for employees to discuss mental health and give them resources? Volunteer with the crisis textline.
If you are experiencing problems even if you think it might be too small please do reach out. If you are an ally and believe someone may need help be proactive and reach out.
A little over a year ago I decided to spend the school year of 2017-2018 to work on myself. I had just suffered a major loss in my life, graduated from school, moved a few times, and felt like I was drowning in a sea of anxiety. I went to college to become a teacher, which is an extremely stressful and taxing job and I decided it would be best for me and potential students to work on myself for a bit. For the past year I have. I have been going to therapy, taking medications, and only accepted part time positions not to overwhelm myself. I am open and honest about when I am feeling anxious with my partner and my friends, I have made tremendous progress and am incredibly proud of myself.
However a little over a week ago I had another major loss in my life. It was a shock, at the time my only goal was to plan everything and I did. I planned a beautiful service and my father is at peace. But I am left here feeling set back. I wake up lethargic, when friends are talking I sometimes can’t help but feel lost, and even am just disinterested in every topic at times. I yelled at a friend for talking about the Survivor season finale and later that day burst into tears before entering a movie theatre to see “Solo” of all movies. Even as I type I can feel myself shaking a bit on my patio with anxiety. This makes me feel lost as I am still the terrified person I was in September. This set back makes me feel like all progress has been lost but it is important to recognize that it hasn’t.
I am not lost. I am not the same person I was in September. I have coping mechanisms now.
The progress I have made is not gone. It is still there but now I know I need to to rest. If I go out I know to set up a signal indicating to a friend or my partner that I might need a break.
I remind myself that I am allowed to give myself time. Time where I can write. Time where I can paint, knit, draw, and make scrapbooks. As well as time where I can play music, something I have not allowed myself to do. I give time to read YA Fantasy, poetry, and literature. I must give time for bubble baths and letting the nice scented hot water soak some of the anxieties away. But with all of this I must also allow time to accomplish my goals.
I want to be a full time teacher, go to grad school for Music Therapy, update this blog expanding the community, and finish the novel I set out to write. Chipping away at these goals little by little is important too. It is about finding a way to incorporate both and being patient with myself when the plan does not work and ok when some days my brain cannot work with me to get the work done. It has been said to me a few times that the mark of a great teacher is not a beautiful lesson plan but the reaction you give when your lesson plan is not working. Teaching on your feet when the plan is not working is arguably one of the hardest skills to learn for new teachers. I think we can bring that into life as well. Often plans do not work out, even if you have everything written down in a fancy planner. The key to living a happy life is adjusting when the plan does not work, for giving your time to rest when need be .
I have been set back but have not lost the lessons. This will be a year where I can truly work and accomplish goals but also allow time to have some rest. Recovery is non linear and I have the strength to push on. I believe for the rest of the year I will be pushing on and making great progress.
Today is mother’s day in the United States where Mother’s are celebrated with brunch, flowers, scented candles, and of course cards telling them how much we love them. It is a holiday where love and appreciation are spread for the wonderful amazing women who raise us. Unfortunately for myself and many others it is also a time of pain, uncertainty, and the unsettling feeling of not belonging. This is true of father’s day as well. I have always loved the sentiment behind Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but have always felt out of place and often in pain during these well meaning holiday.
To preface my issues with Mother’s Day and Father’s day let it be known that I grew up in a non nuclear family. Since I was nine months old my paternal grandparents raised me, my biological father often visited until I was in High School, and I have never properly met my biological mother. In addition to this my extended family of aunts, uncles cousins, and even my great grandfather were heavily involved in my life. I was surrounded by support and love but did not have a woman whom I called “mom”. When I was a really small child I did not notice this. I was just a happy little girl who was loved and adored by her giant family. However around first grade I started to notice that the family structure I had was not remotely the same as everyone else who grew up around me. As an adult I am ok with this but as a child the sheer thought that I did not have a woman who I called “mom” was crushing. My grandmother treated me as if she was the one that gave birth to me but still she wasn’t “Mom” she was “Grandma”, and according to everyone else “Mom” came before “Grandma”.
This meant that for so many of the well meaning school projects throughout grade school were printed with the words “mum” and handwritten in marker above it “Grandma”. Even through Middle School this hurt but fortunately “Grandma” and “Grandpa” always opened their arms to care for me.
