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This space belongs to Megan Eliza (Red Cedar), long-time Vancouverite kicking it in the neighbourhood of Hastings-Sunrise. I communicate for a living, play music for pleasure, and fill the rest of my waking minutes with love, home, craft, art, outdoor adventures, photography, writing, grad school, gardening, cooking and even sometimes politics.

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Post #2026: More knittery

Enough about me – here’s a quick post about what I’ve been knitting in the middle of the heatwave – worsted weight hats! Cause, you know, nothing says summer like wool crafts.

Seriously though – I am enjoying this first experience of knitting in the round. Thanks again to Tin Can Knits for the Barley pattern. The first version of this (above) I missed the instruction that said to switch to double-points on the decreases and couldn’t figure out why it was so hard to finish :) I am currently working on a second version, and have to the appropriate DPNs for it, but have now dropped two stitches that need fixing before I continue.

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Before DPN and dropped stitches

Oh well, live and learn. The Yarn is Sweet Georgia, mostly from Party of Five (Rusted) which I ordered in the wrong weight for another project (the fingering weight version should arrive today via Canada Post) plus some leftover from my last scarf project – this worked out perfectly because now I’ll have a hat to go with the Reverb shawl I’ve got planned, as well as one to go with the Wheat Scarf which I’m thinking will become a Christmas gift.

We’re heading out to the cabin this afternoon and I’ve got four knitting/crochet projects in my bag. We’re only going up there for a week, but I’ve got supplies to make things for a month! I pretty much only want to swim, knit, and read for the next eight days.

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Post #2025: Discovering a new quirk

I’m having a profound-realization day since discovering that there is actually a condition know as Reverse Seasonal Affective or Summer-onset Seasonal Affective Disorder.

A few years ago, I identified a particular kind of cyclic mood issue that seemed to show up mostly in August, and carry through until September – hallmarked by extreme anxiety and even thoughts of suicide (I stress here – thoughts! not actions) that always seem completely incongruous to everyone else’s great summertime joy. Because it generally came on towards the end of summer, I always thought it had something to do with seasonal transition, some childhood trauma issue about school starting or the end of time at the lake – who knows.

But this year, Vancouver’s summer was early and June has been unseasonably hot (July temperatures), and I have found myself increasingly agitated, anxious, and upset for no discernible material reason. Yesterday (spent at home in East Van where temperatures were in the mid-thirties) I experienced a spike in those feelings that left me miserable for most of the late afternoon and evening. Because it was so acute (up until yesterday the symptoms have been just a bit there) it was easy to identify as identical to the pattern I normally experience later in the summer – leading to an ah ha! moment. What if my cyclical depressive/anxious episodes were more linked to the days of sunlight and heat than to a particular month or stage of summer? And what if then summer came a month early as it did in Vancouver this year (normally June is off and on which means that July is the first month of all sun. This year June was been blistering hot with almost no rain.)

So this morning after a long meditation, I Googled and discovered that not only is there a summer-version of SAD, but it is characterized by extreme anxiety (versus winter SAD which has a main symptom of lethargy). In fact, pretty much every symptom listed for summer SAD (except the weight loss dammit) is one that I experience to greater or lesser degree after about a month of true summer. I also have the genetic predisposition (family members with major mood disorders), and a lessening of emotional symptoms when I spend time in cool places (like my air conditioned office).

Issues with Internet self-diagnosis aside, I am pretty sure that this is the root of my emotional stress in the warmer months and I feel oddly better to know that there is a diagnosis for this quirk of mine. The worst part about this has been feeling out of sync with everyone else and not knowing why. Turns out that only about 1% of the population gets summer SAD (compared with 5% for the winter version), making it pretty rare, and also meaning that many people who have it don’t realize that they have something a bit more diagnosable than “summertime blues”. Unfortunately there isn’t a ton of treatment options except medication, nor is this a well-understood phenomena. For my part, knowing that this is *something* at least gives me some ground to work with in my self-care and meditation practices.