In America not everyone is raised by a mum and a dad. For many they are but this is not always the rule or the case. Many children are raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and in foster homes. These beautiful important children who are being raised in loving families often feel ostracized since they often may be the only one in a classroom where the printed project or cards at CVS do not fit their family. The thing that sets these children apart also makes them feel like they do not belong in this world. In the modern day there is more acceptance for non traditional families so shouldn’t the language we use for children.
Another way where I feel a particular sting at the arrival of both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is that both of the people who raised me passed away. I do not have children of my own and the people who I would have celebrated with have passed away. So even though I have passed the point where I am sad that my particular family was a little bit different than everyone else’s the magnitude for what I have lost is profound. At the mention of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day my eyes swell up making it difficult to go through the day. They are days when I am sorely reminded of what I lost.
This blog post is not a call to be rid of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day completely but rather a call to potentially be more mindful of others. A call to be more understanding of others who may be having a hard time understanding. This can also be a call to card businesses or even craft companies for kids to create products that would be sold. Mother’s Day cards that celebrate Aunt’s, Grandmother’s, Foster Parents, and potentially more would be fantastic. I think that anyone who steps up to the plate to nurture anc care for a child should be celebrated. It is a daunting task and you should be reoconized for you hardwork.
In conclusion Happy Mothers day to current mothers, mothers soon to be, those who wish to be mothers, aunts, grandparents stepmothers, to those who have lost their mothers, and to those who wish to be mothers but cannot for some unknown circumstance. May you be showered with the love, light, and appreciation you deserve. Happy Mother’s Day
With each new week I am one of the few people who get up early on a monday. On Mondays I conquer the world and feel like I am finally starting to incorporate new habits. I have a long list of to-do items that I get done, eat healthy, and even meditate. On Tuesday however I seem to wake up groggy and break the rules that I assined myself for “my new productive life” that I started only a day ago. I am lost and unable to find myself to do anything. This is where countless hours are spent in bed, on my phone, and completely gone from finding my way in life.
Setting the intentions for a new week is great at the beginning of a work week is great! However it is also difficult to get many of items on the “to-do” list crossed off. As the week trudges on it is significantly harder to accomplish the goals you set for that week. For me this manifests with the messiness of my apartment, my eating habits, my exercise routine, and the amount of creative projects I would like to create. Make that most aspects of my life maybe expect for keeping in contact with friends and family.
The key to fighting this trend of being extremely productive for the first half of the week and a lazy bum for the rest has been to find a balance. No matter what life wants to balance itself out, so why not do it yourself! Believe it or not you can lead a mostly healthy lifestyle that fits salads and donuts, running and netflix, meditating and instagram! The key is more having a balance and not punishing yourself for indulgences. During the week I try to do a good job of eating healthy, getting work done, and I have even started running again now that the weather is nice. But on Thursdays my work schedule is crazy busy and I am exhausted. So on Thursdays I like to treat myself to an ice cream sundae from the ice cream place near me and an early bedtime while watching Netflix. I utilize it as a day of rest. I still live a mostly healthy life style bus as a human I allow myself time to rest.
When trying to better ourselves most of us love to do it in an overhaul. But the best way to find balance is to accomplish tasks little by little. I know for myself and the way my anxiety manifests if something is put off for a long time it will only eat me from the inside out. I get freaked out by how much of a mess my apartment is. So I have taken to try to clean along the way while I am making a mess. It is not the perfect solution but so far it has worked and brought my anxiety down.
As humans we need both time to work and time to rest. It is important to schedule both in order to find a balance. As someone who lives with anxiety this is a bit hard since often I used to feel terrible about taking time to relax since I would have so much work to do. But now I actually make sure I take time for myself and relish in my downtime. During my work days I have a 40 minute break between classes. Before I used to work through it, pace my classroom, and try to think of new lesson plans. Nowadays I actually use it to sit down at my desk, sip on a cup of coffee, and rest for at least half of that time. This small break truly helps me reset so I can give an energetic lesson at the end of the day.
Something that often gets overlooked even though it is extremely important is that it takes time for true results to show themselves. One of the big life things I have been trying to accomplish is being a bit of a neater person. I am nowhere near being a neatfreak but in general my cleanliness habits have gotten better. For months I felt like I was not making any progress then I saw my therapist I realized how far I had come.
The main things to take away are
- Allow time for rest and work
- Accomplish tasks little by little
- Results may come slowly but they will come
Thank you for reading. I will have another post up soon about trying to find a balance after a major life change such as graduation, mental breakdown, or through a time of grief. In addition I will be posting a special post tomorrow in honor of mother’s day.
Welcome to Brave Little Pufferfish,
After a long hiatus and some soul searching we are back to bring you uplifting content. The blog posts on here will include topics that deal with anxiety, grief, reading, writing, and navigating the adult world as a young/new adult. With the relaunch of my blog I thought I would reintroduce myself.
Hi, my name is Dawn. I originally hail from Boston Massachusetts but now reside in a seaside town in New York. I am a proud 23 year old who loves Broadway, Books, Music, and cartoons(Disney I am looking at you). By trade I am a music teacher, have always had a lifelong passion for music, and am currently looking into receiving my masters in Music Therapy. I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In addition I grew up in a non nuclear family. Since I was about nine months old my paternal grandparents raised me, I would see my biological father every other weekend, and often were taken care of by a village of my extended family and family friends. I consider myself lucky because I was loved and taken care of by so many people. When I was 14 my father lost his battle with cancer, and when I was in my senior year of college my mother lost her own battle with cancer. This was extremely difficult to handle.
I struggled immensely handling my own grief and my own personal battles with mental illness. I decided to start writing as a way to not only share my story but help other people going through similar struggles. I have always been driven to help those around me and also to help instruct so perhaps people which I would love to do through my writing. If any of the posts I make here resonate and help with just one person than I will be happy. I always enjoy reading articles or blog posts of those who have been through similar situations. The goal here is to write the kind of articles so others who may experiencing similar situations will feel as if they are not alone. I hope you find this helpful and get to stay a while. I hope something may touch you here.
Please be sure to check back on Thursday for more content. You may also follow Brave Little Pufferfish on Social Media using instagram, twitter, and tumblr.
I hope you have a great day!
Hiking through Grief
Once of the books I have read is the 2012 bestseller Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The book is the true story of Cheryl Strayed as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail in the wake of her mother’s death and divorce of her first husband. This book has been read all over the world. Many people have reviewed it, Cheryl Strayed has spoken about this book on several occasions, it has been made into a movie, and was even referenced in Gilmore Girls last year. What I think is even more magical is that it has inspired many people, and especially women, to start backpacking. I am deciding to take a different approach with rather than a normal book review. I would like to talk about my thoughts of the book as someone who has closely experienced grief at a young age. I have lost both of my parents to cancer as well as live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorer, and experience severe depressive episodes at times. Reading this book truly resonated with me in my experiences with grief and mental illness I would love to share my thoughts on it.
The story takes place in 1995 following 26 year old Cheryl Strayed as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail immediately following her divorce. When she began hiking the trail Cheryl had never been backpacking before. Four years prior during her senior year of college Strayed lost her mother cancer at the age of twenty two. How she lost herself and ran away to the wild to find herself again. The book is narrated following Strayed’s hike and flashing back to her life before the hike. In addition to learning about Cheryl’s hike through the Pacific Crest Trail there are also an abundance of characters that she meets while hiking. It is an endearing look at character and how we find ourselves in the wilderness.
One of the major aspects of this book that I did appreciate is that Strayed never dramatized anything. The writing of her struggles felt like she was explaining what happened. When writing about tragedy it is easy to embellish the details of your story and how to pull through the triumph but Strayed never did that. Cheryl Strayed was not the angel telling the tale of how she plummeted through the turmoil of her mother’s death, her own divorce, and battling the wilderness of California; she was just a woman telling her story. There were many points where her inexperience with backpacking nearly got her killed and she admitted it. This included filling up her stove with the wrong kind of fuel, buying a pair of boots a size two small, then losing those boots on the trail, and feeling the need to pack an entire roll of condoms for her trek through the wilderness. These were all mistakes that anyone would make but she powered through it. Strayed’s narrative made it easy to empathize and identify with her.
Many avid backpackers do comment that the beauty and the actual hiking of the Pacific Crest Trail is not talked about enough. Strayed has admitted herself that the book is not about her hiking the PCT but rather her journey finding herself again. Wild is a look into the grieving process over time showing a clear look at grief after it has had time to steep. I have found very few books that cover this topic. There are over a thousands books about the long look of getting over a breakup but not at the death of a loved one. Most literature about grief that I have found has been focused on what the grieving feels right after a loved one but death is not something you just “get over” in a few weeks. The human emotions experienced months and years after the passing of a loved one are essential to the human experience but very little explored in art. I loved that book for that reason not only to look at the complex story of this but I was able to connect with Cheryl Strayed. Her story resonated with me even though I have not hiked over a thousand miles nor done heroin with a shitty boyfriend.