I’m interested to hear from others out there who might have some experience with this and what works for you in dealing with it?  At the very least your experience might help me feel less freak-like :)

 

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Post #2024: Why I don’t have a bucket list

Last night my husband (a little drunk from drinking Old Fashioneds in the yard with our friend Jon) came to bed and said a bunch of things that were very sweet – including the line “I don’t have a bucket list, because I can’t imagine a life with anything else in it than I already have.” And I realized when he said it that I have never had anything approximating a list of things I want to do before I die. Not only that, but the idea of creating one feels artificial and odd because while some of life is planning, a lot of it is also just luck and circumstance, and even more than that – it’s personal temperament. If you have to put skydiving on a list of things you would like to do – it seems to me that you’re not someone for whom skydiving has been much of a priority which might speak to a personality that is actually happier doing other things. And yet everyone has this on their bucket list for some reason (for the record, I had a great-uncle who had skydiving on his list, snuck out from his family on his 80th birthday and did it, damaged his legs in the process and pretty much never got out of bed again – so don’t wait too long on these things if they really are that important.)

I do understand that life is full of chores and obligations, so we might not always get around to everything we think we might want, but it does seem that there is a great unhappiness in creating these lists and the message out there seems to be that one needs one in order to live a fulfilled life. And that notion goes hand-in-hand with some idea about what fulfillment looks like (travel, endless adventure, exciting parties, sexy people).

In my life (and the life of my husband) fulfillment looks like having a compatible life partner and a kid who is doing pretty good in the world, work which affords us some material comfort, little projects worked on together and apart, travels into the local forests, and fun times with our friends. It’s not the kind of stuff you put on a list, really. But it is the kind of stuff that you build together, bit by bit, constructing one experience onto the next from foundation, to frame, to finished product.

It would be foolish to say that we don’t plan and strive for things when we are paying off a house in Vancouver and building a cabin the countryside – it is not that we sit contentedly in the present without any thought for “what next” – but at the same time we are not grasping for experience, we are not hungry for more more more. Which is to me what the bucket list represents…. the unquenchable thirst for experience beyond everything else. As though a life is built by climbing Machu Pichu and then skydiving and then going to Mardi Gras because #YOLO.

Blech.

Peak experiences are grand in their place – but we seem to forget that they are simply the punctuation in the sentence – not the sentence itself. We should not let them dominate our imaginations or desire, thinking “if only I could do this thing or that thing — then I would be happy”.

On the outside, perhaps it looks as though my life is terminally boring because it is not full of drama, and I don’t care much for international travel. But I am never bored (for real – never), and I am rarely unhappy with the substance of my days. (Though, yes, it would be nice to work less days and have more time for my own projects – on the other hand, I love my home and my ability to pay for said home). I am frequently blown away by the beauty of the landscapes right on our back doorstep – the mountains, rivers, and ocean of BC give us endless opportunities for adventure. When I sit alone, I may choose to meditate, or to knit. Read a book, play my fiddle. I am never without the capacity to make art, or to consume it in the endless environment of culture that we live. I am never without the deep sense of home that I have cultivated in myself and build on with my partner. How could I be bored with this or unfulfilled?

On the one hand, that is privilege. And on the other hand, it’s an orientation. It’s something that we develop in opposition to this culture of cheap thrills and consumer adventure in order to find the truth of this life for ourselves.

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Post #2023: Thoughts on what brings happiness

Here are the things which bring me the greatest happiness these days:

  • time spent with my partner
  • meditation
  • making things – knitting and crochet at the moment
  • time spent with friends and family
  • lifting heavy weights at the gym and zumba classes
  • picking blueberries in the garden (there are a lot of them to pick these days)
  • playing music

Here are some things that bring me stress, but still have positive consequences/outcomes attached:

  • building the cabin
  • large work projects that I am currently engaged in

Here are things that just bring me stress with no positive outcomes:

  • worrying about or judging what other people do
  • trying to control the behaviour of others
  • planning and re-planning things in my head
  • thinking about playing music

So you can see there that doing things that take my full engagement (ie – make me present) are the most enjoyable, and thinking about things that I have little control over are the least enjoyable. You can also see that my life is pretty quiet these days and does not involve any excessive behaviours on my part – also, it’s really healthy right now. Who knew that I would turn out to be so happy with small things?

I am in the process of giving up certain identity desires right now – have been doing that slowly over the last several years and am a better person for it. On the other hand, I continue in my desire for a certain material standard of living (see column two – stress, but with positives) which probably holds me back from freedom in the truest sense. I just read an interview with the “happiest man in the world” in which he essentially says that to be truly free, we can be attached to no one romantically – and at my current point in time I can say that I’m not giving that up either.

That’s okay, because I wasn’t aiming for “happiest” person in the world. I would settle very comfortably on “second-happiest” if it means I get to keep my husband and the life we have together.

These days I can tell that I am generally feeling pretty good because the stressful periods of very pronounced. I am dealing with a family matter right now, one that doesn’t have a huge effect on me but is upsetting, and I find during my meditations that my shoulders are much more tense and I am aware of a knot in my stomach. That awareness is unpleasant but good, because it helps to guide me to the right course of action and allows me to work with the tension in my being. Much of this tension is, of course, caused by the fact that I cannot make the other person do what I want them to do (in my mind “the right thing”). I am working on letting go of this desire, not by staying silent, but by speaking my mind and then putting the issue to rest inside myself.

It’s a no-brainer, that this should bring greater ease and joy into one’s life, but in practice it can feel impossible. As the monk in the linked article says – happiness is always available but it’s a skill and one that we must work at to develop fully.

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Post #2022: Another first in knitting (for me)

Yes, it’s my third finished project posted this week. But this one is exciting because it’s my first, honest-to-gosh, finished knitting project. A scarf! (Pattern is Wheat by Tin Can Knits – thanks folks for the super-easy and free beginner pattern that still has some interest to it). I added some fringe and I entered it into a knit-along that Sweet Georgia Yarns is hosting for the summer. Added bonus? I knitted it almost all in one weekend while visiting the family *and* it has very few mistakes.

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Post #2021: That’s another wrap!

One more finished item to share with you!

Earlier this week I finally got around to blocking this wrap and last night I put buttons on it. This seems to be a month of finishing things both emotional and material:

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Doris Chan’s T-Bird Four Ways – crocheted out of linen-rayon.

The best thing about this wrap is that it is really just a product of boredom, I dug around in my stash and frogged an old project to recover the yarn, and then crocheted it over a month because I had nothing better to work on, really. Now it’s done, I feel like it’s a bit of a gift because it cost me nothing and I didn’t fret on the pattern at all – I just picked it for something to do with my hands.

There are three more projects coming (one crocheted and two knitted ones) and I’m thinking of casting on a sweater because I have at least two sweaters worth of yarn in my stash and it’s really the reason I want to learn how to knit (crocheted sweaters are a bit thick, even when made with fingering weight yarn – because crochet makes a bulkier fabric) – so I’m plotting the Paulie which looks like a totally do-able first cardigan. I’m thinking that I will take that and a simpler project along for our July holiday at the cabin when I have some time to make headway on it. I am on a bit of a knitter’s high at the moment, as I finally feel like I get it.  Sweaters for all I say!

 

 

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Post #2020: Finishing all the things

I didn’t get around to posting this last week – but I finally put the binding on the “ugly quilt” and none-too-prettily. It’s now officially finished more than 10 years after I started it. I’ve got some other finished items coming this week to share as well – at least one, hopefully two. Now that this quilt is off my sewing table, I can return to my daughter’s graduation quilt when I find a spare evening or two. I am going to pay to have hers quilted so it’s just the piecing and binding which I far prefer (especially in summer, quilting is hot and heavy work) – and I’m using a very simple pattern so it should come together pretty quickly on my end.

I’m feeling a bit burnt out on my return from Victoria – not so much from the trip, as from the fact that I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening drinking wine in the backyard – but I suppose it’s true that I’m always a bit bruised when I leave my family. This visit went perfectly well, but as usual I had at least two things to process on the bus ride home. One of those things was the fact that it’s become increasingly apparent that although my parents have always avowed that they would split things evenly between my brother and I in their wills – that is clearly not the way it is going to work out in the end – and in the meantime they pretty much allow him to live for free and give him and his family continuous costly gifts. And yes, I know it is their money to do what they want with, and I am not hard up in any way – but it still feels raw because – symbolism. He’s the son, with the grandson, and so therefore…..  To be fair, my mother would like to change things about the distribution of assets, but my father won’t agree – so what are you going to do with that?