Reading Wild felt therapeutic and honest as it was a way to recognize that the emotions I was feeling were real and others felt them too. There were times when Strayed was making very destructive decisions even though it appeared as if she did not want to make those decisions. I understood that need of making radical decisions just to feel something after losing a tragic loss. One of the more powerful things was how Strayed just kept on walking, she gave herself an option to quit but she didn’t. No matter what Strayed kept pushing on. Reading about Strayed’s journey with her grief brought me a sense of calm that perhaps I too would find peace with my own grieving process
I believe it is more helpful for people who have lost loved ones perhaps months or even years ago but still feel lost in grief. I believe that this is also a book that can be read to understand how grief does linger even years after the loss of a loved one.
Even if you are not grieving I believe that you can find this book therapeutic and entertaining but I do think this may be helpful if you are struggling with grief. If you have read this book please let me know what you thought of it. If you are grieving what media/art that has resonated with you and your grieving?
Beginning my practice of Meditation
“Ding” the Tibetan singing bowl rings through my phone to start the ten minute meditation. I bring my attention to my breath. “breathe in. I know that I am breathing in. Breathe out I know that I am breathing out.” I say to myself repeating the simple mindfulness chant that I read from Thich Nhat Hanh’s You are Here. As air leaves my body at the peak of the exhalation so do my thoughts desperately running away from the present moment. My brain runs to my peers who began their adult life with fantastic jobs and are well adjusted to society. I take another breath and I start to think about Piglet
My mind wanders far away from me to the Hundred Acre Wood. Piglet and Eyeore were always my favorites which may make some sense since I have an anxiety disorder with recurring depressive episodes. Piglet was always the sweetest, always quiet and helpful like I hoped to be in the eyes of my friends. He seriously just wants to help and be there for his friends! That is so wonderful. I love Piglet. I try to return to my breath grounding myself to the present moment. I open my eyes and glance down at the meditation timer on my phone there are approximately four minutes left. For nearly half of my meditation I have not focused on my feelings, my body, or myself at all but Piglet.
At the recommendation of my therapist, the media, and just about every smart successful person ever I have started meditating every single day. The goal is to take at least five to ten minutes a day to quiet my thoughts focusing on the present moment. This seems like it should be reasonable as well as an easy goal to achieve. However as mentioned in the paragraphs above it proves to be a challenge. There are even days in which I spend fifteen minutes trying to convince myself to be mindful for five! My goal is to be mindful for at least five minutes per day why is it so hard? “Piglet’s Big Movie” is about fifteen times that so I almost have no excuse. The truth is that any Meditation is hard. I personally use Insight Timer as an aid to my own practice of meditation. I have it set onto 5 minutes and after two weeks of practicing every day I give myself a pat on the back if I was truly mindful for one whole minute. Three minutes? Well then I deserve some chocolate cake. Being mindful is a skill. It takes practice. It is normal for your mind to wander, we are used to the noise.
For a few years I did not think that meditation was for me. I find myself squirming around unable to focus on my breath. I did not like many of the guided meditations I found. So I decided that meditation wasn’t for me since I clearly wasn’t good at it. I was wrong. There are other ways to be mindful and meditate than just sitting down listening to a recording about lavender. You can do a walking meditation, being mindful while sipping coffee, or even a shower. Meditation can be for everyone it just takes a bit to find the right fit. I am still not a fan of the popular “5 4 3 2 1” meditation exercise but I know many who love it. What does work for me is taking five to ten minutes in the morning to relax myself. I also love finding ways to be mindful while practicing music and coloring in an adult coloring book. Many guided meditations take you places like a lavender field I seem to prefer the Hundred Acre Wood. That’s perfectly ok!
In the two weeks that I have been meditating I have noticed a difference. My mornings do not feel as hectic even if I am carving out a bit more time to quiet my mind. I do not feel the need to check my phone as often, although I am still quite addicted. I also find myself being more productive. I put more thought and energy into projects. That’s only a difference of actually being mindful for two minutes, even though it is supposed to be ten. Of course meditation is not a cure all for everything but it does help!
Your brain is a wanderer and that is ok. Like anything it does take practice to meditate. If porgs start to fly in while you are meditating then that means you are human and a fan of star wars! Great but at least try to find at least one moment where you are grounded aware of where your body is in space and where your breath is. Perhaps thinking about Piglet wasn’t the best way to spend my meditation time but at least I remembered to ground myself afterwards.
Let me know what you think of meditation? Has your brain wandered towards strange places when you have meditated? If so where? Let me know and have a great day!