What I am going to do with that is work on my feelings around it so that when the time comes (far in the future, I hope) I have truly expunged myself of the “second arrow” – the feelings arising out of this situation – so that I can unselfishly celebrate my parents lives and my brother’s family without hindrance. Because this has nothing to do with having enough or not having enough and everything to do with the family story that I live inside and tell myself and act out against. And I know better!

But it’s also true in my family that wills are tricky things that get discussed a lot, with implications around what one would or wouldn’t get depending on this or that – and in my mom’s family there was a lot of cutting out and adding people back to wills – including her brother who was disinherited at the behest of another sister. On the surface, this all appears to be about putting affairs in order, but after all these years I’ve come to see the kind of emotional control and expectation that gets exerted around these conversations. In my defense, I’m all wired to react to this from a lifetime of training.

So I need to terminate the conversation in my head (the one where I document all the things that clearly “prove” my lack of worth in my family) and move on. Stop worrying about what seems “fair” and forget about what will or won’t happen at some future date. Bring an end to my ideas about what should or shouldn’t happen. In other words, finish the damned project and bind it off. If only it were as simple as the ugly quilt.

 

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Post #2019: Another weekend away.

Outdoor feasting is one of my favourite things about summer – the picture above was taken last week at a dinner with people who I graduated from my Master’s program with on the enclosed back deck of one of our dear compatriots.

A set of photos from that dinner are posted on Flickr if you would like to see the smiling faces of my friends.

This week held no such dinner party, but did bring with it the increasing feeling of summertime. Vancouver is unseasonably sunny and warm, and it seems like that’s encouraging a lot of people to head out of work on vacation. In other words, it’s already getting hard to track people down and the fact that *I* have a September 1 deadline on a bunch of materials doesn’t really matter to anyone except me.

This weekend marks three in a row for being out of town – this time to visit my family for Father’s Day in Saanich. Ever since my Dad’s heart attack earlier this year, he’s been pretty grumpy and opinionated (which he always is – but now its worse), so I’m crossing my fingers that my meditation practice pays off and I’m able to weather the negativity for a couple of days without allowing it to affect me too much. I love my family, but I am also pretty confident that moving across the water at the age of 22 was the best thing I have ever done for myself. It just gives me some (literal) distance from the family dynamics which just feels safer to my *self*. If you know what I mean.

I have to admit though, another weekend away is making me tired before I even set out on my journey. It’s a good thing that I’ve got a little Zumba class before I go and can get my energy up for the bus ride out of town afterwards.  Happy summer weekend everyone!

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Post #2018: The faux-waldorf – my salad of the week

I’ve been on a salad (and exercise) kick for the last three months – pretty much replacing whatever else I used to eat for lunch with a salad in a jar for my Monday-Friday workdays. Practically what this means is that I buy enough stuff for five lunches and then eat the same salad every day for a week, putting it together quickly each morning before I head out the door. I switch every week, so it doesn’t get boring – and I always make sure to include lots of textural stuff to make me happy (I prefer crunchy things to lettuce leaves, for example). This week I’m pretty sure that I’ve got my favourite salad of all time on the go – a chicken, apple and walnut affair with spinach straight out of the garden. It’s a little higher on the calories than I prefer (I am watching my numbers as I work to lose weight after all) – but if you skip the walnuts it becomes a lot more reasonable.  Here is my salad of the week:

The Faux-Waldorf Salad In a Jar

Into your jar layer the following:

1 tbsp blue cheese dressing (I use Litehouse)
3 oz cooked chicken breast
1 cup cucumber sliced in the way you want to eat it
1 small apple
1 cup spinach or other greens

In a separate container to be added to the top once your salad is upended into a bowl: 1/2 oz walnut halves or pieces.

This is salad at its finest – enjoy!